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Principles and Measures for Distributing, Cultivating and Developing Major Growth Poles in New Period


Hou Yongzhi, Zhang Junkuo, Liu Feng & He Jianwu

I. Introduction

Growth poles refer to the specific geographic spaces that can drive development in neighboring areas through the effects of concentration and diffusion. Growth poles can be in different sizes, with the large ones being major city clusters and the small ones being small towns. Growth poles can also be in different natures, being either general economic entities or highly specialized economic entities. This paper focuses on the study of major growth poles that have significant scales and influences.

Either in the period of planned economy or in the period of structure transition, China used growth poles strategy either consciously or unconsciously to promote regional and national economic development. During the planned economy, China resorted to administrative intervention to mobilize human, material and fiscal resources and develop regionally-significant growth poles in some regions through large and mega engineering projects. In the period of structure transition, China cultivated three internationally-important growth poles, namely the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, by creating special zones, opening up coastal cities, establishing economic-technical development zones and high-tech development zones and providing preferential policy treatment. As a result, China cultivated a host of growth poles across the country, which had considerable scales and regional influences. The development of these growth poles played extremely important roles in driving regional economic development and boosting national strength and competitiveness. Cultivating and developing growth poles have been China's successful experience in promoting coordinated regional economic development. In the new period of development and in face of new circumstances and new tasks in regional economic development, China should continue to pay high attention to the cultivation and development of growth poles.

Since the turn of the new century, the central government has introduced a series of plans and policies to cultivate and develop growth poles. The 12th Five-Year Plan explicitly points out that China will "fully tap the comparative advantages of various regions to promote the rational flow of factors and the orderly transfer of industries between different regions, cultivate new regional economic growth poles in the central and west regions, and better coordinate regional development". In cultivating growth poles, top-level design and unified arrangement are essential. Otherwise, China shall be unable to obtain the desired results and optimize the country's overall spatial pattern. Therefore, China needs to fully understand the importance of forming new growth poles and define principles and measures for the distribution, cultivation and development of new growth poles in order to serve the fundamental needs of all-round national development and coordinated regional development in the new period.

II. Significance of Accelerating Formation of New Growth Poles

While accelerating the change of the mode of economic development is the main line of the 12th Five-Year Plan, promoting coordinated regional development is a major task of this plan. Growth poles are centers for economic activities. They can often become centers for innovation activities due to the concentration of human and other innovation resources. Accelerating the formation of growth poles not only concerns the development of regional economies, but also has diverse impacts on the change of the mode of economic development. It has become an inevitable requirement for promoting coordinated regional development and expediting the change of the mode of economic development.

Accelerating the cultivation of new growth poles is an effective way to expand space for domestic demand growth. And in changing the mode of economic development, one main move is to spur domestic demand so as to form a pattern in which investment, consumption and export drive economic growth in a coordinated way. The cultivation and development of growth poles are a process of mass infrastructure construction, a process of accelerated development of the secondary and tertiary industries, and a process of sustained economic growth and continuous personal income increase. Therefore, it is also a process to expand domestic demand market. It can create huge demands for energy, raw materials, equipment making, other intermediate inputs and all types of consumer goods. It can help form a more proportionally-rational relationship between investment, consumption and export.

Accelerated cultivation of new growth poles will create opportunities for optimizing and upgrading industrial structure, which in turn is the major part of changing the mode of economic development. In terms of regional spatial scopes, there can be two basic ways. One is to adjust, transform and upgrade industrial structure within existing regional spaces, and the other is to accept industrial transfer and distribute new industries in new development spaces. As there exists a huge amount of sunk cost, the first way requires a longer time and higher adjustment cost. On the other hand, the second way can optimize and upgrade industrial structure faster with no adjustment cost. Accelerating the cultivation of new growth poles essentially means to provide necessary geographic spaces for the growth of new industries.

Accelerating the cultivation of new growth poles can help technological innovation and the diffusion of new knowledge. Technological innovation is a fundamental support for an accelerated change of the mode of economic development. Without technological innovation, the change of the mode of development will become a "castle in the air". With the concentration of economic and human activities, human and other innovation resources will inevitably concentrate in growth poles. And the concentration and interaction of all innovation resources will inevitably create new ideas, new technologies and new products, thus turning growth poles into sources of innovation. On other hand, regional growth poles can also become indispensable "relay stations" for new ideas, concepts and technologies to diffuse from global and national growth poles to those at lower levels.

Accelerating the cultivation of new growth poles can help realize more equitable regional development. Compared with the central and west regions, China's east region has formed many major growth poles due to historical and current reasons, natural and cultural reasons, development rules and government policies. These growth poles have claimed a higher ratio of economic activities, provided local people with more development opportunities and offered higher-level public services. This distribution of growth poles is basically in conformity with China's development stage and is rational on the whole. But this does not mean China's regional structure is in a most optimal state. In fact, China's regional structure still has room for further optimization. Both the coastal region and the vast inland region have many places, which are favorably located and have high resource and environmental capacities to become regional and even national and global growth poles. Meanwhile, regional development equity has attracted growing social attention when development enters a new period. Therefore, China must pay higher attention to this issue and do all it can to realize regional development equity as soon as possible. Accelerating the cultivation of new growth poles can both help the undeveloped coastal areas and the vast central and west regions to pursue faster development. This in turn can help different regions and different places in these regions to pursue more equitable development. In addition, as the fiscal resources of various places are closely linked with the levels of their economic development, the disparity between various places in economic development determines the disparity between these places in the level of basic public services. Therefore, while the cultivation of new growth poles can speed up the development in underdeveloped regions, it can also help pursue regional equalization of public services.   …

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