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UPDATED: August 29, 2011 NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
Go, Go, Guizhou
Guizhou Province seeks to narrow the gap with the prosperous east

ETHNIC CUSTOM: Women of the Miao ethnic minority group in Guizhou Province serve visitors with local drinks (LI JINFENG)

Guizhou Province, a mountainous and multi-ethnic province in southwest China, is gaining popularity with domestic and overseas investors as it accelerates the pace of its economic expansion.

From August 18 to 20, the 2011 China (Guizhou) International Alcoholic Beverages Expo and China Guiyang Fair for Investment and Trade was held in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province. A total of 148 investment deals were signed worth 118.8 billion yuan ($18.4 billion).

"This event is the province's first large-scale international fair, which indicates Guizhou is sparing no effort to catch up with its east coastal counterparts," said Zhao Kezhi, Governor of Guizhou Province. "Our province will create a favorable investment environment to implement projects signed at the fair."

The investment and trade fair is expected to provide a powerful catalyst for the province's economic boom. The total 148 deals included 90 processing and manufacturing projects worth 76.7 billion yuan ($11.9 billion), 22 agriculture-related deals valued at 6.9 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), and 36 liquor deals with investments of 34.6 billion yuan ($5.4 billion).

Now, Guizhou, whose per-capita GDP in 2010 was the lowest among China's provincial-level economies, has an ambitious goal: to double its GDP over the next five years and build a moderately prosperous society by 2015.

Long journey

In 2010, Guizhou's Human Development Index (HDI) just exceeded the southern African state of Namibia, while Shanghai's index was comparable to Portugal. Now, Guizhou has set its sights on narrowing the massive divide with China's developed coastal provinces. The HDI, issued by the United Nations Development Program, is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.

Guizhou may not score well on indexes, but it does have its advantages, namely, the liquor industry. The province has more than 2,000 liquor producers, among them big names like Moutai, widely considered China's "national spirit." In 2010, the output value of Guizhou's liquor industry totaled 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion), accounting for around 4.3 percent of the province's GDP. Centering the recent expo around alcoholic beverages seemed an obvious and wise choice to bring investors' attention to Guizhou's fine spirits.

Guizhou also glitters with rich mineral resources, such as coal. The province is one of southwest China's most important production bases for energy and raw materials, but the mineral sector is largely engaged in initial processing. In 2009, the industrialization level of the province was only equivalent to the national average in the mid-1990s. In other words, Guizhou is still 15 years behind the rest of China in terms of industrialization.

In a bid to stimulate the local economy, the provincial government is focusing on its characteristic industries and pressing ahead with structural adjustments. The goal is to rebalance the economy to rely more on industrial productivity and efficiency, transform industries from raw processing to intensive processing, and strengthen industrial enterprises.

Aluminum Corp. of China (Chinalco), the country's largest aluminum producer, is one of the largest investors in Guizhou. Over the next five years, Chinalco plans to invest 34.5 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) in the province to expand mine construction and energy development, said Xiong Weiping, President of Chinalco.

"The capital will also be used to enhance alumina capacities and eventually build a complete recycling industrial chain covering mines, energies, alumina, electrolytic aluminum and aluminum processing," he said.

Xiong also pledged that the company will push forward research and development and technology applications to provide technological support to the aluminum industry in Guizhou. "Efforts will also be made to contribute to the economic rebalancing of the province," he added.

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