Experts Stress Develop the West

West China needs a fresh approach to develop its economy, and that strategy must be incorporated into the next five-year plan.

That's the assessment of experts who attended a symposium that ended in Xi'an.

The 10th Five-Year Plan, (2001-05) which begins in 2001, will stress the development of western China, a region with many natural resources. But its economic growth has lagged far behind other parts of China.

Zhang Daohong, an economist who is also Xi'an's vice-mayor, said the central government has successfully established several economic hubs, such as Shenzhen and Shanghai, by pouring a large amount of money into those areas.

But Zhang, one of the experts at the five-day conference hosted by the municipal government of Xi'an, the largest city in Western China, warned that merely throwing huge sums of money into various parts of the West will not work.

Chen Dongsheng, president of the Association of Regional Economics in China, added that western China, which is one-fourth of the country's landmass, should focus on commanding a greater presence in domestic and foreign markets.

"The government will be a great help in applying suitable policies and adding effective investment in the region," he said.

Experts concurred that the massive development plan for the West should start by turning Xi'an and several other major cities in the region into economic hubs.

Xi'an government officials and many economists are convinced that the city will be the region's economic leader in the next century.
Xi'an, at the junction of East and West China, is seen as having a huge potential in high technology and tourism.

The city has a number of defence and heavy-industry plants, a legacy of its history as a manufacturing center. "The key is exploiting Xi'an's advantages to become more competitive in the market," said Tan Minxian, one of Xi'an's leading economists.

If the current effort to bring defence and heavy industry into China's market economy succeeds, Xi'an's defence and manufacturing businesses will become the pillars of the city's economy, he added.

"How to get supportive policies from the central government and attract investors from home and aboard to revitalize the city's manufacturing industry is still open to debate," Tan also said.

Xi'an is tentatively planning to increase its economic investment about 9 percent annually from 2001 to 2005.

Foreign investment in the same period is estimated at 3.3 billion yuan (US$397 million), most of which is expected to go to high-tech, manufacturing and environmental protection.

The city is also planning to become a banking center to create an attractive investment environment for domestic and foreign investors.

(China Daily 10/28/1999)

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