Nearly 60 years ago, a huge oil reserve was discovered in China’s Heilongjiang Province. That black gold is now starting to run low, and economic growth in the region is lagging behind other provinces. Regional leaders are trying to diversify, and watching developments at the Two Sessions closely.
CGTN’s Sean Callebs reports.
Daqing is not a city built with bricks and mortar. It’s foundation is oil.
Crude was discovered in China’s northeast back in 1959, and the city of nearly 3 million grew up around the massive reservoir. For decades, Daqing has been the country’s largest oilfield.
“This has greatly contributed to China’s economy, and the prosperity in the northeast cities,” according to Deputy Chief Engineer Cheng Jiecheng.
After turning out more than 50 million tons of oil a year for nearly three decades, however, the oil fields are in decline. Output began dropping in 2006, falling about seven percent a year. But the addition of a Volvo car manufacturing plant in 2015, employing 2,800 people, is bringing economic hope back to the region.
Wang Cong, who lives at home with his parents, feels this optimism.
“I feel my child works so hard,” his mother Qiao Shuna said. “He wakes up at four in the morning, leaves at 5:10, and won’t come back until five in the afternoon.”
Her husband worked in the Daqing oil fields for decades, and her son is now carrying the torch. Rolling up his sleeves, and heading off to work each day.
“My family taught me to take everything seriously. Work hard overcome difficulties,” Wang said. “I think that is how the iron man spirit and Daqing spirit have been inherited and spread.”
Government leaders hope more car manufacturing and related businesses trickle into the region. They also say that each year it seems as though more and more residents follow developments from Two Sessions. They know the programs, platforms and reforms that could lead to more investment and opportunities in the northeast of China.
There’s a saying that many in the depressed northeast bristle at: “Investment stops at the east end of the Great Wall.” Meaning their region is left out in the cold.
Yang Huailong has owned his own garage in Daqing for about two years.
“There will soon be a new auto market that is currently under planning,” Yang explained. “This Daqing industry of auto parts, auto repair, and second hand car business will be the largest of its kind in northeast China, and will drive the economy.”
More than half a century ago, Mao Zedong issued the challenge to China: “In industry – learn from Daqing.”
Today, there is hope that new industry can revitalize not just Daqing, but a larger depressed region.
“If Daqing succeeds, it will be significant for other resource based cities in northeast China – like Hegang and Jixi – that seek to break through and find a way out to success,” according to Liu Zhongxu, director of Daqing Automotive Industry Development.
In the interim, the hundreds and hundreds of oil pumps dotting Daqing continue their endless up and down. Though the reserves are far from endless.
The goal is to keep them churning for another 40 years, marking 100 years of oil field productivity, while also energizing new industries.