SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- The Chinese government has approved plans for the Walt Disney Co. to build its first theme park in mainland China, in Shanghai's Pudong district.
After years of negotiations, the U.S. media and entertainment giant says it has received approval from China's planning agency, a milestone for Disney and its efforts to build the company's sixth theme park worldwide.
The planning agency's go-ahead will enable Disney and its Shanghai partners to reach a final agreement to build and operate the park and begin preliminary development work.
The project's initial phase would include a Magic Kingdom-style theme park tailored to the Shanghai region and other amenities consistent with Disney's destination resorts worldwide.
Disney's approval is a big step for foreign entertainment companies in general, which have struggled to make inroads in China, and took place less than two weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama will visit China.
China is "one of the most dynamic, exciting and important countries in the world, and this approval marks a very significant milestone" for Disney in China, said President-CEO Robert Iger in a statement.
Disney currently owns and operates five parks around the world, including Disneyland Resort in California; Walt Disney World Resort in Florida; Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan; Disneyland Paris in France; and the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
The Hong Kong park has struggled since opening in late 2005, both in visitor numbers and financially. It could face even tougher times once the Shanghai park opens as early as 2014, since the Hong Kong park relies on visitors from mainland China. Partly owned by Hong Kong's government, the venture, located on Hong Kong's Lantau island near the airport, announced an aggressive expansion plan earlier this year, including three new themed areas.
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