| A night view of Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (Courtesy of the Information Office of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regional Government)
In November last year, a song about Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region went viral online. "Let's go to Ningxia and depart before sunrise; Listening to songs sung by local girls and appreciating the rock paintings of the Helan Mountains," the lyrics go.
Ningxia is located in the northwestern part of inland China, in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River and the intersection between the desert and the Loess Plateau. It is adjoined to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.
As the catchy tune indicates, Ningxia is sandwiched between the Helan Mountains to the north and the Liupan Mountains to the south.
The region also boasts a long history and illustrious culture and is one of the cradles of the Chinese civilization. It used to be an important passage point for transit between east and west China, and was a critical stop on the ancient Silk Road. The region also hosts the largest number of people from the Hui ethnic group in China and is host to the country's largest concentration of Muslims.
During the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period, Ningxia implemented strategies aimed at boosting the development of the economic zone along the Yellow River, which runs along the northern part of the region, and lifted 1 million people out of poverty. The economic zone along the Yellow River was listed among the 18 key national development zones. Ningxia Inland Opening-Up Pilot Economic Zone was elevated to a national strategy. The China-Arab States Expo has become a platform for the country's opening-up initiatives. A comprehensive bonded area in Yinchuan was also put into operation, and the construction of the Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base achieved remarkable progress. In addition, the grape corridor east of the Helan Mountains gained worldwide recognition. The aforementioned progress serves as the driving force for the people of different ethnic groups in the region to forge ahead.
"I work for the farm of the One Thai Animal Husbandry Co. in my village and get paid 2,700 yuan ($414) per month. My wife works as a temporary worker at a nearby vineyard and makes 7,000 ($1072) to 8,000 yuan ($1226) per year. In addition, I receive 1,500 yuan ($230) a year for renting out my land," said Ma Xiliang, a villager from the Yuanlong Village in Ningxia's Yongning County.
Ma added that he made only 10,000 yuan ($1,532) a year through farming and herding before he moved from Qingshi, his village of origin in the city of Guyuan, to the village of Yuanlong. Ma moved in 2012 under a relocation plan aimed at reducing poverty. Four years after the relocation, Ma and his fellow villagers' lives have experienced sweeping changes. Now Ma is able to make 45,000 yuan ($6,894) a year.
"It has become more convenient for our village's children to go to school. Before, they didn't attend school until the age of 8 because they had to walk 5 km of mountain roads to go to class," said Luo Jinfu, a 60-year-old villager.
"Now children go to kindergarten starting from the age of 4, since the school is only 500 meters away," Luo added.
"It has become more convenient to get water. In the past, villagers had to walk 1 km to fetch water. Now they all have access to running water. Transportation has also become more convenient. Previously, few households had bicycles. Now every household has electric bicycles and over 10 households have cars," said Luo.
| Sand Lake in Shizuishanmous Region (Courtesy of the Information Office of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regional Government)
During the 12th Five-Year Plan period, Ningxia had been dedicated to promoting the construction of a beautiful, open, prosperous and harmonious community, and social and economic development of the region has achieved substantial progress.
In the past five years, the region's GDP increased from 169 billion yuan ($26 billion) in 2010 to 290 billion yuan ($44 billion) last year, registering a 9.9-percent annual average growth rate. The per-capita disposable income of urban and rural residents increased by 10.8 percent and 12.3 percent respectively, with the income of rural residents increasing by a larger margin than their urban counterparts every year. A total of 350,000 people living under poverty were relocated out of consideration for environmental protection, and 650,000 people benefited from the poverty reduction plan.
A raft of problems concerning people's access to education, medical services, and drinkable water and lodging as well as transportation has effectively been resolved. The experiences of promoting ethnic unity and progress were shared at the central ethnic work conference. The fulfillment of the goals of the 12th Five-Year Plan period has laid a solid foundation for Ningxia's future development.
| Western Xia imperial mausoleums in Yinchuan (Courtesy of the Information Office of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regional Government)
The primary goal for Ningxia during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period is to double its GDP by 2020 against 2010 levels by keeping its GDP growth rate above 7.5 percent, keep public budget revenue in sync with economic growth, increase the region's fixed-asset investment by an annual average of 10 percent and increase the per-capita disposable income of urban and rural residents by an annual average of 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
Other goals include improving the region's capacity for innovation, achieving solid progress in industrial transformation and upgrading, continually improving the environment, making major breakthroughs in reform and opening up, further lifting people's living standards as well as improving its citizens' moral standards. In order to realize the aforementioned goals, Ningxia will continue to transform its development models, accelerate innovation, and promote industrial transformation and upgrading. It will also attach equal importance to development and the advancement of people's livelihoods as well as economic growth and environmental protection. These measures are meant to improve the quality and efficiency of growth in the region.
Ningxia will also accelerate its opening up to the outside world. It will promote the construction of the pilot economic zone for the opening up of its hinterland. It will also foster the creation of a pilot zone for China-Arab cooperation, since Ningxia is a strategic juncture along the Silk Road Economic Belt. Ningxia will make full use of the China-Arab States Expo to achieve new breakthroughs in cooperation between China and Arab countries. It will also build a series of infrastructure construction projects involving roads, railways, airports, Internet and communications, and accelerate the construction of the land, aerial and maritime Silk Road. Moreover, the region also plans to launch a series of institutional reforms to create a better environment for investment.
Using innovation to drive the construction of a prosperous Ningxia, the region will work to upgrade its economy by encouraging mass entrepreneurship and innovation. It also encourages the acceleration of industrial transformation and upgrading, as well as the implementation of the industrial foundation consolidation project. Other planned measures include the agricultural quality and efficiency improvement project, the plan of accelerating the development of the service industry, as well as a slew of infrastructure construction, industrial development and projects aimed at improving people's livelihoods. The region will also improve the management of its cities. It will step up the construction of intelligent cities, improve the standards for the construction of new villages, and promote the extension of public infrastructure as well as basic public services to rural areas.
Ningxia adheres to the principle of its residents building the region together and sharing in the development results as well as guaranteeing its people's livelihoods in order to build a harmonious society. Ningxia will implement a variety of projects to tackle poverty reduction and alleviation, the improvement of education quality, health and social welfare, and the increase of rural and urban residents' income. Its social development should take the lead in China. In terms of social governance, mediation organizations should be available in cities, counties and villages; in terms of ethnic unity and progress, the region will strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law and enable its ethnic and religious work to take the lead in China.
Finally, Ningxia will prioritize environmental protection and green development. It will accelerate the construction of major functional areas and promote the development of cities according to their functions. It will make the region cleaner by implementing plans aimed at treating air, water and soil pollution. The region will also launch projects for the protection of its forests and water as well as start ecology demonstration area constructions. That is in addition to plans to mend and add greenery to main thoroughfares as well as roads along the rivers and mountains, and also plans to strengthen the "beautiful village" construction project.
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan