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Regional Inequality of Industrial Output in China, 1952 to 1990

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This paper examines regional inequality of industrial output in China from 1952 to 1990. This study reveals that regional inequality was widespread when socialist China was established in 1949. It was reduced in the 1950s as a result of the efforts to develop the interior through the implementation of the First Five Year Plan (1953–57). After that, regional inequality persisted for one-and-a-half decades due mainly to the poor economic returns of the defence-oriented “Third Front” programme, decentralization, the reorientation of development policies, and the incidence of disruptive political events. Since the launch of economic reforms in 1978, interregional inequality among the eastern, central and western regions has gradually increased. However, interprovincial inequality decreased. The relative decline of the traditionally rich provinces (three municipalities and the northeastern industrial bases) has contributed to the decline of interprovincial inequality. Meanwhile, favourable state policy, local initiatives and foreign investment and trade have stimulated the growth of the coastal provinces of Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shandong, Zhejiang and Fujian, leading to more rapid coastal development and the increase of interregional inequality. The emerging new map of regional development is important to the understanding of regional inequality in post-Mao China.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: 024.x

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee,

Publication date: April 1, 1998


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