A package of new policies to fuel the development of China's western regions is expected to be announced at the Western Forum of China, which opened in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, today.
The policies will open more business sectors up to foreign investors, grant more financial support from central government and boost the development of science, technology and education.
High expectations have lured executives from more than 100 Fortune 500 companies and major domestic businesses to the current forum, which will run until Sunday.
"It will be an opportunity for investors and the western area itself to get a clear view of the direction western development is taking," said Zhou Yongkang, Party secretary of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
Nearly 20 ministers and vice-ministers will meet at round-table meetings and seminars in Chengdu to explain the central government's policies and plans.
Ever since the western development program was launched last year, overseas investors have been eager to see how China will turn the vast region - estimated as lagging about 20 years behind eastern coastal regions economically - into a new magnet for investment and a growth engine.
In a bid to spur on development in the land-locked region, the central government announced earlier this year it was kicking off 10 key projects in the western area, and listed 225 projects boasting preferential policies for foreign cooperation.
Organizers said the forum was a formal prelude to the development program, which covers 11 provinces, autonomous regions and one municipality.
"The forum will serve as a high-level platform for exchanges concerning western development," said Zhou, adding that the meeting was a "great boost" to Sichuan Province's growth.
Special meetings have also been designed for dialogues to take place between mainland businesses and companies from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and between eastern companies and western firms.
The government intends to hold the forum once a year with different themes, similar to the Fortune Global Forum. The theme for this year's debut forum is "Western Development - Government and Market."
(China Daily 10/20/2000)