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China's Very Own Donald Trump Moves Mountains for New City

China is moving mountains again, but this time it isn't a legendary peasant doing the moving, but instead, Yan Jiehe, former teacher, big time developer and one of China's richest men, who is behind it all.
December 23, 2012, 1pm PST | Erica Gutiérrez
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“In what is being billed as the largest 'mountain-moving project' in Chinese history, one of China's biggest construction firms will spend £2.2bn to flatten 700 mountains levelling the area Lanzhou, allowing developers to build a new metropolis on the outskirts of the north-western city,” reports Jonathan Kaiman. The Lanzhou New Area, a 500 square mile parcel located 50 miles from the the provincial capital of Gansu province, has already attracted billions in investment, and is expected to increase the region's gross domestic product by much more than that (£27bn) by 2030. The project is being spearheaded by the China Pacific Construction Group and its head, Yan Jiehe, who was named China's second-richest man in 2006, and who has made his fortune by investing in struggling state-owned enterprises.

The massive mountain-flattening project has raised concerns about the environmental and financial risks associated with it, and more precisely, about the implications of building in one of “China's most chronically water-scarce municipalities,” writes Kaiman.

"In an email interview, a China Pacific Construction Group spokeswoman dismissed criticisms of the project as unjustified. 'Lanzhou's environment is already really poor, it's all desolate mountains which are extremely short of water,' said Angie Wong. 'Our protective style of development will divert water to the area, achieve reforestation and make things better than before.' She also added, "I think whether it's England or America, or any other country, no one will cease development because of resource scarcity caused by geography."

Kaiman reports that the project has received positive press coverage by Chinese Central Television on its website, which stated, “[t]he new area 'will lead to an environmentally sustainable economy based on energy-saving industries' including advanced equipment manufacturing, petrochemical industries and modern agriculture.” The article includes a promotional video which has also been posted onto the Lanzhou New Area website.

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Published on Thursday, December 6, 2012 in The Guardian
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