Holding China Together
Diversity and National Integration in the Post-Deng Era
Barry J. Naughton
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2004
Online Publication Date:December 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511617157.009
Subjects: Politics: general interest
The Western Development Program has been featured prominently in government media since it was first proclaimed by President Jiang Zemin in June 1999. The program is the centerpiece of the Chinese government's effort to strengthen national unity and integration. By initiating the Western Development Program (WDP), the government of China has acknowledged the strength of the centrifugal forces tugging China apart, and it has undertaken a highly visible and symbolically important program designed to offset those forces. In a sense, the WDP is the Chinese government's response to the trends that are the main themes of this volume, and an attempt to demonstrate the government's commitment to national unity.
The first half of this chapter describes the emergence of the WDP. The concerns that led to a priority western development plan grew during the late 1980s and 1990s along with changes in the patterns of China's regional economic development, and with increasing recognition of the problem of poverty. The fiscal position of the government improved dramatically at the end of the 1990s, after the fiscal reform of 1994, and this made it possible for the government to devote substantial new resources to regional development. Thus there is a simple story at the heart of the WDP: Economic reform brought rapid growth to China's coastal regions, exacerbating regional inequality; and after the government gained adequate control of its finances, it began to make an effort to correct these regional imbalances.