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China Curbs Births In The West, But Wants More People To Move There

[Agence France Presse. August 18, 2000.]

BEIJING, Aug 18, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) China wants to limit population growth among minorities in the backward western part of the country, even as the government is campaigning for more people to move there from the east.

Rising population in the west, where most ethnic minorities live, could adversely affect regional development, the China Daily said on Friday, citing Zhang Weiqing, the head of the State Family Planning Commission.

"Population growth is putting increasing pressure on the environment and resources in the (western) regions," Zhang said. "The growing population has led to many problems, including desertification, water and energy shortages, and a lack of land to cultivate."

That is bad news for efforts to lift the economy of the west, identified as a key task in the years ahead.

GDP per capita in the southwestern province of Guizhou -- home to minorities with names such as Miao, Bouyei and Gelo -- was only CNY 2,342 (USD 282) in 1998, compared with CNY 18,482 (USD 2,227) in Beijing.

To counter the problem, the government is formulating policies to ensure that "economic development and population growth progress hand in hand," the China Daily said, without elaborating.

But a March directive explicitly said ethnic minorities would face new controls, even though they were previously exempt from the two-decades old one-child policy.

"People from ethnic minority groups should also follow the family planning policy," the directive said. "The specific regulations for them will be issued by the governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities."

More and more members of China's 55 ethnic minorities -- totaling about 100 million in the 1.3 billion population -- have realized the importance of family planning, Zhang said according to Friday's China Daily.

In five regions with large minorities -- Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi and Ningxia -- birth rates have declined 19 percent over the past nine years to 18 births for every 1,000 people in 1999.

Even as China is trying to get ethnic minorities to have fewer babies, it is engaged in a largely unsuccessful campaign to persuade more people to move west from the prosperous and populous eastern seaboard.

Three job fairs in Shanghai this summer, advertising opportunities in the west, reportedly failed to fill a single vacancy.

Chinese family planners denied there was a contradiction between the two policies -- one seeking to curb births, the other encouraging migration.

"We want more talented people to go to the west, but they won't make up a big difference in the size of the population as a whole," a spokeswoman of the family planning commission who declined to give her name told AFP.

"China wants more high-technology industries in the west, but it's a different issue, unrelated to family planning," she said.

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