Xinjiang to see ‘major strategy shift’

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-9 0:33:06

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at a central political and legal work meeting in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 7, 2014. (Xinhua

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will refocus its priority on maintaining social stability after a turbulent year riven by multiple terrorist attacks, a major altering of the region's strategy since 2010.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, local media published a series of reports about President Xi Jinping's landmark speech guiding the region's work given at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on December 19, 2013.

Citing the region's Party chief Zhang Chunxian, the Xinjiang Daily reported that Xi laid out the guiding concept, major targets and tasks in the speech, but did not reveal specific details.

Several sources told the Global Times that the full text of Xi's speech was only available for officials at the regional level, while some major points were revealed by Zhang at a series of meetings held to implement the central authority's guidance.

The Xinjiang Daily quoted Zhang as saying that the focus of work should be maintaining social stability and an enduring peace, which is the "prime task" in the region. An editorial of the paper also said the central authority has clarified that development should be promoted surrounding the task of sustaining an enduring peace in Xinjiang.

The tone is different from that set at the central government's Xinjiang work conference in May 2010. Subsequently, the region had held onto the notion that "development is the key to all the problems in Xinjiang."

A local official in Kashi, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times that repeated terrorist attacks have exacted a toll on the region's economy as investors were scared away.

In 2013, there were at least seven terrorist attacks and two riots in Xinjiang, leading to dozens of deaths. After the violence reached a peak in the countdown to the fourth anniversary of deadly riots on July 5, the regional government staged mass rallies of armed police across the region to deter terrorists. China's top security official Meng Jianzhu attended the rally in Xinjiang capital Urumqi on June 29, 2013.

The violence even spilled outside the region. On October 28, 2013, an SUV ploughed through bystanders near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five and in­juring 40 others. The Turkistan Islamic Party, who claimed responsibility for the attack, is believed to be another incarnation of the terrorist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement. 

"The shift in strategy was a wise move by the central authority, who clearly knows the complex situation in Xinjiang," the Kashi official said. "While other regions can concentrate on economic growth, development would be just empty talk in Xinjiang if the security problems remain unsolved."

Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said that the central government has dispatched several inspection teams to Xinjiang since mid-2013 and the altering of the strategy comes as the central authority reached a common understanding over the situation.

"However, the stress on stability doesn't mean the region will backtrack to the pre-2010 period when the emphasis was 'stability prevails over all,'" Tursun told the Global Times, adding that during that time the heavy-handed anti-terror campaign was carried out at the expense of growth.

Zhang Chunxian, who assumed the top post in Xinjiang in 2010, was regarded by overseas media as governing the region with "moderate policy."

However, Tursan disagreed with the claim of Zhang's "softness," noting the resources devoted to anti-terrorism had not declined over the past three years.

"The new strategy is not a denial of the region's policy since 2010. It aims for a combination of maintaining stability and economic development, which will be realized in a groundbreaking manner," he said, noting that a series of adjustments are expected in Xinjiang's socio-economic policies.

For instance, to help maintain stability in southern Xinjiang, which has witnessed the most terrorist attacks, labor-intensive industries are most likely to be developed to create enough jobs, said the expert.

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