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China's Ethnic Affairs Minister Talks about Development in Ethnic Minority Areas

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China's ethnic minority areas have witnessed great economic, social and cultural development over the past five years, Yang Jing, minister in charge of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, has told Xinhua.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of the eight ethnic minority provinces and autonomous regions -- Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Guangxi, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai -- had increased by 13.1 percent annually over the past five years, faster than the national growth rate, Yang said.

Last year, GDP in the eight provinces and regions topped 3.46 trillion yuan (US$521 billion), and the GDP per capita had reached 18,014 yuan.

The population in absolute poverty in rural areas of the ethnic regions and provinces in 2009 was less than half the number in 2001, dropping from 30.7 million to 14.5 million, Yang said.

Infrastructure had also improved. At the end of 2009, about 98 percent of townships and 88 percent of villages in ethnic minority areas could be reached by highway, Yang said.

Ethnic areas had developed specific industries, Yang said.

For example, Xinjiang had the largest cotton production in China. Guangxi was the country's biggest cane sugar producer, and Yunnan the biggest flower producer in Asia.

Education was also promoted in the ethnic areas, and more than 98.5 percent of the population in these areas were literate or had received the nine-year compulsory education, he said.

As of 2009, there were 15 special institutions of higher learning for the ethnic minorities around China, and the number of students studying in these universities this year had reached 240,000, increasing by more than 90,000 from 2005, Yang said.

Over the past five years, the central government had provided training programs to more than 18,000 officials from ethnic minority groups or ethnic minority areas.

Yang said the central government paid special attention to the protection and development of the culture in ethnic areas.

Efforts had been made to develop tourism to boost both the culture and the economy, and more measures should be taken in the promotion and innovation of ethnic cultures to maintain their vitality, he said.

Yang said he was confident of further development in these areas in the next five years.

All Chinese should make joint efforts for the common development of ethnic areas and other parts of China, Yang said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2010)


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