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Urbanization Drive Accelerates in East China Province
More new cities are emerging and major cities are expanding into vast rural areas in the southern part of Jiangsu Province, east China, to keep pace with the industrialization drive in the economically dynamic region.

The southern Jiangsu section of the Yangtze River Delta draws great attention among Chinese and foreign economists as a successful model of township economy in the nation's reform and opening up over the past two decades.

Now the small towns, which used to play an important role in the economic miracle of the Yangtze River Delta, have begun to fade away and give way gradually to smaller cities, as cities in the region experience fast expansion.

During the process, flocks of farmers in southern Jiangsu have migrated from their traditional rural homes to emerging urban communities.

In a newly built residential zone named "Spring Tide Garden" inWangzhuang Town of Wuxi City, a total of more than 1 million square meters of apartment buildings have been built, which accommodate about 6,800 households of former farmers, or 60 percent of the town's total.

Wang Dehai, 50, who has spent most of his life farming, has joined the working class together with his wife. Now they work with a joint-venture enterprise as a gardener and cleaner respectively, and their son and daughter-in-law work in a nearby factory. Every morning, they drop their grandson at the kindergarten when they hurry to work by bicycle.

Instead of smoking at the edge of cropland, now Wang can stand in front of his own window and chat loudly with his friends livingin the apartment house opposite.

The Garden is one of the five residential zones under construction in suburban Wuxi, a scenic city.

"According to the 2002 plan of the Wuxi New Area, the area willexpand to cover five towns, involving 150,000 people under the rural household registration system," said Wu Jianxuan, an area administrator.

"So far, the new area has had over five million square meters of apartment housing built for farmers, and 30,000 households of farmers have moved in," Wu said.

Another 10 million square meters of such apartments will be built in the coming few years to accommodate more than 100,000 farmers, he added.

Given the ongoing industrialization drive, agriculture has reduced to less than five percent of the local economy, and traditional agriculture is phasing out in southern Jiangsu.

According to statistics provided by the local agriculture and forestry bureau, there are nearly 2,000 agro-enterprises in Jiangsu with non-state capital totaling 16.8 billion yuan (2.02 billion US dollars). Most rose from the southern part of the province.

More than 60 percent of rural labor has joined non-agriculturalsectors, and only farmers older than 60 and middle-aged women stayin the rural areas, engaging in traditional agriculture.

The process has helped many of southern Jiangsu's towns expand and become more economically powerful. As a result, groups of small cities are mushrooming in the region.

In Xinqiao Town, there are more than 120 industrial enterprises.Some of them have annual sales of nearly 10 billion yuan (1.2 billion US dollars) each and three have gone public on the domestic stock market.

Last year, the town invested 20 million yuan (2.41 million US dollars) in building a kindergarten and upgrading educational facilities for primary and middle schools. It also built 200,000 square meters of urban residential housing and 50,000 meters of roads.

The town plans to pull down all of its villages and moved the villagers out in the next five years, said Sun Zhanfeng, head of the town.

Coinciding with the emergence of small cities, major cities in the southern part of Jiangsu have shifted from a productive to a service mode.

Since 2002 each of the major cities has more than 1 million square meters of old urban districts upgraded and planned investments of more than 10 billion yuan (1.2 billion US dollars) in municipal construction.

Last year Wuxi embraced its 13 towns into the city proper, involving some 400,000 farmers, whereas Nanjing, the provincial capital that intended to expand its urban area to 4,700 square kilometers, brought four counties in its suburban areas into the city layout, involving over 1 million farmers.

Currently, southern Jiangsu, with a total population of 21 million, boasts an urbanization ratio of more than 60 percent and a per-capita GDP of more than 3,000 US dollars (data as of 2001).

Spurred by fast economic growth, the accelerating urbanization drive has in turn brought new economic prosperity to the region.

A total of more than 70 billion US dollars in foreign direct investment, or 10 percent of the nation's total, has poured into the region of less than 30,000 square kilometers.

(People's Daily July 8, 2003)

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