China Leadership Monitor

China's Northeast: From Largest Rust Belt to Fourth Economic Engine?

Friday, January 30, 2004

China is arguably undergoing the most challenging phase of its economic reform: revitalizing the old and stagnant industrial bases in its northeastern region. Once the "cradle of industrialization" of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the northeastern region, with a population of over 100 million, is today often called the nation's "last fortress of a planned economy." The ultimate goal of the so-called northeastern rejuvenation scheme is to transform the country's "largest rust belt" to its "fourth economic engine," after the Pearl River delta, the Yangtze River delta, and the Beijing-Tianjin corridor. This new phase of China's economic development not only will be crucial for the credibility and legitimacy of the Hu-Wen administration, but will also shape China's future. This article explores the broad political environment in which this strategic scheme has been formulated, outlines the main components of the northeastern rejuvenation, and analyzes the characteristics of top provincial leaders in the northeastern region.