A top mainland political researcher has called on Beijing to leave more money in the resources-rich western provinces to prevent what critics call the predatory exploitation of the area. The call by Cai Jiming, a professor at Tsinghua University, put the west's slow economic growth, compared with that of the coastal areas, in a new context. Mainstream views have long argued that poor infrastructure and outdated economic development models were the main reasons for the situation. Professor Cai told a forum yesterday that Beijing had left too small a share of the profits from natural resources in the west, which had contributed greatly to the huge disparity in development between the west and the east. 'In many western provinces, especially some ethnic minority-concentrated areas, the compensation to local governments has been too low, which in fact has made it a predatory exploitation of the natural resources those areas own,' Professor Cai said. Even without directly naming it, many of Professor Cai's remarks appeared, at least partly, to refer to the exploitation in Xinjiang, which leads the west in mining and has a high percentage of ethnic minorities. Xinjiang has as much as 20 per cent of the country's oil reserves and in the future is expected to account for one-fifth of the mainland's annual coal production. On top of oil and coal abundance, the Tarim Basin at the centre of Xinjiang is believed to hold trillions of cubic metres of natural gas. A 4,000-kilometre pipeline has been built to take the gas as far as Shanghai. Professor Cai said Beijing paid only 1 per cent of the fees from oil, coal and natural gas sales, whereas developed countries usually offered 10 to 16 per cent of such fees to regions from which the resources came. 'All important natural resources in the west have been transferred to the east ... but the ones who benefited most from such businesses have been developers and end users, not the ones who actually 'own' those resources,' he said. Professor Cai's remarks came as Xinjiang last week saw one of its worst ethnic clashes in decades, in which at least 184 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured. Many analysts had argued the growing disparity between Xinjiang and other provinces, as well as the expanding disparity between Han Chinese and Uygurs in the autonomous region, had in part helped brew the discontent among Uygurs. Professor Cai said increasing the share of compensation could be one of the best ways to address the economic disparity. He suggested increasing the compensation for general resources from 1.18 per cent to 3 per cent and called on the central government to leave as much as 80 per cent with local governments. Beijing should urge resource development companies to set up local headquarters as they paid taxes based on where they were based. Local economies have so far failed to benefit much from the tax revenues.