Guilin is not just for tourists

By Alfred Lee, The China Post

The China Post will publish a series of reports on the “Greater Western Development Project” of mainland China as staff reporter Alfred Lee has completed a press tour in Gungxi recently. The following is his fourth report of the tour.

When mentioning Guilin, it is difficult not to add that it is one of the most picturesque places in the world because in fact it is. With more than 2,000 years of history, Guilin has gained international fame for its unique karst topography scenery: lush hills, steep rocky cliffs, clear water, intricate caves, limestone of various shapes, underground rivers, and its trademark scene of a black pelican with an elderly fisherman on a bamboo raft.

From 1980 to 1997, 60 million tourists from more than 150 countries and areas and tens of state leaders came to visit Guilin. Most — if not all — were deeply impressed. Guilin has developed into one of the most well known tourist resorts in Asia, perhaps the world.

Almost every Chinese is so familiar with the saying, “Qulin’s mountains and rivers are the best throughout the whole country, and Yang Shuo’s mountains and rivers are the best throughout Guilin.” Therefore, Guilin is frequently selected as a tourist spot for state visits. The celebrities who toured the Li River of Guilin include former U.S. President and Mrs. Bill Clinton, former U.N. General Secretary Javier Perez, and the Prime Minister of Belgium.

The Greater Guilin area consists of five districts and 12 counties with a total population of 4.82 million. The population living in the urban area is 640,000, according to Jing Zu-fa, deputy mayor of Guilin. In 1985 Guilin was named among the “top 10” mainland China scenic areas. In 1986, it was named among “the top seven key tourist areas” of the mainland. In 1996, it was listed as one of “the most outstanding tourist attractions” of mainland China, the deputy mayor stated.

Like other cities in Guangxi, Guilin is undertaking ambitious plans to make itself even better. Guilin’s current five-year plan dedicates 54 billion renminbi to stepping up economic development, according to Deputy Mayor Jing.

While most economic development plans may have negative effects on the environment, Guilin’s is different. “The city will be improved as if it is in a Chinese painting of mountains and streams, and the beauty of mountains and streams will be in the city,” Jing stated. “In the past Guilin was a good-looking country maid in a ragged cloth, she will become a charming princess in the future,” the deputy mayor said.

One of the projects to transform Guilin to an even more beautiful place is the US$29.18 million project to develop the round-the-city lake-river system and waste-water treatment system. After completion of the project the city’s surrounding lakes and rivers will be 10 kilometers long and cover an area of 35.6 hectares. Scenic spots will be connected by the system. The project will bring in 1.6 million tourists with revenues estimated at 63 million renminbi and profits at 46 million renminbi. The waterway will pass the downtown area of Guilin and connect to the international airport and national super highways. Deputy Mayor Jing emphasized that this is a project in which foreign enterprises are welcome to invest. Foreign investors are welcome to participate in the construction of highways and power generation plants. The project to build a 6-lane high-speed highway of 9.7 kilometers calls for an investment of US$93 million. The project will also build a 490-meter-long bridge across the Li River.

Another important project is to build a US$67 million hydraulic power plant with an installed power generation capacity of 72,000 KWs and annual power generation capacity of 270 million KWs/hour. The power generation plant will make use of the water of Nanshan Reservoir in Longsheng, which falls 1,100 meters, to drive the plant’s power generators.

Guilin is keen to develop its new and high tech industry. One of the three national-level New and High Technology Industrial Zones in Guangxi is located in the city. Guilin has a plan to make semiconductor laser irradiators for blood vessels and fiber needles for transfusions. The US$2 million project aims to provide 15 to 20 percent of world demand for such medical instruments, currently estimated at one million sets. Capital is expected to be fully returned in only three years.

Many investment projects will provide ample opportunity for future economic growth. These investment projects include a US$3.45 million project to develop ginkgo medicine, a US$2.57 flower and plant plantation, a US$2.49 million grape winery, a US$10 million bamboo products production center, a US$4.3 million snow pear plantation, a US$1 million agricultural product refrigeration facility for processing 4,000 tons of products, a US$15.5 million project to make tires for airplanes, and projects to develop Lotus Flower Cave, Bajiao Village, and Yang Shuo’s Yulong River Tourist Resorts.

Even without these investments, Guilin’s economy has been growing at 12 percent annually over the past five years. Last year the GDP of Guilin was 30 billion renminbi. The economy of Guilin in the current five-year period is expected to continue its double-digit growth.

So far 279 Taiwan enterprises have been operating in Guilin and playing an important role in Guilin’s economy. Because its subtropical weather is similar to Taiwan’s, Taiwan investors are successfully transplanting high value-added agricultural processing and plantation. Japan’s NEC and South Korea’s Daewoo have also sustained strongholds in Guilin.

With many encouraging incentives, Guilin’s economic outlook should be very promising, Deputy Mayor Jing concluded.