China's vast pan Pearl River Delta (PPRD), shared by over one third of the national population, will phase in efforts toward regional economic integration in the coming 15 years, according to the PPRD Regional Cooperation and Development Program launched in the southwestern Chengdu City on Monday, marking a concrete step to turn the region's "economic powerhouse" vision into reality.

According to the program approved by the Second PPRD Regional Cooperation and Development Forum being held in this provincial capital city of Sichuan on Monday, the PPRD will spend the coming five years strengthening the infrastructure basis and constructing an effective mechanism to facilitate regional economic integration.

From 2011 to 2020, the 11 PPRD members, including nine southern mainland provinces or autonomous region as well as Hong Kong and Macao, will make concerted endeavors to forge an open market characterized by a sound and reasonable industrial layout, according to Monday's two-phase program, first of its kind since the PPRD notion was launched last year.

"The PPRD regional cooperation and development is a long-term task demanding confidence, courage, patience and effort," said Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang here on Monday.

Facing challenges from the booming Yangtze River Delta and the emerging Bohai Bay economic circle in north China, the Pearl River Delta, an engine driving China's industrial growth for years, decided to team up with the neighboring localities to become "one of the world's most prosperous and developed hubs".

Although the ambition seemed well founded as the current PPRD framework accounts for 40 percent of China's GDP, mountainous obstacles still need to be overcome in order to realize real economic integration in a region spanning over China's east, central and west regions, and harboring drastically different economic and societal arrangements. In 2004, Hong Kong's per capita GDP totaled 24,000 US dollars, almost 50 times of that of the inland Guizhou Province, also a PPRD member, showcasing the difficulty in achieving economic integration in the region.

In order to bridge the huge gaps between the PPRD members, Monday's program put much emphasis on building a multidimensional regional transit system within five years in an attempt to facilitate communications between coastal regions and less-developed inland provinces.

Efforts will also be made to enhance regional energy cooperation centered on exploring oil and gas resources in the South China Sea and transferring an additional 10.3-million-kilowatts of electricity from the western region to the eastern coast by 2010, according to the program.

In addition, the PPRD region also plans to become a participant in the Sino-ASEAN economic cooperation framework in the coming 15 years. "China's accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), implementation of CEPA and establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone combined to provide PPRD members more momentum to utilize international resources," said Hong Kong leader Tsang.

Starting to take concrete steps toward economic integration, the PPRD cooperation and development framework constitutes an experimental move in the country's economic regionalization.

"Strengthening comprehensive cooperation is a necessary and common choice for all parties involved in the PPRD framework," said Li Shenglin, vice minister of the State Development and Reform Commission, here on Monday.

The PPRD region includes Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan, as well as Hong Kong and Macao.

Source: Xinhua