Economic Recovery Building Up In China's Rustbelt

- Nov 23, 2018-

China's rustbelt provinces have seen its economic growth picking up in recent months, shrugging off bleak outlook for the economy in previous years.

The latest statistics show that the GDP in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang rose 5.4 percent, 4 percent and 5.1 percent year-on-year, respectively, in the first three quarters, with Liaoning having positive growth for seven consecutive quarters and Jilin ending its half-year economic slowdown in Q3.

With economic growth accelerating, the rustbelt provinces have "bottomed out" and entered a new phase of "restorative growth," said Li Kai, vice director of Dongbei Revitalization Research Institute under Northeastern University.

Dongbei, or northeast in Chinese, refers to the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang that once were the most important heavy industry bases in China.

However, the three provinces have been struggling for growth since 2014 following the decline of their traditional heavy industries such as coal, steel, petrochemical and machinery.

Falling investment has intensified along with population loss, which exacerbated the difficulty for local governments to renovate its economy. Reform was imminent.

Li has been following the economic trends in the region for years. Looking retrospectively, he said local companies have vigorously promoted supply-side structural reform to adapt to the market, and governments have prioritized the work of improving business environments.

A campaign was launched across the region to delegate power, improve regulation and optimize services, with hundreds of guidelines issued to transform government functions.

In Heilongjiang, about 73 percent of the review and approval items at the provincial level have been canceled. In Jilin, a total of 1,263 provincial review and approval items can be done with just one trip to the office hall.

As a result, private investment rose 8.8 percent, 11.5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively in Liaoning, Heilongjiang and Jilin from January to September, including a major 3 billion euro ($3.4 billion) investment from BMW.

Johann Wieland, president and CEO of BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd, said the investment has everything to do with improving the government service and business environment in the city of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province.

In the meantime, Jilin and Liaoning have introduced favorable policies to attract talent to settle and thrive in their cities, including high relocation allowances, relaxed payment restrictions and entrepreneurship support.

In Liaoning alone, the province recruited 150 percent more high-level innovative young talents in the first seven months of the year than a year ago.

However, compared with other regions, especially coastal provinces in Southeast China, the rustbelt provinces still lag behind in terms of economic development.

Li said the northeastern provinces can function as a sample and window on the Chinese economy. The changes in recent years have once again proved that only reform and opening-up can push the economy forward.

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