Plan for west aims to avoid 'new Kosovo'
Developing the country's western regions aims to guarantee the stability of national borders and the prevention of a 'Kosovo in Asia', one of the architects of the plan said yesterday.
A major objective was to provide the 55 minorities in those regions with more of the benefits of the country's reforms and open-door policy.
'We want to guarantee the inviolability of the borders and the political and social stability of those areas,' said Chen Dongsheng, a member of a special team set up by the State Council to draw up a master plan to develop the west.
'We want to smash our enemies who want to use poverty and the contradictions between races to create a Kosovo-style crisis in Asia.' Mr Chen was referring to those who would like to see Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia taken out of China and turned into independent countries.
In three speeches last year, President Jiang Zemin said the time had come to make the development of the west a central part of the national agenda.
It will be a major topic at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress next month and the main policy objective in the 10th five-year plan which the parliament will approve in March next year.
National security is one of several reasons to put the development of the west at the top of the national agenda. Another is the widening gap between the poor west and the rich east.
The west has 56 per cent of China's land area, with 285 million people or 22.8 per cent of the population, but with a per capita income of only 60 per cent of the national average and less than half that of the richer eastern coastal areas.
The per capita income of the poorest areas in the west is eight per cent of that of the richest cities in the east.
Another reason is environmental degradation caused by over-population.
Lack of land has forced farmers to cut trees to develop land, causing soil erosion and silting of the rivers.
Mr Chen said western inhabitants must be given other employment opportunities to end this cycle of poverty.
Land degradation was the reason why developing the west would not involve a mass transfer of people from the east, he said.
The only transfers would be of skilled personnel needed in new factories and projects.
Mr Chen envisaged new jobs created by firms that move labour-intensive factories from the east, where labour and land costs are significantly higher, and major projects in developing oil, gas, hydro-electric power, metals and minerals and in infrastructure, such as railways, roads and telecommunications.