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Resource-rich Aksu Awaiting Investment
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Rich natural resources, abundant water reserves and a willing administration.

All this and much more should help Aksu, a western city in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on its path to development and prosperity.

Less developed compared to the wealthy coastal regions, the city needs capital from outside to spur economic growth, and investment promotion is top priority on the local authorities' agenda, said Niu Xuexing, secretary of the Aksu Committee of the Communist Party of China.

"We will capitalize on resources advantage and offer top-notch services to make our city a popular destination for investors from home and abroad," he said

Thanks to the authorities' efforts, actual investment in the city reached 688 million yuan (US$86 million) last year, increasing 43 percent compared with the same period of the previous year.

Rich resources

Unspoiled natural resources are a gift endowed to Aksu, Niu said, adding that the city and its surrounding areas are rich in oil, natural gas, and more than 30 minerals, such as coal, granite and copper.

Research shows that the region has vast coal reserves of high quality.

With an annual output of 3 million tons, proved coal reserves amount to 10.96 billion tons, accounting for 90 percent of the total in south Xinjiang.

Deposits of petroleum and natural gas stand at 19.8 billion tons. An oil well, 37 kilometers north of the city, has been designated as a supply source for urban oil-gas projects.

Niu said backed up by these energy resources, construction of a heavy industry park is top priority in the 11th Five-year Outlines (2006-10).

"We wish to draw 15 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) of investment to develop oil-gas chemical operations and fine chemical projects in the industry park," said Niu.

In addition, Aksu also enjoys a distinct advantage in rich water resources.

The city and its neighborhood, although bordering a vast desert, has 1,293 glaciers, covering 4,098 square kilometer and containing 350 billion cubic meters of water.

Aksu River, Tarim River and Weigan River, which originate from these glaciers, run through the city, with annual surface runoff of 11.4 billion cubic meters.

Besides, the city has a huge storage of underground water, totaling 1.06 trillion cubic meters.

Rich water resources, plus abundant sunshine (the annual sunshine time ranging from 2,862.7 hours to 2,996.8 hours), create suitable farming conditions in the region.

With estimated arable land of 40,000 hectares, Aksu is one of the key grain production bases in China. Its main traditional crops include wheat, corn, rice, cotton and fruit.

The locally produced apples, grape, pear, melon and walnut are famous around the country.

City authorities will step up efforts in building an export-oriented textile park and a farm product park, making the best use of local agricultural produce, Niu said.

As a city with a more than 2,000-year-old history, Aksu has tremendous cultural heritage including historical buildings and traditional arts, such as music and literature.

The region is also known for its unique natural landscapes.

"We want to co-operate with interested investors to develop eco-tourism based on such rich resources," iu said.

Geographical advantage

Situated in the passage between the Tianshan Mountain and Tarim Basin, Aksu was historically a famous town along the Silk Road, and remains a strategically important city in the region.

It is at the hub of the south Xinjiang region, with Korla 540 kilometer to The west, Kashi 500 kilometers to the northeast and Hotan to the north.

With the opening of a neighboring border port in the near future, Aksu, less than 500 kilometers east to Bishkek, capital of Kirghizstan, provides a quick path for exports to European markets.

"Compared with ocean shipping, it takes exporters one fourth the time and two thirds the freight costs to carry goods by land from Aksu to the markets in Central Asia, South Asia, and Europe," Niu said.

"We will take advantage of the geographical advantage, attracting investors to settle in the export-oriented processing park and helping them explore international markets."

Over years of construction, a widespread transportation network, covering rail, road and air, has taken shape in the city, facilitating commodity flows between home and abroad.

Authorities will highlight this to promote the development of the logistics industry, Niu said.

"We will help improve information-based modern logistics, which is expected to push growth in local economy," he said, adding that authorities will also provide support to building distribution centers.

Service innovation

"We are doing our best to create a friendly business environment by providing efficient services to investors," Niu said, talking of an attempt to reduce abusive use of power.

To increase service awareness among governmental officials, a performance assessment scheme, featuring in management by object (MBO), is in place.

"We will better our MBO scheme and upgrade our services," Niu said.

Authorities have also cut through layers of bureaucracy and simplified the approval procedures substantially, aiming to improve administrative efficiency.

Last year alone, local government trimmed 41 items off the administrative approval list.

Additionally, tax favors are anticipated to act as a stimulus to investment increase.

The authorities' efforts have been widely recognized. In 2004, Aksu was listed one of the top 10 cities in terms of investment environment in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Niu said, "We have opened our arms to visitors, seeking to gain economic growth based on mutual benefits."

(China Daily March 8, 2006)


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