Cul­tural mes­sage

Govern­ments in western re­gion should im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hoods with­out threat­en­ing over­all eco­log­i­cal safety

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - HOU YONGZHI The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy and Re­gional Econ­omy Re­search Depart­ment of the De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil. This is an ex­cerpt of his in­ter­view with China Eco­nomics Times.

China has more than enough cul­tural el­e­ments and forms to cap­ture global imag­i­na­tion, but it needs to present them with pride.

The Western De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy adopted in 2000 has ac­cel­er­ated eco­nomic growth in the western re­gion. Over the past decade, the GDP of the western re­gion has in­creased from 1.6 tril­lion yuan ($263.5 bil­lion) to 11.4 tril­lion yuan; its pro­por­tion in China’s over­all GDP had in­creased from 16.8 per­cent to 19.8 per­cent. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Western De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy has nar­rowed the de­vel­op­ment gap among dif­fer­ent re­gions in China, and strength­ened the co­or­di­na­tion of re­gional de­vel­op­ment. The Western re­gion’s in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion level has in­creased, and its eco­nomic en­doge­nous growth ca­pac­ity has been strength­ened. The ur­ban­iza­tion process has been ac­cel­er­ated, and it has risen from 29 per­cent in 2000 to 43 per­cent in 2011. In­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion and pub­lic ser­vice sup­ply ca­pac­ity have also in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly.

But in the process, many con­tra­dic­tions and prob­lems have also been ex­posed. For ex­am­ple, de­vel­op­ment in the western re­gion mainly fo­cuses on ex­ten­sive eco­nomic growth, the in­dus­trial struc­ture level is rather low, the de­vel­op­ment be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas is un­bal­anced, the driv­ing forces for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, such as in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion and a fi­nan­cial sup­port mech­a­nism are in­suf­fi­cient, and the frag­ile eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment may re­strict de­vel­op­ment.

Peo­ple in the western re­gion are ea­ger to ad­dress these is­sues. But some ar­eas’ de­vel­op­ment plan­ning is a rush for quick re­sults and some ar­eas’ strat­egy ex­ces­sively re­lies on the ex­ploita­tion of re­sources. Such in­cli­na­tions not only un­der­mine es­sen­tial de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion, they also threaten China’s over­all eco­log­i­cal safety. There­fore, de­vel­op­ment in the western re­gion needs to be sci­en­tif­i­cally pro­moted.

Any de­pressed and back­ward area can hardly rise in a short time. The western re­gion has a huge pop­u­la­tion and large ar­eas, with var­i­ous eth­nic and cul­tural groups. The de­vel­op­ment sit­u­a­tion is more com­pli­cated here than in other re­gions, which means de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion is a longterm cause and has five key re­quire­ments.

First, we should es­tab­lish sound views on fu­ture de­vel­op­ment. Some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties par­tially view de­vel­op­ment of the area as the ex­ploit­ing of nat­u­ral re­sources, es­pe­cially min­eral re­sources. How­ever, the goal of the Western De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy is to con­tin­u­ously in­crease liv­ing stan­dards and the qual­ity of life of res­i­dents, and grad­u­ally re­duce the de­vel­op­ment gap be­tween the western re­gion and other re­gions.

Sec­ond, we should take the new-style road of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. The western re­gion’s ecol­ogy is frag­ile. If the western prov­inces fol­low the eastern re­gion’s in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment path, it will cause huge eco­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems. The western re­gion’s new-style road of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion should bal­ance the relationships be­tween high and new tech­nol­ogy in­dus­tries and tra­di­tional in­dus­tries as well as cap­i­tal and tech­nol­ogy in­ten­sive in­dus­tries and la­bor in­ten­sive in­dus­tries. We should in­crease in­vest­ment in re­search and de­vel­op­ment and achieve eco­nomic growth by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of la­bor and man­age­ment. We should build ad­van­ta­geous in­dus­trial chains and pro­duce com­pet­i­tive and high added-value prod­ucts.

Third, con­struc­tion of cen­tral cities in the western re­gion should be strength­ened to en­hance their ra­di­a­tion ef­fect, so they can be the driv­ing force for eco­nomic growth. With the goal of high ef­fi­ciency and sus­tain­abil­ity, we should highly de­velop a mod­ern “Silk Road” eco­nomic dis­trict and city belt that cen­ters on big cities in the north­west, such as Urumqi, Lanzhou, Yinchuan, Xi’an and Xin­ing, as well as the up­per Yangtze River eco­nomic belt that cen­ters on south­west­ern cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Guiyang and Kun­ming.

Fourth, we should com­plete and pro­mote the western re­gion’s mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment. In the past, the Western De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy had two main char­ac­ter­is­tics: lo­cal govern­ments dom­i­nated pro­ject se­lec­tion and in­dus­trial in­vest­ment, and large-scale State-owned en­ter­prises played a key role. Al­though this has re­sulted in rapid de­vel­op­ment, there are two main dis­ad­van­tages of this de­vel­op­ment pat­tern. Un­der the cur­rent fi­nan­cial sys­tem and eval­u­a­tion sys­tem, govern­ment-led de­vel­op­ment al­ways ig­nores mar­ket de­mands and leads to a sim­i­lar in­dus­trial struc­ture in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, this goes against the op­ti­mum dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sources. Mean­while, large-scale State-owned en­ter­prises pay more at­ten­tion to ver­ti­cal dis­tri­bu­tion of work within their own sys­tems, which can hardly play a lead­ing role in lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

In the fu­ture, the Western De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy should make ef­forts to form and im­prove a mar­ket mech­a­nism that guar­an­tees the ef­fec­tive dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sources and es­tab­lishes a uni­fied, open, com­pet­i­tive and or­derly mod­ern mar­ket sys­tem. Govern­ment de­part­ments should re­duce their di­rect in­ter­ven­tion in mi­croe­co­nomic op­er­a­tions. The au­thor­i­ties should es­tab­lish a plat­form for fair com­pe­ti­tion among all kinds of economies, cul­ti­vate cap­i­tal, tech­nol­ogy and tal­ent for pro­duc­tion, form an open and or­derly cap­i­tal mar­ket, and cre­ate an in­no­vat­ing in­vest­ment and fi­nanc­ing sys­tem. Lo­cal govern­ments should im­prove their so­cial se­cu­rity cov­er­age to pro­vide a safe eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment for lo­cal res­i­dents as well as ex­ter­nal in­vestors.

Fifth, the cen­tral govern­ment should con­tinue pro­vid­ing man­power, ma­te­ri­als and fi­nan­cial sup­port to the western re­gion for in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment and im­prov­ing the lo­cal pub­lic ser­vice ca­pac­ity. It should also change lo­cal of­fi­cials’ po­lit­i­cal per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion sys­tem and help lo­cal au­thor­i­ties deal well with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the govern­ment and mar­ket. Of­fi­cials in the western re­gion should thor­oughly change their de­vel­op­ment con­cept, and make lo­cal govern­ments’ be­hav­ior con­sis­tent with im­prov­ing peo­ple’s well-be­ing and pro­mot­ing healthy, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

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