A worker checks molten steel at an iron and steel plant in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning province. [Photo by Liu Debin/For China Daily]
The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic policy planner, said that one of its key tasks is to tailor policies to help revitalize the rust belt region of Northeast China. Guangming Daily comments:
Northeast China was the most important base for heavy industry in the country during the planned economy era from the 1950s to 1980s, chiefly because of its oil, steel and coal industries. The region has gradually declined with the depletion of its natural resources.
Worse, the private economy has not boomed as it has in many other places in China, because the lackluster business environment, which is partially attributable to the local governments bureaucratism, a legacy of the planned economy, has driven away potential investors.
As a result, there has also been a drain of the population to the south of China.
The key to revitalizing the region does not rest in the hands of the central government. It is the resistance of local governments to reform that has negated efforts to inject vitality into the northeast of China, and because of this it has been impossible for the region to witness any economic remodeling.
To some extent, the prevailing mentality among many grassroots officials still lingers in the "good old days" of dominant State-owned enterprises, resulting in their lack of awareness about how they must adapt to the changing circumstances.
In fact, Northeast China has its unique strengths and great potential remains to be tapped by developing modern agriculture to take advantage of the fertile black earth belt and there are large areas of well-protected forests and wetlands that can promote the tourism industry.
Also, the region boasts dozens of prestigious universities and institutes that are strong in disciplines such as electronics, chemical engineering and natural sciences, and can provide powerful talent and intellectual support for the revitalization of the region.
And its location in the center of Northeast Asia gives it advantages in developing trade with the neighboring countries.