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China says good-bye to blind pursuit of GDP growth
2004-10-27
Faced with a growing gap between rich and poor and mounting environmental problems, the Chinese government is set to abandon its blind pursuit of gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

In the past 25 years, China has achieved an economic miracle with average GDP growth at above 8 percent every year. However, as GDP has become the main standard, or the only standard in some regions, to evaluate the government's performance, many local officials have turned a blind eye to development in other fields, including medical care, education, culture and environmental protection.

Threatened by worsening unbalanced development, the government has proposed a scientific concept of development with more attention on rural and social development and environmental protection in a bid to correct the disparities.

Premier Wen Jiabao said the scientific development concept focused on coordinated and sustainable economic and social development, while pushing forward the reform and development drive, to coordinate development in both urban and rural areas andin different regions, and achieve harmonious development between man and nature.

GDP could not fully reflect the relationship between economic development and the environment, the environment and people, said Niu Wenyuan, chief scientist on sustainable development strategy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Some economic growth could bring about harmonious development of the economy, society and the environment, and some meant sacrificing the environment and wasting resources. But GDP always ignored to the difference between high-cost and low-cost outputs, said Niu.

"A large part of China's GDP growth is achieved by exploiting resources and interests that should have belonged to our children," said Niu.

Statistics provided by Niu indicated the official average 8.7 percent GDP growth rate from 1985 to 2000 should have been reducedto 6.5 percent if social and ecological costs were taken into account.

"The cost of one US dollar in output in China is four to 11 times that of developed countries," said Niu.

"If the current high-cost growth and serious pollution continues, China will face a heavily polluted environment and a serious shortage of natural resources in the near future, which would not support its future development," said Pan Yue, vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Pan said his administration was trying to include environmentalprotection as a major factor to evaluate the performance of local officials.

Ma Kai, Minister of the State Development and Reform Commission, has said the government was considering slowing the country's GDP growth rate to 7 percent this year in a bid to cultivate a "scientific approach" to social development.

Governments of some provincial-level regions, including Beijing, Shanghai, south China's Guangdong and east China's Zhejiang, have decided to take into account costs in environment, natural resources and social development in their reckoning of economic growth, under the new concept of "green" GDP.

The booming Guangdong Province has decided to lower its GDP growth target 9 percent this year from 13.6 percent in 2003.

"We have to change our mind concerning economic growth," said Jiao Yuejin, an official from central China's Henan Province. "Theshift will hopefully help the government to spend more on this society's weaker links."

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