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Qinghai: when will it have its own economic boom?

Qinghai is one of the largest provinces of China: it is 7 times bigger than Italy. At the same time, it has a very small population, with less than 6 million people. Han (221 B.C – 220 A.D) controlled eastern Qinghai, but Qing (1724) were the ones to annex the entire territory.
It is part of western China and connects it to the most remote autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Qinghai lake, the second biggest salt lake of the world, gives the name to the province.
Xining is the capital of Qinghai.

Map of China’s provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative regions. Source: chokkicx / Getty Images

The geography of Qinghai

Most of the province is mountainous, with peaks of 6800 meters. It is the origin province of three of the most important rivers of China. Riyue Mountain divides Qinghai in two areas. Agriculture is more common on the eastern, while livestocking predominates the west. Qinghai has a weak Han majority: just 55% of the population is Han. The rest is divided in Tibetan, Hui, Tu, Mongol, Salar and many more. Hui and other muslim have a strong influence on the province, which was controlled by a muslim-controlled clique (the Ma Clique) for many years before the establishment of the PRC.

As a regular province, Qinghai is definitely the largest by size. Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia are both bigger, but they are considered autonomous regions. The climate of Qinghai is often cold, due to its mountains. There is also a strong temperature shift between day and night. The territory is very dry due to the lack of constant rain.

The economy

Qinghai is the second worst economy of China. Qinghai has good mineral reserves, which processes in its heavy industries. Iron, steel, oil, salt and natural gas are all big contributors to its economy.
But Qinghai cannot grow as fast as the other provinces. This, unfortunately, is due to the mountainous territory and its geographic distance from the economic powerhouses of China, Development of its infrastructure is pretty difficult, and the size of the territory doesn’t help, either. Most of Qinghai is underdeveloped, besides Xining city and district. That’s also where a bit less than half of the entire province’s population live.
Indeed, Xining is the only connection with the rest of the world. It has an airport, railway services and a highway that leads to Lanzhou (in Gansu). Xining’s Economic & Technological Development Zone supports the development of industry based on its resources. For example, chemistry, biochemicals, foods, medicine and new materials. The focus is also on services industry: international trade, lodging services, real estate and banking are also possible investment focuses.
Xining also enjoys a degree of internal tourism from warmer provinces during the summer.

The culture

One person on five is Tibetan, and one on six is a muslim, in Qinghai. The strong presence of muslim, Tibetans and other ethnics make Qinghai a mix of different cultures which influence each other. Still, Muslim groups often send their children to muslim schools instead of public schools, which reduce influences from other cultures. Hui, while they used to have political power before the PRC, still have an economic power in certain areas. One of such areas is the wholesale business.

Qinghai’s geography decides a lot of its features. The presence of high mountains and the distance from the economic centers of China condemned it to a slower development rate. The lack of infrastructure, as well as the very small population mean Qinghai province cannot use its resources well. Once technology and government aid will manage to overcome those difficulties, Qinghai may finally have its economic boom.

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