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China seeks to revive northeastern rustbelt region

[BEIJING] China aims to turn its rustbelt northeast - a centre of mining and heavy industry that has been struggling to grow - into an economic stronghold by 2020, an elite Communist Party body said on Wednesday.

The region has been hit with slowing growth and rising unemployment in recent years, due to its reliance on polluting businesses such as steel making, which are being scaled back. "China's economy has entered a 'new normal' and development in the northeast is facing new difficulties and challenges," the Politburo said after a meeting, according to a statement posted on the official state news agency Xinhua. "Ultimately, in order to resolve these difficulties and challenges, we will need to rely on deep and complete reform." Over the next 10 years or so, the northeast will develop into an important pillar of the economy, the Politburo, a 25-member body one rung below the Standing Committee, where the real power lies, said in a statement.

It will be internationally competitive and a base for high-tech manufacturing, modern agriculture, new raw material development, innovation and research and development, it said.

Premier Li Keqiang called for speeding up reforms in the northeast in April, saying the government would funnel more support there for infrastructure, agriculture and equipment export.

This month, Xinhua reported that local governments in the northeast were inflating data about their finances and economic growth.