The first plan was for an "eco-city" that would "help pull Zhongxian, a remote city on the hilly banks of the Yangtze River in southwest China, out of poverty," according to Chen & Shepherd of REUTERS. But developers "pulled out." Zhongxian's government has since "seized upon another plan to reinvent its economy:" a 1.4B yuan ($211.5M) online gaming complex that it hopes will "cash in" on China's "fast-growing" esports market. When finished, the complex will include a 6,000-capacity stadium and an incubator for gaming start-ups -- "and this in a town that lacks an airport or railway station." Many of the specialty towns -- like the one in Zhongxian -- are also "proceeding with projects before getting official approval, raising the risk potential," economists said. Gao Wei, a Beijing-based analyst at the Centre for China & Globalization, said, "On one hand, the plan can help resolve inequalities in regional development, but on the other, lots of people are taking specialty town funds and creating a fiscal mess." In Zhongxian, residents said that they were "hopeful the gaming complex would boost incomes and generate jobs." Although the government has yet to apply for specialty town status, local officials said that they are "in the process of applying." Zhongxian Cultural Committee Dir Yi Hui said that the city had "no set goals in terms of return on investment as the project was still in its early stages. " He added that the "booming" Chinese gaming industry was "for sure good for our economy." Yi also said that Zhongxian's stadium, "due to open in December," will bring in rental income and ticket sales from future gaming competitions. Zhongxian won the right to host the grand final of China Mobile E-sports Games -- a mid-tier competition backed by the General Administration of Sports -- for the next five years. China's main esports events are "usually held in cities like Shanghai." For Zhongxian, bringing in fans will be "more difficult" -- the main public transport link is a three-hour bus ride from downtown Chongqing, the closest major city. But Yi said that shuttle buses "would bring in visitors when the gaming stadium opened" (REUTERS, 12/7).
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