Xi: Strive for revitalization of northeast
The latest vision set out by President Xi Jinping on revitalizing China's northeastern region has pointed the way for the area to become a pillar of national strategies and better respond to challenges including population outflows, according to analysts.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, outlined the vision for the region's revitalization while convening a symposium in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, on Thursday.
He listened to briefings at the symposium from the Party chiefs of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilo-ngjiang provinces and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, as well as from Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Xi presided over a similar symposium in Shenyang, Liaoning province, five years ago. He also chaired a high-level meeting last year in Shenyang on the revitalization of the northeastern region, one of China's grain production bases and a traditional manufacturing powerhouse that has undergone economic slowdown and seen an outflow of population.
Noting that northeastern China boasts rich resources, solid industrial foundations, favorable geological locations and significant development potential, Xi said that the region now faces great new opportunities.
It is important for the region to promote industrial innovation via scientific and technological innovation and accelerate the modernization of its distinctive industrial system, Xi said.
Advancing the Chinese path to modernization will also require the region to step up its role as a strategic pillar, he said.
In striving for the full revitalization of northeastern China, the real economy is the foundation, sci-tech innovation is the key and industrial upgrading is the direction, he added.
Xi also called on the region to accelerate the digital, online and smart transformation of the traditional manufacturing sector and proactively develop emerging sectors such as new energy, new materials, advanced manufacturing and electronics.
Zhang Fei, vice-president of the China Institute for Reform and Development, said that Xi emphasized the development of industries at the latest symposium because the upgrading and transformation of the manufacturing sector in northeastern China is not only monumental for the region, but also for the whole nation.
"Over the past four decades, the northeastern region has seen an increasingly diminishing share in the total GDP of the nation. However, the region still boasts a fairly large number of top universities and a sound industrial structure, giving the region vast potential for future growth," Zhang said.
President Xi has again stressed the region's role in ensuring China's food security, saying that the primary responsibility of the region is serving as the "ballast" for stable grain production and supply.
The region should always prioritize the ensuring of China's food security, accelerate steps to modernize agriculture and rural areas, and bolster the capacity for grain production across the board, Xi added.
Zhang said the grain production volume of China's northeastern provinces accounted for more than 20 percent of the national total in 2022, and the region's role has become even more prominent, as the Ukraine crisis led to the worsening of global food security.
Xi has underlined the region's role in China's food security during each of his inspection trips to the region over the past decade, calling for the region to beef up the protection of the fertile black soil.
On Thursday, he expressed expectations that the region will make greater strides in opening-up, saying that the region must steadily expand opening-up in rules, regulations, management and standards, and improve capacity in customs clearance.
He called for retaining and attracting talent to the region, reducing the burden of families on raising children, and maintaining a proper level of birth ratio and population scale.
According to statistics released by authorities of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces, the three provinces all registered negative growth in population in 2022, with the three seeing the number of their permanent residents down by a total of 860,000.
Zhang Keyun, a regional economics professor at Renmin University of China, said that the efforts by the region to promote industrial upgrading and cope with an aging society could have implications at the national level.
"If the region can come up with effective solutions to the challenges, it could well pioneer the solutions at the national level and continue serving as the pillar for the nation's high-quality growth."
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