The central government has decided to start another 14 key projects involving a total investment of more than 130 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) to improve western China's infrastructure and environment.
The projects include the construction of roads, railways, power stations and urban infrastructure in 12 western provinces and autonomous regions.
An official surnamed Wang, at the State Council's Office of the Leading Group for Western Regional Development, said: "We aim to make a breakthrough with regard to the infrastructure situation in the region up to 2010."
Wang said construction has been taking place on 36 key projects in the western region over the past three years and about 270 billion yuan (US$32.5 billion) has already been invested.
He said that, since the central government launched the western development campaign in 1999, western China has witnessed both robust economic and social progress but still does not enjoy the same degree of prosperity as eastern China. Western China covers some 56 percent of the nation's territory and accounts for 50 percent of its mineral resources.
But Wang added that more domestic and overseas investment have begun to flow into the western provinces and autonomous regions due to major progress in developing the region's environment, its infrastructure and technological development.
In the past three years, Chinese and overseas investors have put a combined 100 billion yuan (US$12.08 billion) into the region. More than 100 of the world's top 500 companies have invested in the region.
However, restrained by historical, natural and other factors, the western areas continue to lag far behind their eastern counterparts in terms of economic and social development.
Therefore, the central government should further strengthen its support of the western region through advantageous taxation policies and fiscal transfers, said Wang.
Another source with Wang's office said the government will continuously implement ecological projects, including the protection of natural forests, the transformation of farmland to forests, desert control, and the closure of pastures to renew grasslands.
China has invested 50 billion yuan (US$6.04 billion) in ecological construction and environmental protection in its western areas, achieving marked results in the last three years.
The source said China will speed up such work and ensure a breakthrough in the western region's environmental protection by 2010.
(China Daily March 25, 2003)