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Central government approves Shanghai Disney Park

SHANGHAI has won state approval to build a Disney park in Pudong New Area, paving the way for the entry of the United States entertainment giant into China's mainland in a deal that could also boost local economy.

Shanghai and Walt Disney Co applied to set up the park after signing a framework agreement earlier this year, the city government said in a statement yesterday. The nod from the central government was given in late October, it said.

The local government is now in discussions with Walt Disney about details in cooperation and will seek "long-term alliance to build a top-level Disneyland in Pudong," the statement said.

In a separate statement, Walt Disney said that the government approval on the so-called the Project Application Report for the Disneyland would allow both sides to "move forward toward a final agreement."

It added that the first phase of the project would include a "Magic Kingdom-style" theme park with characteristics tailored to Shanghai. Amenities will be consistent with other Disney resorts, it said.

The announcement of the Shanghai Disneyland comes after long-time talks between the city and Disney, which announced plans to set up a mainland park in early 2000s. Disney opened a theme park in Hong Kong in 2005.

The timing was also just ahead of a scheduled trip by US President Barack Obama to Shanghai and Beijing between November 15 and November 18, his first official visit to China.

Today's statements neither specified a timetable to set up the park in Shanghai nor revealed its size or investment. Earlier media reports have placed the cost of the park at around US$3.6 billion with an estimated size of as big as 10 square kilometers.

Analysts said that building a Disneyland in Shanghai could help the city sustain its economic growth via fuelling both investment and spending after the World Expo, a half-year event that will be held in the city next year.

"Like World Expo, Disney park will also bring a golden chance to the city to develop its services industry," said Tu Jun, an analyst with Shanghai Securities Co. "It could drive investment in a near term and boost consumption in a long term."

Industries that are set to benefit from the park's building will likely include real estate, infrastructure construction, catering, tourism, transport, hotel and tourism, Tu said.

Despite the opportunities that Disneyland could bring to Shanghai, experts cautioned that the initiative could post challenges to fledgling players in the local entertainment and culture industries.

"Disney is an empire in the culture industry and is super strong in innovation," said Huang Renwei, an economist and vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. "It may bring challenges to Shanghai's nascent innovation industry and make it difficult to survive for some small innovation firms in such fields as designing and advertising."

Huang also said that Disneyland will demand Shanghai to raise its capabilities to receive visitors and improve services quality. "It will be like a never-ending Expo," he said.

News reports in the past several years about Disneyland in Shanghai have already stoked local people's enthusiasm. But some said that the ticket price and park environment will be the key to decide whether to go. The Hong Kong Disneyland now charges HK$350 (US$45.20) for a one-day ticket.

"I may not go if the price is set as high as Hong Kong's," said Eric Chen, a 26-old-year doctor. "I also don't want to spend most of my time waiting in long queues and only play games for several minutes."



 

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