Chen Yongli is a middle-aged grassroots official working for the information office of Xi'an government. When asked what his expectations regarding the upcoming 17th National Congress of CPC, he gave following remarks:
Seven years has passed since the great strategy for developing west China was implemented in 2000. The central government has injected huge funds (some 1 trillion yuan or US$133 billion) to support west China's economy but the region still reflects a huge negative differential in regard to eastern China.
This indicates that the existing developmental model would only strengthen the gap between the western and eastern regions. I hope that the central government would give more preferential treatment, for example, favorable financial and taxation systems, to western regions so that they may catch up with the east.
West China currently lags far behind the rest of the country. The west has no access to preferential policies enjoyed by the eastern provinces during the early stage of reform in the 1980s.
Due to infrastructure advantages and the economic development of eastern regions, investments are more likely to be put into the east due to efficiency concerns. It is difficult for the west to attract modern industrial projects.
Because of the aggregation effect of industries, central and western regions cannot copy the industrial development mode of the east. Many of the western factories are backward industries unwanted by the east. For example, electric power plants built in the west directly turn local fossil fuel energy into electricity and transmit it to the east.
For the existing energy usage system, western regions benefit little from this kind resource exploitation. It also fails to bring increased revenue and widens the economic gap instead of narrowing it.
In addition, economic levels vary geographically and influence future development potential. For instance, the monthly salary of a grassroots civil servant in Guangdong is usually around 5,000 yuan (US$670) but it is only 1,500 yuan (US$200) in Shaanxi.
Some say that commodity and house prices in Guangdong are higher and actual living standards are not as significantly different as the distinct salary gap, but the possession of fixed assets is seriously imbalanced. The property I can leave to my child is much cheaper than my counterpart’s in Guangdong. In the long run, this does directly affect our next generation's development potential. In terms of human resources, this gap makes backward west regions even more disadvantageous.
China has a territory so vast. The central government faces great difficulty when comprehensively considering all the natural, geographical and cultural differences and often makes sweeping decisions. I hope the ruling party narrows their existing provincial areas of jurisdiction and adds more administrative regions directly under the Central Government.
Background of 'Western China Development' strategy
Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China began to reform its economy in the 1980s by changing from a planned economy to a market economy. The coastal regions of eastern China benefited greatly from these reforms and their economies quickly raced ahead.
The western half of China, however, lagged behind severely. In order to help the western half catch up with the eastern half, the State Council created a Leadership Group for Western China Development in January 2000.
The main components of the strategy include the development of infrastructure, enticement of investment, increased efforts on ecological protection and the promotion of compulsory education. As of 2006, a total of 1 trillion yuan has been spent building infrastructure in western China.
The policy covers 6 provinces (Gansu, Guizhou, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan), 5 autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet, and Xinjiang), and 1 municipality (Chongqing). This region contains 56 percent of China's area, 23 percent of its population (as of the end of 2002), and only 16.8 percent of its total economic output, as of 2003.
(China.org.cn, 17thcongress.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Zhiyong in Shaanxi October 8, 2007)