New Tianjin zone hailed as next economic pioneer
Cary Huang in Beijing
Municipal officials have lauded the Binhai New Area in Tianjin as a pioneering frontier for the mainland's economic openness in the next stage of reform, likening it to Shenzhen and Shanghai's Pudong area.
'The approval of the development programme [for the Binhai New Area] by the party's plenum last year and its inclusion in Premier Wen Jiabao's Government Work Report and the 11th five-year economic plan suggest that the procedure has been finally completed,' Tianjin Mayor Dai Xianglong said yesterday on the sidelines of the NPC.
'It is a major decision with historic significance. The Binhai New Area will become a new base to experiment with economic reform and openness.'
Mr Dai and other top municipal officials compared the new area's role to that of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in the 1980s and Shanghai's Pudong New Development Area in the 1990s, both designated by late leader Deng Xiaoping to pilot his capitalist economic reforms over the past two decades.
'We agreed that it was Shenzhen in the 1980s and Shanghai's Pudong in the 1990s, and in this century it will be Binhai that will witness the fastest pace of growth in the country,' said Xing Jun , vice-chairwoman of Tianjin's municipal people's congress and a member of the NPC.
Referring to Shenzhen, Pudong and Binhai, Pi Qiansheng , director of the Binhai New Area, added: 'They all play the role of a regional economic hub.'
Mr Dai said the development of the new area would boost growth in the whole Bohai region, which encompasses Hebei and Shandong in northern China, and covers nine provinces as well as Beijing.
It was also designed to narrow the economic gap between the country's north and south.
At present, the Pearl River Delta accounted for 9.9 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, while the Yangtze River Delta accounted for 18 per cent and the Bohai region 10.3 per cent, said Mr Dai, former governor of the People's Bank of China.
Mr Dai said the northern port city had geographical advantages found nowhere else on the mainland. The port is among the top 10 in the world.
The city's special economic zone, the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, is one of the mainland's leading economic zones, scoring higher than all other economic and technological zones for eight straight years, the Ministry of Commerce's annual development evaluation report shows.
But the central government only last June decided to develop Binhai - a decade-old industrial park and home to several billion dollars' worth of investments - into a regional economic hub after a visit by Premier Wen, who was born in the city.