Guangdong will reap the greatest benefit of any province from China's entry to the WTO and achieve 'modernisation' five years ahead of schedule, a top economist has predicted. Niu Wenyuan, of Beijing's Academy of Sciences, which has just released a 'Strategies on China's Sustained Development' report, expects Guangdong to have caught up with developed countries by 2016. China joined the World Trade Organisation in December. Dr Niu carried out research last year in which he suggested Guangdong would reach that level by 2021, following Shanghai in 2015 and Beijing in 2018. He defined 'modernisation' as a level of economic development, social progress, living standard and sustained development similar to 'a medium-level developed country'. But an increase in foreign trade and higher economic growth following China's WTO entry would speed up the process in Guangdong by five years, Dr Niu told Guangzhou's Southern Metropolis News. Guangdong has set a goal of the booming Pearl River Delta region reaching 'modernisation' by 2010 and Shenzhen by 2005. The provincial government did not set a date for the province as a whole. Dr Niu made the remarks after Guangdong media questioned why the province was ranked behind Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin in the study in terms of sustaining economic growth. 'There is no comparison between Guangdong and the municipalities,' Dr Niu said. 'The wealth and resources are more concentrated in the municipalities. But Guangdong is well ahead of other provinces and autonomous regions.' The report by the Academy of Sciences measures sustained development in five areas. These include basic living requirements such as water, land and grain production; economic development and the ability to create wealth; environmental conditions; social order, which includes income disparity and the social welfare system; and the size of the talent pool, education and the ability to innovate. Dr Niu said Guangdong excelled in economic development but had insufficient resources of talent. He said such a shortage was due to the province not having enough universities to turn out the skilled people needed to keep up with its advanced stage of economic development. Dr Niu said unemployment was not as much of a threat to social security as in the rest of the country because the private economy in Guangdong had developed earlier. But he added the wealth gap between rich and poor in the province was the largest in the country.