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Universal Studios' Beijing Resort opens with heavy rush, fanfare amid US-China tensions

07:12 PM Sep 20, 2021 | PTI

The Universal Studios' $6.2 billion Beijing Resort, stated to be the largest in scale in the world, opened to the public here on Monday after 20 years of planning and construction, amid deepening tensions between China and the US.

The opening coincided with this year's Mid-Autumn Festival holiday from September 19 to 21 during which millions of Chinese travel and visit entertainment venues across the country. There was big rush of spectators notwithstanding concerns over COVID-19.

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While Beijing has not officially reported a local infection for 40 days, China has been witnessing periodic clusters of coronavirus infections in different provinces and cities, even though health officials say it was largely under control due to stringent measures.

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COVID-19 protocols were followed at the Resort on the opening day where spectators besides wearing masks had to scan health codes, state-run Global Times reported.

"I scanned my health code at least 20 times and used hand sanitizers at least 10 times,” a visitor told the paper.

Tickets were sold out within 30 minutes when the booking opened on September 9 for visits to the new theme park.

"I'm so excited to see Optimus Prime. It brought back my childhood," said Wu Siyuan, one of the first batch of tourists on the opening day.

It was officially opened to the public after 20 years of planning and construction, the official media reported.

The resort with an investment of over 40 billion Yuan (USD 6.2 billion) covering four square kms, includes the highly anticipated Universal Studios'' Beijing theme park, the Universal CityWalk, and two hotels. It promises to give tourists an immersive visiting experience, with seven themed lands covering 37 recreational facilities and landmark attractions, as well as 24 entertainment shows.

It was expected to earn about 10 billion Yuan ($1.6 billion) revenue a year, according to Chinese official media reports.

The resort modelled on the famous Universal Studios'' Hollywood of California incorporating many of its thrills and frills was conceived two decades ago when the relations between the US and China flourished with business booming between the world’s first and second largest economies.

But it was opened when their ties deteriorated significantly with the US identifying China as an arch strategic rival, declaring a trade war against Beijing besides working out new alliances to contain the growing clout of the Communist giant.

The ties turned bitter after Washington along with its EU allies accused Beijing of committing genocide against Uygur militants in the volatile Xinjiang province besides human rights violations in Tibet and taking over Hong Kong overriding massive opposition from the local people.

Located in Beijing's Tongzhou District, where the Beijing Municipal Administrative Centre is seated, the resort is the fifth Universal Studios theme park globally, the third in Asia, and the first in China.

The resort, a new landmark in Beijing, is expected to boost the establishment of Beijing as an international consumption hub and a new engine for the growth of China's culture and tourism industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Song Yu, chairman of Beijing Tourism Group, which is one of the major investors in the theme park, said that the Beijing resort showcased Sino-US cooperation, especially in the private and business sectors.

"The idea of building the theme park in Beijing was first raised 20 years ago. We have built a deep trust between our group and our US partner Universal Parks & Resorts," Song told state-run China Daily.

"Cooperation has been smooth and productive. The US side has advantages in innovation and creativity, while our group knows the local market very well," he told state-run China Daily.

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