Chinese should learn from Wenzhou, the city with the biggest private sector and smallest government, a senior government official said. Tian Jiyun, vice-chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, told delegates from Zhejiang that the Wenzhou experience should be studied nationwide, and in particular in central and western areas. State firms in Wenzhou, on the southeast coast, account for 6 per cent of the city's industrial output, against 15 per cent in 1988, with private, shareholding and joint-venture companies accounting for the rest. Last year, the city's gross domestic product grew 16 per cent compared with 1996, about double the national figure of 8.8 per cent, city mayor Qian Xingzhong said. 'We expect a similar growth rate this year, despite the slowdown in the national economy,' he said. 'This is because our companies are sensitive to market demand and can adjust their products quickly. We have one million Wenzhou people working all over China that provide fast and up-to-date market information.' Wenzhou's main products are leather, shoes, clothes, lighters, buttons, spectacles, machinery, chemicals and electronics. A million migrant labourers from all over China provide the bulk of its industrial workforce, from a population of 7.14 million. 'We have no government re-employment offices,' Mr Qian said. 'People who have been laid off find new jobs through the market. Of the city's 380,000 private companies, 65 per cent were set up by laid-off workers.' History has come full circle for Wenzhou, criticised in the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) as the last bastion of capitalism in China. Then it divided the land belonging to communes and rented it to individual farmers, illegal at the time and a decade before it became national policy. Geographically isolated, starved of state investment and with a high population density, Wenzhou had no alternative but to develop its private sector years before the rest of the nation, again arousing criticism from Communist Party ideologues. The city was finally vindicated in September at the 15th Party Congress when President Jiang Zemin redesignated the private sector as an important part of the economy. The ideological debate about capitalism was over, Mr Qian said. 'We have developed on our own without major investment from the state. Most of our public infrastructure is funded by private capital.' That is the message Beijing wants to send to cities across China; that they must rely on themselves to develop new employment and public facilities and give up their traditional dependence on state money. On Thursday night, a nationwide audience saw on live television one result of the market reforms of Wenzhou. Thanks to money put up by some of its companies, the city's soccer stadium hosted a game of the new season, between last year's champions Dalian Wanda and cup holders Beijing's Guo' An.