The Port of Zhanjiang lies on the shores of Zhanjiang Bay on the east side of the Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong Province in the People’s Republic of China. About 470 kilometers east of Hanoi, North Vietnam, it is China’s southernmost port and the headquarters of the Chinese Navy’s South Sea Fleet. Zhanjiang’s major industries include shipyards, sugar refining, and textiles. In 2007, about 1.6 million people lived in the Port of Zhanjiang’s metropolitan area.
Until the French occupied the area in 1898, the Port of Zhanjiang was a minor fishing port and, for a time, a hiding place for pirates. It was called Kwang-Chou-Wan under the 99-year lease the French forced upon the Chinese. Calling it Fort Bayard, they hoped to develop the free port; however, the poverty of the region was an impediment.
The French remained in control until the Japanese took the area in 1943 during World War II. Although it returned to the French after the war, General Charles De Gaulle returned it to China formally in 1946.
The Port of Zhanjiang became more important to the country after the People’s Republic was established in 1949. It was linked by rail to inland Litang, about 1400 kilometers northwest, and the Hunan-Guangxi railway system. The Port of Zhanjiang has become the major port serving southern China.
In 1984, China’s government made the Port of Zhanjiang an open city, inviting foreign investment and stimulating more industrial development. A new railroad to the Port of Guangzhou (Canton) was completed in the 1990s, which was extended to Hai’an where trains could be ferried to Haikou across the Hainan Strait.
Today, the Port of Zhanjiang is a busy industrial center for the region with shipyards, plants producing automobiles, textiles, chemicals, and electrical appliances as well as sugar refineries and rice mills.