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Attracted to a beacon of lifestyle

Updated: 2011-01-26

Dalian's seashell museum is built on a hill, rising like a fairytale castle sparkling with golden lights into the night sky. When the castle's gates open, many people will probably expect a handsome prince to ride through with his royal carriage.

This is the city of Dalian, where the warmth of orange lights from orderly street lamps drive away the darkness and chill of winter.

As tiny snowflakes dart about at night, people can also be seen strolling around the city's Xinghai Square. On the other side of the harbor, the reflection of skyscrapers decorated with neon lights shimmer on the surface of the Yellow Sea.

All these help Dalian's residents and visitors alike feel that beauty and romance is found almost anywhere.

Dalian in Liaoning province has been ranked as one of the most livable cities in China for years. According to the Competitiveness Reports of Chinese Cities in 2010, the city was ranked ninth nationwide and sixth within the Chinese mainland. Dalian's natural environment, social life, innovation and international openness are its attractions for both Chinese and foreigners.

"If I have children in the future, I'd love to have them grow up in Dalian," says Dutchman Robert H.P. Ploeger, 47. Ploeger has been doing business in China for 17 years. After visiting many cities and countries, he still prefers Dalian.

Attracted to a beacon of lifestyle

Robert H.P. Ploeger, a Dutch businessman working with Dalian KWD Innovation Automative. [Cui Meng/China Daily]

When record snowstorms in 2010 struck right before the New Year celebrations, the roads in Dalian were not muddy or slippery. Local residents still commuted to work as normal.

"The sanitation workers came out to clean the roads from midnight," says Xia Deren, Party secretary of the Dalian municipal committee. "We are capable of building Dalian into the most livable city not only in China, but also in the world."

Dalian is surrounded by the Bohai and Yellow seas on three sides. The city was invaded by Russia and Japan, with many historic structures built in Japanese and Russian styles remaining in the downtown area.

Dalian's natural beauty and unique architecture attract millions of travelers from home and abroad every year.

The world also began to notice Dalian more carefully when the Summer Davos conference brought political and economic luminaries to the city in 2007.

Local authorities know the strengths of their city and regularly carry out measures to improve its livability.

There used to be many chemical factories in Dalian and heavy industries were the main driver of the local economy. To improve the city's environment, more than 100 highly polluting companies were shut and about 200 factories moved to suburban areas in the past five years.

The green initiative seems to be working. Last year, Dalian recorded 362 days with "excellent" air quality.

Similarly, trees and greenery cover about 41 percent of the city but the local government still plans to spend up to 10 billion yuan (1.13 billion euros) this year to enhance its green coverage rate.

Many international companies have also been drawn to the city's attractions. By October 2009, there were already more than 13,000 of them from more than 80 countries setting their offices in Dalian.

The local government maintains a very close relationship with foreign communities. Top officials such as Xia Deren have attended all the New Year celebrations of foreign associations.

"We care about their business in Dalian, but we also care about their life in Dalian," Xia says.

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