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Sichuan No Longer the Road Not Taken

"It is easier to climb to Heaven than take the Sichuan road."

So goes the 1,400-year-old poem in reference to the southwestern province's complex and often treacherous landscape, which has been a natural obstacle to economic exchanges between it and the rest of the world since time immemorial.

But over the next few years, all that is set to change, Sichuan Governor Jiang Jufeng said on Thursday.

The province will establish itself as a major transportation hub in western China as well as a financial center for the nation's hinterland, Jiang said.

The move will also bring about substantial investment opportunities in the province.

"Traffic problems have always hindered our efforts to develop Sichuan as a major economic power in western China," Jiang said, adding that the creation of a comprehensive transportation hub is imperative.

Jiang said an agreement was also reached earlier this year with the Ministry of Railways to accelerate the development of the rail network in the province. Six new lines have been included in the government's mid-to-long-term rail construction plan, he said.

Some 246 billion yuan (US$34.6 billion) will be spent on extending the provincial rail network to 3,900 km by 2012, he said, and the total length of highways in the province will reach 3,160 km.

The province's airports and waterways will also get a facelift, the governor said.

Work on a second runway at Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu will start this year, while the construction of new airports in third-tier cities is also being considered.

To facilitate the construction plans, an innovative financing system will be developed that will combine central government support, provincial revenues and private sector funds, Jiang said.

(China Daily March 7, 2008)

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