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Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 50 Years On
Special> Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 50 Years On
UPDATED: September 8, 2008 No.37 SEP.11, 2008
A Minority Report
With half of its land still desolate due to geographical reasons, realizing sustainable development will be an arduous task for Ningxia

A lot can happen in half a century. What was once a desert can turn into an oasis. And that is exactly what happened in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a minority autonomous region.

Ningxia, covering 66,000 square km, is one of the country's smallest administrative regions, and also the smallest of the country's five autonomous regions, with the other four being Xinjiang Uygur, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Guangxi Zhuang.

What Ningxia has achieved in its social and economic development during the past five decades is obviously attributable to the Central Government's support in terms of both political and economic policies.

The country's system of regional ethnic autonomy was designed several decades ago to give regions inhabited mainly by ethnic minority groups a number of autonomous powers in economic and social development. Inner Mongolia first practiced the system in 1947 before the New China was founded, and in Xinjiang in 1955. Later this year, Guangxi will also celebrate its 50th birthday as an autonomous region. The policy has been tried, tested and found to be highly effective through the several decades of development of these regions.

Compared with 50 years ago, Ningxia's achievements are tremendous. Its GDP had grown nearly 60-fold from 1958 to the end of 2007. Expressways went from none to more than 1,000 km. It has also established a modern industrial network.

With regard to Ningxia's economic accomplishments, we can't ignore the reform and opening-up policy launched 30 years ago, which has brought irrevocable changes to the whole country.

But the most direct impetus must be the country's strategy of "Western Development," adopted in 1999 to stimulate an economic takeoff in China's central and western regions.

Ningxia and the other four autonomous regions are all located in the country's least developed western region. The "Western Development" strategy has brought this region a lot of funds, human resources and preferential policies, helping them build infrastructure projects and explore natural resources.

However, to catch up with the country's developed regions, Ningxia still has a long way to go. Compared with Jiangsu, one of the most developed eastern provinces, it lags far behind. In 2007, its per-capita GDP was only 40 percent of Jiangsu's, and per-capita urban residents' and farmers' incomes were two thirds and less than half of those of Jiangsu, respectively. Furthermore, the three indexes for Ningxia were all below the national average level.

We can say that the past five decades have laid a foundation for Ningxia's development. But the region has to work even harder in the coming two decades when the whole country is expected to become a modern society. In August, the State Council's meeting approved the "Several Opinions on Further Promoting the Economic and Social Development of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region," which can serve as a guideline for Ningxia's future development.

With half of its land still desolate due to geographical reasons, realizing sustainable development will be an arduous task for Ningxia.

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