CHINA'S major cities, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, maintain the highest market prices for commercial properties, with 257 per cent sales growth for Shanghai last year, says the Ministry of Construction's real estate department. It said the tremendous leap in sales in the three cities was due to stability in their economic development, and the relatively higher buying power of their citizens. The report was contained in a paper by the department's deputy director, Xie Jiajin, which was delivered at a China property development conference here yesterday. Ms Xie said Shanghai also recorded the highest rate of growth in investment in 1994, a jump of 427.5 per cent from the previous year. Ms Xie's paper revealed that Guangdong province had the highest sales in commercial property, with annual sales worth 13.66 billion yuan (about HK$12.51 billion). This comprised 18 per cent of the total sales for the mainland. The total value of the sales in 1994 was 74.7 billion yuan. Behind Guangdong are Jiangsu, Zhejiang provinces, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Shandong, Fujian provinces, Shanghai, Sichuan and Hebei provinces. The value of sales of commercial properties in the 10 areas amounted to 52.365 billion yuan, making up 70.06 per cent of the total commercial property sales in the country. In particular, the province of Hebei had enjoyed the most rapid growth in sales last year, Ms Xie's paper said. She reported that the Chinese Government aimed to continue to control the scale of development, further regulate the structure of the market, and actively develop the construction of residential property. Since late 1994, the average living area of residents in urban areas of the mainland was 82.88 square feet. This compared with the authorities' target for each family to have low-cost housing of solid quality with an average living area of 86.11 sq ft by the turn of the century. She said it was planned that there would be new construction of 150 to 180 million square metres of residential property in urban areas each year to achieve this goal. But Shanghai, which has to construct a minimum of nine to 10 million sq metres, was behind schedule and now faced an annual shortfall of two to three million sq metres, after failing to meet last year's target. The paper said real estate development in the next few years should focus on development of regular housing. It said investments in real estate had grown rapidly by 117 per cent in 1992, 124.9 per cent in 1993 and 41.3 per cent last year. Investment in commercial property last year amounted to 160.8 billion yuan and involved a construction area of 330 million sq metres. Again topping the list was Guangdong province, followed by Liaoning, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. These provinces, together with Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong, Fujian, Sichuan, and Hainan, drew investment worth 123.439 billion yuan, 75 per cent of the country's total. Less popular provinces such as Guizhou, Xinjinag, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xizang only comprised 0.85 per cent of total investment.