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Bridging the gap between north and south (115 hits)

Experts say a growing economic imbalance between China's northern and southern regions must be resolved as the proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan emphasize coordinated regional development. Luo Weiteng reports from Hong Kong.

Now a different geoeconomic divide between north and south may be overtaking the east-west gap as the primary regional imbalance, and has become a topic of major concern not only in official discourse of Chinese leaders, but also in daily conversations among ordinary people.China has made great strides over the past two decades in bridging the economic gap between the country's landlocked western regions and the richer coastal cities of the east since it launched its ambitious western development strategy in 1999.

Beijing, China's sprawling capital, is the only city in the country's north still among the mainland's top 10 in terms of economic size over the first three quarters of 2020, government data shows.

Tianjin, one of China's four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government, lost its position in the league table for the first time on record, overtaken by Nanjing, the capital city of eastern China's Jiangsu province.

Even if the top 20 cities on the list are considered, only four in the north managed to join the ranks of the elite club.

Beijing also stands as the only northern city to make the top 10 in terms of comprehensive economic competitiveness, according to the report, jointly released in December by the China Academy of Social Sciences and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Though some may argue that GDP numbers tell little and feed the illusion of growth and happiness, Xiao Jincheng, director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy under the National Development and Reform Commission's Academy of Macroeconomy, said that "the economic disparity between north and south is an indisputable fact and is likely to widen further in the future".

The north's share of China's economic output dropped to 35.4 percent in 2019 from 42.9 percent in 2012, even though the region comprises 15 provincial-level areas, 42 percent of the nation's population and 60 percent of its territory.

At the end of 2019, 13 of 17 Chinese cities with a GDP in excess of 1 trillion yuan (US$154 billion) were in the south. The total number is projected to reach 24 in 2020, with southern cities taking as many as 18 spots.

"While the membership of the '1-trillion-yuan' elite club remains as a privilege for very few mega cities in the north, the coastal provinces in the south are on pace to see city clusters in the making," said Zhu Baoliang, chief economist of the State Information Center under the NDRC, referring to economic powerhouse development plans such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

This points to more "coordinated regional development" one of key policy priorities highlighted in the proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) a development path totally different from the outdated one that concentrated the overwhelming majority of resources on very few core cities, at the expense of the future development of surrounding counties and towns, Zhu said.

Balanced development

Geographically, China is split north and south by the Qinling mountain range and the Huai River. Throughout Chinese history, these features have also served to slice the country in two culturally and economically.

Posted By: Steve Williams
Thursday, January 28th 2021 at 2:51AM
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