innovation in Hangzhou

HANGZHOU, THE INNOVATION CAPITAL

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innovation in Hangzhou

As one of China’s most modern cities, Hangzhou has become an increasingly popular destination with its economic and technological developments attracting some of the biggest companies.

 

Hangzhou is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang Province in East China and sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo. It is renowned for its historic relics and natural beauty and is known as one of the most beautiful cities in China ranking as one of the most scenic ones as well. Although the city has been through many recent urban developments, it still retains its historical and cultural heritage. Tourism remains an important factor for Hangzhou’s economy, with its most popular attraction being West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next to the lake is a scenic area with historical pagodas, cultural sites such as temples and hills, including the Phoenix Mountain. Away from the tourist drawcards exists a charismatic and buzzing city in its own right, with wide pedestrian walkways to wander, an unpretentious and exciting food scene, upbeat nightlife and increasingly cosmopolitan population.

In terms of language, native residents speak Hangzhou dialect, which is a Wu dialect. As the official language defined by China’s central government, Mandarin is the dominant spoken language, with most locals being bilingual. English is not widely spoken, so be sure to have addresses written down in Chinese characters.

 

Hangzhou is an emerging technological hub and home to the e-commerce giant Alibaba, and hosted the eleventh G20 summit in 2016. It is considered an important manufacturing base and logistics hub for coastal China and its economy has rapidly developed since its opening up in 1992. The Hangzhou Economic & Technological Development Zone was established and approved as a national development zone by the State Council in 1993. Encouraged industries include electronic information, biological medicine, machinery and household appliances manufacturing, and food processing. Hangzhou also has an Export Processing Zone and a Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone (HHTZ), with major companies such as Motorola, Nokia and Siemens establishing Research & Development centres in the zone. The HHTZ positions itself as the “Silicon Valley” of China. Moreover, both the Alibaba Group, the world’s largest online B2B portal and China’s largest website in terms of market value, and Kuaidi Dache, part of China’s biggest taxi-hailing app, were founded and are being headquartered in Hangzhou. In terms of new startups, Hangzhou has managed to surpass both Beijing and Shanghai. Whilst the number of new startups in Hangzhou surged 107% year-on-year in the second half of 2014, the growth rate for Beijing and Shanghai was only 64% and 53%. Since 2013, funding raised by Hangzhou-based startups reached 160%, higher than both Beijing (121%) and Shanghai (119%).

Given that Hangzhou is the hometown of Alibaba, it’s no wonder that e-commerce takes the lead in all startup verticals. However, the percentage of enterprise-facing services, fintech, local lifestyle and social networking startups is rising over the years which shows that the entrepreneurial environment of Hangzhou is diversifying and maturing.

The number of foreigners working in companies in Hangzhou is still low with less than 100 foreigners working for Alibaba in Hangzhou. However, this number is slowly increasing due to the Alibaba Global Leadership Program, which encourages foreigners to work there.

 

What to expect

Weather

Hangzhou’s climate is humid subtropical with four distinctive seasons. Summers are very long, very hot and very humid; whereas winters tend to be chilly, cloudy and drier, with occasional snow. Temperatures in summer range around 29ºC and in winter around 5ºC. Rain is especially present in June due to the plum rains of the Asian monsoon, whereas in late summer (August to September), typhoon storms affect the city, although seldom directly.

 

Transportation

Hangzhou has an efficient public transportation network. The city is known for its extensive Bus Rapid Transit network which expands from downtown to many suburban areas through dedicated bus lanes on some of the busiest streets in the city. Bicycles and electric scooters are also very popular, with bike lanes on major streets throughout the city. There is also an extensive free public bike rental system, the Hangzhou Public Bicycle system, which makes it very easy to move around the city. The Hangzhou Metro began construction in March 2006. While some lines have already been completed, others are still under construction. Upon completion, the system is expected to have 10 lines.

Taxis are also very common among city residents, with the newest line of Hyundai Sonatas and Volkswagen Passats being a popular choice. A large number of electric taxis can also be found around the city. Didi Dache, the Chinese version of Uber, is also extensively available in Hangzhou.

 

Sightseeing

As one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China, Hangzhou is an important tourist city for history and culture. West Lake is the most famous attraction in Hangzhou. Walk, bike, or boat around West Lake to relax in an extensive example of China’s classic garden style. The landscape of West Lake is so iconic that it’s printed on the one yuan note. Qinghefang Old Street is a good place to experience the life of Old Hangzhou, because it is the epitome of historic Hangzhou. You can see the well-preserved old buildings, explore the interesting stores, and buy some souvenirs. The city also has a long history of Buddhist influence. The three top Buddhist sites are Lingyin Temple, Peak Flown From Afar and Six Harmonies Pagoda. There are several museums located in Hangzhou with regional and national importance. China National Silk Museum, located near the West Lake, is one of the first state-level museums in China and the largest silk museum in the world. China National Tea Museum is a national museum with special subjects as tea and its culture. Zhejiang Provincial Museum features collection of integrated human studies, exhibition and research. There can also be found lots of theatres in Hangzhou showing performance of opera shows. Shaoxing opera, originated from Shengzhou, Zhejiang Province, is the second-largest opera form in China.

