CHINA is expected to build ships totalling 1.2 million deadweight tonnes this year, valued at more than one billion yuan, according to China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) president Wang Rongsheng. He said half of the newbuilding tonnage will be exported. Last year, CSSC's yards built ships totalling more than 1.1 million tonnes, up 40 per cent over the 1991 tonnage. Contracts have been signed for building several Capesize and Panamax bulk carriers and handysize timber vessels. He said the company's shipyards were designing open-hatch cargo ships and handysize bulk carriers. According to Mr Wang, preliminary estimates show the newbuilding volume could reach 1.4 million tonnes next year and break through the 1.5 million tonnes mark in 1995. Shipbuilding technology has improved over the past two years, resulting in better designs and shorter construction times. Mr Wang said the opening up of the area along the Yangtse River and China's coastline with the development of Shanghai's Pudong zone was the key factor for boosting the country's shipbuilding industry as many of the CSSC yards were located in this area. This had helped the shipyards to diversify their operations and become active in tertiary businesses. He said CSSC had set up several shipping companies jointly with local authorities, extended its information and technical consultancy services, and made a ''good start'' in the real estate business. Mr Wang said China is upgrading its technology and equipment and hopes to be counted among the advanced shipbuilding nations by the end of the century ''At present, there is a large gap between the shipbuilding industry of China and the world's advanced shipbuilding nations, especially Japan and Korea.'' He said the main reason for this gap was China's inadequate capacity to build medium-and large-size ships of 35,000 dwt and above. As China was facing a huge demand for capital for economic growth, it was impossible to put enough resources to boost shipbuilding capacity, according to Mr Wang. ''So, our policy in this respect is to concentrate on using the limited funds for renovation of existing yards.'' He said that in the 1991-95 plan period, the focus was on the renovation of shipyards in Jiangnan, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hudong, with most of the projects expected to be completed next year. The 200,000 dwt dry dock in Dalian was also expected to be completed next year, raising the overall shipbuilding capacity of CSSC from 1.5 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes. To increase the capacity to repair larger ships, dry and floating docks of 100,000 dwt were being built at Wenchong, Chengxi and Shanghaiguan yards and were expected to be in operation over the next two years.