CHINA'S first trade fair solely for medium-sized and large enterprises attracted many of Hong Kong's top businessmen, with backers and participants outnumbering those for other mainland fairs in recent years. Honorary chairman of Lippo Group Mochtar Riady, chairman of China Strategic Holdings Oei Hong Leong, head of China Travel Service (Holdings) Hong Kong Lin Shuilong, and officials from the Kerry Group were among the territory's representatives as the fair officially opened in Shenzhen yesterday. It runs until Friday. Chinese Vice-Premier Zou Jiahua was guest of honour at the event, backed by the State Planning Commission, the State Economic and Trade Commission, China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of theState Council and industrial ministers. About 365 enterprises from 19 provinces and autonomous regions are offering overseas investors participation in 461 investment projects, including the Three Gorges dam, which will require billions of yuan and take 17 years to build. Officials said the conference had attracted about 2,400 participants, including about 760 foreigners. Most of the enterprises are industrial, offering projects in energy, communications, metallurgy, chemicals, machinery, electronics, textiles, building materials and pharmaceuticals. Mr Zou said the fair was designed to show overseas investors the strength of mainland enterprises, whose potential could be developed through the injection of foreign capital. The Government had given priority to these firms, considered the backbone of the economy. That would give them a better investment outlook for foreigners, he said. The organisers said that enterprises of this size were considered the major force in China's economic development. Chairman of the organising committee Zheng Hongye said: ''China's success in establishing a market economy from a planned one will largely be determined by a smooth conversion of the state-owned large and medium-sized enterprises.'' Conversion to profit-making firms would help them become a strong force in foreign economic and technological co-operation, he said. There are about 15,000 large and medium-sized enterprises in China. Mr Zheng said they were seeking access to capital, technology and management expertise to enable the enterprises to be revamped and expand their business abroad. The organisers hope the fair will attract foreign capital to transform these enterprises, but there was no official estimate of the value of the deals that would be struck during the fair. An official with the organising committee said more than 40 agreements on various projects were scheduled to be signed in the first two days. But he would not give the value of the projects. The organisers are the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the Chinese Overseas Exchanges Association, the China Association for Hong Kong-Macau Economic Studies and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.