“Xinjiang will improve its more developed sectors, such as petrochemicals and farm produce processing, and expand exports by making full use of abundant resources and location advantage.”
The statement came from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi at a Sunday afternoon press conference held during the ongoing session of the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC).
Xinjiang, in northwest China, has a land area of 1.7 million square kilometers and a population of 19.3 million.
The region’s economy grew rapidly in 2003, with GDP reaching 187.5 billion yuan (US$22.7 billion), up 10.8 percent over the previous year, while total government revenue hit 26.3 billion yuan (US$3.2 billion). Its trade volume came in at about US$4.8 billion.
“All these achievements are closely associated with the upward trend of China’s economy and the strategy of western development,” said Tiliwaldi.
Last year, fixed asset investment in Xinjiang surpassed 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion). Since the launch of the western development strategy in 1998, over 300 billion yuan (US$36.2 billion) has been sunk into local infrastructure construction.
“In the past few years, great efforts were devoted to the construction of infrastructure like transportation, energy and oil pipelines, thus laying a solid foundation for economic growth,” Tiliwaldi said.
However, the majority of these projects were funded by the central government, while foreign investment – the most important factor for economic growth – has been negligible so far. Actual foreign investment last year was about US$161.5 million, far behind other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. China is now the number one foreign direct investment destination in the world, receiving over US$53.5 billion last year.
To optimize the investment structure, Xinjiang now sets to introduce more private domestic and foreign investment. Xinjiang’s abundant resources will be the lure for investors, Tiliwaldi said.
The region has the largest oil, coal and natural gas reserves in the country, accounting for 30 percent, 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of the nation’s total. The region also produces a large share of China’s cotton, wool, sugar beets, grapes and tomatoes.
Priority will be given to developing the petrochemicals, textiles, red wine and ketchup industries, where Xinjiang is believed to have the greatest advantages.
“We hope that domestic and foreign investors can use our raw materials to produce goods in Xinjiang and export them to neighboring nations,” Tiliwaldi said.
Xinjiang is adjacent to eight central Asian nations: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The region now has 16 grade-one land ports and 11 grade-two ports. The border trade volume last year was US$3.0 billion.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Tang Fuchun March 8, 2004)