Poor areas prisoner to catch-up mentality

By Ni Tao
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, July 26, 2013
Adjust font size:
A bird's-eye view of Wanfenglin in Xingyi, southwest China's Guizhou Province.[Xinhua Photo]

A bird's-eye view of Wanfenglin in Xingyi, southwest China's Guizhou Province.[Xinhua Photo]

Every Chinese metropolis or province seems to be trapped in a catching-up mentality.

That is, they all aspire to become more modern and sleek like, say, Manhattan, Tokyo or Singapore. Even some less developed and definitely non-cosmopolitan localities have boldly envisioned a bright future for themselves.

For the southwestern province of Guizhou, the role model is Switzerland. At a recent forum on "ecological civilization" held in Guiyang, the provincial capital, prominent speakers from China and abroad weighed in on the similarities between Guizhou and Switzerland.

Home to undulating mountains and numerous lakes, the province is akin to the Alpine country in topography. But whatever similarity they have probably ends there. The province, four times as large in size and four and a half times as populous as Switzerland, has a per capita GDP that is only a tenth as big.

So when a short publicity film about Switzerland was shown at the forum, depicting the country as a backwater a century ago, it created quite a stir.

Xinhua news agency reported on July 22 that many in the audience wondered out loud how a poor landlocked nation with little arable land and natural resources could overtake most developed nations.

And Switzerland's rags-to-riches story is inspiring enough for some to boast about a similar turn of fortune for Guizhou.

While some aspects of Swiss strengths are not replicable, such as its banking and watch-making traditions, some speakers had an epiphany when they considered Switzerland's tourism industry.

For instance, Long Yongtu, China's representative during its final WTO membership talks, expressed his admiration about the "mountain sightseeing" for which Switzerland is famous.

Selling point

"I've visited Switzerland about 100 times. Every time I felt how much it resembles Guizhou. If one day Guizhou becomes another Switzerland, it would be my personal dream come true," said Long. As a native of Guizhou, he encouraged provincial officials to tap into sightseeing resources.

Having recently returned from Switzerland, I believe that advertising Guizhou's verdant mountains as a selling point might work for its tourism as the Titlis and Jungfrau have done for Switzerland's. But while there is ample reason to be optimistic about Guizhou's bid to lift itself out of poverty through a tourist boom, there are also many caveats.

Switzerland is hailed worldwide as a model of ecological growth. I was told weeks ago by a colleague that Swiss urban expansion is never synonymous with deforestation or reckless seizure of farmland, as is the case in many parts of China.

And the fact that iconic Swiss exports - fine watches, Victorinox pocket knives and chocolates - involve few emissions in their production comes as an embarrassing reminder that Guizhou's polluters and watchdogs have yet to clean up their act.

One of Guizhou's major exports, rare earths, are actually more a curse than a blessing. In mining these materials, widely used in smartphones and aerospace industry, countless hills in Guizhou have been stripped of their vegetation.

Water pollution is another scourge. In the worst water pollution incident the province has experienced in years, the Wujiang River of Guizhou was contaminated by excessive phosphorous and fluorides in May 2011.

Therefore, any talk of learning from Switzerland seems like hot air if it is not backed up by better enforcement of environmental laws.

1   2   Next  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter