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East China to Keep Lead in Economic Growth

Xinhua, 28 April 2001

JINAN, April 28 (Xinhua) -- East China, a major powerhouse of the national economy, will continue to lead the nation in economic growth, analysts here said.

In the next five years, the average economic growth for the whole country will be around seven percent, but targets set by the seven provinces and one municipality in east China are higher, as shown in the latest forecasts for the Tenth Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005).

Zhejiang Province has the highest target of 11 percent for the coming five years, while Anhui Province has the lowest of about 8. 5 percent.

East China includes Shanghai, China's largest industrial and commercial city, Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, whose GDPs rank 2nd and 3rd, Zhejiang Province, known for its private industries, and Fujian, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces.

Statistics show that this region has contributed significantly to China's economic progress since reform and opening up was launched in late 1970s.

During the Ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996 to 2000), Fujian's economy grew 11.8 percent annually on average, while Jiangxi had the lowest growth rate of 9.3 percent.

Chinese economy grew at an average annual rate of 8.5 percent during the 1996-2000 period.

Economists attribute the high growth rate in east China to its advantageous coastal location, favorable policies regarding reform and opening-up, robust economic base, and abundant human resources.

However, the key to fast, sustained economic growth in the region is strategic economic restructuring.

Li Chunting, governor of Shandong where the per-capita GDP increased by 3,822 yuan over the past five years, has stressed economic restructuring as essential to his province's development.

By the end of last year, Shanghai had registered a per-capita GDP of 34,560 yuan. The city vows to increase this figure to around 54,000 yuan in five years' time. To achieve this goal, Shanghai has set its economic growth target at 9 to 11 percent.

Mayor Xu Kuangdi said that Shanghai will speed up building itself into an international economic, financial, trade and shipping center in the coming five years.

Despite the fact that the central government has launched a massive campaign to develop the vast western region of China, economists hold that this strategic move will not be deleterious to the benefits of the east, but on the contrary will bring another major opportunity for rapid development.

As a matter of fact, some east China areas are already reaping benefits from investing in the west.

By investing in Guizhou Province in southwest China, a state- owned enterprise in Shandong has turned loss into profit.

Private entrepreneurs in Zhejiang have also benefited from investment programs in the west.

East China accounts for over 40 percent of China's total GDP.