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City hosts discussions on Asia Pacific growth
By Zhou Liming (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-13 05:52

Chongqing Municipality took a symbolic step forward yesterday when the 2005 Asia Pacific Cities Summit opened in the city.

Years of preparation have gone into the summit which is the largest international event ever hosted by the municipality. It is also the first time the summit has been held in an Asian city after the first conference in Brisbane, Australia, in 1996.

The Chongqing summit now plays host to 932 guests from 124 cities in 41 countries or regions, as well as 255 corporate representatives.

Delegates have come to share experiences on managing urban development and exploring ways for the natural environment and urban residents to exist in harmony.

"Mayors of the world speak the same language," said Beverly O'Neill, mayor of Long Beach, California, the United States. "Metropolitan areas of all countries are the engines that drive our economies."

Vice-Premier Huang Ju, keynote speaker at the event, gave an update of China's urban growth: The country currently has an urban population of 524 million. Of a total 660 cities across the nation, 171 are mega cities with more than 1 million people, 279 are big cities with half to 1 million, and 210 are small or medium cities with populations below half-a-million. Cities account for 70 per cent of the nation's GDP and 80 per cent of contributions to the national coffers.

"Chongqing is both a big urban city and a big rural area," said Huang, referring to its overall population of 30 million and its vast countryside. "The urban centre should pull the rural areas along with its growth."

"Chongqing is poised to meet the global challenges and it will have tremendous urbanization pressures," said Katherine Sierra, a World Bank official. She compared the mountain and riverside city with Chicago: Both are inland but have transportation and waterway access. Chicago has built a skillful workforce, a lead Chongqing would do well to follow.

Sierra noted that Chongqing has a very high World Bank competitiveness ranking, but could still "increase this competitiveness by 38 per cent," according to her organization's calculations.

To increase links with the international community, Chongqing established friendship city relationships with Brisbane of Australia, Shiraz of Iran and Aswan of Egypt on the eve of the summit.

On Tuesday, a meeting between mayors from China and the US culminated in a memorandum of understanding, finding common ground for small and medium-sized enterprises to co-operate.

Later today, mayors will pass a "Chongqing Declaration," defining their common goal for urban development and seeking ways to protect the environment and handle urban issues such as energy consumption and unemployment.

"A rising economy does not mean every city rises. Some fall," cautioned Douglas Webster from the Arizona State University, citing the example of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.

All agreed that Chongqing is in a unique position to grow into a global player as the city, functioning as a hub for China's vast hinterland, gallops forward economically.

"Chongqing will become western China's Shanghai or an equivalent of Chicago," observed L. Philippe Rheault, Canadian consul to the city.

(China Daily 10/13/2005 page5)

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