Lianyungang seeks aid to boost competitiveness
LIANYUNGANG, the Rotterdam of China, is seeking foreign assistance to speed up its infrastructure construction so that it can compete with other coastal cities.
In addition to a nuclear power plant and a port expansion programme, a domestic airport and a highway to link the city with Nanjing on the Yangtze river are included in infrastructure requirements.
The nuclear plant, which is still at the planning stage, will cost about US$4 billion and construction will start before the end of the decade.
Local officials said these projects were crucial for Lianyungang to realise its dream of becoming China's gateway to the Pacific and the bridgehead of the Eurasia Continental Railway that went into operation more than two years ago.
Situated on the border of Shandong and Jiangsu, Lianyungang was made an open port city in 1984.
But in spite of its early start, it lagged behind other cities in terms of foreign capital as well as its internal development.
Figures show that 315 foreign investment enterprises had been approved to the end of last year involving $396.92 million of foreign capital.
Officials blamed the city's relatively slow growth on a wrong development strategy and less-than-open attitude in the past.
''We initially thought that the local industry would provide the main impetus when we made our plans in the mid-1980s,'' said Mr Feng Qixiang, vice-director of the Lianyungang Economic and Technical Development Zone Management Committee.
''Now we realise we must have an open and broad attitude in attracting foreign capital,'' he added.
Officials said they would allow entertainment facilities such as nightclubs and casinos to attract foreign businessmen and tourists.
These facilities will be put together in a free trade zone to be established on Dongxilian island opposite the harbour.
''My view is that they [casinos and nightclubs] are acceptable as long as they don't break our law,'' said Mr Gao Youwei, deputy mayor of the city.
''After all, we should respect the way of life of foreigners who come to our city,'' Mr Gao added.
To link the free trade zone with the city, a 6.7-kilometre breakwater is under construction and is expected to be completed within six months.
The breakwater would also raise Lianyungang's cargo-handling capacity by adding four deep-water berths.
Meanwhile, dredging of the main navigation channel is under way so that the harbour will be able to accommodate third-generation tankers, and 700 million yuan (about HK$9.43 million at official rates) has been secured to build six deep-water berths.
Port officials said the expansion programme was necessary because the economic development of inland cities such as Xian, Lanzhou and Zhengzhou would lead to a rapid increase in cargo volume.