Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, located in west China, is often described as a region with vast and fertile soil, rich in natural resources and with distinctive and diversified ethnic customs. However, Xinjiang is still less developed compared to the country's fast-growing eastern provinces.
This embarrassing situation is expected to soon become a thing of the past.
At the first work conference on Xinjiang held last month, China's Central Government put forward detailed targets for the region's development: By 2015, per-capita gross domestic product in Xinjiang should catch up with the country's average level. At the same time, residents' incomes and their access to basic public services should reach the average level of west China. By 2020, Xinjiang should fulfill the goal of being a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, and should have eradicated absolute poverty by and large.
For this purpose, a series of support policies will be put into practice. The Central Government also pledged to double fixed asset investment in Xinjiang during the next five years from the 2006-10 level, with the aim of increasing the region's self-development capacity.
More importantly, partner assistance, modeled after a program in revitalizing areas ravaged by the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province in May 2008, will be launched next year. The Central Government has assigned 19 provinces and cities in central and east China to partner with one or several cities (counties) in Xinjiang, providing the recipients with personnel, technological and financial support and management expertise. It's estimated the donor provinces and cities will inject more than 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) into Xinjiang in 2011.
Xinjiang is China's largest provincial-level administrative division and accounts for one sixth of its 9.6-million-square-km territory. It is home to 12 of China's 55 minority ethnic groups and has the country's largest crude oil, natural gas and coal reserves. Part of the Silk Road connecting the East and West, it is the location where the four great ancient civilizations—China, Babylon, India and Egypt—met each other and has experienced many ups and downs. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Central Government has made great efforts to improve ordinary people's lives in the region.
The new development assistance campaign for Xinjiang is historically important. It is larger than any previous effort of its kind in more than 60 years in terms of policy and investment. It covers the broadest possible range of growth stimuli, and will certainly lay a solid foundation for Xinjiang's leapfrog development and lasting stability, which is of great importance to China's effort to build a harmonious society.