• Sourcing Solutions
  • Services & Membership
  • Help & Community
Buyer Community> Trade Intelligence> China-local news> Brief Introduction - Guangdong

Brief Introduction - Guangdong

Published: 18 Dec 2008 05:03:52 PST

Guangdong (simplified Chinese: 广东; traditional Chinese: 廣東; EFEO : Kouangtong; pinyin Guǎngdōng; Postal map spelling: Kwangtung) is a province on the southern coast of China. The province is also known by an alternative English name, the Canton Province. It overtook Henan and Sichuan to become the most populous province in China in January 2005, registering 79 million permanent residents and 31 million migrants who lived in the province for at least six months.The provincial capital of Guangzhou and economic hub Shenzhen are among the most populous and important cities in China.

Guangdong is the country's richest province with the highest total GDP among all provinces. Its nominal GDP for 2003 was US$165 billion, increased to US$265 billion in 2005 (about the same size as Denmark). In 2006 that number increased to US$329.07 billion and by 2007 its GDP has grown another 14.5% to reach 3.06 trillion yuan (US$422 billion).[3] Guangdong contributes approximately 12.5% of national economic output. Guangdong also hosts the largest Import and Export Fair in China called the Canton Fair which is hosted by the city of Guangzhou - Guangdong's capital city.

The province was the homeland and base of operations of Sun Yat-Sen, the widely accepted founder of modern China.

Guangdong was far away from the center of ancient Chinese civilization in the north China plain. It was populated by peoples collectively known as the Hundred Yue, who may have been Tai-Kadai and related to the Zhuang people in modern Guangxi.

Chinese administration in the region began with the Qin Dynasty. After establishing the first unified Chinese empire, the Qin expanded southwards and set up Nanhai Commandery at Panyu, near what is now part of Guangzhou. It used to be independent as Nanyue between the fall of Qin and the reign of Emperor Wu of Han. The Han Dynasty administered Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam as Jiao Province. Under the Wu Kingdom of the Three Kingdoms period, Guangdong was made its own province, the Guang Province, in 226.

As time passed, the demographics of what is now Guangdong slowly shifted to (Han) Chinese-dominance, especially during several periods of massive migration from the north during periods of political turmoil and/or nomadic incursions from the fall of the Han Dynasty onwards. For example, internal strife in northern China following the rebellion of An Lushan resulted in a 75% increase in the population of Guangzhou prefecture between 740s-750s and 800s-810s.As more migrants arrived, the local population was gradually assimilated to Han Chinese culture,or displaced.

Together with Guangxi, Guangdong was made part of Lingnan Circuit (political division Circuit), or Mountain-South Circuit, in 627 during the Tang Dynasty. The Guangdong part of Lingnan Circuit was renamed Guangnan East Circuit guǎng nán dōng lù in 971 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). "Guangnan East" is the source of "Guangdong".

As Mongols from the north engaged in their conquest of China in the 13th century, the Southern Song Dynasty retreated southwards, eventually ending up in today's Guangdong. The Battle of Yamen 1279 in Guangdong marked the end of the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279).

During the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, Guangdong was a part of Jiangxi. Its present name, "Guangdong Province" was given in early Ming Dynasty.

Since the 16th century, Guangdong has had extensive trade links with the rest of the world. European merchants coming northwards via the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, particularly the Portuguese and British, traded extensively through Guangzhou. Macau, on the southern coast of Guangdong, was the first European settlement in China since 1557. It was the opium trade through Guangzhou that triggered the Opium Wars, opening an era of foreign incursion and intervention in China. In addition to Macau, which was then a Portuguese colony, Hong Kong was ceded to the British, and Kwang-Chou-Wan to the French.

In the 19th century, Guangdong was also the major port of exit for labourers to Southeast Asia and the West, i.e. United States and Canada. As a result, many overseas Chinese communities have their origins in Guangdong. The Cantonese language therefore has proportionately more speakers among overseas Chinese people than mainland Chinese. In the US, there is a large number of Chinese who are descendants of immigrants from the otherwise unremarkable Guangdong region of Taishan (Toisan in Cantonese), who speak a distinctive dialect of Cantonese called Taishanese (or Toishanese).

