Foreign leaders with travel plans to scale the Great Wall might be excited about the Mutianyu section's plan to open up an additional 500 m next year.
"The main renovation and construction of the 502-m section is mostly complete now, but the monitoring system still needs to be installed," Yang Kaihuai, general manager of Mutianyu Great Wall Travel Service Corporate told Beijing Youth Daily on Monday.
"Based on the current progress, we are hopeful the section can open next year," he said. "But the timetable is subject to change," he added, without saying why.
Located in Huairou district 70 km northeast of Beijing, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is reportedly one of the best-preserved parts. First built in the 6th century and rebuilt in Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it has received several foreign leaders including former US President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister John Major.
And the 502 m extension is only the first phase of a much larger renovation plan.
Jia Ruicheng, the chief engineer in charge of the project, said they hope to add another 2.4 km to the current 3 km in total.
"This 2.4-km stretch, which includes five new watchtowers, is more beautiful than the section already open to the public," said Jia, who has worked for Mutianyu since 1983.
The expansion project has already cost 1.38 million yuan. The cultural authority of Huairou district applied in April for a fund of eight million yuan to rebuild the other 1.9 km, Yang said.
"However, the Beijing municipal administration of cultural heritage (BMACH) has not replied yet," he added. At a cultural heritage meeting held by BMACH in mid-November, the administration released a proposal saying it intended to open up as many as three new sections of the wall, but without stating which.
BMACH did not confirm yesterday whether Mutianyu's westward campaign is part of the plan.
After the suggested project is completed, Mutianyu's total length will reach 5.4 km - the longest of all publicly open sections of the Great Wall, Jia said.
Zhao Chunhua, a farmer who runs a guesthouse at the foot of the mountains close to the wall, said she was delighted the project was going ahead, but unsure whether her business would benefit.
"The adventurers and photographers usually come here and climb the walls because they haven't been renovated. Perhaps they will lose interest now," she said.