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A new jewel rising from Tangshan Bay area

 A new jewel rising from Tangshan Bay area

The new Shougang Jingtang Iron and Steel Corp in Tangshan, Hebei province. File photo

One turn outside Wang Zhongmin's office stands a lighthouse.

Located right in the middle of the street, traffic skirts it as if it were one of those "garden islands" once ubiquitous in Chinese cities.

The lighthouse is a remnant from the old days when Caofeidian was as big as a basketball court when the tide was in - and the size of a football field when out.

Today the island of Caofeidian is at the heart of a process that can both literally and figuratively be described as "nation-building".

As much as 310 sq km of land will be reclaimed by 2020 after the provincial government of Hebei officially approved the administrative establishment of Caofeidian new district yesterday.

It exercises control over Caofeidian industrial zone, Tanghai county and Nanbao development zone with a total area of 1,862 sq km.

The reshaping of the landmass has been made possible by Mother Nature herself: outside its large shoals lay chasms as deep as 30 m, ideal for building a port that docks 300,000-ton ships.

Wang Zhongmin manages this fledgling port, or the first phase of it.

As executive vice president of Tangshan Caofeidian Industrial and Commercial Port Co, his office has a full wall of windows overlooking the harbor.

When asked about competition with nearby ports, such as those in Tianjin and Qinhuangdao, he laughed: "The port business all over the country is experiencing breakneck growth. Demand far exceeds supply. Even with the fast expansion of facilities, ships still sometimes have to wait for docking. Do you know how much it costs a cape ship - the largest kind - to wait a day? $180,000 for rental.

"So, the building of ports must be reasonably ahead of market needs."

A new jewel rising from Tangshan Bay area

Tangshan Bay

Caofeidian is about 80 km from downtown Tangshan, an industrial city devastated by an earthquake in 1976.

If the city itself is like a phoenix reborn, the coastal area of the municipality is like a new wing that will take the city to unprecedented heights.

Tangshan has a coastline of 198 km, and Caofeidian is the diamond that glitters the brightest.

Heavy machinery is currently sucking up sand from the bottom of the sea, spewing it out to make new land.

On the east side of Caofeidian New Area, a 10 sq km town accommodating 300,000 people is breaking ground.

"It will be the most eco-friendly community ever built," said Zhao Yong, CPC secretary of Tangshan.

Eventually, the town will have 150 sq km with a population of more than a million.

Farther to the east is another "New Area" called Laoting, and to the west is Fengnan Industrial New Area followed by Luhan Economic and Technological Development Zone.

Zhao Yong formulated the strategy of "Four Points Along One Corridor", mapping out the future of not just Tangshan but one of North China's most dynamic engines.

The "corridor" covers 2,143 sq km, with a length of 150 km and varying in width from two to 80 km.

It hugs Tangshan Bay, which is part of the much larger Bohai Gulf.

Zhao's dream is to build it into the equivalent of Tokyo Bay.

"The economy around Tokyo Bay is one third of Japan's total, anchoring on two big cities, including the capital city - Tokyo and Yokohama; Tangshan Bay has Beijing and Tianjin, one of which is also a capital city. Tokyo Bay has five major industries - iron and steel, chemicals, equipment manufacturing, logistics and high tech, and we have been approved for almost identical industries. One thing Tokyo Bay does not have - but we do - is the offshore oil field," explained Zhao.


Driving along the highway leading to the southernmost tip of Caofeidian, one sees a vast vista of flattened sandbank-filled land with occasional billboards and sand-blowing machines on the horizon.

A cluster of buildings on the west side of the highway attracts attention for its magnificence.

It is the new home of Shougang, one of the nation's biggest iron and steel plants.

The relocation of Shougang from the western suburb of Beijing to Caofeidian made headlines.

Though presumably to be a move to clean up the capital city's air, it will help spark economic liftoff in the coastal area of Tangshan.

But does that mean pollution will also be shifted to this less populated island?

"When we talk about Shougang's move, we're talking in figurative terms. The capacity will be relocated, but not a single piece of equipment has actually been transported from Beijing to Caofeidian. Everything here is new and complies with much stricter environmental protection laws," explains Zhao Yong.

The new venture, an equity partnership between Shougang and Tangshan Steel, will make use of every new technology available to minimize the impact on the environment: The waste residues will be turned into cement, waste gas used to generate electricity and waste water recycled.

For people who work here, the life of a pioneer is not much fun.

"We are 40 km from the nearest town, and we have little recreation here," said Xu Jianhua, an executive with the new Shougang.

Xu is among the few thousand who shuttle from Beijing and downtown Tangshan every week.

Every weekend a fleet of 40 buses make their way towards the big cities.

"We put in overtime to master the skills of operating new equipment. The image of a steel worker using a shovel to toss coal into the furnace has been replaced with one operating a computer," said Xu.

The first phase of Shougang's Caofeidian facility will start production on Oct 18.

A blast furnace was spitting big fireballs the day we visited.

"It is in testing," explained Xu. "When it goes into regular mode, you won't see the fire, and in production we'll rank as No 1 in the whole country and among the top five in the world."


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