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To understand more about the plan to develop China's western regions, my colleague Shen Le joins us.
1. Good evening Shen Le. We've been hearing about the central government's plan to develop the western part of China. So what exactly is the west? What do we know about this region?
Shen Le: Right. The west is really a vast and sparsely populated region. It includes 12 provinces and autonomous regions and a municipalicy, covering almost 7-million square kilometers. That's more than 70 percent of China's territory. However, its population accounts for less than 30 percent of the total amount.
And the region only generates 17 percent of the country's GDP. It's relatively underdeveloped compared with China's coastal regions. The GDP per capita in the west is two thirds of the national average level and less than 40 percent of more developed areas in the east. So obviously the region has much desire to grow and catch up with costal provinces.
2. What about the timetable of the plan? Are there any specific goals there?
Shen Le: The overall plan to develop China's west will take 50 years. And this period is divided into three stages. The first stage began in 2001 and runs to the end of this year. The mission for this decade is infrastructure.
For example, railroads, airports and hydro-electric projects. The second stage starts from the end of this year to 2030. It features fast growth in key areas such as cities and counties which will enjoy better infrastructure.
And the third stage would be from 2031 to 2050. During this period, areas developed in the second stage will be expanded to cover less developed rural, mountainous and remote regions. Environmental protection is an essential objective in all the three stages, so the west will not embrace growth at the expense of the environment.
Thanks Shen Le for your information. Hopefully the people living in the western regions will benefit from the next 40 years of growth and still enjoy crystal clear rivers, blue skies and green trees.