CGTN: 5 years on, President Xi reemphasizes China’s western region development strategy

BEIJING, April 24, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Chinese President Xi Jinping has reemphasized the need to boost the high-quality development of China’s western region during his inspection in Chongqing Municipality on Monday and Tuesday. He said the western region is of great importance for the whole country’s modernization.

This is the latest move by the Chinese president to promote the country’s regional development. Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, just finished his inspection of central China’s Hunan Province last month. In Hunan, he stressed vigorously energizing the central region and promoting the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, aiming to bolster a more balanced regional development.

China’s western area consists of 12 provincial-level regions, covering over 70 percent of the country’s land area and containing 27 percent of China’s population. The western region is well-known for its abundant renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, and various underground mineral resources such as rare earth, bauxite, coal and natural gas, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country’s total reserves.

In March 2019, in a meeting of the CPC central committee for deepening overall reform chaired by Xi, a guideline for advancing the development of the western region in the new era was passed. The guideline puts forward that by 2035, the western region will catch up with the eastern region in the fields of public service, infrastructure connectivity and people’s livelihood. China’s eastern region recorded nearly triple the GDP of the western region in 2023.

Five years on from the passing of this guideline, Xi pointed out that, though the western region has seen significant achievements, it still faces many development challenges. He urged the region to focus on its competitive local industries and accelerate its opening up.

Xi said at the symposium that the 12 provincial-level regions should develop modern manufacturing and strategic emerging industries such as new energy and bio-medicine based on local conditions, and speed up industrial transformation and upgrading. He added that tourism and other service sectors can be developed into the region’s pillar industries.

Xi made it clear that China’s economy is transforming from high-speed to high-quality development, so every region should develop its economy based on its specific conditions and play to its comparative advantages. During his inspection in Chongqing, he visited an international logistics hub, a community in Jiulongpo District, and a digital urban operation and governance center. Local officials introduced the development of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, urban renewal projects and city governance to him.

The trade corridor is a major channel between China’s western region and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It reached 490 ports in 120 countries and regions as of January, and saw its cargo volume rise 21 percent year-on-year in 2023, according to the government work report of Chongqing Municipality.

Xi on Tuesday called on the region to accelerate the building of the corridor and better integrate itself with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote the opening up of the region. He had previously said that the active participation of China’s western region in the BRI would greatly improve connectivity between China’s eastern and western regions and between China and the outside world.

So far, the connectivity pattern has taken shape in the western region. China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data shows that a total of 35,000 ChinaEurope freight trains have been launched from the western region in the past five years, accounting for 50.5 percent of the country’s total. In 2023, the total import-export volume of the western region increased 37 percent compared to 2019.

As the western region is the birthplace of China’s great rivers such as the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Lancang River, and has many rare wild animals, Xi also vowed to safeguard national ecological security.

He stressed accelerating major projects for protecting and restoring ecosystems, boosting the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program to counter sandstorms and soil erosion in the northern region, and promoting energy saving and carbon reduction in traditional sectors, as well as the clean and efficient use of coal.

China started to implement the national strategy for the large-scale development of the western region in 2000. As of 2020, the average annual GDP growth of the region reached 10.2 percent, greatly closing the economic gap with other regions. More than 21.3 million hectares of farmland have been converted into forests or grassland, with the forest coverage rate surpassing 19 percent, data from the National Development and Reform Commission shows.

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