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Changchun once more the focus of NE Asia
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Jilin was the original center of China's heavy industries, and that legacy has continued through to the present. FAW (First Automotive Works) is China's biggest automotive group, operating joint ventures with Volkswagen and Daewoo as well as its own wholly-owned plants. Heavy industry and engineering continue to be a pillar of Changchun's economy, but there has also been significant growth in high-tech and high value-add manufacturing. Remarkably, the city is also the center of China's domestic film industry – Changchun Film Studios has produced over 2000 films, and the city's biennial Film Festival is one of the industry's major events in Asia.  

High-tech display from China National Railways 

Jilin City is one of Petrochina's principal centers of petrochemical production, and hosts the biggest Acrylic Fibre Factory in the world. It also has the biggest Biofuels Plant in the world, supported by the province's huge agricultural production – Jilin ranks alongside the USA and the Ukraine as the world's three foremost producers of maize, the feedstock for the Biofuels Plant.

The mountains and the forests of the Changbaishan to the southeast offer three of the other staples of the province's economy – timber, wild nuts and vegetables, and most important of all, Chinese medicinal herbs, in particular the world-renowned Ginseng. Closer to the city of Jilin lies the Songhua Lake and National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty that offers to Jilin great future potential both as a domestic and an international tourist destination. China's biggest winter sports complex, Beidahu, was the venue for the 2007 Asian Winter Games, and it is only a short motorway trip from both Changchun City and Jilin City.

The economic diversity of the area is reflected in the Expo's layout. There are individual halls dedicated to High-Tech, Machinery and Electronics, Medicinal and Health Products, Automotive and Spare Parts, and Food and Agricultural Produce. Additionally, there is an Investment Cooperation Hall, where Jilin Province's own cities and Economic Development Zones compete for attention with exhibitors from much further afield. The Fair has attracted distant visitors too – Russian visitors are obvious, but I also encounter Greg Muir, a Canadian wine merchant looking for potential customers for his Canadian produce and new products for his Canadian markets.

Greg Muir samples Snow Beer - one of China's best 

The Fair not only offers the opportunity for exhibitors to present their goods and services, it also provides a wide range of conferences, symposiums and discussion groups – more than 60 different events over the course of the Fair. High on the list of these from the local point of view is Tuesday's Signing Ceremony for Changchun Investment Projects, where 36 different companies signed joint cooperation agreements.

The Changchun High-Tech Industries Development Area (CHIDA), with two stands at the Fair, is a good example of a local organisation with an international vision. Vice Director Wang Yonggang recently embarked on a fact-finding trip to Bahrain in search of inward and outward investment opportunities, and CHIDA is signing an agreement with a Bahrain-based Group, Pathway Holdings, to establish an investment fund of US $300 million aimed at new energy products and services. 

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