During the 1850s, the first revolt of the Taiping Rebellion by the Hakka people took place in Guangdong. Because of direct contact with the West, Guangdong was the center of anti-Manchu and anti-imperialist activity. The generally acknowledged founder of modern China, Sun Yat-Sen, was from Guangdong.

During the early 1920s of the Republic of China, Guangdong was the staging area for Kuomintang (KMT) to prepare for the Northern Expedition, an effort to bring the various warlords of China back under the central government. Whampoa Military Academy was built near Guangzhou to train military commanders.

In recent years, the province has seen extremely rapid economic growth, aided in part by its close trading links with Hong Kong, which borders it. It is now the province with the highest gross domestic product in China.

In 1952, a small section of Guangdong's coastline was given to Guangxi, giving it access to the sea. This was reversed in 1955, and then restored in 1965. Hainan Island was originally part of Guangdong but it was separated as its own province in 1988.

Guangdong faces the South China Sea to the south and has a total of 4,300 km of coastline. Leizhou Peninsula is on the southwestern end of the province. There are a few inactive volcanoes on Leizhou Peninsula. The Pearl River Delta is the convergent point of three upstream rivers: the East River, North River, and West River. The river delta is filled with hundreds of small islands. The province is geographically separated from the north by a few mountain ranges collectively called the Southern Mountain Range (南岭). The highest point in the province is Datian Ding 1,704 meters (5587') above sea level.

Guangdong borders Fujian province to the northeast, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces to the north, Guangxi autonomous region to the west, and Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions to the south. Hainan province is offshore across from the Leizhou Peninsula.

Cities around the Pearl River Delta include Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Shunde, Taishan, Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Other cities in the province include Chaozhou, Chenghai, Kaiping, Nanhai, Shantou, Shaoguan, Xinhui, Zhanjiang, Zhaoqing, Yangjiang and Yunfu.

Guangdong has a humid subtropical climate (tropical in the far south), with short, mild, dry, winters and long, hot, wet summers. Average daily highs in Guangzhou in January and July are 18C (64F) and 33C (91F) respectively, although the humidity makes it feel much hotter in summer. Frost is rare on the coast but may happen a few days each winter well inland.

This is a trend of official estimates of the gross domestic product of the Province of Guangdong with figures in millions of Chinese Yuan:

Year   Gross domestic product
1980    24,521
1985    55,305
1990    140,184
1995    538,132
2000    966,223
2007    3,067,371

After the communist takeover and until the start of the Deng Xiaoping reforms in 1978, Guangdong was an economic backwater, although a large underground, service-based economy has always existed. Economic development policies encouraged industrial development in the interior provinces which were weakly linked to Guangdong via transportation links. The government policy of economic autarchy made Guangdong's access to the ocean irrelevant.

Deng Xiaoping's open door policy radically changed the economy of the province as it was able to take advantage of its access to the ocean, proximity to Hong Kong, and historical links to overseas Chinese. In addition, until the 1990s when the Chinese taxation system was reformed, the province benefited from the relatively low rate of taxation placed on it by the central government due to its post-Liberation status of being economically backward.

Although Shanghai is often cited as evidence of China's success, Guangdong's economic boom exemplifies the reality of the vast labor-intensive manufacturing powerhouse China has become, and all the rewards and shortcomings that come with it.

Guangdong's economic boom began with the early 1990s and has since spread to neighboring provinces, and also pulled their populations inward. The economy is based on manufacturing and export.
The province is now one of the richest in the nation, with the highest GDP among all the provinces, although wage growth has only recently begun to rise due to a large influx of migrant workers from neighboring provinces. Its nominal GDP for 2007 was 3.07 trillion yuan (US$422 billion), a rise of 14.5% on a year-on-year basis.

In 2007, Guangdong's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 174.62 billion yuan, 1.59 trillion yuan, and 1.3 trillion yuan respectively.[6] Its per capita GDP reached 32,713 yuan (about US$4,300).

Guangdong contributes approximately 12.5% of the total national economic output.Now, it has three of the six Special Economic Zones: Shenzhen, Shantou and Zhuhai. The affluence of Guangdong, however, remains very much concentrated near the Pearl River Delta.

