In the outskirts of Guiyang, the capital of one of China's poorest provinces, giant robots and futuristic cyberpunk castles rise out of the lush surrounding mountainscape - a vision of what could be driving local economic growth in years to come. Graham Mackay reports.
It was a typically bleak patch of rural China until this happened. A giant robot and space age structures radically transforming the Guiyang skyline, as workers put the finishing touches to the Oriental Science Fiction Valley Theme Park, which opens its doors in February. And while the name may sound as bland as the surroundings, inside, a feast of visual entertainment awaits. From shoot-em-up games to roller coasters, this $1.5 billion dollar project is all about virtual reality - making it China's first and only VR theme park, something execs say has the potential to revolutionize the economy in on of the country's poorest provinces. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT OF SHUIMU ANIMATION CO. LTD. AND CEO OF ORIENTAL SCIENCE FICTION VALLEY THEME PARK, CHEN JIANLI, SAYING: "I believe that after our attraction opens, it will change the entire structure of tourism in Guizhou province, as well as China's southwest." The sky in Guizhou may rarely be as blue as it appears in this promotional video, but with China's virtual reality market worth an expected $8.5 billion by 2020, the 330-acre park has the potential to be a bright business opportunity. Still, not everyone's buying into it. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 55 YEAR-OLD FARMER, LIU GANGJUN, SAYING: "There are projects that are polluting the environment. We farmers want to get rid of this pollution. It's bad for the countryside, our kids, and our society." Local villagers are worried the park is only adding to the dirty air that's long been a problem in the area, a reality that there's nothing virtual about.