China wants to develop its frontier in the western regionChina intends to develop its frontier, or its western region. China’s development of its western region is designed to reduce the economic gap between the coastal region in the east and the undeveloped region in the west, and between cities and rural areas, according to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade. The western region contains 72 percent of China’s land, but only 28 percent of its population lives there. The western region consists of 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities: Shaanxi, Qinghai, Sichuan, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Inner Monglia, Gansu, Tibet and Chongqing. After China’s reform and opening, cities in the eastern coastal regions like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen benefited from sudden economic booms, but the inner western region remained underdeveloped. Gross domestic product per capita in Shanghai is over $6,000, but that of Guizhou province, one of the least derdeveloped in the region, is less than $400. And the gap is widening. China invested 1.4 trillion yuan ($177 billion) in the region’s development from January to November in 2005, an increase of 30 percent from the previous year. The development also aims to exploit the vast natural resources located in the western region. Known as “The factory of the world,” China was the second-biggest consumer of energy after the United States last year, and is also sucking up other natural resources. China has identified underground deposits of oil, natural gas, iron ore and manganese buried in the western region. China’s West-East Gas Project, one of many large engineering projects, is designed to move natural resources to the more industrialized and populated East Coast. It will transfer natural gas from Tarim Basin in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to the coastal metropolis of Shanghai. There are political aspects to development as well as economic ones. By reducing the economic gap, the central government in Beijing wants to relieve dissatisfaction of ethnic minorities in the region, including the Uyghur people and Mongolians, and thus deter independence movements. The first railroad to Lhasa, Tibet was opened in July. The longest railroad in the world is 4,064 kilometers (2,525 miles) long and connect Beijing and the Tibetan capital in the Himalayan Mountains. The railroad project is a national undertaking, and it is considered essential to further strengthen political and economic power in the country. Last year the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy sent a joint delegation to China to study the state of the western region’s development. The delegation included officials from the Commerce Ministry, the Finance and Economic Ministry, the Communications and Information Ministry, SK Corp. and Korea Electric Power. The delegation wanted to explore joint ventures in natural resource exploration and investment opportunities in information technology. The Chinese economy is supported by World Trade Organization accession, and should continue to grow robustly over the next two years. by Limb Jae-un
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