In 2007 its foreign trade also grew 20% from the previous year and is also by far the largest of all of China. By numbers, Guangdong's foreign trade accounts for 29% of China's US$2.17 trillion foreign trade or roughly US$634 billion.

Guangdong officially became the most populous province in January 2005.Official statistics had traditionally placed Guangdong as the 4th most populous province of China with about 80 million people, but recently released information suggests that there are an additional 30 million migrants who reside in Guangdong for at least six months every year, making it the most populous province with a population of more than 110 million.[9] The massive influx of migrants from other provinces, dubbed the "floating population", is due to Guangdong's booming economy and high demand for labor.

Guangdong is also the ancestral home of large numbers of overseas Chinese. Most of the railroad laborers in Canada, Western United States and Panama in the 19th century came from Guangdong. Emigration in recent years has slowed with economic prosperity, but this province is still a major source of immigrants to North America and elsewhere in the world.

The majority of the province's population is Han Chinese. There is a small Yao population in the north. Other smaller minority groups include She, Miao, Li, and Zhuang.

Guangdong and the greater Guangzhou Province is served by several Guangdong Radio stations and Guangdong TV. There is an international station Radio Guangdong which broadcasts information about this region to the entire world through the World Radio Network.

Guangdong is a multicultural province. The central region, which is also the political and economic center, is populated predominantly by Cantonese-speakers. This region is associated with Cantonese cuisine (simplified Chinese: 粤菜; traditional Chinese: 粵菜). Cantonese opera (simplified Chinese: 粤剧; traditional Chinese: 粵劇) is a form of Chinese opera popular in Cantonese speaking areas.

The Hakka people live in large areas of Guangdong, including Huizhou, Meizhou, Shenzhen, Heyuan, Shaoguan and other areas. Much of the Eastern part of Guangdong is populated by the Hakka people except for the Chaozhou and Hailufeng area. Hakka culture include Hakka cuisine (客家菜), Han opera (simplified Chinese: 汉剧; traditional Chinese: 漢劇), Hakka Hanyue and sixian (traditional instrumental music) and Hakka folk songs (客家山歌).

The area composed of the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang in eastern Guangdong, known as Chaoshan, forms its own cultural sphere. Here, the Teochew people and the people in Hailufeng speak Teochew (simplified Chinese: 潮语, traditional Chinese: 潮語), which is closely related to Min-nan and their cuisine is Teochew cuisine. Teochew opera (simplified Chinese: 潮剧, traditional Chinese: 潮劇) is also very famous and has a unique form.

In addition to their mother tongue, more people especially the younger generation also speak Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese).

Notable attractions include Danxia Mountain, Yuexiu Hill in Guangzhou, Star Lake and the Seven Star Crags, Dinghu Mountain, and the Zhongshan Sun Wen Memorial Park for Sun Yat-sen in Zhongshan.

Administrative divisions
The current immediate administrative divisions of Guangdong consist of 21 prefecture-level cities:

The sub-provincial cities:

Guangzhou (广州) (Canton)
Shenzhen (深圳) (Sumzun)
The prefecture-level cities:

Chaozhou (潮州) (Teochew)
Dongguan (东莞) (Donggoon)
Foshan (佛山) (Futsaan)
Heyuan (河源) (Hoyun)
Huizhou (惠州) (Waizao)
Jiangmen (江门) (Gongmoon)
Jieyang (揭阳) (Keetyeung)
Maoming (茂名) (Mohming)
Meizhou (梅州) (Muizao)
Qingyuan (清远) (Tsingyun)
Shantou (汕头) (Swatow)
Shanwei (汕尾) (Seenmei)
Shaoguan (韶关) (Seeoogoon)
Yangjiang (阳江) (Yeunggong)
Yunfu (云浮) (Wunfao)
Zhanjiang (湛江) (Sumgong)
Zhaoqing (肇庆)
Zhongshan (中山) (Zhongsan)
Zhuhai (珠海) (Zuhoi)

The above division govern, in total, 49 districts, 30 county-level cities, 42 counties, and three autonomous counties. For county-level divisions, see the list of administrative divisions of Guangdong.

Share this post:
Related Article
Most Popular