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September 20, 2017

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Shanghai plans to build China's first Disneyland

BEIJING -- Shanghai is in a hurry to get mainland China's first Disneyland started, and it is already boasting of a landmark theme park that will be anything but a small, small world.

The city is raring to have another huge crowd-puller after receiving a record 72 million visitors at the six-month World Expo, and believes Mickey Mouse and his friends will do the trick.

The Shanghai government has sent out word that its Disneyland will be the biggest in the world at 4 square kilometers — Hong Kong's is only 1.26 sq km — set within a 20 sq km resort park, and it will also have uniquely Chinese characteristics.

State media has reported plans for a water world, with a huge 0.4 sq km lake where recreation sports and boating can take place, and a 7,000 sq m artificial island.

The park will also combine Western cartoon characters with Chinese elements, although it is unclear what these local injections would be.

Shanghai is determined to get it up fast, with the city government hurrying to ink a joint venture agreement with Walt Disney to build the park — less than a week after the Expo ended on Oct. 31.

The central government, which already approved the project last year, will review the proposed joint venture over the next few months.

The Magic Kingdom is slated to open in 2014, and will cost about 25 billion yuan, making it one of the largest foreign investments in China.

Shanghai is betting that Mickey Mouse's playland will be the next key growth catalyst for the maturing local economy, helping the commercial hub shift from a manufacturing base to a services economy.

"The park will help to transform the city's economic structure... boosting secondary and tertiary (higher-end) industries," Mr Yang Yu, a research fellow at China's economic planning body, told state broadcaster CCTV recently.

In particular, Disneyland can help put Shanghai ahead of the game in the hotel, entertainment, financial services and animation industries, officials say.

Professor He Jianmin of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics said Disneyland could help draw 30 million tourists to Shanghai annually.

There are even hopes that some of Disney's films may eventually be made here, said a manager at Shanghai's Cartoon and Animation Industry Base, who declined to be named. "I'm confident Chinese talent can make a better — or at least a more authentic — version of Kungfu Panda or Mulan," he quipped.

But despite the growing excitement, there are dissenting voices online and even among the local authorities about the benefits of the theme park.

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