----An Interview with Governor Jiang Jufeng of Sichuan Province
Since the Central Committee of the CPC implemented the strategy of western development drive ten years ago, Sichuan province has been holding onto this significant historic opportunity and sparing no effort to push forward social and economic development throughout the province, by laying emphasis on infrastructure construction, ecological improvement, structural adjustment, science and education as well as reform and opening-up. Deputy Secretary of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Governor of Sichuan Province Jiang Jufeng said in a recent special interview with the Xinhua News Agency, Sichuan province made tremendous progress in respect of economic and social development during the 10-year western development drive, and has entered the intermediate stage of industrialization while industrialization was only at the primary stage in general at the beginning of the western development drive.
The Governor said, Sichuan has made remarkable achievements in three aspects. First, the province’s overall strength has been raised to a significant degree and there has been considerable increase in people’s living standard. In 2007, Sichuan’s GDP exceeded RMB one trillion for the first time, being the ninth province in China that had a GDP of over RMB one trillion. The province’s GDP is expected to reach about RMB 1.4 trillion in 2009, nearly four times that of 1999. Meanwhile, people’s living standard has been increased considerably, not only in the improvement of people’s basic living conditions, but also in the rise of urban and rural residents’ income. In 2008, per capita income of urban residents and per capita net income of farmers in the province were RMB 12,633 and RMB 4,121 respectively, 2.3 times and 2.23 times those of 1999.
Secondly, the province has made leap-forward strides in respect of infrastructure, urban and rural construction, ecological environment and social undertakings, and people’s living and production conditions have been improved enormously. For example, people now have new understanding about Sichuan’s transportation different from the past about “difficult access to Sichuan”. At present, highways leading to or out of Sichuan reach 15; the total mileage of all transportation means is 231 thousand km, more than twice the number before the western development drive. 2,188 km of expressway has been open to traffic, and 2,955 km of expressway is being constructed, adding up to over 5,100 km that is open to traffic when completed. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport has remained among the top 5 in China in recent years in terms of passenger throughput and is expected to have passenger throughput of 22.5 million in 2009. The airport’s second runway has started service lately, making the airport the fourth in China that started operation of a second runway. As the development of the comprehensive transportation hub in the western region quickens, railway mileage in the province will reach 8,000 km in 2020. Train journeys from Chengdu to Shenyang and Shanghai will be shortened from the present 30-odd hours to 8 hours, and journeys from Chengdu to Guangzhou and Beijing will take only 6 hours. Expressway mileage will reach 8,200 km, port container throughput will reach 3 million TEUs and there will be 17 civilian airports. A transportation network leading to and out of Sichuan will come into being, which includes 18 railways, 21 expressways and 2 watercourses. Access to Sichuan will then become easy and smooth instead of being “difficult”. In respect of urban and rural construction, we gave full play to the influencing and driving role of urban areas against rural areas and promoted the favorable interaction between urbanization and construction of new countryside. The province’s urbanization has seen a rise of 6 percentages during these 10 years, though still lower than the national average, with an urbanization rate of 37.3% in 2008.
In respect of ecological improvement, Sichuan is located at the upper reach of the Yangtze River and the establishment of ecological barrier is therefore our inescapable responsibility. We took the lead in the whole country in launching natural forests preservation projects and projects of returning farmland into forests and put into force a number of key ecological projects such as returning pasture into grassland, preservation of wet land, treatment against water loss and soil erosion, prevention and control of desertification in northwestern Sichuan and afforestation. In the process of making contribution to China’s ecological security and especially that of the Yangtze River Basin, people’s living and production conditions in urban and rural areas have been greatly improved. During these 10 years, a total of 6.67 million mu of land was treated against water loss and soil erosion, soil that was washed away into the Yangtze River was reduced by 46% and the coverage of forests has reached 31%.
