CHINA> Regional
S. China island to become strategic new zone
By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-15 07:44

ZHUHAI, Guangdong: The long-awaited development plan of a virgin island in southern China will thrive the sluggish economy of Zhuhai and diversify the industry of its neighbor Macao, which has heavily depended on gaming and tourism.

Hengqin Island, the largest of 146 islands in Zhuhai connected to Macao by bridge, got approval from the central government in mid-August to be the country's third State-level strategic new zone, after Shanghai's Pudong district and Tianjin's Binhai area.

"It will be a pilot project for a new cooperation mode between Hong Kong and Macao under the 'one country, two systems' arrangement," said Zhong Shijian, mayor of Zhuhai, in a press conference Monday.

The island has an area of 106 sq km - three times the size of Macao - and a population of less than 8,000.

According to the blueprint, the Hengqin island will achieve 120,000 yuan ($17,544) per capita GDP by 2015, which will be further raised to 200,000 yuan by 2020.

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The population is expected to increase to 120,000 by 2015 and 280,000 by 2020. Industries will focus on business services, leisure, tourism, education, and research and development as well as high technology.

"We are targeting investments from world's top 500 corporations It will be a new stage for professionals from Hong Kong and Macao and the government will surely raise the threshold for talent to ensure the quality of the human resources on the island," Deng You, deputy chief of the management authority of the island, told reporters.

As a pilot project, it is expected to make breakthroughs in terms of bordering arrangement, financial cooperation, land management systems and social governance systems, he said.

The University of Macao will build a new campus, with an area of about 1 sq km, on the island to overcome its current land shortage problem. The project will be subject to Macao Basic Law as authorized by the mainland's legislative body.

"We will ensure convenient border-crossing facilities during the construction," said Liu Jia, chief of the island's management authority, Discussions over the island's development started in the early 1990s but have not been successful until now.