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Yangtze River basin boosts balanced development

WU NAN | 2022-06-16 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Shipping vessels on the Wuhan section of the Yangtze River Photo: CFP

Although occupying a significant status and role in China’s economic and social development, the Yangtze River Economic Belt has obvious regional differences in land development and economic development given that it spans eastern, central, and western China. 
Developmental contradictions 
Contradictions of balanced and unbalanced, coordinated and uncoordinated development always accompany the process of regional development. The process alternates and progresses, promoting the evolution of a regional system gradually from low to high levels. Unbalanced economic and social space goes against regional optimization and sustainable development. Effectively measuring and regulating coordination and balance in regional economic development has become a common research hotspot in geography, economics, sociology, and other disciplines. 
Out of long-term concern with the issue, Cheng Changchun, director of the Jiangsu Yangtze River Economic Belt Research Institute at Nantong University, put forward the concept of “the Yangtze River Economic Belt’s Coordinated Balanced Development” in 2015 and has studied it since then. In Cheng’s opinion, different from the concept of “balanced” development which emphasizes the role of market mechanisms, “coordinated” development pays special attention to the use of “non-market” forces such as the government, organizations, and society, to foster harmonious and consistent regional relations and common development. 
A coordinated balanced development pattern for the Yangtze River Economic Belt needs the decisive role of the market in the allocation of resources and a better government role when smoothing the Yangtze River waterway, improving the transport network, promoting industrial innovation, lifting urbanization quality, increasing and creating opening up advantages, and constructing an ecological corridor. Facilitating integrated development among different regions within the basin and forming mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationships among different economic entities and between man and nature will bring a more efficient, equitable, and sustainable development, Cheng continued. 
On June 2, Research on Major Strategies for Promoting the Development of Yangtze River Economic Belt, authored by Cheng, et al., was released at a seminar on the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt held by the Jiangsu Yangtze River Economic Belt Research Institute at Nantong University. As innovative research on the sustainable development of the basin economy, the book builds a theoretical analysis framework of regional coordinated balanced development, and serves as a major outcome in exploring the theory and practice of China’s regional economic development. 
Among the most advanced areas in China in terms of economic and social development, the problems of the Yangtze River Economic Belt are also the most cutting-edge. Jin Bei, a Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and president of the China Association of Regional Economies, said that human economic development was originally a single goal that is measured by growth. Historically, the economic growth of the Yangtze River Economic Belt ranked first in the country. Afterwards, economic development has a second goal—fairness, and the Yangtze River Economic Belt has also begun to notice the issue of equity. However, when everyone pursues equity and growth, the region is bound to encounter the problem of environmental capacity. In a world undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, the goal of security has stood out, including public health security, economic and industrial security, as well as national interests and security. In the ever-changing world pattern, the security goal will inevitably involve the Yangtze River Economic Belt in issues concerning international rules, which needs deeper discussions. 
Ways forward 
Fan Hengshan, former deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that academic research on the Yangtze River Economic Belt is still in its infancy, with a host of issues worthy of attention. For example, how to deal with the relationship between development and protection under the general principle of “all-out efforts to protect the Yangtze River and no large-scale development;” how to effectively promote the integrated, interconnected, and coordinated development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt on the premise of conforming to the development appeals and features of different regions; in more than 20% of China’s territory area, how to utilize land route and waterway linkage to construct the Yangtze River waterway and simultaneously stimulate regional coordinated development; how to realize the integrated and coordinated linkage of national strategies in different cities and regions; and how to establish a sustainable interest balance mechanism and interest compensation mechanism that make all parties actively participate in and highly responsible. 
Spanning eleven provinces and municipalities, the Yangtze River Economic Belt reflects the development of eastern, central, and western China and contributes more than half of the country’s economic growth, calling for necessary special research. Hong Yinxing, former secretary of the Party Committee of Nanjing University, said that coordinated balanced development needs to locate the balance point between development and protection, and address the issue of coordination and balance between regions that are developed first or later. In particular, regions gaining development earlier should offer support to latecomers in order to realize the latter’s leap-forward new development. The government and the market need a balanced relationship. Especially when the market determines the allocation of resources, resources will flow to areas with good benefits. In this context, the protection and opening of local governments is critical, among which eco-compensation is the most important issue. 
In the process of building a comprehensive three-dimensional transportation corridor, the Yangtze River Economic Belt should not be limited to traditional transport modes, but also give play to air and water transport, said Peng Zhimin, former director of the Institute of Yangtze River Basin at the Hubei Academy of Social Sciences. A variety of transport modes featuring efficient coordination, division of labor, and cooperation need to be forged through accelerating the development of civil aviation and general aviation, building international and regional comprehensive three-dimensional transport hubs, and building more types of port and industry city synthesis with the waterway advantage. Elevating the economic benefits of the existing transportation lines will make more contributions to the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.