In respect of social undertakings, the province vigorously implemented the strategies of rejuvenating Sichuan by science and education and strengthening Sichuan by talents and the cause of education developed healthily. For example, the province had only 42 higher learning institutions and 180 thousand college students 10 years ago, while now there are 92 higher learning institutions and nearly 1 million college students. The province has made extraordinary efforts in developing education in ethnic minority regions by implementing a 10-year scheme of education development to realize the balanced development of compulsory education.
Thirdly, Sichuan has been reinforcing the strategy of reform and opening-up and the socialist market economy system has been improved steadily. The awareness of reform and opening-up and the idea of market economy of both the cadres and the public have been intensified and the “basin perception” that used to restrain development has been broken up as a whole. Enterprises have been given the independence in market operation and their ability to adapt to the market and cope with risks was considerably increased.
Under the push of the national strategy of western development drive, Sichuan expanded the coverage of reform and intensified the degree of reform. During these 10 years, the province experienced major breakthroughs in respect of reform in state-owned enterprises, reform of finance and taxation, reform of investment and financing system, comprehensive reform in rural areas and pilot programs to enlarge counties’ authority. In particular, there have been effective achievements in relation to balancing urban and rural development. The development concept of “Chengdu in its entirety” put forth by Chengdu Municipality was innovative in important aspects and Chengdu was designated by the State as a pilot region for comprehensive reforms in balancing urban and rural development. Presently, the disparity between urban and rural areas in Chengdu is roughly equivalent to that in eastern provinces.
Meanwhile, the transformation of governments’ functions was intensified and extended. The province made great efforts to improve administrative efficiency and began to evaluate administrative performance on the basis of efficiency. In clearing up items of administrative approval, the province reduced the number of items from 1,122 to 486, and shortened the time limit for approval by 37.9% on average, becoming one of the provinces with the lest items of administrative approval.
The above reforms raised the standard and effect of the governments’ service, enabling a sound environment for investment in enterprises. In 2008, World Top 500 firms that have established their presence in Sichuan added up to 145, more than twice that of 10 years ago. Foreign investment of USD 3.34 billion has been used in effect, more than three times that of 10 years ago. Domestic investment from other provinces of nearly RMB 300 billion has been in place, 60 times that of 10 years ago. On the occasion of the 10th WCIETF held in Oct 2009, Sichuan parties contracted projects of investment of up to RMB 470 billion. So far, 9 countries have set up general consulates in Chengdu.
Speaking of the Wenchuan Earthquake and international financial crisis, the Governor said, it took great efforts for Sichuan to achieve the present results under the foregoing dual stress. One major factor for these accomplishments is that, the outcome of 10-year western development drive has proved to be sound physical and technical basis for Sichuan to resist against the massive earthquake and financial crisis. Without this, these accomplishments are unimaginable.
The Governor said in delight, the province is striving to push forward post-quake reconstruction and all work is progressing smoothly, in line with the requirement of the CPC Central Committee to basically complete the three-year tasks in two years. As of the end of 2009, 29,704 projects have been listed into the national general planning of post-quake reconstruction, among which 27,871 projects have been started, accounting for 93.9% of the total. 20,400 projects have been finished, accounting for 68.7% of the total. The estimated gross investment amounted to RMB 938.597 billion, among which RMB 555.16 billion has been funded, representing 61.3% of the estimated gross investment. Such aspects that concern people’s livelihood most as housing, schools, and medical and health institutions are the priorities for the province’s reconstruction. And the reconstruction of rural houses has all begun, and 1.2757 million houses have been completed, accounting for 99.8% of the total that need rebuilding. It is expected that all quake-affected rural residents may have new houses around the Spring Festival, except for residence whose reconstruction is affected by aftershock.
The Governor said finally, Sichuan’s practice fully demonstrates that the State strategy of western development drive is consistent with the trend and rule for development and is concerned with the overall strategic planning. Given the achievements in these 10 years of western development drive, we are confident and resolved that Sichuan province will march into a new stage in the next 10 years and be the first in the western region to develop into a well-off society.