Red capital seeks more 'colorful' development

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Yan'an, known as China's "red capital" for its important role during the revolutionary era, is seeking more "colorful" development besides exploiting its rich red resources.

Tourists dressed as Red Army soldiers pose for pictures at the Zaoyuan historical site in Yan'an, Shaanxi province, on Nov 1.[Photo/Xinhua]

Tourists dressed as Red Army soldiers pose for pictures at the Zaoyuan historical site in Yan'an, Shaanxi province, on Nov 1.[Photo/Xinhua]

"Red", "green" and "black" became the key words when Yao Yinliang, the Party secretary of the mountainous city in Shaanxi province, described its fast growth in recent years.

Red refers to tourism, which has benefited from Yan'an's historical significance to Communism. Green refers to the city's continuous reforestation efforts, and black refers to its attempts to tap into rich natural resources, including oil, coal and natural gas.

"Yan'an made crucial contributions to the victory of the Communist revolution in history. It has made new achievements in economic development and improving people's livelihoods," Yao, a delegate to the 18th Party Congress, said on the sidelines of the political event on Sunday.

"We will further take advantage of our honorable history as a resource, and get ready for better and faster development in the future," Yao said.

With a population of 2.19 million, Yan'an had a GDP of 111.3 billion yuan ($17.8 billion) in 2011. Its per capita GDP was more than $8,000, higher than the national average.

Traffic flow in Yan'an has also improved significantly, with highways, railways and airlines connecting it with Beijing and other major cities.

In recent years, the city, which served as the Party's headquarters for 13 years until 1948, has promoted its red tourism resources. Yan'an attracted more than 10 million visitors in 2011.

Shortly before the congress, the nation issued a plan to boost development of former revolutionary bases including North Shaanxi, where Yan'an is located.

According to Yao, the city has sought to improve preservation efforts of sites from the revolutionary era, and a project to relocate residents has been planned to better protect 10 important sites.

Yan'an has sought to unify its economic development with ecological conservation in recent years, Yao said.

Green economies

Yan'an used to be known for its dry weather and land with sparse vegetation.

Continuous reforestation projects since 1999 have greatly improved the city's ecological environment. More than 60 million hectares of cultivated land has been turned into forests. Yan'an covers an area of 370 million hectares.

Around 230,000 hectares of apple trees have been planted, which has become an important source of income for local farmers.

"If you look at a satellite remote-sensing map, you can see a green Yan'an contrasting with its surrounding areas and a distinctive outline is formed," Yao said.

"If we describe Yan'an between 1935 and 1948 as experiencing 13 years of red revolution, then it has experienced another 13 years of green revolution since 1999."

The city plans to launch a new reforestation project to return another 167,000 hectares of slope land using the government money, Yao said.

Meanwhile, the city is further tapping into its rich black resources, such as oil, coal and natural gas. Its annual oil production is 16 million metric tons, and it is expected to produce more than 30 million tons of coal this year.

Yan'an has seen fast growth of its industries.

"The industrial structure of Yan'an has been optimized significantly in recent years, which has paved the way for further development of the city," Yao said.

But he admitted that the city is still trying to upgrade its industrial structure, and shift from growth dependent on increases in oil and coal production to developing energy and chemical industries that convert its natural resources into value-added products.

"We will improve the output through technology, too," Yao explained.

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