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Delta Integration Revving Up
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The Yangtze River Delta region, one of China's most dynamic areas, is picking up speed in its efforts to bring about more substantial and all-around integration.

Such integration is expected to lead to the formation of a well-developed extended metropolitan belt in the region, which will become a major economic center of global calibre.


The belt is to mainly involve Shanghai and 14 cities in northern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu, including Hangzhou and Nanjing, the capital cities, respectively, of the two provinces, as well as a number of cities like Suzhou, Wuxi and Ningbo, with rapidly rising economies.


Cities in neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have shown strong eagerness to push for integration with Shanghai to seek mutual prosperity.


Shanghai, likewise, is also willing to share its facilities with other cities in the region to better improve its economic strength.


Yongkang, a small city in the middle of Zhejiang Province that is well-known for its concentration of local private businesses engaged in hardware manufacturing, is one of them.


"We have to take the initiative in shaping closer connections with Shanghai to ensure that we get fully involved in the overall development of the Yangtze River Delta region," said Li Qiuhua, mayor of Yongkang.


While a growing number of Yongkang's private enterprises head for Shanghai to expand their operations, Shanghai can play a key role in helping upgrade the technical level of Yongkang's hardware manufacturing businesses and aid them in getting access the vast international market, according to Li.


"We already missed the opportunity in 1992 brought about by the takeoff of Shanghai's Pudong area, but we won't let it go this time; otherwise, we'll be left out of the region's development," Li said.


The delta region accounts for 2 percent of China's total land space and 10 percent of its total population, but contributes 22 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).


Experts estimate that the annual per capita GDP in the region will hit US$15,000 in 2020, compared with the current level of about US$2,500.


Li's remarks seem to echo the ambitious goal of the Shanghai municipal government precisely.


Shanghai has targeted becoming a competitive international metropolis, or a world-level city, by 2020.


Alongside that vision is the municipal government's resolution to closely link Shanghai's development with the growing integration of the Yangtze River Delta region.


Shanghai is determined to take the lead in helping shape the globally-competitive metropolitan belt in the region, Shanghai's Party secretary Chen Liangyu earlier told the media.


Under that blueprint, the 15 cities involved in the region are expected to carry out cooperation in a variety of fields, include building a regional transport and information network, initiating a unified market, protecting the environment, sharing information and improving financial systems.


In June, construction kicked off on the 36-kilometre-long Ningbo-Hangzhou Bay Bridge.


Upon its scheduled completion in 2008, the bridge will shorten the distance between Shanghai and Zhejiang's Ningbo, one of China's leading port cities, by 120 kilometers.


On the blueprint of the regional transport authorities, the number of expressways linking Shanghai and Jiangsu will be increased from the current two to six, while expressways linking Shanghai and Zhejiang will be increased from the current one to two in the coming several years.


The plan envisions that the driving time from Shanghai to any other city in the delta region will be under three hours.


Meanwhile, an "information expressway" is expected to be put into operation in the region by 2005, thanks to the construction of an optical fiber communication network that will give people much easier access to online information.


In a related development, in July a total of 16 cities in the delta region signed a declaration of cooperation to jointly promote regional tourism development, in a bid to turn the area into a hot tourist attraction worldwide.


Business circles are also involved. Official statistics indicate that more than 6,400 businesses have been set up in Shanghai by companies from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces since 2000, with a total registered capital of 30.6 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion).


In 2002 alone, nearly 3,000 enterprises were established in Shanghai by Jiangsu and Zhejiang businesses, reporting a year-on-year growth of about 34 percent.

Headquarters, regional purchasing centers, and research and development (R&D) facilities are being set up in Shanghai by Zhejiang and Jiangsu enterprises.


(China Daily August 11, 2003)



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