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Development Strategy Boosts West China
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Western China regions have reported an annual average economic growth rate of 10.7 percent for six straight years to last year, thanks to a national strategy to develop the area.


The combined GDP of western regions reached 3.33 trillion yuan (US$416.25 billion) last year, compared with 1.66 trillion yuan in 2000, when the central government launched the strategy to help the relatively backward west catch up with the more prosperous east.


The economic growth gap between the two regions fell to 0.4 of a percentage point last year from 1.9 percentage points six years ago, said Wang Jinxiang, deputy head of the Leading Group Office under the State Council for the Development of the Western Regions.


Fixed assets investment grew by 23 percent annually in West China in the past six years and local revenue by an average 15.5 percent.


The strategy involves 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, covering seven million square kilometers and with a population of about 370 million.


These regions lag far behind the eastern areas due to harsh natural conditions, inadequate transport links and geography among other reasons.


By the end of last year, the government had invested one trillion yuan (US$125 billion) to develop transport, water conservancy facilities, energy resources and telecommunications services in the western regions, Wang said.


It had also launched several projects to restore and improve the environment, with 5.65 million hectares of farmland returned to forest, 7.71 million hectares of barren hills and wasteland planted with trees, and ecological deterioration curbed on 19.33 million hectares of grassland where grazing was banned.


Thanks to the strategy, 89.5 percent of villages were linked by highways, 99 percent of townships had power supplies and more than 36 million rural people had access to clean drinking water. The government relocated 1.22 million people in abject poverty to places with better natural conditions.


With an improving investment environment, the western regions have attracted more investors from home and abroad, said Wang.


More than 30,000 enterprises from East China had invested 600 billion yuan in western regions, which saw foreign trade total US$164.3 billion from 2000 to 2005 and used US$11.2 billion of foreign funds.


(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2006)


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