CHONGQING, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese officials have called for fostering new sources of growth in ethnic areas to bridge the development gap between such areas and the economically more developed regions.
The official appeal came at a national symposium on the development of ethnic autonomous areas in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, where officials from several autonomous ethnic counties on Monday urged the improvement of infrastructure facilities and people's livelihood in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.
More efforts should be made in developing local agriculture and animal husbandry, while local ethnic culture should be protected, according to the meeting that gathered 60 representatives from 11 provincial-level regions, including Hebei Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
China has 120 ethnic autonomous counties, accounting for 11 percent of the total area inhabited by ethnic groups, according to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
The combined population of the ethnic autonomous counties account for 21 percent of the total ethnic minority population, but their per capita GDP is less than half the national average, according to the commission.
Poor natural conditions, vulnerabilities to risk and complicated factors related to ethnic issues are considered as key challenges ethnic areas must address for their long-term and stable development.