Developing Western China

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URUMQI, China - Twenty-eight years after Deng Xiaoping launched his market reforms, millions of Chinese people are experiencing an economic miracle.

His goal was to connect China to the rest of the world.

Watch CBN News' George Thomas report and Pat Robertson's comments on the future of China.

"If he was alive today he would be proud of us," one man said.

The Chinese are marveling at their red-hot economy that's doubled every eight years and keeps on growing.

"This is a happening place," one woman said.

"I cannot believe my eyes!" another said.

A Wave of Modernization

From Urumqi to Harbin, and from Chengdu to Fuzhou, a new generation of cities is also experiencing a wave of modernization.

"For decades the government focused on developing eastern China while the rest of the country lagged behind. I'm glad to see things are now balancing out between east and west," said Huang, a resident of Urumqi.

For that he can thank the Chinese government's Go West campaign to boost its underdeveloped western regions.

"In terms of this campaign for the west they've put tremendous amount of money into it and tremendous amount of energy into it," said Dr. Merle Goldman, from Harvard University.

The goal is to get more companies to consider leaving high profile and costly cities like Beijing and Shanghai and instead move to the hinterlands of China.

Kenny Ho works for Shanghai-based Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the world's leading real estate companies.

"And there are good opportunities to be had," Ho said. He's just published China 30, a list of rising urban cities.

"People just can't get enough of China it's a big growth market," he said. "Previously, everybody just thought of China as a manufacturing hub. But now China is becoming a significant economy in itself and a lot of companies are looking to grow in this market rather than just use it as an exporting location."

Beating the Path

Today a whole slew of multinational and local companies is beating a path to these so-called second and third tier cities.

"Where you'll find cheaper cost of labor, you'll find rapid infrastructure development," Ho said.

Take for example the city of Urumqi in the far northwest corner of China's Xinjiang Province - some 1,500 miles from Beijing and site of the old Silk Road,

Urumqi is surrounded by mountains and deserts. This was a hard place to get to 10 years ago.

Not anymore.

"They are building roads, they're building railroads, and they are building bridges so the infrastructure is being built to attract this investment to the west," Merle said.

The province even has 11 airports connecting to international destinations.

"This is the key to our future. Build the roads and airports and they will come," one woman said.

A Sea of New Skyscrapers

A sea of new skyscrapers fills the horizon attracting businessmen from the east and from around the world.

"The competition is fierce but this is good for us," another man said.

For Zhu Jang's family this means the chance to experience the world like never before.

"We welcome people from around the world to come and invest in our city. This will also open us to the outside world," Jang, who is a resident of Urumqi, said.

The Chinese government's Go West strategy has had a tremendous impact on cities like Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province. Folks here are very excited about this policy, but the more you talk to them the more they feel kind of isolated from the rest of the country.

"Sometimes we are viewed as just a remote desert with our different culture and way of life. It gets lonely here," one woman said.

A Modern Western China

Exploring the far reaches of China will take time. The government's goal is to develop a new western China by the middle of the 21st century.

Even now, some 2,000 delegates are meeting in Beijing for the Communist Party's 17th National Congress.

China's top leaders are using the summit to map out economic and political polices. High on the agenda: how to develop the remote regions of western China.

"So far it's working," Ho said. "It has its own quirks but using Deng's words, he said we should allow a portion of the population to get wealthy first and that will start to spillover and it is starting to spillover."

*Originally aired October 17, 2007.

 

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