zhanjiang_3.jpgForget climate change, forget “harmonious development”. Western Guangdong wants to attract more heavy manufacturing and petrochemical plants to the region.

The local government of Guangdong is targeting the underdeveloped western part of the province with plans for new chemical and manufacturing plants.

Cities such as Zhanjiang, Yunfu, Yangjiang and Maoming have a combined population of around 15m but economically they have lagged behind the Pearl River Delta in the east of the province.

The Pearl River Delta region has long been a symbol of China's rapid development but its economic growth has wrought huge environmental damage — see this post.

Undaunted, Jin Xinyi, secretary general of the Shenzhen Chamber of Commerce, said that Zhanjiang (pictured) had one of the best harbours in the country and would be a perfect location for iron, steel and petrochemical plants.

The biggest obstacle facing the region, he said, was a lack of infrastructure such as roads, railways and airports.

Of course, China is not the only country where regional politics leads to contradictory messages about economic development.

In EngagingChina's adopted home of Spain, the government sees no inherent contradiction in one day promoting “sustainable” economic development and the next day urging the power generators to burn more coal to save coal miners' jobs in a particular region.

But in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate change summit in December, I suspect that Beijing will be paying a lot more attention to the public pronouncements of officials and politicians who apparently still see nothing wrong in preaching growth for growth's sake.