Xiamen sets example for reform

Updated: 2011-12-27 08:18

By Hu Meidong and Tan Zongyang (China Daily)

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XIAMEN, Fujian - President Hu Jintao hailed Xiamen in East China's Fujian province as a window for China's reform and opening-up policies in the past three decades and encouraged the city to further strengthen ties with Taiwan.

"The Xiamen Special Economic Zone's reform has acted as a forerunner, which proves the central government's decision was 'absolutely right'," Hu said in a congratulatory letter to mark the city's 30 years anniversary as a vanguard in economic development.

Hu also said the coastal city viewing Taiwan across the sea will continue to play a significant role in strengthening economy, trade and peoples' exchanges with Taiwan.

Vice-Premier Wang Qishan read the letter at a celebration meeting in Xiamen on Monday.

Xiamen, a port city well known for its long history of outbound trade, is one of the earliest four special economic zones established in the 1980s. The other three are Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong province.

In 1981, the central government set a 2.5-square-kilometer area on Xiamen Island as a trial zone to offer preferential policies to attract foreign investment.

The special economic zone saw its first expansion to the entire Xiamen Island in 1984. The latest expansion in 2010 enlarged the zone to the whole city, which covers 1,569 square kilometers and is 12 times bigger than Xiamen Island.

The city has successfully maintained rapid economic growth. Statistics show its gross domestic product exceeded 200 billion yuan ($31.6 billion) in 2010, which represents an average annual growth over the last 30 years of 17.4 percent.

"The central government will, as always, support the brave exploration of the special economic zone to further carry out reforms ahead of others," He Guoqiang, the Party's top discipline inspector, said in a speech at Monday's meeting.

He, who was governor of the province from 1997 to 1999, also stressed that Xiamen should continue to take advantage of being a pilot city to strengthen the mainland's ties with Taiwan.

"As a special economic zone, Xiamen should dare to be the first in developing cross-Straits relations," He said.

Jin Tao, a professor at the school of economics at Xiamen University, said Xiamen fulfilled the concept of sustainable development.

"Xiamen is not seeking the best rank in terms of GDP, but created a path of its own characteristics featuring social and environmental harmony," he said.

Jin said the city's economy is now driven by high-end manufacturing and a modern service industry, which are further up the industrial chain and have less influence on the environment.

The city was also a winner of the United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honor Award in 2004 as one of the best places to live.

Yang Shaohua, a 65-year-old resident who was a construction worker when Xiamen began its development as a special economic zone, said he has witnessed huge changes.

"Thirty years ago Xiamen Island only had a small bustling area as its downtown. But today, a vast rural area that used to be farmlands now has rows and rows of tall buildings integrated into the urban city."

"I would live nowhere except Xiamen. The city can provide people with a good living environment, which fills me with happiness."

China Daily

(China Daily 12/27/2011 page2)