Cultural tourism is booming in Inner Mongolia. [Photo by Kou Jie]
Established in 1947, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China's first province-level autonomous region, accounts for 12 percent of the country's total land area. Like its vast territory, the region's economy also leads in China, with its GDP growth rate topping the national list from 2002 to 2009, while its GDP per capita ranked 9th out of all provinces in 2018.
Wealthy as it may sound, the region was one of China's most underdeveloped areas seven decades ago. According to Xinhua, in 1947, the region's GDP was only 537 million RMB ($76 million). Two of its traditional economic pillars, animal husbandry and farming, were struggling, with its grain production reaching 1.85 billion kilograms, while only 9 million farm animals remained on the barren lands.
"Life was so hard in Inner Mongolia when I was a kid. Due to desertification and the lack of technology, many herdsmen were on the verge of bankruptcy. The children had no decent clothes to wear, no good food to eat," said 77-year-old Raxiodser.
Local authorities resorted to an eco-friendly approach to boost the economy and eradicate poverty. New technologies were implemented to protect the environment while preserving the traditional animal husbandry industry, and traditional Mongolian culture and natural resources boosted cultural tourism. In 2018, the total economic output and GDP per capita in Inner Mongolia reached 1.7 trillion RMB and 68,000 RMB respectively, an increase of 595 times and 137 times compared with 70 years ago.
"Over the past 70 decades, Inner Mongolia's economy has developed significantly. Poverty has been dealt with successfully, while the living standard has improved a lot," Li Jiheng, Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.