Wuhan’s industrial transition: from steel to hi-tech

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Wuhan Iron & Steel Corp. (WISC) is China’s first mega corporation to emerge after 1949. Baosteel is the first mega corporation be established after China’s reform and opening up. The grand opening of China Baowu Steel Group Corp. was unveiled in Shanghai on December 1, featuring the completion of the new merger.

This newly developed company now has 228,000 employees, with a capital of RMB 730 billion. The estimated annual revenue amounts to RMB 330 billion. It produces carbon steel, stainless steel, and specialized steel. Their annual crude steel production ranks first in China, and second in the world.

Wuhan Iron & Steel Corp. (WISC) is China’s first mega steel corporation to emerge after 1949. As a great contributor it has witnessed the development of industrialization in China. Hanyang steel factory was established in Wuhan 126 years ago as one of the earliest steel factories, initiating the process of industrialization in China.

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Wuhan Iron & Steel Corp is the continuation and transcendence of ‘Hanyangzao’ (Made in Hanyang). On September 13, 1958, Su Hengxiu, a mechanic at WISC, together with his colleagues, operated the latest electric tapping machine. Showers of sparks came out of the furnace as soon as they opened the tapping hole.

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The No. 1 furnace at WISC produced steel for the first time, symbolizing the first joint steel corporation at work. The location was chosen by Chairman Mao. His words, “With food and steel, everything is possible! ” are displayed in the museum of WISC. In the past, whenever people mentioned Wuhan, WISC would come to mind. There used to be the saying that “Wuhan would catch a cold if WISC was coughing,” but now that situation has changed.

According to data from last year, WISC only accounts for 6.8% of Wuhan’s tax revenue. Now, Wuhan benefits from hi-tech and service industries instead of relying on WISC. The economic output of these two rapidly developing industries soared to a trillion RMB in 2014.

The three newly emerging strategic industries of information technology, health care, and artificial intelligence are the new industrial foundations for Wuhan, forging new industrial landmarks in the city. Last year, the output of the hi-tech industry amounted to RMB 776 billion, accounting for 63.8% of the city’s total industrial output.

It is predicted to surpass 65% this year. On December 1, twenty miles from WISC, workers were conducting piling tests for building the world’s memory chips base in Optics Valley. It will produce silicon chips supporting the era of information in the near future. It will produce 300,000 chips monthly by 2020, and one million chips by 2030, ranking from No. 5 to No. 2 in productivity worldwide.

Based on the chips industrial chain, display device industry, and artificial intelligence industry, Wuhan will be able to build an entire industrial chain of chips, display devices, and artificial intelligence which experts predict to be valued at over one trillion RMB. By that time, Wuhan will very likely become an entrepreneurship center with global influence and also the hub for the world’s optoelectronic industry.
Ye Tianchun, head of the Institute of Microelectronics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the establishment of the national memory chips base in Wuhan will fill a void in the integrated circuit industry in China. He added that it is more critical to Wuhan than WISC once was.