Ethnic Minorities Biggest Beneficiaries of West China Development

China's ethnic minorities will be the biggest beneficiaries of the strategy of developing west China, members of the Ninth Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee said.

Ruztam Minasuv, a member of the CPPCC National Committee from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said ambitious projects to develop the western regions will greatly change the economic and social life of local people.

Such projects include the construction of a railway from Qinghai to Tibet, the laying of a natural gas pipeline from the west to coastal regions and conversion of hilly farmland to woodland and grassland.

Chang Sheng, a CPPCC National Committee member from Lopa, a small ethnic group from Tibet, said the strategy of developing China's western regions has led to increased infrastructure investment in Tibet.

In his hometown Linzhi, an asphalt highway leading to Lhasa opened to traffic late last year, reducing the trip from five days to two hours.

Of China's 56 ethnic minority groups, 52 live in the less- developed west. Analysts said development of the western regions is actually development of ethnic minority regions.

Ma Yuanbiao, a CPPCC National Committee member from Qinghai Province, said the west China development strategy has led to a remarkable increase in overseas investment in the west.

In Qinghai, overseas investment exceeded 100 million U.S. dollars for the first time in 2000.

The rebuilding of the fragile ecological system in the west is a precondition as well as a major task of the west China development policy.

Guo Bailin, a CPPCC National Committee member from Gansu, said the province has started initiatives to protect its forest and water resources.

Though CPPCC National Committee members share the view that development of the west will demand long-term and strenuous efforts by generations of people, many of them said they are encouraged by changes in the last 21 months since the strategy was proposed.

"China's ethnic minorities have been poor and backward for centuries, but we are confident of the future," said Wei Jiezheng, a Shui nationality CPPCC National Committee member from Guizhou Province in the southwest.

(People’s Daily 03/03/2001)