Xinjiang hopes to prove that the west is best
Updated: 2014-04-30 08:41
By Cui Jia (China Daily)
|A woman at her new home in downtown Kashgar after renovation of the old residential areas. Jin Wei / For China Daily|
The country's westernmost city is the site of an initiative that could bring wealth and jobs to one of China's less-developed regions, as Cui Jia reports from Kashgar.
In 2010, the central government decided to establish a Special Economic Zone in Kashgar city in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The hope is that the city, which has a population of 700,000 - 79 percent of which are members of the Uygur ethnic group - will be able to replicate the success of Shenzhen, China's first and still most-successful SEZ, in the country's less-developed western region.
In the short space of 30 years, Shenzhen, which lies immediately to the north of Hong Kong, was transformed from a fishing village into one of China's wealthiest cities. As part of a pairing assistance program, many of the experts who laid the foundations of that transformation will also be on hand to provide assistance and guidance to the developers in Kashgar.
Bridging the divide
Kashgar prefecture, which includes Kashgar city, is set to become a bridge connecting China with eight countries, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kyrgyzstan via five land ports. Kashgar city, an important international business hub since the days of the ancient merchants route known as The Silk Road, will become China's only inland SEZ when the preparatory work is completed in 2015.
Currently, about 95 percent of the goods that pass through the land ports, in the prefectures of Kashgar and Kizilsu Kirghiz, are Chinese-made export items, such as daily necessities, household appliances and machinery, said Xu Gang, deputy director of Kashgar Prefecture's Port Administration.
Since President Xi Jinping proposed the establishment of the Silk Road Economic Belt in 2013, Kashgar city has been positioned at the forefront of a policy to open up to Eurasian countries, a status helped by the fact that the Pakistan-China economic corridor also begins in the city, according to Mutalif Wubuli, the commissioner of Kashgar prefecture.
In 2013, during a speech in Kazakhstan, Xi proposed that China and the Central Asian countries should build an "economic belt along the Silk Road", a trans-Eurasian project that would target more than 3 billion people and represent the single biggest market in the world - one with unparalleled potential.
In his work report delivered in March, Premier Li Keqiang stated that the government will push forward with the establishment of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which may eventually encompass more than 40 countries.