Xinjiang goes on fast track

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/5 0:33:00

Region stable, prosperous 7 years after Urumqi riots

The Belt and Road initiative has made Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region more open and prosperous, as the region strives to stamp out the influence of extremism and terrorism, analysts said.

Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of the July 5 riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, that killed 197 people.

"After years of an intense crackdown on the three evil forces - terrorism, extremism and separatism - Xinjiang has become more stable which has greatly contributed to economic development," Xu Jianying, a research fellow at the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Xinjiang has not only seen more economic, business and personnel exchanges with inland provinces but has also opened up to the outside world under the Belt and Road initiative, said Xu.

In March 2015, Xinjiang was named as the "core zone" of the Silk Road Economic Belt in the framework jointly published by the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce.

The framework states that Xinjiang could serve as a bridgehead in China's westward opening-up, deepen ties with countries in Central Asia and transform itself into a transportation hub, and a center of trade and logistics, culture and technology.

Xinjiang will also host the 5th China-Eurasia Expo from September 20 to 25, where a record number of attendees, including political leaders from Asia and Europe and heads of international organizations, are expected.

"The initiative boosts cross-border infrastructure development, including roads and pipelines in the region, laying the foundation for economic as well as personnel exchanges," said Xu, adding that aside from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Xinjiang has developed more channels with bordering countries.

Xinjiang also announced in April the launch of three routes, including the China-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan route, the China-Tajikistan route, and the China-Russia-Kazakhstan-Mongolia route in an effort to drive cultural and non-governmental exchanges between China and Central Asia, Xinhua reported.

According to data the Global Times obtained from Xinjiang's Department of Commerce, trade in the region from January to May was valued at $6.13 billion. Its growth was China's second-highest.

Xinjiang has also seen a growth in tourism and personnel exchanges in recent years.

According to Xinjiang's Statistic Bureau, the region welcomed 60.97 million tourists in 2015, contributing 102.2 billion yuan to the economy.

Pan Zhiping, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that the local government has taken steps to maintain social stability in recent years, since it serves as the foundation of the region's openness and prosperity.

 "Xinjiang is more stable after officials spent years removing the negative influence of religious extremism in villages and communities, taking measures against activities involving extremism, separatism, and terrorism, and implementing poverty alleviation programs," said Pan, adding that an increase in international exchanges and opening-up have raised new challenges to safeguard stability.

He said the local government has also relaxed its visa policy to make personnel exchanges more convenient. 

In 2014, Shanghai police arrested nine Uyghurs from Xinjiang, including a wanted alleged terrorist in November when they attempted to sneak out of China with altered Turkish passports. They were held for being suspected of organizing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations.

"The Xinjiang government should also be aware of the influence of the mounting activities of overseas terrorism organizations, especially the Islamic State, because they are using the Internet, including social media, to gain influence in China," said Pan.

In December 2015, a four-minute song, "We are Mujahid," was posted on and contained the lyrics sung in Putonghua, "It's our dream to die fighting on the battlefield," "No power can stop us from moving forward," "Pick up your weapons to revolt," and "The shameless enemy will panic."

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