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Wanzhou is a city of around 1.71m people, situated halfway between Chongqing and Yichang at the heart of the 600km-long Three Gorges Reservoir. The second largest city in Chongqing municipality, it is situated about 230km to the northeast of Chongqing city. It has been an important river port for centuries and a distribution centre for industrial and agricultural products.

In 2000, about 230,000 Wanzhou residents were relocated to make way for the creation of the Three Gorges Dam. The old city centre, which contained many historic buildings and bridges, was demolished in 2001-02. Half of the old city was submerged by June 2003, when the second phase of damming of the Three Gorges Reservoir brought the water level up to 135 metres. A new city on higher ground has been built to house displaced residents.

Wanzhou’s poor infrastructure, especially in terms of communications and energy, has hindered its development, and it has lagged far behind Chongqing proper in both social and economic terms. The city is home to many of the municipality’s poorest citizens and contains an estimated 460,000 migrant workers. Thousands more rural residents are being moved to the city as part of a relocation scheme that will run until 2020.
Major local industries include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, environmentally-friendly construction materials, food processing and textiles. Wanzhou has extensive reserves of gas and rock salt. The central government has approved the construction of a strategic oil reserve in Wanzhou. The base will be the first of its kind in the interior of the country. Preparation work began in November 2009 and total investment is expected to reach Rmb 500m.

Despite being poor, Wanzhou has managed steady economic and social progress in recent years. There has also been some success in attracting business from foreign companies. In 2009 utilised FDI increased by 98 per cent to stand at US$58m.

Chongqing Sote Group, a major domestic salt producer, is expanding into the chemical industry by exploiting Wanzhou’s rich reserves of rock salt and natural gas. Along with other domestic companies, Sote has completed the first phase of a special chemical industry park that is claimed will become Asia’s biggest salt production unit.

Jiangsu-based Daqo Group is building a polycrystal silicon project in Wanzhou which, when fully completed in 2010, will be the largest of its kind in China. Polycrystal silicon is used in the production of solar cells, semiconductors and LCDs; Chongqing municipality has abundant silicon resources.

Chongqing Yudong ETDZ, located in the southeast of Wanzhou on the eastern bank of the Yangtze, is a municipal-level development zone that covers an area of nearly 22 sq km. Enterprises in the zone are engaged mainly in sectors such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronic and electrical appliances, and foodstuffs. By June 2008 it was home to more than 400 enterprises. Chongqing Wanzhou Industrial Zone, situated within the chemical industry park initiated by Sote, is a municipal-level development zone. With a planned area of 24.6 sq km, of which more than 10 sq km had been developed by 2009, the zone will focus on sectors such as machinery, electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, textiles and agricultural products processing.

Transport connections have improved in recent years. The Daxian-Wanzhou Railway was opened to traffic in 2002, while the Wanzhou-Yichang line should be operational by the end of 2010. An inter-city express railway linking Wanzhou with Chongqing is underway. It will reduce the travel time between Chongqing and Wanzhou from two-and-a-half hours to one hour.

The Chongqing-Wanzhou expressway is operational, while the Wanzhou-Kaixian expressway opened to traffic in late 2006, followed by the Wanzhou-Yunyang expressway two years later. The Wanzhou-Yichang expressway is set to open in 2010, while work on a new expressway connecting Wanzhou with neighbouring city Dazhou began in September 2009.

The Three Gorges Dam has changed the fortunes of Wanzhou port, which has emerged as the only good deepwater port beyond Wuhan on the upper Yangtze. In the past, the river at Wanzhou was only 150 metres wide at the narrowest. The creation of the reservoir has increased this to 800 metres wide and has enabled Wanzhou to accommodate vessels of 10,000 dwt.

Container throughput was 21,181 TEU in 2009, up 18 per cent over the previous year. Following the completion of the Three Gorges in summer 2009, improved water conditions have allowed barges of 250-300 TEU capacity to replace the old 100 TEU vessels, helping to accelerate the growth of container traffic.

Wanzhou handles a variety of goods, including crude oil and derivatives, natural gas, coal, iron and steel, grain, non-metal ore, fertiliser and medical products. It has also established a position in recent years as a specialist ro-ro cargo handler, with an annual capacity of 500,000 vehicles.

The city is now plugged into a comprehensive transport network that enables it to accept transit cargo from a wide hinterland beyond Chongqing. The local government has an ambitious plan to transform Wanzhou into the largest logistics centre in the region after Chongqing – a goal it is well placed to achieve.

Now part of Chongqing Port and Logistics Group, Wanzhou port is in the throes of a major expansion programme that began in 2005, with a planned investment amounting to Rmb2.18bn by 2020. This includes a programme to restore some of the facilities submerged by the rising water levels of the reservoir. In particular, the existing general-purpose berths of Hongxigou terminal are being converted to handle bulk cargo.

By 2020, Wanzhou will have 86 berths, with 13 capable of handling containers. Container capacity is projected to increase to 1m TEU, making Jiangnan Tuokou the second biggest container facility on the upper Yangtze, after Cuntan in Chongqing.

If you want to read more about Wanzhou, its leading companies, major investment zones, transport network, port infrastructure and the logistics experience of FIEs in the city, click here to order an e-version of the city profile for £15. Alternatively, for information on all the major Yangtze port cities and much else besides, click here to buy Yangtze Transport: Accessing China's Interior for £85.
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