Although Xi'an is best known for the Terracotta Warriors and many traditional delicacies, the ancient city is now making firm and quick steps to become a major IT hub by creating a favorable environment for technology companies as well as professionals from all over the world.
Xi'an holds the Global Programers' Festival to promote its IT industry. [Photo/China SCIO]
One such IT talent is 27-year-old Zhang Xiaodong from Xi'an's Northwestern Polytechnical University. He said he chose to stay in Xi'an after graduation to take a job as a software engineer, and that he is living his dream.
"I'm earning as much as 8,000 yuan (US$1,200) a month," he said."That is a desirable salary compared with the living cost here."
Modeling after famed global tech centers like Silicon Valley and Bangalore, Xi'an has taken advantage of its local resources in research and education to catapult itself as a prime destination for IT companies.
"The ancient city has the human resources it takes to contend with Silicon Valley and Bangalore to become a hub for technology and innovation," said Gong Min, founder of Beijing Linx-Tech Co., Ltd. "People are the first factor for the IT industry and it is the talent that makes things happen."
Xi'an is home to around 100 research institutes and more than 60 universities, including renowned science universities like Xi'an Jiaotong University and Xidian University. Drawing students from across the country, they help to form a large talent pool to feed the booming IT sector in the region.
"Keeping local talent and luring outside talent is key to the success of the IT industry for Xi'an," Gong said.
He suggested that there should be a synergy between colleges and startups to encourage innovative thinking and problem solving among college students.
In recent years, Xi'an has begun attracting major IT enterprises, including Huawei, Chinasoft International and ZTE, all of which have set up research and development operations in the city.
"One third of HSBC's global business has been bolstered by our center in Xi'an," said Cen Zhen, head of Chinasoft International's HSBC Business Line.
Chinasoft International, one of the leading software companies in China, opened a company in Xi'an in 2012. Cen said the reasons that led the company to Xi'an are the presence of educational and entrepreneurial institutions as well as the region's large talent pool.
Chen Yuhong, executive chairman of the board of Chinasoft International Ltd., said, "Chinasoft International is working with other companies to help build Xi'an into China's 'Silicon Valley' and China's Bangalore. "
Chinasoft International is joined by Huawei and 31 other Fortune 500 companies, such as IBM, Samsung, Fujitsu and Intel, to have set up offices in Xi'an.
The Xi'an Software Park, part of the city's High-Tech Industries Development Zone, is an active promoter of IT investment.
Established in 1998, the Xi'an Software Park is one of the nation's four parks that earn the titles of the "National Software Industrial Base" and the "National Software Export Base."
Lyu Dongguo, director of the Xi'an Software Park Development Center, said many IT companies chose the park to start their ventures as it ticked all the boxes in terms of support infrastructure for their growth, an enviable pool of tech talents and low-cost commercial real estate.
"The average home prices are round 9,000 yuan for each square meter in Xi'an, compared with sky-high prices in Beijing and Shanghai, which normally surpass 50,000 yuan," he said.
In 2016, more than 2,000 companies in the park generated a combined 199.4 billion yuan in revenue and employed a total of 165,100 professionals. The figures are expected to grow to 500 billion yuan and 250,000 professionals by 2021.
Going even further to attract talents, Xi'an eased its household registration rules since March 1 this year.
The new policy, considered the most loosened household registration policy in China's history, grants permanent residency to migrants aged 35 and under who are college graduates and willing to work, live or start a business in the city. The permanent residency status gives the IT professionals equal access to social welfare and other benefits.
"The policy will greatly fuel the IT industry in Xi'an," Lyu said. "More graduates will choose to stay and work in the city."
Xi'an Software Park is also an active participant in a recent initiative to promote the city's IT industry, the Global Programers' Festival.
"The festival is held not only to celebrate the programers, but also to present Xi'an to more IT engineers in the world and attract more IT companies to come here," Lyu said.
Sumavasee Slasuk, director of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency of Thailand, was invited to attend the festival, and she said she was quite impressed with the city.
After having spoken with some IT companies in the city, Slasuk said she found the younger generation there to be very interested in the software industry.
"They have very good professional skills and are keen on creating their startups," she said.
(By He Shan)