The Office of Western Development and the State Development Planning Commission, while formulating medium- and long-term plans concerning western region development, have put forward 10 projects to be launched in the west in the year 2000.
These projects focus mainly on infrastructure and ecological construction.
1. The Xi'an-Hefei Section of the Xi'an-Nanjing Railway
The past few years saw great developments in railway transportation in western China. However, there are still problems, such as slow networking progress, poor railway quality and low transport capacity. According to the needs of western region development and the schedules for railway transportation, railway development in the western region will emphasize the expansion of the railway network and construction of east-west, internal and external passageways.
The Xi'an-Nanjing Railway via Nanyang will be a convenient passageway linking China's northwest and southwest to the east and central south of China, shortening the distance in railway transport between the above regions and optimizing the railway network.
2. The Chongqing-Huaihua Railway
The Chongqing-Huaihua Railway is of great strategic-significance to the completion of the railway network in the southwest, forming a convenient external passageway and promoting sustained development of the local economy and the economy of the western region on the whole.
3. Highway Construction in the West (including national trunk highways and roads in State-level poverty-stricken counties)
Currently, the major problems in highway development in western China are the small scale of highway networks, poor availability and low technical level. According to the preliminary plan, there will be four steps in the overall highway development in western China. First, while properly implementing the current plan for the layout of national trunk highways, new roads and highways will be built to form major passageways that not only connect the west with the mid-east, the southwest with the northwest, and all neighboring regions, but that also reach major rivers and the ocean. Second, the construction of trunk highways within western China will be strengthened, and the quality of highway networks improved. Third, the highway construction in poverty-stricken areas will be strengthened, and the availability of highways further improved. Fourth, the construction of trunk highways that connect west China and central China will be arranged concurrently, so as to fully develop the transportation in western China.
4. Airport Construction in the West
At present, a preliminary airport network is taking shape in the western region, mainly consisting of the major airports in Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an, Kunming, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Guilin, Nanjing and Hohhot and some minor airports. However, apart from Yuannan, communication hubs have not yet been formed in any of the regions. There are few feeder airports, and the pattern of air routes is largely city-to-city, rather than hubs with flights radiating from each city. Therefore, the fundamental principles for airport development and construction in the western region will be implementing communication-hub projects, developing feeder airports, improving air route structure and enhancing efficiency.
According to this projection, construction of the Xianyang International Airport in Xi'an will begin this year, and a feeder airport network will be under construction at the same time, with Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu, Xianyang Airport in Xi'an, Wujiaba Airport in Kunming, Zhongchuan Airport in Lanzhou, and Urumqi Airport as communication hubs. In this way, an airport network will be gradually formed, with major airports as regional centers.
5. Elevated Light Railway in Chongqing (phase I, Jiaochangkou-Xinshancun section)
Chongqing, as one of China's municipalities directly under the Central Government, is also an important center in the southwest region and upper reaches of the Yangtze River. However, due to topographical conditions, the structural problem of urban transportation is very serious. Therefore, construction of a fast-speed urban railway system with a large capacity will effectively ease the burden on traffic.
As the first project of its kind in the western region, the construction of the first phase of the Chongqing light trunk will also be of great significance to the improvement of the urban transportation level and investment environment in the entire western region.
6. The Sebei Qaidam Basin-Xining-Lanzhou Natural Gas Pipeline
The Qaidam Basin in Qinghai Province is one of the regions in China rich in natural gas. Natural gas fields with abundant reserves have been discovered in the eastern and western part of the basin. There is serious air pollution in Lanzhou and Xining, the respective provincial capitals of Gansu and Qinghai and two of the major industrial cities in northwest China. The pollution in these two cities mainly results from the soot emitted from burning coal. The utilization of natural gas as a clean and high-quality energy will not only improve the energy mix and the air quality in these two cities, but will also promote the economic development in Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
The construction of the six projects mentioned above will also improve the transportation facilities in the western region, laying a solid foundation for the amelioration of the investment environment in the central and western regions and for the implementation of the western region development strategy.
