SHIJIAZHUANG, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Crowds of people visited the Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park on Wednesday to mourn and remember those killed in the devastating disaster that struck more than four decades ago.
Wednesday marked the 45th anniversary of the Tangshan earthquake, a 7.8-magnitude quake that struck the city in north China's Hebei Province on July 28, 1976. It killed more than 240,000 people and nearly destroyed the entire city.
Liu Guojian, a 71-year-old survivor of the earthquake, visited the memorial park early on Wednesday morning and laid flowers in front of a memorial wall inscribed with names of the victims. He could hardly hold back the tears after finding the names of his loved ones.
"I want to tell them that I now have a big family, and we're living a good life," Liu said. "I also want to let them know the changes that have happened in Tangshan."
After the catastrophic event, some people said Tangshan had been destroyed beyond repair. Surprisingly, the city was rebuilt quickly with all-out reconstruction efforts, and after decades of fast economic development, it has become a boomtown.
High-rise buildings, erected in places once filled with ruins, speak volumes about the changes that have taken place in Tangshan over the past 45 years.
The city's GDP reached 721.1 billion yuan (about 110 billion U.S. dollars) last year, the highest among all prefecture-level cities in Hebei.
As the mainstay of the city is heavy industry, Tangshan has been working in recent years to upgrade its manufacturing industry, moving it up the value chain. Efforts have been made to develop emerging industries, including robotics, high-end equipment and environmentally-friendly building materials.
The city is now a major production base for special robots, with a complete industrial chain comprising research and development, manufacturing, sales and services.
Liu Lizhi, vice general manager of a local smart-equipment company that recently rolled out a new model of inspection robot, said his company had received more than 200 orders in less than a month.
"Tangshan has become a hotspot for us robotics startups," Liu said.
The city is now home to over 650 major high-end equipment manufacturing enterprises, whose combined assets exceed 127 billion yuan.
With greater opening-up, Tangshan has also been attracting foreign investment and expanding its global influence. Between 2016 and 2020, the city used about 8.5 billion U.S. dollars of foreign investment, the highest among all prefecture-level cities in Hebei.
Tangshan Port has grown into one of the world's largest seaports in terms of cargo throughput. The port saw its cargo throughput reach 350 million tonnes in the first half of this year.
Tangshan is aiming for faster economic growth as the integrated development of Beijing, Hebei and the neighboring Tianjin Municipality gains steam.
Since Beijing started to purge itself of businesses that are not essential to its role as the national capital, a number of Beijing enterprises have set up operations and built factories in Tangshan.
Zhang Guoshun, deputy director of the Tangshan municipal development and reform commission, said Tangshan has implemented 562 projects valued at over 100 million yuan in cooperation with Beijing and Tianjin since 2016. The projects' combined value exceeded 380 billion yuan.
"The earthquake in 1976 destroyed a city, but not the strong will of the Tangshan people. We will work to create a better future for Tangshan and make contributions to the building of a modern socialist China," said Zhang Gujiang, the city's Party secretary.