In his 2023 New Year Address, President Xi Jinping pointed out that "innovations are gushing out in the coastal areas, development is picking up pace in the central and western regions, the momentum of revitalization is building in the northeast, and there is greater development and affluence in the border regions," which paints a rosy picture of China's prosperous development in all regions.
Achieving coordinated development means minimizing imbalances in development across the country. Imbalances in development exist between China's regions, with the central and western regions lagging behind the eastern region in economic growth. Transport networks on the map tell the story clearly: Eastern regions are covered by concentrations of highways and high-speed railways, while in the western region, roads and railways are sparsely distributed.
The gap between rural and urban areas is also a striking example of development imbalance. While cities have continued to expand rapidly in recent decades, with their populations ballooning, rural populations are shrinking, and some small villages have even been completely abandoned. Additionally, cultural civilization has not kept pace with economic growth, while overemphasis on economic growth has led to negligence of environment protection. As a result, although China is already the world's second largest economy, many Chinese are still struggling for high-quality cultural life as well as a clean natural environment.
In order to reduce the imbalance, China has in recent years introduced an array of policies to coordinate rural and urban development, social progress and economic growth, human life and the natural environment, as well as domestic development and opening up, so that all aspects of the country's economy, politics and culture keep moving forward in tandem.
As part of efforts to promote coordinated regional development, efforts have been made for a new pattern of development to take shape in the country's west, and also a lot of work has been done for the revitalization of the northeastern region, for the rise of the central region and for modernization of the eastern region. Additionally, great attention has been paid to the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region; the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Coordinated development means filling the developmental gaps in weaker regions, areas and links, so that all parts will go forward in a sustained and synchronous way. So far, China has already made some achievements in coordinated development.
A typical example is a narrowing gap in many aspects between rural and urban areas. In 2022, the nominal growth rate of rural residents' per-capita disposable incomes was 2.4 percentage points higher than that of urban residents, while in terms of actual growth rate, it is 2.3 percentage points. In 2021, urban residents' incomes were 2.5 times those of rural residents and in 2022, the ratio edged down to 2.45, a signal that rural and urban income gap is narrowing. Additionally, in 2022, compulsory education pupil-teacher ratios in the country's eastern, central and western regions were basically the same. Moreover, hospital beds per thousand people in the central and western regions are even higher than those in the eastern region. All these point to gradually improving balance of regional development.
However, uneven development is an enduring problem in China. Despite improvements, it must be made clear that China can't eliminate it overnight. There is still a long way to go before coordination strategies bridge the gaps in the nation's development.
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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