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Boosting high-quality growth of Yangtze River Economic Belt

Author  :  WU NAN and ZHANG QINGLI     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2021-02-19

The Yangtze River Delta region is one of the most dynamic, open, and innovative regions in China. Over five years since the initial implementation of the Yangtze River Economic Belt development strategy, it has provided useful exploration for the coordinated advancement of ecological construction and economic and social development.

Wang Yeqiang, director of the theoretical research office of the Research Institute for Eco-civilization at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, found in his investigation that projects for controlling ecological and environmental pollution in the Yangtze River Economic Zone have achieved remarkable results over the past five years. Ecological construction and economic development are supporting each other in the region.

Over the past five years, the GDP of the provinces and municipalities in the Yangtze River Economic Belt has grown from 40% of the country’s share to 47%, noted Zeng Gang, director of the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning at East China Normal University. In addition, gaps in the development of the east, middle, and west parts of the Yangtze River Economic Belt are gradually narrowing. The role of big cities in driving growth of surrounding areas has begun to emerge, and a new coordinated development trend is visible among cities and within urban agglomerations.

The biggest change in the past five years is that people’s awareness of green development has increased, according to Qin Zunwen, a research fellow at the Hubei Academy of Social Sciences. Supply-side structural reforms have been carried out to solve the problem of heavy chemical industry surrounding the river in the economic belt, accelerating the elimination of environmentally damaging industrial production methods, while actively developing the circular economy and developing the economy in harmony with ecology.

In addition, with the national and provincial development zones along the river serving as the outlets and large enterprises as the foundation, central cities have leveraged their industrial advantages and played a pivotal role driving and affecting neighboring areas, Qin said. A batch of strategic clusters of emerging industries and national high-tech industrialization bases have been established. In addition, the integration of industrialization and informatization has been accelerated, transforming traditional industries with information technology.

Qin said that Wuhan in Hubei, and Jiujiang in Jiangxi, are among the first locations to construct pilot projects for the green development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. They are exploring a performance evaluation mechanism, and a market-oriented mechanism that promotes the value realization of ecological products.

“In the 14th Five-Year Plan period, we should adhere to the concept of green development to change the development mode, while actively promoting the ecological civilization construction through river basin governance,” Wang said. Regional coordination is needed for ecosystem governance of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. It is important to speed up the establishment of a long-term supervision and management mechanism.

Reform should be a driving force for integrated development in the Yangtze River Delta, said Fan Hengshan, former deputy secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission. Reforms are necessary for creating a law-based, international, and convenient environment for investment and business. Reforms will fundamentally stimulate enthusiasm and creativity for people in the region, especially those of key production and operation entities.

“Through reforms, we will continue to expand the space for economic development, and tap the potential of allocating resources and factors of production,” Fan said. Through reforms, the region will maximize the use of international resources and the international market, continuously improving development capabilities and increasing economic benefits in the fierce international competition.

Enhancing coordination is vital for further improving development levels in the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Integration and high quality are key words. We must grasp opportunities brought by digital technology and the new technological revolution, improve the region’s development quality, and achieve balanced and coordinated development of large, medium, and small cities in the east, middle, and west.

The cities in the Yangtze River Economic Belt have relatively large differences in science and technology innovation, Zeng noted. Large cities have further increased their ability to agglomerate science and innovation resources. Small and medium-sized cities, however, have not kept up in this field. They should collaboratively build a platform to enhance technology and innovation.

“Promoting the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt requires coordinated and balanced development,” Cheng said. To build a modern economic system in a coordinated and balanced manner, it is necessary to break administrative barriers between regions, actively promote interconnection, and promote the formation of complementary advantages and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

Editor: Yu Hui

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