Per capita GDP in six municipalities, provinces and regions including Beijing, Zhejiang and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region surpassed $10,000 in 2012, putting them at a level close to a developed economy, according to statistics released by the local governments as of Tuesday.
For the first time, per capita GDP in East China's Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces as well as North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region surpassed $10,000 in 2012, while the per capita GDP in three municipalities - Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai - stayed above $10,000 last year.
According to the World Bank's standards in 2011, a region with a per capita gross national income (GNI) greater than $12,476 can be considered a high-income economy. In China, the gap between the values of GNI and GDP is usually within 2 percent.
"The six areas' per capita GDP data has already reached or is close to the threshold of a high-income economy, but compared with the US and some countries in Europe which have a per capita GDP between $30,000 and $50,000, they still lag far behind," Tang Jianwei, a senior macroeconomic analyst at the Bank of Communications, told the Global Times Tuesday.
While Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces are traditional manufacturing bases, the emergence of Inner Mongolia is largely attributed to the region's abundant natural resources, experts said.
"Inner Mongolia has mainly benefited from rising prices for resources such as coal in recent years," Tian Yun, deputy head of the China Society of Macroeconomics under the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"But the region's per capita disposable income is still lower than other developed provinces," he said.
In 2012, the per capita disposable income of urban residents reached 23,150 yuan ($3,716) in Inner Mongolia, lower than the figure of 34,550 yuan in Zhejiang and 29,677 yuan in Jiangsu, data from local statistics departments showed.
Experts said China's developed regions also lag behind their Western counterparts in terms of the structure of their industries and income distribution.
"In China, residents' disposable income accounts for a small share of GDP, which means people don't enjoy many benefits from the rapid GDP growth," Tang said.
"Instead of per capita GDP, other indicators such as per capita disposable income and the Gini coefficient, a gauge of the gap between the rich and the poor, are more useful in terms of reflecting people's happiness," he said.
Wang Susheng, a deputy to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, suggested that the Gini coefficient should be taken into the evaluation system of local authorities' performance, which is usually focused on GDP growth.
"The local government should make efforts to bring down the Gini coefficient year by year," the Yangcheng Evening News, a Guangzhou-based newspaper, quoted him as saying Monday.
As of Tuesday, only Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province had not released its economic data for 2012. Besides the top six areas, local per capita GDP data in the rest of the municipalities, provinces and regions ranged between $3,147 and $9,126 last year, which is equivalent to middle-income economies, according to the World Bank's standards.
Tang said China should avoid the so-called middle income trap, which refers to developing countries stagnating after reaching middle-income status.
"The key to avoiding the trap is further reforms to the income distribution system, which should focus more on fairness and equality rather than efficiency," he said.
In terms of GDP value, export-oriented Guangdong Province ranked at the top with 5.7 trillion yuan recorded in 2012, followed by Jiangsu and Shandong provinces. It was the 24th consecutive year the southern province grabbed the top position.