BEIJING — China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said Wednesday that the central government has carefully defined the functions of regions at local levels with differentiated policies to sustain the country’s development.
Xu Xianping, vice minister of NDRC, said at a press conference that local governments must optimize, accelerate, restrict or prohibit industrial development in different regions according to the defined nature.
According to NDRC’s function-dividing plan, economic development must be optimized in the regions of the Bohai Rim, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, where gross domestic product (GDP) accounts for about 40 percent of China’s total.
Priorities are given to development in 18 zones in central and western China, where resources are rich and the environmental capacity is good for further urbanization.
At the same time, industrial development in 25 major ecological zones and seven major grain-producing zones will be restricted; while development in the country’s nature reserves will be prohibited, according to the national plan.
Xu said the differentiated functions were of strategic and fundamental significance and with binding force.
“Some problems emerged amid our country’s rapid economic development, accelerating industrialization and urbanization process,” Xu said, pointing to the rapid loss of arable land, over-exploitation of resources, pollution and ecological degradation.
“We must attach great importance to these problems and coordinate regional development to transform the way we grow our economy,” he said.
It took more than four years for 14 government departments to compile the plan, according to NDRC.
The new functional divisions of regions will change the way the central government evaluates the performance of local officials, it said.
China’s current evaluation system of officials’ performance is considered by critics as too GDP-centered, thus often catalyzing officials to pursue GDP growth at a cost to the environment.
To solve the problem, the plan introduces differentiated criteria to assess the performance of officials.
Evaluation indicators such as economic structure, resource consumption, environmental protection, scientific and technological renovation, migrant population and public services will be emphasized in regions where their development should be optimized.
In the 18 zones in central and western China, officials’ performance will be examined in terms of the industrialization and urbanization level on the basis of economic growth, industrial structure, energy consumption and environmental protection.
Officials in regions where industrial development is restricted or prohibited will be subject to appraisal standards related to the region’s functional definition.
Yang Weimin, secretary-general of NDRC, said the functional definitions aim not to narrow the GDP gap between different regions, but to offer equal basic public services and bridge the residential income gap for people living in different regions.
“We should facilitate the economy to concentrate in regions that are suitable for development and make more room for agriculture and ecological protection,” Yang said, adding that people are also encouraged to gradually migrate to urban areas that offer higher wages and more job opportunities in a voluntarily and orderly manner.
To boost the establishment of different functional zones, the central government offers a package of policy support in fields of fiscal input, investment, industries, land use, agriculture, population, ethnic groups, the environment and the climate change, according to the function-dividing plan.
With regards to the ecological functional zones in 436 county-level areas, the central government vows to increase its subsidies to local governments to guarantee the public services there through the transfer of payments, according to the plan.
Government subsidies to the ecological functional zones reached 25 billion yuan ($3.86 billion) last year, compared with 12 billion yuan in 2009, Yang said.