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China issues plan to rejuvenate old industrial base

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will expand an urban regeneration plan for ageing industrial cities as part of efforts to restructure the economy and promote more sustainable growth, the National Development and Reform Commission said on Tuesday.

The plan, to run from 2013 to 2020, covers 95 prefecture-level cities and 25 municipalities and capital cities that were once the core of China's heavy industrial base. A blueprint issued in November 2011 covered 62 cities.

The NDRC said in a statement on its website that investments would be made to help former industrial centres upgrade technology while also providing financing support and encouraging financial innovation - including bond issuance - to raise capital for the program.

The regeneration plan also envisages increased fiscal revenue transfers to fill pension fund shortfalls and to cover redeployment costs of worker lay-offs at state-owned firms.

The NDRC statement set out a raft of targets for cities covered by the plan.

By 2017, high technology industries must account for 17.8 percent of the total production in the reformed areas, while services must be 45 percent of total output.

Water consumption per unit of industrial output must be cut by 32 percent from 2012 levels, while energy consumption for per unit of GDP must be reduced by 18 percent.

Annual personal disposable income for those cities is targeted at 29,900 yuan ($4,822) by 2017 and 13 million new jobs will be created during the same period.

The government wants cities in the program to develop new strategic industries in fields such as advanced equipment manufacture, new materials technology, energy conservation, bio-technology, clean energy vehicles and information technology.

Beijing kicked off a strategy to revitalize the old industrial "rust belt" in northeast China in 2003, expanding it to the central and western provinces, including Hubei and Henan, in 2010.

The northeastern Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning served as the industrial engine for the country's national reconstruction in the 1950s and were among the hardest hit by the economic reforms pursued by former paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping and former premier, Zhu Rongji.

China's new leaders - President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang - have put renewed emphasis on rebalancing the world's second biggest economy away from a reliance on investment and exports for growth and towards domestic consumption fuelled by a fresh urbanization drive over the next decade.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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