"Guilin's scenery is the best in the world." This is a popular Chinese saying in praise of the beauty of Guilin, a city in China's southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region bordering Viet Nam. Best known for its unique karst topography, beautiful natural landscapes and historical sights, the place is among the most visited scenic areas in this part of the country by Chinese and foreign tourists alike.
Guilin is not the only delight that Guangxi takes pride in. Apart from plenty of other famed tourist spots, the region also is endowed with abundant indigenous resources, ranging from hundreds of types of rare plant and animal species, various mineral reserves, some of which are indispensable to national economic development, and a vast expanse of waterways capable of generating millions of kilowatts of hydropower.
Not only is Guangxi noted for its rich natural resources, it is also a land that boasts the largest population of ethnic minorities among China's provincial-level administrative regions. According to available official statistics, minority peoples comprise almost 40 percent of the region's 46.5 million residents, with the Zhuang nationality forming the biggest ethnic group-15.18 million as of November 2005. Ten other ethnic minorities also inhabit the region, including the Yao, Miao and Dong, totaling more than 2.35 million. Hence, it was in March 1958 that Guangxi was made a special administrative region where ethnic minority inhabitants could exercise great autonomy in their local economic, cultural and social development initiatives.
This current situation of different nationalities sharing the same habitat is an important reason why Guangxi became an autonomous region. In fact, this is typical for areas where many minority nationalities have lived together with the predominant Han nationality for perhaps hundreds of years. Such a state of coexistence has brought about mutual recognition, respect and understanding as well as great harmony between localities, between the Han and other ethnic groups, and between the minorities themselves, and has laid the basis for regional autonomy.
Over the past half a century, Guangxi has progressed steadily and harmoniously along the road of common prosperity for all its inhabitants. Owing to historical reasons, however, the region still remains relatively underdeveloped compared with the coastal areas in the east, but it is catching up fast, especially during the past decades, thanks to the practice of regional autonomy and preferential policies that favor the ethnic minorities. With this autonomy serving as the cornerstone for all-round development, the general landscape of Guangxi will look more beautiful over the next five decades.