The Guangdong government is seeking greater integration among the more developed Pearl River Delta and the province's less developed eastern cities. A directive issued by the central government last week outlined development for four eastern cities - Shantou, Chaozhou, Shanwei and Jieyang - for the next five years. A faster pace of urbanisation and heavy investment in infrastructure such as roads, railways and airports is being urged to help the cities catch up with their neighbours in the delta. The four cities would focus on developing energy, petrochemical, manufacturing and shipping industries, the directive said. However, it did not set any economic targets. Academics said the move was to narrow the wealth gap between the two groups of cities. The provincial government also saw opportunities for the eastern cities to promote economic integration between Fujian and Taiwan, as the four cities were geographically and culturally close to Fujian, they said. But they were sceptical on whether the vision could be realised, as the Guangdong government must provide substantial support such as investment projects. 'The eastern and western parts of Guangdong province always lag behind the delta cities ... narrowing the gap has always been high on the provincial government's agenda,' Feng Bangyan, an adviser to the provincial government, said. 'But whether it succeeds depends very much on whether they will get investment projects.' Professor Zheng Tianxiang, a Pearl delta expert at Sun Yat-sen University, said: 'The mother tongue in the four cities is Chaozhou, which belongs to the same language group as Minnan - the language people in Fujian and Taiwan speak. It has big potential to benefit from cross-strait integration.' State Council guidelines for reform and development of the delta (2008-20) issued early this year outline the development of nine cities - Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Jingmen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou and Zhaoqing . For instance, per capita gross domestic product should reach 80,000 yuan (HK$90,800) by 2012 and 135,000 yuan by 2020. And the service industry should account for 53 per cent of the delta's economy by 2012 and 60 per cent by 2020. Guangdong's per capita GDP was 37,588 yuan last year, and service-sector contributions amounted to less than 45 per cent of the economy. The Straits West Coast Economic Development Zone policy, launched by the State Council in May, calls for development of the Haixi region - the coastal cities of Fujian on the western shore of the Taiwan Strait - through more infrastructure investment and closer financial and economic links. The policy will run until 2020 and aims to create a super-economic zone bridging the industrial powerhouses of the Yangtze River Delta in the north and the Pearl River Delta.