China and Japan inked deals for 13 health industry projects totaling 50 billion yuan ($7.1 billion) in the coastal city of Tianjin on Tuesday, as part of the bilateral cooperation agreements signed by the two countries last year.
The China-Japan (Tianjin) Health Industry Development Cooperation Demonstration Zone, which was opened on Tuesday, is expected to become a new growth engine for the two countries and help cushion the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, said An Limin, deputy head of the regional department, under the National Development and Reform Commission.
The Embassy of Japan in China sent a congratulatory letter to the zone, which focuses on big data, artificial intelligence-enabled health industries and traditional Chinese medicine, indicating that the zone will play an important role in fostering robust economic ties between the two countries.
Zhang Boli, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of the Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said: "The TCM prescriptions researched by the university have proved to be effective in tackling the COVID-19 epidemic and its success augurs well for the zone in future."
The zone is one of the six China-Japan regional development cooperation demonstration zones set up by the National Development and Reform Commission this April. Besides Tianjin, the zones are in Shanghai, Suzhou, Dalian, Chengdu and Qingdao.
During the first five months of this year, China's trade with Japan stood at 846.3 billion yuan, down 0.3 percent on a yearly basis.
China's imports from Japan outstrip its exports to Japan and stood at 450.2 billion yuan and 396.1 billion yuan respectively, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Zhu Liguo, councilor and Chinese representative of the Japan-China Future Research Foundation, said: "Japanese companies are more interested in 'industrial clusters' during their foray into the Chinese market."
Tianjin was the first Chinese city to forge sister-city relationships with its Japanese counterpart Kobe and most of the Japanese companies in the coastal Chinese city are from there.
"We expect more medical companies to make use of the new zone in Tianjin, which has AI as an advantage and the same will help offset the sluggish development in the home countries," he said.
"Greater clusters for companies and a more integrated development of AI technologies among the local industries are key for China to reduce the effect of the trade barriers imposed by the United States," said Liu Gang, chief economist at the China Institute of Next Generation Artificial Intelligence with Nankai University.