Southwest China’s GDP growth rate leads the country

By Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/27 15:13:40

Distinct resource advantages boost local economy

Local residents learn how to grow vegetables in Changning, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, in August 2018. Photo: VCG

Employees introduce agricultural products to visitors at the 5th China International Agricultural Expo held in Kunming, Yunnan, in September. Photo: VCG

A visitor tries out 5G VR equipment at the China International Big Data Industry Expo held in Zunyi, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, in May. Photo: VCG

China's mountainous southwestern region has seen rapid economic growth in recent years through both a shift of the manufacturing center from the eastern part of the country to the middle and western parts, and southwestern provinces' distinct economic development plans based on their resource advantages.

The National Bureau of Statistics released GDP data for the first three quarters this year for 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on November 16. South China's Guangdong Province ranked No.1 with a total GDP of 7.72 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion), while East China's Jiangsu Province ranked No.2 with a GDP of 7.22 trillion yuan.

However, in terms of GDP growth rate, Southwest China takes the lead. Yunnan Province ranked No.1 with an economic growth rate of 8.8 percent, followed by Guizhou Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region, both at 8.7 percent. All three are located in Southwest China.

Common views hold that it was large-scale infrastructure investment which boosted a fast GDP growth rate in the region, illustrated by the construction of rail lines linking cities within Guizhou.

But Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Monday that, because a change in China's industry layout is taking place, the middle and western regions of the country are ushering in an important development opportunity.

"Some provinces in Eastern China have entered the post-industrialization phase, while the middle and western regions are still in the industrialization phase. The development of the manufacturing sector in Southwest China largely contributed to its fast GDP growth," Cong said.

Before Yunnan and Guizhou, Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality had experienced a round of rapid economic growth. From 2007-17, Chongqing's GDP maintained double-digit growth, and saw the nation's fastest growth for three consecutive years from 2014-16.

Chongqing and Southwest China's Sichuan Province have advantages in the manufacturing of automobiles and electronics, Guizhou in big data and Yunnan in agricultural and tourism resources. Now they are forming a new economic development circle, strengthening regional economic cooperation.

On November 19, Sichuan and Guizhou signed an agreement to step up cooperation in fields such as infrastructure connectivity, the digital economy and high-tech industries, according to a report on the Sichuan government's website.

Resource advantages

In addition to regional integration, southwestern provinces' economic development plans based on their particular resources have also contributed to their fast economic growth, according to experts.

Thanks to striking natural landscape and the distinctive cultures of minority ethnic groups, Southwest China's cities receive billions of yuan from tourism every year. In 2018, total tourism revenues in both Guizhou and Yunnan exceeded 800 billion yuan, ranking among the country's top ten in this respect. Both figures are expected to surpass 1 trillion yuan in 2019, based on last year's growth rate of nearly 30 percent.

Agricultural production on Yunnan's plateau has developed rapidly in recent years, with its coffee plantation area accounting for about 98 percent of the national total, Hu Lu, deputy secretary of the Coffee Association of Yunnan, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"The annual production of coffee is about 150,000 tons, of which half is exported to over 60 countries, including the US, Japan and those in the EU," Hu said.

With the drive of domestic consumption, Yunnan's plateau-agriculture revenue is expected to experience a boom, according to Hu.

Thanks in part to its specialized agriculture, Panzhou, a county in Guizhou Province, was removed from the country's list of poverty-stricken counties in April.

On a remote mountain as high as 1,600 meters, Xu Wenyong heads a cattle-raising cooperative. "Our cooperative members' income was 8,000 yuan per person in 2018, compared with 5,000 yuan per person before we began raising cattle on the mountain in 2017," he told the Global Times. The cooperative now sells meat to East China's Zhejiang Province and South China's Guangdong Province, and aims to begin exports to Southeast Asian countries.

In recent years, Guizhou's industrialization achieved an upsurge in development by focusing on the big data industry. "Guizhou didn't take the traditional industrial path, but became a leading big data center thanks to its sound weather conditions, the local government's effective planning and national policy support," according to Cong.

In southern Guizhou, there is a big data base called Bainiaohe Digital Town located in Huishui County. Launched in 2014, the town had attracted 85 companies including Baidu and HTC by the end of 2018, creating revenue of nearly 1.1 billion yuan, according to the Huishui government's website.

The town aims to host 100 big data companies and achieve an output value of 10 billion yuan by the end of 2020, the website read.

As opening-up brings additional development opportunities, Southwest China's provinces can become more advantageous if they cooperate further with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as well as South Asia and Southeast Asia, Cong said.

In March, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released measures to support Yunnan's deepening cooperation in sectors including agriculture, infrastructure and commerce. The NDRC also supported the establishment of a border-tourism pilot zone in Yunnan, so that the province could carry out cross-border tourism cooperation with neighboring countries.

Official data shows that Yunnan's foreign trade soared 24.7 percent year-on-year in 2018, reaching 197.3 billion yuan. This figure is expected to exceed $30 billion in 2019, the Xinhua News Agency reported in August.

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