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Rebirth of a quake-ravaged city

Xinhua, July 29, 2016 Adjust font size:


After the quake, Tangshan spent one decade on reconstruction, one decade on revitalizing, and two decades going through rapid economic growth, said Jiao Yanlong, party chief of the city.

"As a resource-oriented industrial city, Tangshan has to speed up the transformation of economic growth and restructuring, and improve the quality and efficiency of development," Jiao said.

Relying on heavy industry as its mainstay, the city has been plagued by emerging problems such as overcapacity and pollution during development.

Tangshan has contributed to half of the steel production capacity in Hebei, one of the world's major steel-production bases

"Hundreds of steel plants were built in Tangshan at the peak time but only a dozen of them can surpass an annual output of one million tonnes," said Wang Jianping, a retired steel worker.

Plenty of resources have been consumed by these iron and steel factories, but they often pollute water and generate harmful emissions.Under such circumstances, many have turned their eyes to a greener economy.

Ye Jinbao was owner of an iron and steel factory in Qianan city,Tangshan. Overcapacity and cut-throat competition forced Ye to sell his factory, and he vowed he would never again make a living from projects that caused heavy pollution again.

He spent nearly 500 million yuan (75 million U.S. dollars) constructing a manufacturing base for his new biopharmacy business in 2010.

With an annual investment of more than 50 million yuan in research and development, his new company has recorded profits since 2015.

Zhang Dongyi remembered having a difficult time in the 2000s, before his company sent technicians to study in Germany. They came back with the advanced technology and knowledge that enabled them to produce high-speed trains.

In 2015, the city's GDP reached 610 billion yuan, 73 times what it was 40 years ago.

By the end of 2015, it had reduced production capacity by 10.9 million tonnes of iron and 23.6 million tonnes of steel. That year, the number of days with serious pollution was 42 times less than in 2013, and PM2.5 dropped by over 26 percent.


Liu Jiang can see the changes in Kailuan.

"It was dirty in the past. When it rained, water on the ground became mud. Now even the mineshaft is as clean as a station hall," he says.

Many more changes can be seen in Tangshan.

On the site of Zhang Dongyi's destroyed home in Zhaogezhuang, now sits South Lake park, venue for the Tangshan International Horticultural Expo.

Looking into the future, Tangshan is ambitious.

Wang Chunyan, vice head of the Tangshan city planning bureau, told Xinhua that it was a goal of Tangshan to become a core part of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration.

"We will become an important city for regional economic cooperation in northeast Asia, with a new industrial base and an international cargo port," she said.

In some parts of the city, however, time seems to frozen at that tragic moment from 40 years ago.

The ruins in former Tangshan rolling stock plant are preserved as part of the Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park, where a black wall was built for survivors to mourn and remember the dead. Many of the names of the dead are inscribed on the wall, though many names are missing.

On quake anniversaries many people gather here, some cleaning bricks where names of their beloved are inscribed, others gently whispering to the wall, their pain never fully going away.

Zhang Dongyi never visits the park at such times.

"The occasion makes my heart ache," he said.

For him, commemoration is something private.

Several years ago, he burned a letter to his parents in heaven, in which he told them how he entered his father's company, and became a senior technician, and now has apprentices of his own.

"Father told me to work hard, and mom wanted me to be a good man, which I have always remembered."

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