A lot more effort for economic development is being put into the country’s western regions, since they lag far behind compared with the coastal areas. What is happening to the Northeastern provinces, the once well-known industrial base in China?|
Talking of the northeast, people will invariably think of those well-known actors and actresses that have brought so much fun and laughter to Chinese audiences, especially during the Spring Festival Gala performances. Their performances are witty and funny and full of wisdom. But they may be reduced to silence when talking of themselves. The northeastern region was once an important industrial base in China and people there have created many economic miracles. But today they are faced with many difficulties.
As is always the case, the way of thinking remains the most difficult part in making reforms. The Northeastern region can never expect to revive their economy if people just rest on past glories and follow the old way of doing things. Fortunately, things are changing and have changed for the better.
Everything was going on as usual in the workshops of Fuxin Mining Group in Liaoning Province on January 31st, 2003, New Year’s Eve in Chinese lunar calendar. The workers on night shift had never expected this night would be so special
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sat among them and said:” Fuxin Coal Mine and other mines in Northeast China have contributed a lot to modern construction since the founding of New China. The Party, the government, the country and the people will never forget the mineworkers. I’ll eat with all of you today and extend my greetings on behalf of the Party Central Committee and the State Council. I wish everyone a happy Spring Festival.”
The two hours passed swiftly and Premier Wen’s Northeast trip left a deep impression on many people.
Premier Wen inspected Liaoning Province from May 31st to June 3rd,2003. This was the second trip Premier Wen Jiaobao made to the Northeastern provinces. In the next 4 days of his trip, he went to old industrial cities like Anshan, Benxi, Fushun and Shenyang. He made a special tour to the mining counties and asked about the daily life of the local people.
Premier Wen said:” Now that resources are exhausted or near exhaustion, we should help those enterprises readjust their structure. The mines are empty now and people in the area are living in danger. We should help them move to other places so that they can live in safety. I think these are two practical issues that must be solved this year.
Study of the reform and readjustment of the old industrial bases should be based on the market economy. Restructuring is reliant on reform. ”
Premier Wen made it very clear on his second trip that the revival of the old industrial bases in Northeast China should be given top priority. He said it had been clearly stated in the 16th Party Congress that it was a major decision and a strategic move to support the reform of old industrial bases in Northeast China. The launching of the project was of great significance in terms of the country’s economic development.
From August 1st to 3rd, 2003, Premier Wen made inspections in Heilongjiang and Jilin Provinces
On August 1st, Premier Wen Jiaobao made his third tour to the Northeast in one year. He mainly carried out inspections of 11 large and medium-sized state-run enterprises in Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces. He also held symposiums with executive managers of these enterprises to discuss their problems. On August 3rd, Premier Wen presided over another symposium in Changchun City, in which major officials from the nation’s ministries and committees, as well as from the three provinces in this region, were present. These high-level meetings were very important to the future of Northeastern Provinces.
Premier Wen said that all this research and discussion were to help us draw up a well-organized plan for the revival of the old industrial bases in the Northeastern provinces. It’s an important step in restructuring the regional economy.
The Northeastern provinces were an economic spearhead boasting 30 years of countless achievements from the founding of New China in 1949 to 1979 when the country first launched its Open Door policy. The nation’s first automobile ran off the production line in Changchun City, the first jet plane took off in Shenyang and today 80% of trains running on the nation’s railroads are manufactured in Changchun. Even movies produced in this region are very popular, not to mention Daqing Oil Field, Anshan Steel Plant and Coal Mining in Heilongjiang. The region created many miracles in industrial production.
From 1952 to 1978, the three provinces produced a total of 100 billion yuan of national income. But when the economy started developing very fast in the country’s coastal areas, industries in the Northeast began to show signs of crisis.
Song Donglin, the vice dean of Economic School in Jilin University told that difficulties arose in enterprises as the economy developed in this country, and the workers felt a sense of loss instead of their past pride.
While traditional industries are losing their hold in the Northeast, its once boasted agriculture also suffered great losses both before and after China became a WTO member. In 2001, China imported about 14 million tons of soybeans, while 70 percent of the soybeans produced by Northeastern farmers had to be put into storage.
Vice Editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Chen Kaixing tells that the failure of agriculture in the Northeast to adapt to international competition is called the “New Northeast Phenomenon”.
From failure to adapt to the market economy to the inefficient structuring of agriculture, the three provinces in Northeast have experienced great suffering. Despite this, the region has made many developments in recent years.
Hu Angang, the director of National Situation Study Center of Tsinghua University comments that overall economic growth is a little higher than the national average. The total GDP in this region last year increased by 11.33%, but could not be compared to the time when China first opened up, not to mention the 50s or 60s.
Many of the local people felt greatly encouraged by Premier Wen’s Northeast tour, while the local governments felt even more excited. Before the Changchun Symposium, Bo Xilai, governor of Liaoning Province, said that Liaoning’s goal was to become the base of equipment manufacturing and important industrial raw materials in China and the world over. He also called upon the business world in Hong Kong to come up to the Northeast to make investments.
A worker named Guo Weilin says:”The old workers felt very excited after Premier Wen’s inspection. We feel there’s a bright future lying ahead and it’s time for us workers to play our proper roles. We hope that this policy will bring us a favorable turn of events.”
Song Donglin says:”I’m very confident about the revival of the Northeastern region. We have a good beginning for industrial development and economic growth. That is something indispensable for economic development and is itself an advantage. We will revive the economy here if we can make more efforts in reform, provide good systematic conditions, and more importantly, have new ideas. We shouldn’t follow the old practice of the planned economy to devise new projects for economic revival in this region. The planned economy couldn’t save us.”
While the leaders were carrying out inspections in the Northeast and the media was turning their attention towards the economic revival of this region, the official research institutes were busy doing their research. Before Premier Wen’s third tour, the Research and Development Center under the State Council had set up a ten-member research team, sending personnel to the northeastern provinces to conduct on the spot researches.
Liu Shijin, the director of Industrial Economy Research Institute, R&D Center of State Council says :”New points of growth must be cultivated if the economy in the Northeast is to revive. If we are to launch new projects, the problem is how to carry them out: following traditional practices of the planned economy period and asking the country for money, or carrying out new projects adopting the methods of the old state-run enterprises? Or should we resort to the market economy for a way out? What we should stress at this point is that we can start new projects, but these projects must be carried out within the framework of new systems.”