Editor's Note: This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region - the first of China's five autonomous regions.
China Daily is running a series of reports on the region's milestones.
For the past 60 years, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has gone from strength to strength.
Last year its GDP totalled 479 billion yuan ($63 billion), a great leap from the 537 million yuan its economy generated in 1947.
Inner Mongolia, a vast, expansive region that covers almost 1.18 million sq km, has a population of almost 24 million and 55 distinct minority groups.
"The robust economic development has been a result of our adherence to the principle of scientific development in theory and in practice, the commitment to building a harmonious society, the concern for people's livelihoods, as well as the country's strategy to develop the West," Chu Bo, the region's Party secretary, told China Daily in a recent interview.
"Thanks to the central government, Inner Mongolia has undergone tremendous advancement in terms of economic and social development."
Its per capita GDP skyrocketed from 96 yuan in 1947 to 20,047 yuanin 2006, and could reach $3,000 this year, ranking among the country's top 10 performers.
The fixed asset investment in the region exceeded 700 billion yuan over the past six years.
As early as the 1950s, the then Premier Zhou Enlai called Inner Mongolia "a model autonomous region".
In 1953, Baotou was listed as one of the key industrial bases in the first national five-year plan. Five of the 156 major industrial projects assisted by the former Soviet Union were established in the city, setting a solid foundation for a dynamic Baotou from then on.
Renowned as the steel city on the prairie, Baotou has been leading Inner Mongolia's economic development over the past three decades.
Last year Baotou became the first city in the region to have achieved a GDP value over 100 billion yuan, with GDP value per capita surpassing $5,000.
In 1978, Deng Xiaoping predicted Inner Mongolia, with extensive steppes and its small population, could in future become an economic forerunner.
When President Hu Jintao inspected the region in 2003, he said that a well-governed Inner Mongolia had far-reaching implications for the success of the Party and the country.
Since the 1980s the central government has increased funding for projects to help ethnic minorities across the country.
In 1998 the ordinary transfer-payment sum by the central authorities was nearly 2.9 billion yuan, making up 48 percent of the nation's total transfer-payment sum.
In 2000, China launched its western development strategy to help the region catch up with the prosperous east.
The region has enjoyed many preferential policies in taxation, infrastructure construction, land management, resources exploitation and services.
Foreign investors are encouraged to participate in non-oil and non-natural gas projects special exemptions.
Chu said Inner Mongolia will focus this year on some of its "unique industries" and promote industrial diversity and expansion.
Currently, coal production amounts to 291 million tons, electricity output 141.64 billion kilowatt-hours, and steel production 8.61 million tons.