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W China Sees GDP Grow 12.5% in 1st 3Qs

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The gross domestic product (GDP) of China's western regions rose 12.5 percent in the first nine months from a year earlier, China's top economic planner said Thursday.

The growth rate was 4.8 percentage points higher than the national rate, said a statement on the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) website.

China launched the "West Development Strategy" in January 2000 to help underdeveloped western regions catch up with the more prosperous eastern regions.

The western regions comprise 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipality, which have a combined population of about 370 million and account for 71.4 percent of the country's total land area.

Since last year, the regions have suffered the double blow of the global economic downturn and the 8-magnitude earthquake that devastated western Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces on May 12, last year.

The government has taken measures to boost consumption in the region and stepped up efforts to reconstruct the quake-stricken areas.

Retail sales in the regions were up 19 percent from the same period last year. The rise was 3.9 percentage points higher than the national level.

The regions also saw fixed-asset investment up 38.9 percent to 3.16 trillion yuan (US$462.7 billion), according to the NDRC.

More than 43 percent of investment allocated by the central government to expand domestic demand had been invested in western regions, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a forum on developing the western regions last month.

Local fiscal revenue in the regions rose 14.8 percent, 5 percentage points higher than the average national level, the NDRC said.

As elsewhere in China, the region saw imports and exports down due to weakening foreign demand. Foreign trade volume in the region fell 22.6 percent, according to the NDRC.

In the last 10 years, the central government had provided more than 3.5 trillion yuan to support development of the western regions. GDP of the regions from 2000 to 2008 jumped from 1.66 trillion yuan to 5.82 trillion yuan, at an average annual growth rate of 11.7 percent, Wen said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2009)