Qinghai's economy is amongst the smallest in all of China. Its nominal GDP for 2011 was just 163.4 billion RMB (US$25.9 billion) and contributes to about 0.35% of the entire country's economy. Per capita GDP was 19,407 RMB (US$2,841), the second lowest in China.
Its heavy industry includes iron and steel production, located near its capital city of Xining. Oil and natural gas from the Qaidam Basin have also been an important contributor to the economy. Salt works operate at many of the province's numerous salt lakes.
Outside of the provincial capital, Xining, most of Qinghai remains underdeveloped. Qinghai ranks second lowest in China in terms of highway length, and will require a significant expansion of its infrastructure to capitalize on the economic potential of its rich natural resources.
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