7. The Water-Control Projects at Zipingpu in Sichuan Province and Shapotou on the Yellow River in the Ningxia Hui Antonomons Region
Strengthening of the construction of water facilities in the western region is an important task related to the overall development of the west and the improvement of the ecological environment.
The Zipingpu water conservancy project in Sichuan Province, located in the upper reaches of the Minjiang River, is a large-scale project mainly intended for irrigation and water supply, and which has comprehensive functions like power generation and flood control. Its construction will improve the flood-control capacity in the downstream Chengdu Plain. The water supply guarantee rate will increase by 10 percentage points, which will be of great significance to the economic development of Sichuan Province.
The construction of the water-conservancy project at Shapotou on the Yellow River will improve the irrigation conditions along the Yellow River in Ningxia, as well as improve the guarantee rate and water utility efficiency of areas currently irrigated by the Yellow River. While improving the comprehensive productivity of agriculture in this region, the project will control the total amount of water drawn from the Yellow River, increase the power supply, help the inhabitants in mountainous areas rise out of poverty as soon as possible, and foster the rapid development of the rural economy in this region.
8. Returning Farmland to Forests and Pastures, Ecological Construction and Breeding Saplings in the central and western regions
Returning farmland to forests and pastures is of great strategic significance to the development of the western region. The implementation of this project will effectively improve the ecological environment and prevent soil erosion in the western region. From the year 2000, pilot projects of converting land to forests and pastures will be carried out in 13 provinces and regions in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the middle reaches of the Yellow River like Yunnan and Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. A projected total of 343,000 hectares of land will be returned to its original state, and there will be 432,000 hectares of man-made forests and pastures on what was previously wasteland. This project will not only have an enormous ecological effect but will also be an active driving force for the adjustment of the cultivation mix in rural areas.
Besides returning farmland to forests and pastures, the Central Government will also invest in comprehensive projects to ecologically control areas with serious soil erosion and bad ecological environments. The projects are of extreme importance to the social and economic development of the western region. Only by strengthening the control over and constantly improving the ecological environment can the abundant natural resources in the west be fully explored and utilized, the conditions for the introduction of capital, technology and talent be created, the flooding in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers be mitigated and social and economic development be promoted. Hope for the development of the western region lies in this project, which is also an important condition for the realization of the sustainable development of the entire country.
Water-control projects, returning farmland to forests and pastures, ecological construction and sapling projects in the western region all combine resource development with environmental protection and pursue the integration of economic, social and ecological effects for the sustainable development of the economy.
9. Qinghai Potassic Fertilizer Project
Qinghai Province is a poor region in western China. The construction of large industrial projects in this area is of great political and economic significance to the strategy of the western region development. The salt water lake in Qinghai is rich in potash resources, which not only guarantee the current production capacity but also satisfy the needs of this project and other follow-up projects. Due to the current low production capacity, most of the potash fertilizers need to be imported. Making use of self-developed technology that has been successfully applied in production, this project offers clear advantages.
The construction of this project will support the country's agricultural production, promote the comprehensive utilization of the resources in the salt lake and foster local economic development. This project also serves as an active experiment on the rational exploration of natural resources and the readjustment of the industrial structure in the western region.
10. Facilities Construction in Colleges and Universities
In order to implement the strategy of western region development, speed up the cultivation of talent and enhance the quality of talent, the State has decided to support higher education and construct lab facilities, as well as promote the socialization of logistic services in colleges and universities in the western region by making use of the funds raised through the issuance of government debts. This project will effectively improve the educational and technical levels of the laborers, accelerate the development of education and enlarge the scale of the cultivation of high-level talent. It will also ameliorate the conditions for schooling in the western region, create favorable working conditions for research staff and improve the research standard in colleges and universities.