China plans to make a greater effort to develop the western region to balance regional development, and infrastructure investment will be a key part of the strategy, officials and experts said on Thursday.
"It's clear that the western region is now the key area for China's economic opening-up in a new era. A new round of western region development requires us to deepen the development," said Du Ying, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.
In a keynote speech on the China-Arab States Infrastructure, Investment and Trade Cooperation Workshop held in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Du said: "We will first put more effort into enhancing infrastructure in the region and establishing highways connecting the developed coastal areas, as well as to speedways to neighboring countries."
Yang Guang, director of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that "investment in infrastructure will be the key in the new wave of western region development".
"We will also promote specialized industries in the western region as well as boost industrial upgrading and transformation," Du added.
China put forward the strategy to develop the country's western region in 2000. The policy covers the municipality of Chongqing, six provinces from Gansu to Sichuan and Yunnan, and five autonomous regions. The area altogether accounts for about 70 percent of the country's land area, nearly 30 percent of its population, but less than 20 percent of its GDP.
The western region has recorded faster economic growth than the coastal area for five straight years since 2007. In 2011, imports and exports in the western region reached $184 billion, 9.4 times that of 1999. Foreign direct investment in the western region totaled $11.57 billion, 10 times of that in 1999, according to Du.
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