Guaranteed livelihoods in Xinjiang can boost stability and win hearts of locals

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-19 19:28:01

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, with its vast land area of 1.66 million square kilometers, accounts for one-sixth of China's territory.

For years, the central government has paid heed to boosting the economy, improving the livelihood of all ethnic groups and bringing lasting stability to the region.

However, the effects of both the policy and economic efforts are contentious at times, especially in the light of terrorist attacks within the region and that have spilled beyond the region.

The central government has unveiled a policy package in 2010 which outlines a blueprint for Xinjiang's development until 2020 with a budget of hundreds of billions of yuan.

Some critics say that Xinjiang, as a beneficiary of preferential policies, should have been better at accelerating the peaceful pace of development, rather than being harassed by sporadic violent attacks.

Some also argue that the input in Xinjiang, which is supposed to benefit ethnic minorities, has widened the ethnic divide between Han and Uyghurs in the region. Those views are too narrow-minded and shortsighted.

It takes time and patience for us to better off Xinjiang and promote ethnic fusion. Poor economic conditions are an important factor, but by no means the root cause for the surging of terrorism in Xinjiang.

It's separatism, an extreme religious ideology, that is connected to external terrorist forces that have stirred up the region and made an issue of China's religious and ethnic policies.

Economic development could contribute to Xinjiang's stability and winning over the hearts of Uyghurs in cracking down on terrorism.

It's an undeniable fact that the pace of Xinjiang development has been speeded up and livelihood has been improved thanks to assistance from the inland regions into Xinjiang in recent years.

China is endeavoring to bridge the gap between the eastern and western regions that was formed and expanded since the country's reform and opening-up.

Xinjiang has advantages over other regions and provinces in agriculture, livestock, horticulture and energy because of its abundant natural resources .

Given the space available, it has the potential to play a bigger role in the nation's development and be further integrated into the inland regions as those pillar industries could be boosted to create more jobs and satisfy bigger market.

Xinjiang in the future should be shaped into a contributor to China's development rather than an recipient of assistance, thus moving away from its identity as a remote region.

From the regional perspective, the south-north gap within Xinjiang is a challenge. Plagued by poverty, southern Xinjiang has turned into a target of extremists and terrorists who have committed several attacks in recent years.

Uyghurs, who are disadvantaged by language and a lack of technical skills, deserve special concerns when tapping into regional development.

The government should provide job and skill training for Uyghurs and organize more opportunities for communication between Uyghurs and the inland cities, building their affinity with other regions of the nation and making them benefit from development.

The government has embarked on programs to develop labor-intensive industries to increase employment.

Only when livelihoods are guaranteed and gradually improved can social solidarity be built.

Xinjiang is a vulnerable region with economic, ethnic, religious and terrorist problems.

The economic endeavors into the region are necessary, but respecting ethnic identity, culture, and religious faith as well as including Uyghurs into an equal social welfare system are also indispensable to the stability and progress of the region.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Xu Jianying, a research fellow with the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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