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Provinces submit territorial development plans
Published on: 2013-08-14
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altChina's provincial governments are submitting territorial development plans, in a bid to reverse the country's previous development model and protect the environment.
Fourteen provincial-level governments have submitted their plans to the National Development and Reform Commission.
The move is the follow-up of a 2011 program that the country initiated to rein in the reckless development of land and resources.
The 2011 program - the first of its kind in China - divided the country's territory into four categories: development zones to be optimized, key development zones, limited development zones and zones where development is forbidden.
According to the 2011 plan issued by the State Council, China's cabinet, the development of 30 percent of the national land will be planned by the State, while the development of the remaining land will be decided by provincial governments. Each region has to determine its development models based on its natural resources.
The central government will adopt different policies toward different development zones, the newspaper reported.
For instance, development zones to be optimized, generally referring to well-developed and over-developed areas, will be encouraged to increase their international competitiveness.
Key development zones - less-developed areas with great potential - will be encouraged to accelerate their urbanization process.
Zones where development is forbidden, usually areas with vulnerable ecological systems, will receive funds from other regions as compensation.
"These policies aim to achieve a portfolio effect of the various policies, including incentives and punishments, to better direct each region to integrate development and conservation," said Wang Yiming, a research fellow at the Academy of Macroeconomic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission.
Experts said the program reflects a change of the previous development mindset, in which each region, regardless of its location and natural capacity, was encouraged to boost its GDP. For example, in Anhui province's territorial development plan, about 40 counties and districts, or 54.5 percent of the province's area, are categorized as "limited development zones". Their major designated function is to provide grain and other agricultural products, other than expand their industrial sectors and urban areas.
These regions and the zones where development is blocked will not be judged mainly by their GDP, a local Anhui newspaper reported.
Experts said that if the new approach is implemented, the 2011 program will be easier to implement. China's local officials are routinely evaluated by their jurisdictions' GDP output, fiscal revenue, fixed-asset investment value and industrial output. This evaluation system has pressured them to chase large industrial projects rather than nature conservation projects.
Fan Jie, director of the Sustainable Development Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Science, said that it's critical to change the current fiscal system and the officials' performance evaluation system to pursue sustainable development. 
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