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China says development in western regions key to stability

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 8, 2010
China said Thursday that development in the country's restive far western regions was key to nationwide stability, a year after deadly ethnic violence rocked Xinjiang.

The impoverished west accounts for more than two thirds of China's land mass and 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) of border, and has "complicated" religious problems, said a senior official from the top economic planning agency.

"The entire country will not be stable if the western areas are not stable," Du Ying, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a news conference.

"The western areas are a key home to ethnic minority groups and many parts are impoverished.... The task of stabilising the border areas is arduous."

Du made the comments days after China on Monday marked the first anniversary of deadly ethnic unrest in Xinjiang between the mainly Muslim Uighurs and majority Han Chinese that left nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured.

Earlier this week, the NDRC announced a plan to invest 100 billion dollars in 2010 in 23 new infrastructure projects in western regions as part of efforts to boost demand and raise living standards.

The 682.2 billion yuan will be used to build railways, roads, airports, coal mines, nuclear power stations and power grids, the NDRC said.

About 66 percent of China's poor live in the western regions, earning less than 1,196 yuan (175 dollars) a year, Du said.

China has long sought to boost development in the poorer western areas. It spent 2.2 trillion yuan on 120 major projects between 2000 and 2009, the economic planner said.

State media reported in May that Beijing would pour around 10 billion yuan in economic aid into Xinjiang from 2011 in a bid to raise the living standards of the Uighur minority.

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