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Regional Reports

The Yangtze River Delta, spearheaded by Shanghai, is the most important economic region in China. The region is a favourite investment destination because of its skilled workforce and good infrastructure. As a result, it is among the most prosperous regions of China with prosperity levels growing at a much faster rate than in the interior.

Fearing that growing income inequality will spark social unrest, the central government launched the Go West campaign, the process to open up China’s vast interior. Devised in the late 1980s and rubber-stamped by the National People’s Congress, the campaign aims to eliminate poverty and narrow the widening wealth gap between east and west, coastal and rural areas by 2050 through large scale investments in huge transport infrastructure projects. These investments are expected to pave the way for future development, together with a raft of tax and other incentives from local and central governments calculated to attract foreign investment to inland provinces.

A key element of the Go West campaign is to establish Chongqing as the economic powerhouse of China’s west. For the campaign to succeed, modernising the Yangtze is the key. Regarded as the Golden Waterway, the 2,838km navigable length of the river has been China’s main east-west transport artery for centuries. Major dredging projects have been carried out from the Yangtze mouth up to Nanjing to serve the dynamic industries in the lower reaches that accounts for nearly two-thirds of Yangtze’s total container and cargo throughput. The central government is modernising the ports, the waterway and the vessels, and investing in the supporting road, rail and air cargo network along the Yangtze at a speed and on a scale never seen before in human history. It hopes to lay the ground for manufacturers to access the vast and largely untapped market in the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze, helping to facilitate an efficient and effective supply of raw material, components and finished goods in and out of the region.

The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project, is a bottleneck for shipping on the Yangtze. Working out how best to manage the five-step shiplocks is a major issue for both planners and shippers. Notwithstanding this problem, and concerns about water levels downstream of the dam, shipping conditions on the middle reaches of the Yangtze have improved considerably since the filling up of the reservoir behind the dam. Once the project is completed by summer 2009, the journey time between Chongqing and Shanghai will be halved to seven days. A non-stop container service already exists that takes as little as five days.

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