China's central and western regions are developing in a fast pace
with the growth rate approaching that of the eastern coastal regions,
according to the State Development Planning Commission (SDPC).
SDPC statistics show that during the ninth Five-Year Plan period
from 1996 to 2000, the eastern regions registered an average annual
growth rate of 10.43 percent, the western regions 9. 77 percent
and the central regions 10.1 percent.
According to the commission, 13 inland provinces and autonomous
regions reported a growth rate higher than the national average,
on the basis of an eight percent increase in the 1991-1995 period.
Xi'an, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming and Urumqi have become important
regional economic centers in the hinterland.
Fixed asset investment in the central and western regions by the
central government has increased remarkably during the ninth Five-Year
In 1996, fixed asset investment in the central and western regions
accounted for 35 percent of the national total, and it rose to 39
percent in 1999.
The initiation of a large number of railway, hydropower, natural
gas and other major projects have greatly improved the infrastructure
in the central and western regions and laid a sound foundation for
closer economic ties between coastal and inland regions.
The central and western regions have been the focus of China's
poverty relief efforts. It is estimated that the country's poverty-stricken
population, mostly living in the central and western regions, decreased
from 65 million in 1996 to 34 million in 1999.
The industrial structure of the central and western regions has
improved remarkably, with the service sector developing rapidly.
By 1999, the primary industry accounted for 22 percent of the gross
domestic product in central and western regions, the manufacturing
sector 44 percent and the service sector 34 percent.
Since the beginning of the ninth Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government
has issued a series of policies that give the central and western
regions greater freedom in attracting foreign investment and undertaking
As a result, the investment environment has been greatly improved
and export earnings have been increasing rapidly in the central
and western regions.
At the same time, the increasingly close ties between the west
and east have also led to closer economic and technological cooperation.
In September 1999, China formally announced its Western Development
Strategy, which, according to the SDPC, is a much grander and more
systematic program in promoting concerted regional economic development
than any other regional economic development models employed before.
The new strategy, which involves infrastructure, environmental
protection, industrial structure adjustment and science and technology
advance, will produce a more extensive and greater impact on the
development of the central and western regions, said a SPDC official.