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Cross-Straits experiment shows promise

China Daily

During the two days I stayed in Pingtan county last week, I was awakened early every day — not by the hotel's morning call service but by the noise of trucks and cars on the street.

The whole downtown is like a huge construction site, with numerous new buildings under construction, trucks going to and fro and dust covering the roadside bulletin board.

It's the first time that a symposium on cross-Straits relations has been held here, and more than 170 people from political, business, education and culture sectors from the mainland and Taiwan came to discuss the future of cross-Straits communications.

As the mainland's nearest county to Taiwan, Pingtan has been an experimental place to boost cross-Straits ties for several years.

Billions of yuan in public funds have been spent since November 2011, when the central government began channeling money into the county to create an experimental area for attracting investment from Taiwan.

A mainland professor told me that the current government-led investment in the county is more than 100 million yuan ($16.15 million) a day on average.

The real investment is more than what the professor said. Gong Qinggai, an official of the Pingtan comprehensive experimental zone, said that 50 billion yuan will be spent this year to improve its infrastructure.

We were led to visit several showcases — real estate projects under construction and well-preserved natural scenery spots — and told of the county's ambitious plans, including the construction of a high-speed railway and an airport.

Local government officials tried to convince the visitors, especially the potential investors from Taiwan, that the place will be a paradise for the businessmen and their assets.

What I saw is a busy and booming scene — lots of untapped land being developed, the planned industry park covering a vast area and modern shopping malls and offices.

The promotion proved effective to some extent — many Taiwan visitors showed their interest and asked government workers for details about the planning of the area.

However, some visitors also said they would not live in the county since they cannot get Taiwan TV programs there.

Besides, the lack of public transportation makes it difficult for tourists and visitors to travel. I saw only two taxis on the road during the two-day visit.

Some visitors questioned whether the newly developed region will be a “ghost city” because there are few people on the sightseeing pedestrian streets.

Many local residents complained on an online forum that their tap water became polluted and the color of the water was yellow.

Obviously, the problems are not unique; they exist in many other Chinese cities as well.

But if the Pingtan county government wants to make a difference, such problems must be resolved; even though the local government has attracted investment from Taiwan's people, they must also win their hearts.

Contact the writer at anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn