Communication: Herald of the Western Development

Gao Kun

Remote distance and the high cost of transportation have been hindering the development of the western market all along. To shift from a resource orientation to market orientation, transportation is the crucial point. The government has given priority to infrastructure construction in the western region, including transportation and communication.

The target is a to build up a comprehensive, multi-dimensional communication system in the next two decades, allowing efficient exchanges of commodities, capital, information and talent. A rough estimate of the cost stands as high as 400 billion yuan.

The high cost of transportation has offset the advantages of low labor and raw material costs. As a result, preferential policies are just sheer talk. However, a bigger loss to the western economy comes from the lack of international channels and seaports. Although rich in high-quality coal, aluminum and phosphor ores, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces have to restrict production volume due to lack of convenient ports, whereas imports of sought-after chemical fertilizers and grain are blocked for the same reason.

The central government will be the main source of investment in solving this problem. Despite the high price that must be paid to build the communication system in the western region, it is of great strategic importance.

In the next decade, highway construction in the western region will see substantial improvement. Now the eight national highways in the area are mostly directed toward seaports and border cities. Ten years from now, citizens of most mid-size and large cities in the western region will be just two days away from seaports and border cities through the highway network.

In the same period, the western region will also connect village and town highways. This task will be carried out in accordance with the specific conditions of different localities.

The priority for railway construction in the western region is to speed up east-west transportation. While the general speed of trains is constantly being increased, nearly 10 other railways will emerge, the most impressive of which must be the Pan-Asian Railway, which is turning the southwestern region into a bridge connecting the inland to the southeastern Asian countries. Another construction spot is the new Euro-Asian Bridge. As a possible locale for the eastern end of the bridge, Tianjin City is busy preparing port construction in the hope of attracting up to 70 percent of western region cargoes for sea transportation.

In the proposed waterway network for the western region, the Sino-Myanmar land-water co-transportation project looks promising. Upon its completion, cargoes will be able to reach the Indian Ocean without detouring through the Malacca Strait, saving over 3,000 sea miles.

In the near future, the government will invest 5 billion yuan to build and renovate 20 airports in the western region. These will provide favorable conditions for the development of tourism, fueling a tourist market featuring unique cultural and natural sights.

Shipping natural gas from west to east is another major project of China's strategy to develop the west. The 45.6 billion yuan project will build a 4,167-kilometer pipeline to transport natural gas from Xinjiang's Tarim region to Shanghai. Initially, it will be able to transport 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas. After adding in the investment made to explore the natural gas fields, manage city networks and other relevant projects, the total investment is expected to be as high as 120 billion yuan.

One more amazing fact about the western region is the advanced level of information industry construction. The first urban broad-band network has come into operation in Chongqing, and the remote county of Qamdo, Tibet, has its own homepage.

In the next one or two decades, a multi-dimensional communication network will take shape in the western regions, serving as the pivot of development. As a result, the life of western dwellers will be extended into new dimensions.

(CIIC 11/23/2000)

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