Shanghai Disneyland In The Works

Cinderella's Castle at Disneyland over flag and map of China
Shanghai is awaiting approval of mainland China's first Disneyland, and the theme park could be built on an island in the Yangtze River, according to reports in the mainland and Hong Kong media.

A Shanghai city spokeswoman, who like many Chinese officials refused to give her name, said Shanghai was waiting for approval of the project by the central government. She would not comment further.

Walt Disney Co., which has set up office in a sleek new Shanghai office complex, has repeatedly emphasized that for now it is focusing on developing its theme park in Hong Kong, which opened in 2005.

"China is a priority for the entire company," Disney Asia-Pacific spokeswoman Alannah Goss said in a statement Tuesday. "We have a continuing dialogue about a variety of Disney initiatives, including television, motion pictures and consumer products, of which theme parks are only a part," she said.

The plan to build a Disneyland park in Shanghai was first floated in 2005, but was soon suspended. Disney signed a statement of intent to build a Disneyland on the mainland in 2002, reports the China Daily.

Residents have been moved off farmland in Chuansha, a part of Shanghai's Pudong district near the city's main international airport, to make way for a 2 1/3-square-mile tract along the city's airport expressway, the state-run magazine Oriental Outlook said in this week's online edition.

"Once we have central government approval and a concrete plan and Shanghai Disneyland can begin construction right away," the magazine quoted local economic committee official Qian Weizhong as saying.

But the state-run newspaper China Business Post said that the site for the theme park might be switched from Chuansha to Chongming, an island in the Yangtze River to the north of the city that is being developed as an ecotourism district.

The park would be built after 2010, when the city is due to host the World Expo, it said.

The official China News Service, citing the Hong Kong Wen Wei Po, said a Chongming county spokesman named Lu Lixin had denied the report.

But the same report also cited experts saying the island would be very suitable for the theme park given its relatively pleasant environment.

Chongming, first settled for farming during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, is slated for development as a non-industrial region. A Disney park would provide employment on the jobs scarce island, which has long relied on work schemes that put residents to work driving taxis in the city.

The island, which sits right at the mouth of the Yangtze, will soon be connected to the city via tunnels and a bridge.

"If Disney builds on Chongming, that would be an enormous help for developing the island," China Business Post cited Zhu Lianqing, head of the city's Academy of Social Sciences, as saying.

An unidentified official from the Shanghai economy committee said the Shanghai plan had been suspended in part because of concerns the Hong Kong park would suffer, reports the China Daily.