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East-West Balance Sought

Ma Kai, head of the State Development and Reform Commission, Li Zibin, in charge of western development, and Zhang Guobao, in charge of northeast China revitalization, talked about the latest development strategies for the two regions at a press conference held in the Great Hall of the People Monday morning.


The western development strategy was launched in 1998. Since then, with enormous investment from the central government, great changes have taken place in western China, said Li.


However, the 12 provinces and autonomous regions that make up the region are still fraught with problems. Harsh natural conditions and distinctive historical factors mean that it is likely to take generations for some areas to catch up.


“We will continue to strengthen infrastructure construction and environmental protection, sharpen up the industries in which we hold advantages and deepen reforms to improve the investment environment,” Li said.


He added that the government plans to enact a law on the promotion of western development this year, which will provide another boost. A team is currently working on the draft, a complete version of which is now in sight.


Northeast China faces different problems. The region, made up of Liaoning, Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, has abundant natural resources, integrated heavy industries, solid infrastructure and a strong pool of human resources.


The strategy for revitalizing the northeast was first proposed by Premier Wen Jiabao in October, seven months after he took office.


Zhang Guobao said that the central government will implement preferential policies for the old industrial base. “One is to convert the production value-added tax (VAT) into consumption VAT, which will give a big lift to manufacturing, including the high-tech sector, petrochemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles and farm produce processing.”


However, the key to development of the northeast is a systemic overhaul, including adjusting the structure of state-owned enterprises and piloting joint-stock systems for them, Zhang noted.


Premier Wen Jiabao said in his government report that China must steadfastly push forward the development of the western region, revitalize northeast China and other old industrial bases, promote the development of the central region and encourage faster development in the eastern region.


“The eastern, central and western regions should better interact, complement and support each other, and develop together,” he stated.


The government is also set to reduce the developmental disparity between urban and rural areas. The gap has widened continuously for the past 20 years despite China’s double-digit economic growth.


The government now has decided to rescind the agricultural tax within the next five years and subsidize farmers directly. About 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) will be given to farmers from the grain risk fund this year.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Tang Fuchun, March 9, 2004)

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