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The new Party chief from Cangzhou city is mulling developing coastal areas to boost the regional economy and reduce environmental pressure on the city.
After leaving his post as the city's mayor, Jiao Yanlong was given an ambitious task: turn Cangzhou's Bohai development zone into an emerging growth area for North China's Hebei province in the next five to 10 years.
The development zone, established in 2007, covers 2,400 square kilometers, with a coastline of 130 km and a population of nearly 600,000.
The development zone's GDP is expected to be 55 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) in 2013, a 15 percent year-on-year increase. By 2020, the zone's GDP will likely account for 20 percent of the total in Hebei province.
About two months into his new job, Jiao is quite sure that boosting the development of coastal areas will be a driver for the city's economic growth.
"The development zone is surrounded by other economic zones, such as Tianjin and Shandong. Therefore, we are facing unprecedented, intense competition," he said.
But, meanwhile, the city has an opportunity for rapid economic growth since a development plan for the coastal regions of Hebei province was approved by the central government in 2011.
Besides Cangzhou, the plan also covers the administrative regions of Qinhuangdao and Tangshan in the province.
According to Jiao, the plan is an important strategic move that will help the city achieve its ambitious goals in terms of local economic growth, and promote the acceleration of the development of the regional integration among Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province.
The 52-year-old Party chief believes that boosting construction projects on port and urban areas with ecological concepts will be a major driver of the city's sustainable development.
"Compared with well-developed coastal areas, Cangzhou has a lot of advantages for future development," Jiao said during the annual National People's Congress session in Beijing.
For instance, the city has more than 146,700 hectares of unused land in its coastal areas, of which 36,667 hectares have been earmarked for construction, official figures showed.
Also, the travel time from Cangzhou to Tianjin is only 51 minutes on the Beijing-Shanghai express railway, and there are seven highways with a total length of 600 km linking Cangzhou to its neighboring cities and regions.
In addition, Jiao's government pledged to build the region's Huanghua port into a key national port by 2020.
A 200,000-tonnage deep-water channel with a length of 58.8 km is under construction and is expected to be in use by the end of the year, Jiao said.
The port handled a total of 130 million metric tons of cargo last year, up 12.4 percent year-on-year, despite the global shipping industry's slump.
The city's top political leader is confident of a boost in future investment in the city's coastal areas, which boast "basically complete infrastructure, convenient traffic conditions, and a series of preferential policies".
Jiao said the government will encourage development aimed at four main port sectors in the near future: petrochemical, modern equipment manufacturing, electrical energy, and port logistics.
"About 90 percent of the global cargo trade relies on marine transportation. The much lower transportation costs are quite attractive to investors," he said.
"Also, to boost the port-related economy will be an effective way to save energy and ease traffic pressure. Companies will be able to complete their manufacturing processes in an industrial park near the port and then ship out their products, therefore much inland pollution will be avoided."
The city will also implement low-emission policies and boost the circular economy in urban areas near the port to curb environmental pollution and achieve sustainable development, he said.
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(China Daily 04/26/2013 page4)