The holy land of Buddhism and Taoism also is becoming a kingdom of plastics.
The vicinity around Zhejiang province's Taizhou city has a strong connection to China's two ancient religions. But within the past 20 years, Taizhou - which includes the towns of Luqiao, Huangyan and Wenling - has made its name as a manufacturing center for plastic products.
In the next two years, the city will become an even bigger draw for plastic processors and buyers, with the establishment of East China Plastics City.
The central and provincial governments recently approved Taizhou as the home for what will become the province's largest plastics complex - a 2.5 million-square-foot facility housing raw materials sellers and processors. The city already boasts the largest plastic products market in China, with more than 700 companies occupying a 215,280-square-foot building. Two other markets house raw materials and mold suppliers. All three segments will be under one roof in the plastics city.
Groundbreaking for the plastics complex is planned for the second half of this year.
Star of the industry
Taizhou has become so well-known and wealthy that the country's favorite soap opera this year, At the Gates of the Sea, is based in the city.
Taizhou's most famous enterprises include automaker Geely Holding Group, air conditioner manufacturer Shining Group and manufacturer of electric motors Zhejiang Jinlong Electric Motor Co. Ltd.
But there are thousands of lesser-known companies, most producing plastic products ranging from household items like trash cans and salad bowls to industrial construction products like PVC pipes and window fittings.
In terms of raw material consumption, Taizhou's manufacturers use more plastic than any other single area in China, accounting for more than 6.6 billion pounds of raw material consumption per year.
``We're the largest in terms of total capacity with over 10,000 processors. Some factories aren't that big, maybe two or three machines, but they still count,'' said Chen Jiazeng, office manager of the Taizhou Plastic Industry Association, a local trade group.
``In China, there are over 80,000 plastic processors. Taizhou accounts for one-eighth of those, and one-fourth of plastic raw materials consumed in China are used in Taizhou,'' he said.
And Taizhou's municipal government plans to make the city even more successful on the back of plastic processing. The government is targeting the development of five key industries and it has made plastics processing first on the list, said TPIA Chairman Zeng Yuanfeng.
Zeng said the government wants to attract international businesses for plastics-related exchanges and to send Taizhou-based companies to other areas of China and abroad to study technology and management skills.
Also, the wealth created by plastics processors has trickled down to other industries in the area.
The town of Luqiao, where the exhibition center is located, looks like a typical upwardly mobile Chinese city. Honda Accords and Volkswagen Passats are common forms of transportation. New, modern apartment blocks line the city's outskirts. Even the old town has been refurbished.
At the opening ceremony for the China Plastics Exhibition and Conference, an annual plastics exhibition in its sixth year, Taizhou's mayor reminded the crowd that in 2005, the city of 5.3 million people achieved gross domestic product of 124.7 billion yuan (US$15.8 billion) and revenue of 14.7 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion).
With these basic trappings of success, TPIA's Chen and Zeng only expect more to come after East China Plastics City is completed.