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  • The Integration of the Economic Development Zones in China’s Northeast Release of the “Northeast China Revitalization Plan” which will move the Northeast revitalization policy one step forward

The Integration of the Economic Development Zones in China’s Northeast Release of the “Northeast China Revitalization Plan” which will move the Northeast revitalization policy one step forward


On 20 August the “Northeast China Revitalization Plan” (henceforth referred to as the “Plan”)—to stipulate the economic revitalization program for the Northeast region looking to 2020—was released by the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Office of the Leading Group for Revitalizing Northeast China and Other Old Industrial Bases of the State Council (henceforth referred to as the Office for Revitalizing the Northeast).1 This was compiled based upon the “Opinions on a number of policies concerning the implementation of the strategy for the revitalization of Northeast China and other old industrial bases” (published in October 2003)—which marked the start of the Northeast revitalization policy2—and the “Outline of the 11th Five-Year Plan”, and is a comprehensive economic plan for the Northeast that has been formulated with an emphasis on the period 2006–2010, and a view through to 2020 for the major problems. Six items were mentioned as guiding principles of the “Plan”—reform and opening; structural adjustment; intra-regional coordinated development; structural transformation of industry in resource-depleted cities; the construction of an energy-conserving and environmentally-friendly society; and the development of social welfare projects. Additionally it spelt out specific figures and strategies covering all sectors—such as industry, agriculture, services, regional development, infrastructure development, social security, countermeasures against environmental pollution and opening up to the outside world—including a target for per capita GDP of 21,889 yuan by 2010 (an average annual growth rate of 7.4%, from 15,318 yuan for 2005).

In the “Plan” released this time, one point can be mentioned which has drawn attention—the incorporation into the plan of the eastern part of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (henceforth referred to as Eastern Inner Mongolia). With an area of 665,000 sq. km (56.2% of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region), it is known as a region rich in natural resources.3 As one reason for Eastern Inner Mongolia’s incorporation into the “Plan”, the view predominates that it is to be made a resource-supply base for the three northeastern provinces whose resource-depletion continues. Some other reasons given are that its historical and geographical links and economic relationships with the three northeastern provinces are intimate (for example, the Northeast electricity grid also has Eastern Inner Mongolia within its remit), and that it needs to be integrated into a forward base in the opening up to the outside world.4

This is not the first time, however, that Eastern Inner Mongolia has been made a part of the Northeast region. The extent of the “Northeast” included the three northeastern provinces and Eastern Inner Mongolia according to all three of the Northeast China Economic Cooperation Area set up during the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Northeast China Cooperation Area set up in 1970, and the Northeast China Economic Area Planning Office of the State Council set up in 1985 (its forerunner was the Northeast China Energy and Transportation Planning Office set up in 1983).5 In the seven economic zones established at the time of the 9th Five-Year Plan, Liaoning Province and Eastern Inner Mongolia were included in the “Bohai Sea Rim Region”, and Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces and Eastern Inner Mongolia were included in the “Northeast Region”.6 In the compilation process of the “Plan” this time, although it was decided that Eastern Inner Mongolia be incorporated at the first compilation meeting,7 why was Eastern Inner Mongolia incorporated again at this late stage?

Also the compilation of the “Plan” this time can be said to be one in a series of efforts to integrate the economic development zones which have been undertaken in the nation as a whole since its foundation. While the moves toward the integration of the economic development zones and the extent of the zones derive from the historical backdrop at the time, the incorporation of Eastern Inner Mongolia into the “Plan” this time, along with the historical backdrop of the economic connections between Inner Mongolia and the three northeastern provinces, from Manchukuo on, is a sign of a central, concrete strategy which is an attempt to correct the differences between regions through incorporating this region, which has been lagging behind8 in economic development, and I think this is one step to push forward economic links with neighboring countries, including Mongolia and Russia.

(This piece contains the personal views of the author, and does not represent the official position of the Japanese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, or the Consulate-General of Japan in Shenyang.)

  1. “Northeast China Revitalization Plan” (http://chinaneast.xinhuanet.com/2007-08/20/content_10905015.htm), viewed 20 August 2007.
  2. Begun in 2003, the target area was mainly the three northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, with a total area of 789,000 km2 (a little over twice that of Japan), and a population of approximately 108,170,000 (approximately 85% that of Japan).
  3. Said to have (estimated) oil reserves of over one billion tons, coal reserves of 90.96 billion tons, and per capita water reserves of 3,690 m3 (1.6 times the national average).
    See http://chinaneast.xinhuanet.com/2006-09/26/content_8126110.htm, viewed 28 September 2007.
  4. Statement by Liu Tienan, Deputy Director of the Office for Revitalizing the Northeast, at the “Plan” press release that took place on 20 August 2007. See http://chinaneast.xinhuanet.com/zhibo/20070820/wz.htm, viewed 16 October 2007.
  5. See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Intelligence Bureau commissioned research compilation: The Current Status of and Prospects for the Economy of China’s Northeast Region (1996), and Bao Zhendong (ed.) 2006 Report on the Development of China’s Northeast Region (2006).
  6. See the Institute of Chinese Affairs China Yearbook 1997 edition (1997).
  7. See Neimenggu naru Dongbei jingjiquan [Eastern Inner Mongolia Brought into the Northeast Economic Region], http://chinaneast.xinhuanet.com/2006-09/26/content_8126110.htm. Viewed 28 September 2007.
  8. The GDP for the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for 2006 was 479.1 billion yuan, ranking 17th by province.

[Translated by ERINA]