Zhejiang set to be model of prosperity
As demonstration zone, province will serve as example of balanced development
A demonstration zone for common prosperity in Zhejiang province will explore directives, garner experience and serve as an example for the nation to tackle the problem of unbalanced, inadequate development, officials and experts said.
The decision to establish the zone was unveiled in a guideline jointly released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, on June 10. It came as the nation works toward the goal of tackling development problems and narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas after eradicating extreme poverty last year.
The guideline outlined policy measures covering seven aspects, including those that specify steps to make growth more efficient, push further reform in the province's income distribution mechanism and bridge the urban-rural divide.
"Promoting common prosperity among the people is a long and arduous task, and we need to select some areas to pilot the effort and make a demonstration," the document said.
Zhejiang is one of China's most affluent areas. The per capita disposable income of its residents reached 52,400 yuan ($8,106) last year－third only to Shanghai and Beijing nationwide－and was 1.63 times the national average.
The province also stood out as the region with the most balanced urban and rural development in the nation, with the average income of urban residents reaching just 1.96 times that of their rural counterparts, compared with the national average in which the income of urban residents was 2.56 times higher than that of rural residents.
An official with the National Reform and Development Commission said after the release of the guideline that Zhejiang also saw improvement in its market economy, law-based governance and green development, with officials in the region having stronger awareness of its reform and innovation pursuits.
The decision marked a major move by the CPC Central Committee to give greater priority to common prosperity and showed its determination to solve development problems, the official said.
China's long-range objectives through 2035, which were released after the annual lawmaking session in March, include efforts to significantly expand the middle-income group, offer more equitable public services and narrow the income gap and living standards between urban and rural areas. More tangible and substantial progress in common prosperity among all people is expected to be achieved by then.
The guideline has set out a range of targets for Zhejiang to achieve. It called for the province to achieve a per capita GDP equivalent to a moderately developed economy by 2025, with its middle-income population as the majority. By 2035, Zhejiang should have basically achieved common prosperity－with its per capita GDP mirroring developed countries－among rural and urban residents.
To achieve this, the province must increase its capacity for independent innovation, forge new strength in the competitiveness of industries, harness the foundation of the real economy and unleash the vitality of various types of market players, it said.
To improve residents' incomes, the region will be greenlighted to expand income channels for urban and rural residents, including taking steps to increase the wages of middle- and low-income groups by granting them rights to production elements such as land and capital.
Zhejiang will also carry out an action plan to grow its middle-income groups, including taking steps to benefit technical professionals, researchers, founders of startups and high-caliber farmers. The province will take more initiatives in income distribution, rolling out measures to properly adjust excessively high incomes.
Yuan Jiajun, Party chief of Zhejiang, said provincial authorities will also pay special attention to the region's low-income earners and help boost their wages as well.
To narrow the development gap between different regions and between urban and rural areas, he said the authority will move forward with the integrated development of public services and enable faster growth of the region's less-developed mountainous areas.
Moreover, the document has also highlighted the importance of practicing the "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" concept and of developing a beautiful, habitable living environment.
The province must strictly implement a mechanism focused on protecting its ecosystem and environment, with unrelenting efforts to combat air, water and soil pollution and promote green transformation in ways of production and lifestyle, it said.
Wei Jiang, dean of the school of management at Zhejiang University, said attaining more breakthroughs in innovation and core technologies will be key to tackling the province's economic challenges, including the high homogenization of its industries.
He explained that an economy built on the foundation of scientific and technological innovation will be critical in the province's efforts to develop itself into a demonstration zone for common prosperity.
"Zhejiang has gone through the phase of growth powered by production elements. It has come to a period during which wealth must be created through innovation," he said.
Yu Jianxing, president of Zhejiang Gongshang University and a professor of social governance, said Zhejiang has what it takes to lead the nation in achieving common prosperity at the provincial level with its relatively balanced urban-rural development and affluence among residents.
However, the province must focus on improving its innovation capacity and stimulating the vitality of market players while resolving the problems of unbalanced and inadequate growth through reform and innovation at the institutional level, he said.