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Historic city combats "urban diseases"
Last Updated: 2016-03-08 07:22 | Xinhua
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Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in the world, is fighting "urban diseases" on its way toward a modern metropolis, Mayor Shangguan Jiqing said on Sunday.

Shangguan, one of nearly 3,000 lawmakers gathered in Beijing for the national legislature annual session, admitted that Xi'an has fallen victim to environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a public resource shortage, among other "diseases."

"It is the duty of the government to make the city more liveable," he said, pledging that all policies for the next few years would be "livelihood-oriented."

Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, is a megacity with more than 8.6 million residents.

Once a key hub of the ancient Silk Road and known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty, it now serves as a center for scientific research, aerospace industries and higher education.

As the nation heads for its goal of a "moderately prosperous society" in five years, the city still has a lot on its plate.

Its work list for this year covers a wide range of issues, from lifting 10,000 households out of poverty to building new kindergartens and establishing online sharing systems for universities.

Its five-year work plan explicitly says that air quality standards must be met at least 290 days a year, appearing to be equally important as other major goals for economic development and income growth.

In 2013, Xi'an had 138 days with clean air. In 2014, the number rose to 211, and last year it went up to 251, signaling gradual improvement.

"We want citizens to live a quality life," the mayor said.

In the meantime, Xi'an is striving to become an international metropolis, the mayor said. It has become a major hub for regional trade, infrastructure networks and cultural exchanges since the nation came up with the Belt and Road Initiative two years ago.

By the end of this year, new flight routes linking Xi'an with Melbourne, San Francisco and Dubai will have been ready, 1,000 skilled foreigners will have been brought in, and a new port of entry for daily supplies such as meat and food will have been built for the convenience of locals.

Businesses, NGOs and schools have been urged to connect and cooperate with counterparts in Belt and Road countries, and entrepreneurship has also been encouraged.

A 17-year-old dropout in Xi'an recently made headlines for receiving 20 million yuan (3.1 million U.S. dollars) in financing to expand her e-commerce business.

"Ideally, each individual should have an equal chance to succeed," Shangguan said.

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