 

Food

Hangzhou’s local cuisine is often considered to be representative of Zhejiang provincial cuisine, which is claimed as one of China’s eight fundamental cuisines. Some examples of its regional cuisine include dishes such as pian er chuan noodles, West Lake vinegar fish, steamed rice and pork wrapped by lotus leaves, lotus root pudding and sister song’s fish soup, among others. Mazi is a popular sweet dish from the greater region. Tea is an important part of Hangzhou’s economy and culture. The city is best known for originating Longjing, a notable variety of green tea.

 

Budget

In terms of cost of living, Hangzhou is 5-10% cheaper than Beijing and Shanghai for most things, including eating out and taxis. Rent for furnished accommodation ranges between 2.200 and 5.560 CNY, utilities for one-month cost around 250 CNY with an additional 137 CNY for monthly internet. A basic lunch menu including a drink in the business district costs about 40 CNY. In terms of public transportation, a monthly ticket costs 71 CNY and a taxi trip on a business day at a basic tariff, 8 km, costs about 40 CNY.

 

Trips

The Quaint Water Towns

Wuzhen Water Town is now well developed with many shops, bars, and antique-furnished accommodation. The historic scenery is very charming and every background is an ideal place to photograph. The best seasons are spring and autumn, and do avoid travel at noon in summer when it can be very hot. Xitang Water Town is known for its bridges, ancient lanes, and covered waterside walks. The traditional lifestyle is well preserved, and you can stay there for a “night in the past”. You can visit the town comfortably in the heat of summer since the walkways are covered, which will protect you from the strong sunlight. Nanxun Water Town is a mix of canals, bridges, ancient buildings, and narrow lanes. It is less famous and less commercial than other water towns near Shanghai. It is thanks to this, that Nanxun is the most original and picturesque town, filled with tranquil ambiance.

 

Shanghai

About 1 hour with the train from Hangzhou, you will find the metropolitan city of Shanghai. The city is full of places worth visiting, from the skyscrapers to the former French Concession and its western style. Top places to see when in Shanghai include People’s Square, the largest public square in the city, and the Museum of Shanghai with its eleven galleries and three exhibition halls. You can continue your trip by walking along Nanjing Road, the world’s longest shopping street (approx. 6km long). Almost 1 million people visit this street every day. If you keep walking further down Nanjing Road, you will reach the famous Bund where you face Pudong, the new business district of Shanghai on the other side of the Huangpu River. From there you can see some of the highest buildings like the Financial Tower or the Jin Mao. If you’re looking for some contrast to all those lights, technology and modern streets, you can visit the former French Concession where the atmosphere is brought by the western style architecture. Fake markets are also well-known in the city and are worth a visit. Also, don’t forget to try some of the many restaurants, whether Asian or Western, during your stay.

 

Huangshan

Enlisted as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Yellow Mountain offer wonderful sceneries. About 215km southwest of Hangzhou, 50km of scenic area and long walks are awaiting you. You can walk by the two lakes (Taiping and One Thousand Islets) and the three waterfalls (the “Renzi Waterfall", "Baizhang” and the “Jiulong Pu”) and you can visit some of its famous spots like the Sea of Clouds, the Oddly-Shaped Rocks, and the Imaginatively Named Pines. You can climb most of the mountain by walking or by cable railway which can save you some time. Moreover, the walking routes do not have great scenery every time, so you can make your choice regarding which part of the mountain you want to climb.

 

Moganshan

This bamboo mountain is not famous among the foreign community or the Chinese one, which is a pretty nice opportunity for you to discover this place without meeting anyone on your trip. So, if you want to get away from the noise and lights of the city, this is the perfect place to be. You can get there catching a van to reach the mountain. Because this is not a typical destination for the foreigners, you will maybe face a lack of English signals, but sometimes it is quite interesting to be left by yourself. No matter what, Chinese people will still manage to help you find your way. If you still have some problems, just ask the driver to go to the “place where the foreigners gather” and you will surely arrive to a little and charming hotel restaurant which is hold by an English couple. There, you won’t have difficulties to have a typical western style breakfast, lunch or dinner. Moganshan has some charming walking routes lost in the mountain too and some of them will even lead you to the top where the clouds often pass by.

 

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