The Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone is the most successful special economic zone in western China and a symbol of the city's drive towards a globalised economy. The zone was first initiated in 1988 and was ratified by the state in 1991. In the early 1990s, most of China's development was centred in the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas, while southwest China struggled with an enormous population of underemployed farmers, a non-existent logistics sector and underdeveloped infrastructure. By the end of that decade, Chongqing had split from Sichuan, easing the population crunch. The Cheng-Yu highway between the two cities was finished and the Hi-Tech Zone was approved by the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum as a member science park. It was the first area in western China to be certified with ISO 14001 by both a domestic and international auditor, in this case Britain's accreditation service. In the past 15 years, the zone has expanded to include two export processing zones, one in the south and another in the west side of the city. It has attracted more than US$2 billion in foreign direct investment and dozens of Fortune 500 companies - mostly in the IT sector. According to 2004 statistics, American and European enterprises such as Intel, Microsoft and Alcatel accounted for more than 40 per cent of total investment, followed by Hong Kong with more than 25 per cent, Taiwanese firms with just under 10 per cent and Japanese firms such as Sony, Sumitomo and Toyota with about 5 per cent. The IT sector is the largest and most productive in the Hi-Tech Zone, as shown by Intel's continued expansion in the zone, around the city and Sichuan province. Other IT multinationals have followed in Intel's wake, taking advantage of the wealth of human resources, electronic expertise and the various incentives provided by the zone and the municipal government. The zone's importance to the IT industry of Chengdu and Sichuan province is illustrated by the fact that it accounts for more than half of municipal and 65 per cent of provincial output from the IT industry. Another up-and-coming industry is pharmaceuticals, based in the western half of the zone. Sichuan's traditional Chinese medicine industry is beginning to find its feet, moving from a source of raw material for Taiwanese, Hong Kong-based and Japanese firms to an industry force in its own right. This part of the zone also houses genetic engineering and other biomedical industries - sectors of Chengdu's economy that can only grow in the future as the technology and investment to develop them become accessible. Other industries include light manufacturing and precision mechanical processing, represented by aviation parts and medical instruments, and a precision tools and moulds park to be based in the western half of the zone. The Hi-Tech Zone, both the western and southern parts, straddle important highways out of the city towards the west, south and east. Chengdu has developed significantly since the early 1990s, expanding south and west past the Third Ring Road towards the Outer or Fourth Ring. The Hi-Tech Zone's expansion coincided with, and helped to facilitate, the city's growth. Luxury apartment complexes are springing up around the zone to accommodate the influx of managers from abroad, and myriad services are situating themselves in and around the zone - from noodle shops to logistics companies such as Crown International and UPS - to take advantage of the growth. The zone's two export processing zones are perfectly situated between the city and the airport to ensure a quick and efficient customs procedure. Local customs officials have benefited greatly from the international logistics companies which have offices in the zone - 10 years ago the procedure was a nightmare for international enterprises and although there are still issues of speed and efficiency today, the improvement has been dramatic. The development of the city of Chengdu revolves around the success of the Hi-Tech Zone. The new rich live almost exclusively in the western or southern parts of the city. Huayang, once a village, is now a boom town with a golf course, steakhouse and luxury high rises. Chengdu's rail system will lead from Tianfu Plaza to the airport and on to the exhibition centre - right through the zone. And for those who would rather live a quiet life of luxury, the west side of the city, where the old exhibition centre stands, is the logical choice.