China's Wanda Group opens giant theme park to take on Disney

'This craze for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is over'.

The Wanda Group, China's largest private property developer, has unveiled its first theme park hoping to beat Walt Disney Co. as the world's largest tourism operator.

The 22-billion-yuan (S$4.6 billion) "Wanda City" project is in the south-eastern provincial capital of Nanchang. It comprises a giant mal, set over 2 sq km, a movie park, an aquarium and an 80-hectare theme park featuring "the highest and longest roller coaster and the highest drop tower in China," according to a statement by the group.

During the opening ceremony of the park, Wanda founder Wang Jianlin told the state broadcaster CCTV, "We want to be a model... and highlight Chinese influence in the cultural domain."

Wang said Disney's single theme park, which is scheduled to open in Shanghai on June 16, will not be a match for his Wanda City projects. "This craze for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is over, the period when we would blindly follow where Disney led has been gone for years," he said.

"A tiger cannot take on a pack of wolves," he said, adding that Disney is "cloning past accomplishments without innovating".

The company has plans to open six more theme parks in China within the span of next three years. "We want to ensure that Disney will not be able to make a profit in this (theme park) sector in China for between 10 and 20 years," said Wang.

The upcoming US$5.5-billion Disney project in Shanghai will be its sixth theme park and its fourth park outside the United States after Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The American company is hoping that its franchises will be appealing to China's middle class and will generate good revenue.