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Overseas views on NPC & CPPCC: China's "Go-West" strategy brings momentum

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

03-07-2016 14:27 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 NPC & CPPCC Sessions

Editor's note: The National People's Congress (NPC), China's top parliamentary body, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top advisory body, convene its annual sessions, known as the "two sessions" on March 3-15 2016, which marks a pivotal year as the nation continues on to embark with its reforms and opening up policy, shifting towards a "New Normal" for economic growth rates, starting its 13th Five-Year Plan for social and economic development over the next five years and confronting challenges on the foreign policy front. How will the NPC address those concerns? What do foreign experts and Overseas Chinese say? The Panview Column of CNTV has invited some of them to express their views on major issues to be discussed at the ongoing two sessions.

By David Chan, a Canadian freelance writer and journalist

The Third Plenum of the 11th Communist Party of China Central Committee made a major decision to implement the reform and opening up policy in 1978. Since then, the country had shifted from a centrally-planned economy to a market-based one. China had experienced rapid development, and the reforms accompanying this transition had greatly benefited the China's eastern region as the national GDP growth, averaging about 10 percent per year, which had lifted over 500 million people out of poverty.

However, the western half of the country had continued to experience stagnant growth in comparison. To this date, much of Western China is still mired in deprivation and underdevelopment.

Since 2003, Beijing has implemented its "Go West" strategy aimed at developing energy grids, transportation networks, telecommunications, and hydro-power plants in China's western provinces and autonomous regions.

The Great Western Development Strategy has also striven to attract foreign investment, improve education, and retain talent within the area. Between 2000 and 2015, more than 5.5 trillion Yuan was allocated to 270 key development projects in West China alone.

The "Go West" strategy covers the provinces of Guizhou, Gansu, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Sichuan, along with the municipality of Chongqing and the autonomous regions of Tibet, Guangxi, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia.

Challenges facing Western China

While government expenditures and investments have bolstered the region's total output, raising the GDP (gross domestic product) in all western provinces and autonomous regions, the project has ultimately failed in its objective to drastically reduce the economic gap between China's East and West.

According to the China Statistical Yearbook, Western provinces account for just 20.2 percent of national GDP as of 2014, while Central provinces account for 20.3 percent and Eastern provinces account for 51.2 percent, and the rest was generated by the Northern provinces.

Since the introduction of economic reform in China, the western part of the country has been economically disadvantaged on account of the smaller returns it promises to investors than its eastern counterpart.

The provinces and autonomous regions of West China do not enjoy the same geographic advantages as the eastern provinces, which benefit from trade and easier access to the South and East China Seas.

Moreover, the underdeveloped transportation and telecommunications networks make doing business in the western region much more difficult. Meanwhile, talent continues to flow to richer provinces, where there are perceived to be greater opportunities for growth and career advancement.

What is Beijing doing to accelerate progress?

In 2012, the State Council (China’s cabinet) announced that it had approved its 12th Five-Year Plan to further promote the economy of the western regions.

The plan aimed to increase economic growth, expand infrastructure construction, improve the ecological environment, elevate living standards, and develop and strengthen local industries in the region.

According to a statement issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, China has recently invested over 765 billion Yuan in its underdeveloped western provinces and autonomous regions in 2015. A total of 30 major projects were initiated this year primarily focused on infrastructural development.

Beijing has seen to the development of the Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Zone, which is regarded as one of the country's principal industrial bases, having developed strong technology, science, national defense, and auto and equipment manufacturing sectors.

The Zone is expected to become a crucial economic center in West China, and by 2020, the State Council expects it to have become an international logistics hub in the hinterlands of China and a leading inland open economy. The Chinese government hopes the creation of this zone would attract more talent to the region.

Additionally, China will invest around 800 billion Yuan on railways in 2016 with a particular emphasis on railroad construction in the less developed central and western regions.

The expansion of infrastructure in the region should better integrate West China into the national transportation network by connecting it directly with the eastern seaboard.

Future outlook

Upgraded infrastructure, improved education, and the development of a vibrant international logistics hub in Chongqing should provide the stable economic conditions necessary to attract greater foreign investment in the region.

Moreover, as the economy of western China advances and the local business environment improves, talented citizens will be less likely to depart for wealthier provinces to seek out opportunity.

High skilled workers and entrepreneurs may be instead inclined to seek their fortunes in the emerging West as opposed to in the saturated markets of the East.

Further investment is needed for western China to develop the facilities, systems, and networks necessary to thrive. 

So far it looks as if the Chinese government is on the right path toward fully realizing its Great Western Development Strategy. Let us hope that the region continues to see improvement in the years ahead.

(David Chan, is a Canadian freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto, Ontario Canada working for international media outlets. His areas of focus are international politics, culture and the global economy.)

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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