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60 Years of Sweeping Changes Transform Region
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Implementation of the ethnic regional autonomy system has led the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to witness dramatic social and economic change over the past six decades, said Chu Bo, secretary of the region's committee of the Communist Party of China.

The autonomous region was founded on May 1, 1947.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the people of this ethnic autonomous region have come together to build a future of all-round prosperity.

Sixty years ago, Inner Mongolia was an underdeveloped area with extremely low levels of social and economic development, said Chu. Its annual gross domestic product (GDP) at the time was only 540 million yuan.

Agriculture and related pursuits, especially animal husbandry, were the pillars of its economy, with annual grain production standing at a mere 1.85 million tons and animal output at 9.32 million heads.

The region's manufacturing industry at the time comprised only 687 small factories and mills. Most of the daily necessities of residents, including clothes and farming equipment, had to be supplied by the rest of the country.

There were only about 30 middle schools and a few primary schools 60 years ago, and 90 percent of the population of Inner Mongolia was illiterate.

Strengthened economy

After the autonomous region was founded, Inner Mongolia's economy immediately stepped on to a track of fast growth, according to Chu.

Five years later, the region's agricultural and industrial output value, grain production and the number of animals increased by 120 percent, 88.9 percent and 72.2 percent respectively.

The following five years saw further growth in industrial and agricultural output values, and railway and highway lengths, with growth rates standing at 290 percent, 14.2 percent, 52.7 percent and 170 percent respectively.

The region's economy, however, suffered a setback during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976).

Then, when the country began to implement reform and opening-up programs in 1978, Inner Mongolia entered a golden period of economic development.

In 1988, the region's GDP doubled 1980 figures, and in 1995, the GDP had quadrupled that in 1980.

During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), the region maintained an economic growth rate higher than the national average and for four consecutive years since 2003, it has ranked first in the nation in terms of such growth rate.

In 2006, Inner Mongolia's GDP reached 479 billion yuan, ranking 17th in the country, compared with 24th in 2000. Its per capita GDP was 20,047 yuan, ranking 10th nationwide, compared with 16th in 2000.

Ecology, infrastructure

Along with economic growth, the autonomous region has also seen improvements in ecology and infrastructure in the past 10 years, Chu said.

Since 1998, under the support of the State, the region has launched a number of ecological construction projects, ranging from natural forest protection, desert control and returning farmlands to forests and grasslands.

By the end of 2005, Inner Mongolia had invested a total of 17.3 billion yuan in ecological improvement.

By the end of last year, the region's forest area reached 20.5 million hectares, an increase of 1.2 times compared with that in 1947, while forest coverage increased to 17.6 percent from 7.7 percent in 1947.

At present, Inner Mongolia has 190 nature reserves, with a total area of 13.2 million hectares, including 21 State-level reserves that cover an area of 3.33 million hectares.

With respect to infrastructure construction, the region's railway and highway lengths hit 8,058 km and 83,000 km respectively by the end of 2006. It now has 10 airports. Its well-developed irrigation system serves 2.78 million hectares of farmland. In addition, the number of fixed and mobile phone users have reached 14.15 million, while Internet users number 1.45 million.

As the region's strong sectors, the husbandry product processing, energy and metallurgy industries have maintained rapid growth in recent years, Chu said.

During the 10th Five-Year Plan, milk output in the region increased from 798,000 tons to 6.91 million tons, and output of meats grew from 1.43 million tons to 2.3 million tons. At present, Yili Group and Mengniu Group are the two leading diary producers in the nation.

During the same period, the region's coal production increased from 72.47 million tons to 256.08 million tons and power generation volume grew from 43.92 billion kilowatt-hours to 107 billion kilowatt-hours.

The region's steel output also increased from 4.24 million tons to 8.06 million tons in the same period.

Social progress

Along with steady economic growth, the autonomous region has seen all-round progress in its social undertakings as well, said Chu.

In the field of education, the autonomous region had 36 institutions of higher learning, 359 senior middle schools, 1,199 junior middle schools and 4,884 primary schools by the end of last year. At present, almost all children of school-going age can enjoy primary and junior middle school education. In addition, about 2.08 million school-age children from rural or low-income urban families can avail of education free of charge.

The autonomous region has also established a wide-ranging public healthcare system, with 3,693 healthcare institutions in both rural and urban areas. In addition, 39 banners or counties in the region have established a cooperative medical care system for rural residents, comprising a cooperative fund supported by the government and the residents themselves, which offers financial assistance to 6.63 million people when they receive medical service.

Inner Mongolia has also established a social security system, including pension for retired workers, medical insurance and minimal living standard guarantee. At present, 3.57 million people are covered by the pension system, 3.16 million people are covered by the basic medical insurance system and 1.15 million people enjoy minimal living standard guarantee.

(China Daily July 20, 2007)

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