Investors are ploughing billions of dollars into a special economic zone on China's southern coast to reshape the former sleepy island of Hengqin into the country's biggest holiday hub. Graham Mackay reports.
It's not much to look at now, but investors in China's Hengqin Island are betting big that one day this giant building site will evolve into a glittering seaside resort. Located right next to the gambling mecca of Macau, Hengqin has been earmarked as a special economic zone. Billions of dollars are being poured into attractions to make it China's leading tourist hot spot, including a Real Madrid entertainment centre, and a theme park by film studio Lionsgate. The project is backed by President Xi Jinping, and the Chinese government is welcoming investment deals from far and wide. But this is more than just an exercise in pulling in tourists, it's also testing ground for links between some of the most high-profile economies in the southern China region, linking Macau, Hong Kong and the city of Zhuhai. Developers are confident in Hengqin's potential as well, with Macau and Hong Kong becoming increasingly crowded and expensive. Hengqin is already reaping the rewards. According to the local government, economic growth surged by more than 10 percent in the first half of this year alone.