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Changchun once more the focus of NE Asia
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By David Ferguson

The esplanade where thousands watch the opening of the 4th Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo  

For simplicity, the entrance to the 2008 Northeast Investment and Trade Fair carries two messages picked out in red and yellow flowers: "Welcome" in English and "Huan Ying" in Chinese characters. It would not be inappropriate to express the message in Japanese, Russian, Korean and Mongolian too – all of these countries are actively represented at the Expo, and each of them has a major presence in the Northeast Asia Countries Image Hall as you enter the Fair.

62 "Fortune 500" companies are here too, along with thousands of other exhibitors, small and large. All of the main industries from Changchun City and its near neighbor Jilin are present – FAW Vehicles and Jilin Industrial Chemicals foremost among them. 

Changchun huan ying ni... 

The logistics of Jilin Province make Changchun City the logical venue for such a fair. Part of the tripartite provincial region of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning, Jilin is only 900 km from Beijing, but shares borders with Mongolia, the Russian Federation and North Korea – indeed Korean influences form an important part of the area's cultural heritage. An integrated motorway and rail network links the area to Beijing in the south-west, Harbin in the north, and the important port of Dalian to the southeast. There is a brand-new international airport on the motorway between Changchun and Jilin, conveniently situated for both cities.

Moon Cakes much in evidence on a display of local baking talent 

All this notwithstanding, pinpointing the exact location of Jilin Province on a blank map would be a struggle for many people from China's cosmopolitan south, and the site of its two major cities would pose even more of a puzzle. But the area has little need to be modest about its past, present, or future.

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