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Ritu Agarwal: Yunnan as a Regional Economic Model

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Dr.Ritu Agarwal, Senior Fellow in Economic Security

Ritu Agarwal is associate Professor, School of International Relations, Centre for East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and PhD in Chinese Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. His research interest is Chinese politics, rural political economy, and Chinese economic development. His books include Yunnan and the New Regional Economic Model, Women Farmers in China's Commercial Agricultural Economy, ethnic Minorities in Yunnan, Ethnic Integration and Higher Education, etc.



Yunnan as a Regional Economic Model

1.I noticed that you have conducted relevant research on the development model of Yunnan, China. Could you give us a brief introduction of its development model?


Yunnan is one of the important border provinces of China which had historical trade connections with India. The ancient Southern Silk Road connected India and Yunnan through Myanmar. In fact long before China’s other provinces began opening up to the outside world, Yunnan in the western borders had more open trade relations with her Asian neighbours. There are evidences of flourishing tea trade and other commodities between India and China through this route. Over the years, the provincial government formulated preferential policies for Yunnan’s agricultural products like flowers, vegetables, fruits and tobacco. The government has also protected the local mineral products and energy bases. These interventions have helped to a large extent to create market for its products within China.


2. In addition to Yunan’s geographical proximity, how did it develop from a border area in history to a gateway to South and Southeast Asia today?


The development model of Yunnan has been unique with Kunming as a main city centre and border cities as the Economic Gateways to neighbouring countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The New Kunming has attracted the foreign visitors in significant numbers with its opening of new Changshui International airport.The regular meetings of Annual China-South Asia Trade and Think Tank Forum has attracted the attention of world scholars to its beautiful spring city of the world. The establishment of new University towns, Scientific and Technological development zones and National Minorities Culture centre, lakes and mountains exhibits the special features of Yunnan’s preservation of cultural heritage with modern economic development of the region.


3. India and Yunnan have a lot of trade contacts. Some Chinese scholars believe that the products traded between Yunnan and India tend to be competitive. What is your opinion on this view? Do you think the trade between Yunan and India is complementary? If so, in what aspects?


The border cities of Yunnan like Dali, Lijiang, Baoshan and Tengchong , once been the bustling centres of trade and commercial activities have been transformed into border economic zones. In fact the fluidity of these border regions has once again converted these geographical boundaries as economic corridors of trade and business exchanges. The establishment of series of new multilateral mechanisms such as the Sub-regional Co-operation, Economic Corridors and River networks were the notable initiatives by the government in the direction of opening up the region to its neighbouring countries outside


4. India is the key cooperation partner of Yunnan in China's The Belt and Road initiative. I would like to ask what difficulties exist in the trade cooperation between Yunnan and India? How can we solve these problems?


Even after having such a close geographical proximity with India, there is negligible volume of trade happening between Yunnan and India. Moreover, the trade is primarily of chemicals, iron ore, minerals and other extractive resources. A qualitative expansion of trade to include items like electronics, equipment for railway construction, medicines, information technology, or agro-processed food products will take long times to accomplish. Since the metropolitan cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are quite highly placed in the production networks, the commodities which are produced in Yunnan like fertilizers, agricultural machinery, textile, low-end electronic products like rice-cooker, daily use items like music recorder, has more markets in the adjacent and less developed state in India especially in Eastern and North -Eastern border states.


Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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