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Optimism marks Guangxi's 50th birthday
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08:24, December 12, 2008

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Dressed in bright colorful clothes, the residents of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region - a melting pot of ethnic cultures and a booming trade gateway to Southeast Asia - danced and sang to celebrate the region's 50th anniversary yesterday.

Local artists performed popular folk songs and dances in the backdrop of a bright red wall, decorated with huge hand-woven balls and the bronze drum, both symbols of luck in Guangxi, at the Nanning Folk Song Square in the region's capital.

A ceremony, witnessed by more than 30,000 local people and officials, was held yesterday morning near the venue for the 5-year-old China-ASEAN Expo - the biggest regional trade fair aimed at spurring the building of a China-ASEAN free-trade area.

During the grand performance, hundreds of dancers held white-stripped sails as spectators waved blue ribbons to symbolize the booming trade along the coast of Beibu Bay, the hub of trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"Guangxi has unprecedented opportunities for development, and it has huge potential with its beautiful landscape, culture, and rich resources," Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said in his speech at the ceremony.

Zhou, who led a delegation to Guangxi this week, said the region should play a key role in international trade between the Beibu Bay rim and Southeast Asian countries in the Greater Mekong region.

To mark the occasion, a project to revamp the Xianggui railway to link Guangxi with international railway networks in ASEAN countries also kicked off yesterday.

Guangxi has 12 major ethnic groups, contributing to almost 40 percent of its total population of over 50 million. Among these ethnic groups, more than one third are of the Zhuang ethnic group, the largest minority group in China.

China-ASEAN trade has almost doubled in recent years, rising from $105.9 billion in 2004 to $202.6 billion last year.

Despite the global economic slowdown, the region's trade has seen a year-on-year increase of 22 percent in the first 10 months of the year.

"The city of Liuzhou, where I work, exports automobiles and steel products to Southeast Asian countries," Huang Libo, a 45-year-old Zhuang ethnic official, wearing a purple hand-woven gown and traditional two-pointed hat, said proudly as she watched the ceremony.

"The next 10 years of Guangxi's development will depend a lot on international trade," she said.

Source: China Daily

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