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China's West Gears Up
Cover Stories Series 2011> China's West Gears Up
UPDATED: August 23, 2011 Web Exclusive
Narrowing the Gap
Qinghai Province vows to make use of its local resources to promote its economy, so as to catch up with national average living standards

Experts expect west China to be a new economic growth engine in the next 10 years. Qinghai Province, neighboring Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions as well as Gansu and Sichuan provinces in west China, will play an important role in the country's Western Development Strategy, which was launched in 2000.

Beijing Review reporters Xu Bei and Jin Duoyou recently spoke to Xu Fushun, Qinghai's executive deputy governor, about the province's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), ecological preservation and recycling economics. Excerpts follow:

Beijing Review: Over the last five years, the annual growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in Qinghai has been above 10 percent, but its economic growth ranking is still below in the nation. Why?


Xu Fushun: Since the launch of the country's Western Development Strategy in 2000, Qinghai has enjoyed rapid development, especially in the recent five years, with its GDP growing by a few percentage points higher than the national average.

The comparatively slow economic development contributed to lax development of the vast area's natural resources, and the speed of development is therefore slower than that of southeastern coastal provinces. Compared with the past, the GDP growth in Qinghai grew faster in recent years, but compared with our coastal counterparts, its GDP growth is still lagging behind.

In my opinion, however, the economic status quo should not be measured only by its GDP. The province has a population of just over 5 million. Therefore, the per-capita GDP in Qinghai was not below the national level.

The province's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) resolves to improve its comprehensive economic strength, people's living standards, ecological preservation and social management. The outline set the targets to double its total output value and fiscal revenue, significantly increase residents' incomes and lead the western region in terms of per-capita GDP and investment intensity, urban-rural integration, basic public services, green development and ecological protection, so as to narrow the gap between the province's economic indicators and the national average.

How does Qinghai orient itself in terms of development? The Central Government put forward in 2010 to have a second round of the Western Development Strategy. What challenges and opportunities will it bring to Qinghai?

Qinghai is the source of China's three major rivers, namely the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Lancang River. Sanjiangyuan, from which flows the three major rivers, is the largest pilot area of ecological preservation in China. Qinghai is also one of the country's key mineral resource bases, taking the lead in per-capita mineral resource extraction, according to a survey conducted a decade ago.

However, per-capita income of urban and rural residents of the province is lagging, at only 72 percent and 65 percent of the national averages, respectively. Poverty and insufficient development still linger in the province.

The new round of Western Development Strategy is therefore a chance for us to accelerate improvement of infrastructure and materialize integration of resources, technologies and management, so as to forge an industrial system with local features and advantages. The new round of strategy puts great emphasis on ecological preservation, environmental protection, and the establishment of eco-compensation mechanisms. This is a new opportunity for Qinghai to maintain ecological preservation in the new round of construction.

Summing up from the province's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), three major tasks are to develop the province in a scientific way, protect ecology, and improve people's living standards.

What are key industries to be developed in Qinghai?

Currently, the first type of industry to be developed will be new energy, which covers photovoltaic power generation, lithium batteries, and solar power components. These industries are environmentally friendly. They consume minimal amounts of hydrocarbons and trap carbon dioxide.

The second type of industry will be mining such materials supply as aluminium, copper, zinc, and lithium.

We, in addition, have especially encouraged development of the bio-pharmaceutical industry. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is home to many plants and animals containing rich medicinal value.

For example, we make use of sea buckthorn, a kind of drought plant, to produce buckthorn wine and juice. Another example is the rabbit mouse, ordinarily a grassland-damaging nuisance, which nonetheless can be utilized to make medicinal wine to prevent rheumatism. Further, light textile industries, such as Tibetan rug weaving, yak breeding and related processing, provide jobs for local Tibetan residents and promote local economic development.

What plans do you have to develop special regional economics in Qinghai during the next five years?

The basic approach is to develop a green economy. Efforts will be made to develop three pilot zones – the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve, Qaidam Recycling Economy Zone, and Rebgong Cultural Ecological Reserve. 

Qinghai will accelerate setting up recycling industrial chains, aiming to become China's key base for hydropower, salt lake chemical industry, non-ferrous metals production, solar photovoltaic industry and ecological products supply.

Development is inseparable from people. What practical measures do you have in terms of attracting talented workers?

Qinghai offers preferential policies to attract professionals working for its key economic development sectors by solving their life problems such as housing and children's education. Some large businesses like Western Mining Investment Co. Ltd., have set up research and development bases in Beijing and Shanghai, and researchers of these bases would go to Qinghai regularly to adjust their research to local conditions.

Qaidam Recycling Economy Zone was escalated to state level in March 2010. What experiences should be learned by other recycling economic zones in China?

Recycling economy should be linked closely to regional characteristics.

In the city of Qaidam, each industry of the four industries -- coal chemical, salt lake chemical, petrochemical, and non-ferrous metals (precious metals) --  is able to recycle in the circle of itself, and the recycling is available among the four industries, as well.

All the enterprises in the pilot zone are encouraged to reprocess food waste, crop stalks, and plant oil. Businesses failing to reprocess these materials will try to cooperate with other enterprises in the zone to realize recycling production.

Enjoying abundant lighting resources, the recycling economy zone takes solar energy as a significant project. Currently, the zone has attracted over 30 businesses at home and abroad.

We are aware of the importance of construction of recycling industrial chains in the zone. For instance, we encourage investment in solar heating, solar buildings and solar electricity generation, thus forming an industrial chain.

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