India’s Election Results & Central China’s “Accelerated Rise”


By: The Editorial Board of SINOTALKS® / On: June 12, 2024

India’s Election Results & Central China’s “Accelerated Rise”
Images: Gerd Altmann, Colorful India;
Peter Griffin, Afternoon Lunch (

A key lesson from the failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (“BJP”) to secure a majority in the Lok Sabha—the lower house of India’s parliament—and to sustain its popularity in traditionally pro-BJP states is the pressing need to solve the issue of economic inequality in India.  With the top 1% of India’s 1.4 billion population owning 40.1% of the country’s wealth while the bottom 50% owns just 6.4%, Mr. Modi faces mounting pressure to deliver during his third term as India’s Prime Minister a strong economic performance, rather than promises, to those who have not yet benefited from India’s progress.

“The Chinese leadership is rolling out new measures aimed at supporting the ‘accelerated rise’ of Central China. [… H]ow China plans to accomplish this goal should be of significant interest to India and its allies.”

Similar challenges are being faced by Mr. Modi’s counterpart in China, another country with a 1.4 billion population also marked by economic disparity.  The Chinese leadership is rolling out new measures aimed at supporting the “accelerated rise” of Central China.  Given India’s growing competition with China, how China plans to accomplish this goal should be of significant interest to India and its allies.

Economic Disparity & Central China

Economic disparity in China has a distinct impact on different parts of the country, with coastal provinces Guangdong (RMB 13.6 trillion), Jiangsu (RMB 12.8 trillion), Shandong (RMB 9.2 trillion), and Zhejiang (RMB 8.3 trillion) showing strong economic vitality to record the highest GDPs in the country in 2023, while inland provinces/provincial-level administrative divisions such as Ningxia (RMB 0.5 trillion), Qinghai (RMB 0.4 trillion), and Tibet (RMB 0.2 trillion) have the lowest GDPs.

The six provinces that make up Central China are also marked by such economic disparity.  In terms of GDP, Anhui (RMB 4.7 trillion), Jiangxi (RMB 3.2 trillion), and Shanxi (RMB 2.6 trillion) are ranked Nos. 11, 15, and 20, respectively, among mainland China’s 31 provinces/provincial-level administrative divisions.  Meanwhile, their neighboring provinces, Henan, Hubei, and Hunan have managed to have higher GDPs (i.e., RMB 5.9 trillion, 5.6 trillion, 5.0 trillion, respectively), resulting in more impressive GDP rankings (Nos. 6, 7, and 9, respectively).  Official sources have identified various strengths which contribute to the stronger performance of these three provinces.  For example, Henan was home to “172 state-level innovation platforms, 12,000 high-tech enterprises, and 26,000 technology-based small- and medium-sized enterprises” by the end of 2023, while Hubei has been “ranked third in the country in terms of the number of national innovative industry clusters” and Hunan has been recognized as a “[a] hub for China-Africa trade and cooperation[, with the province’s] trade volume with Africa reach[ing] 55.67 billion yuan in 2023”.

The “Accelerated Rise” of Central China

Despite the economic disparity among them, the six provinces of Central China, whose population account for more than 28 percent of the country’s total population, are responsible for nearly 22 percent of the country’s overall GDP.  The region’s strategic significance is reflected in its characterization by the Chinese leadership as an “important food production base”, “energy and raw materials base”, “modern equipment manufacturing and high-tech industrial base”, and a “comprehensive transportation hub”.

To fully realize the strategic value of the region, President XI Jinping chaired a top-level meeting in late May to review the Several Policy Measures for Promoting the Accelerated Rise of the Central Region in the New Era.  During the meeting, Chinese leaders emphasized, inter alia, the need to “develop new quality productive forces according to local conditions, […] coordinate the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, cultivate and expand emerging industries, and plan the layout of future industries [emphasis added]”.

“[…] an article authored by President Xi […] sheds some light on the meaning of the term ‘new quality productive forces’.”

It remains unclear what specific tasks should be taken to ensure the “accelerated rise” of Central China.  However, an article authored by President Xi, which was published a few days after the above-mentioned meeting, provides some clues, as it sheds some light on the meaning of the term “new quality productive forces”.  According to the article, the salient feature of “new quality productive forces” is innovation, which “includes both technological and business model innovations as well as management and institutional innovations”.  The key tasks to accelerate the development of “new quality productive forces” are, among others, to “vigorously promote scientific and technological innovations”, “promote industrial innovations through scientific and technological innovations”, and “deepen the innovations of work mechanisms for [cultivating, attracting, and using] talents”.

Central China is likely to find these tasks quite challenging because, as pointed out by DU Ying, former deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, the region generally lacks sufficient innovation capabilities.  The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that many young, talented professionals leave Central, Western, and Northeastern China to seek better opportunities in eastern, coastal provinces, as reported by a study titled “Ranking of Chinese Cities in Talent Attraction: 2024”.

China’s Models of Success

To improve its innovation capabilities, Central China may consider Foshan and Shenzhen—two cities in China’s Guangdong province with the highest GDP—to be models of success.

In terms of its ability to attract talented professionals, Foshan is ranked No. 18 among all Chinese cities.  Although Foshan may not be well-known to outsiders, it is Guangdong’s third-largest economy, with its GDP reaching RMB 1.3 trillion in 2023.  The city’s ability to attract talented professionals is largely due to its provision of subsidies for housing and other living expenses as well as its staunch support for private enterprises, which are responsible for more than 60 percent of the city’s GDP and contribute over 70 percent of the city’s tax revenue.

Famous for being China’s high-tech hub and boasting a GDP of RMB 3.46 trillion, Shenzhen is ranked No. 3 in its ability to attract talented professionals.  Prior to its designation as a special economic region in 1980, Shenzhen was a mere fishing village.  Interestingly, in 2017, the World Economic Forum attributed the “astonishing” rise of this former fishing village to a couple of factors, including its ability to attract a considerable number of “freelance mechanical and electrical engineers”, who, due to Shenzhen’s inadequate protection of intellectual property rights at the time, had access to open-source designs, “leading to collaboration rather than the traditional model of closely-guarded prototypes”.

Shenzhen’s intellectual property protection mechanism is now among the best in China when it comes to protecting advanced innovations of high-tech companies.  However, the World Economic Forum’s observation does make one ponder whether Central China generally, or select localities thereof, should allow a certain pool of “open-source designs” to accelerate the region’s development of its innovation capabilities, and thereby, “new quality productive forces”.  Balancing technological advancement with the protection of intellectual property rights is a difficult task that will require careful consideration of all competing interests.