Economic Zone May Aid Taiwan Integration

East China's Fujian Province is planning an economic zone on the west coast of the Taiwan Straits as a major effort to boost its economic growth.

The proposed economic zone is also meant to help speed up economic integration with Taiwan, opposite to Fujian across the Straits, and promote reunification between the mainland and Taiwan.

Huang Xiaojing, executive vice-governor of the province, pledged to build the West Coast Economic Zone of Straits into one of China's major regional economies alongside the Pan-Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta regions.

The planned economic zone will "promote better use of resources of the economic belt in Southeast China and enhance its overall economic strength," he said.

Huang added that the economic zone will initially cover the coastal areas of Fujian and gradually expand to inshore areas in neighbouring provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong.

The vice-governor made the remarks at the Forum on Building the West Coast Economic Zone of Straits co-organized by the Fujian Provincial Government and the Economic Daily in Beijing.

More than 100 government officials and economic researchers attended the event.

Huang stressed that Fujian, as the country's 11th largest provincial economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of 523.217 billion yuan (US$63.27 billion) in 2003, is economically capable of establishing the proposed zone.

Based on the province's industrial advantages, the zone will focus on electronic information, machinery building, petro-chemistry, construction material and clothes.

Meanwhile, the province will improve its infrastructure construction, push forward the urbanization drive, strengthen personnel training and open wider to overseas investors.

The establishment of the economic zone is expected to help the province increase its GDP to 780 billion yuan (US$94.31 billion) in 2008 and 1.7 trillion yuan (US$205.56 billion) in 2017, according to Huang.

Fujian was one of China's first provinces to open up to overseas investment and has one of the country's first four special economic zones, Xiamen.

Hou Yunchun, vice-director of the Research Office of the State Council, told the forum that the planned economic zone would take advantage of its geographical location to bolster economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland.

With its closer ties with Taiwan on the east coast of the Straits, the economic zone could serve as a strong base for combating Taiwan independence and promoting cross-Straits reunification, he said.

(China Daily June 8, 2004)