New highway to promote better east-west connectivity

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/18 0:08:39

New highway shortens journey by 1,300 km





Photo taken on July 14, 2017 shows the Jingxin Expressway (G7) in Bayan Nur City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The Jingxin Expressway links Beijing, capital of China, and Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Deng Hua)


 
The new highway between Beijing and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will promote better east-west connectivity, experts said.

Experts said the completion of the Beijing-Xinjiang Highway, or G7, on Saturday will promote people and cargo transportation as well as strengthen the country's military presence along the western border.

"The stability and security of the border areas is the foundation for economic development, and the new highway can greatly strengthen China's military presence in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for counter-terrorism missions and to safeguard the border," said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force.

The newly opened sections in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Gansu Province and Xinjiang have a combined length of more than 1,200 kilometers, bringing the total length of the highway to 2,768 kilometers.

Before the highway was completed, traffic from Beijing had to take a detour to Gansu's provincial capital Lanzhou before entering Xinjiang. The new highway has shortened the length of the journey by more than 1,300 kilometers.

"The Beijing-Xinjiang Highway is the most convenient road between Beijing and Inner Mongolia, northern Gansu and Xinjiang," Ren Jinxiong, a Ministry of Transport official, told the Xinhua News Agency.

"We normally use trains to transport heavy armor weapons with tracks like tanks and self-propelled howitzers, while the highway is more suitable for light armor equipment like infantry vehicles and military trucks. The new highway makes China's military more flexible and efficient," Song said.

Spanning 930 kilometers, the Inner Mongolia section is the longest highway project in China. The Gansu section is 134 kilometers long and the Xinjiang section is 178 kilometers long. In emergencies, like when China's eastern and southern coasts are invaded, the new west-bound highway and railway that connect China to the outside world would be extremely important for the country to acquire supplies, Song said, though it is extremely unlikely that such a scenario would happen.

Peace and stability catalyst

Experts say the new highway will eventually contribute to peace and stability in China's remote border areas, as it facilitates people and cargo movement and boosts the local economy. Religious extremism in Xinjiang will be effectively contained when people benefit from economic development.

"The highway's main function is to make people exchanges between eastern provinces and the western border regions easier and smoother, as transporting materials and resources can rely on other infrastructure like rail and airports," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations.

The exchange of people will improve mutual understanding between ethnic groups and the Han in the border areas, and promote ethnic unity, Chu said.

"The convenient transportation will bring more people and tourists into the border areas with poor natural and geographical conditions, so the local economy would improve with the exchange of people. Poverty and isolation are the obstacles to governance and development and they are also conditions for terrorism, separatism and sectarian extremism. This highway will help China overcome these obstacles,"  Chu added.

The Beijing-Xinjiang Highway is one of seven highways connecting Beijing with other major cities, according to a national highway plan. By the end of 2016, China had 131,000 kilometers of highways in operation, more than any other country, Xinhua reported.



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