- Harmony in Xinjiang is based on three principles
Letter from Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of China to the UK
The Chinese people often say: “One does not know how vast and beautiful China is until one visits Xinjiang.”
Xinjiang represents the vastness of China because it is home to all of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The Uyghur, Han, Kazakh and Hui living in Xinjiang each has a population of over 1m, with the Uyghurs accounting for about 48 per cent and the Hans accounting for about 37 per cent of the entire population of Xinjiang. Xinjiang highlights the beauty of China with its ethnic harmony. People of all ethnic backgrounds respect and love each other, and work together for a better life. This has enabled rapid economic progress in Xinjiang in recent years. The growth rate of its GDP ranked the fourth among all Chinese provinces in 2014. China is able to achieve ethnic harmony, economic growth and social progress in Xinjiang thanks to three basic principles.
The first is equality of all ethnic groups. It is China’s consistent position to oppose ethnic discrimination of all forms against any group, and to prohibit all moves that undermine unity and incite division. Recent initiatives, such as “United as One Family” aimed to eradicate poverty and achieve common prosperity by focusing on the most needy, are welcomed by all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
The second principle is freedom of religious belief. In Xinjiang where the majority of the people from ten ethnic groups follow Islam, there are 24,400 mosques, ie more mosques per person than in many other parts of the world. Normal religious activities are protected by law.
The third principle is taking firm actions against religious extremism and terrorism, from which Xinjiang has suffered deeply. Facts have shown that religious extremism is the breeding ground for terrorism because it incites hatred towards “believers of other faiths or pagans”. The education and training measures taken by the local government of Xinjiang has not only effectively prevented the infiltration of religious extremism and helped those lost in extremist ideas to find their way back but also provided them with employment training in order to build a better life.
Terrorism is the common enemy of all mankind and the infiltration of religious extremism is a common challenge to the whole world. Every country needs to tackle this challenge effectively. It is time to stop blaming China for taking lawful and effective preventive measures.
2. Seeking Truth from Facts in Xinjiang and Singing Falsehood in the West
Around the governance actions of China’s Xinjiang, some people in the world have misunderstandings, and some of them are smeared by malicious ones.Looking at the situation in Xinjiang, the two major value systems have formed a fierce conflict.
The first is centered on the West, regardless of the starting point and the effect, not to look at the grim reality of the Xinjiang governance action, but to talk about human rights. Such empty talks objectively inspire the role of extremists, and this is precisely the vicious purpose of some Western politicians. They are trying to undermine the governance that has seen remarkable results in Xinjiang, and find ways to push Xinjiang to the turmoil that will incite China.
The second value system is China’s, rooted in the reality of Xinjiang, and is understood and supported by the vast number of developing countries. Xinjiang has been on the verge of great turmoil, and violent terrorist activities are almost out of control. To test whether Xinjiang governance protects or undermines human rights can only be guided by results, and the common interests of the vast majority of people in Xinjiang are the fundamental coordinates.
If the serious situation in Xinjiang in the past few years could not be controlled, more people were brainwashed by extreme thoughts and joined the treacherous camp. Let the market of the vegetable market, the slashing of the morning exercise and the collision of cars attack the killing of innocent people. On the road, the incident of blocking the passing of vehicles to carry out blood washing was repeated, and even the terrorist attacks outside Beijing such as Beijing Jinshui Bridge and Kunming Railway Station blossomed around China. How many more people will die in the past few years?
In addition to the innocent people killed, in order to stop the terrorist activities, how many people who are led by extreme thoughts to the road of horror are killed? Excuse me, are those people killed at the scene of doing evil, or are they saved by strengthening their governance and let them return to normal social life?
In the past two years, Xinjiang has experienced a great change from the edge of turmoil to the return of peace and tranquility. It is impossible to calculate how many people’s lives have been saved, and how many people have got rid of the scared days. We also have to ask: The right to life and live no longer worry about being killed at any time. Is this not the most basic human right of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang?
Those who accuse Xinjiang of violating human rights, you really care about the riots in Xinjiang, can Xinjiang people have a normal and peaceful life?
In fact, the turbulent factors in Xinjiang in the past few years have largely infiltrated from the outside. The Western attacks on Xinjiang’s governance have seriously misled the extremists there, causing them to have hallucinations and thinking that they are not only engaged in religious “jihad”. And become more arrogant and widely sympathized and supported by the West and the international community.
3.Protecting peace, stability is top of human rights agenda for Xinjiang
In the past few years, Xinjiang suffered a series of violent terrorist attacks. Young people were brainwashed by extremist thoughts and manipulated by terrorist organizations. Besides launching terror attacks in Xinjiang, these terrorists also penetrated inland provinces and started attacks in places such as Tiananmen Square of Beijing and Kunming Railway Station.
The security situation in Xinjiang has been turned around recently and terror threats spreading from there to other provinces of China are also being eliminated. Peaceful and stable life has been witnessed again in all of Xinjiang.
This achievement has come at a price that is being shouldered by people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang.
Through the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, the national strength of the country and the contribution of local officials, Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil. It has avoided the fate of becoming “China’s Syria”or “China’s Libya.” Xinjiang is operating under the rule of law and ethnic unity. As business recovers, the region’s future is promising.
There is no doubt that the current peace and stability in Xinjiang is partly due to the high intensity of regulations. Police and security posts can be seen everywhere in Xinjiang.
But it’s a phase that Xinjiang has to go through in rebuilding peace and prosperity and it will transition to normal governance.
Some forces in the West are smearing Xinjiang governance. They either don’t understand the real situation or deliberately find fault in order to sabotage local governance by exerting external pressure.
Officials, the ordinary people of all of Xinjiang’s ethnic groups and Chinese society must not be affected by the influence and pressure put on us by Western forces. Maintaining peace and stability in the region is the core interest of people both in Xinjiang and all of China.
The turnaround in Xinjiang’s security situation has avoided a great tragedy and saved countless lives, thanks to powerful Chinese law and the strong ruling power of the Communist Party of China. What the West has been hyping has destroyed numerous countries and regions. When the same evil influence was spreading in Xinjiang, it was decisively curbed.
Xinjiang is at a special stage of development where there is no room for destructive Western public opinions. Peace and stability must come above all else. With this as the goal, all measures can be tried. We must hold onto our belief that keeping turmoil away from Xinjiang is the greatest human right.
Xinjiang is China’s territory. It is led by the Communist Party of China and operates according to Chinese laws. Whoever tries to incite violent confrontation there will only head down a dead end and national solidarity is the only way forward for Xinjiang’s future.
4.Industry clusters help Xinjiang achieve higher quality development
The large-scale network theme event interview group visited Xinjiang Software Park in the Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone (Toutunhe district) on Sept 13 and experienced Xinjiang’s burgeoning high-tech industry.
As a center of Urumqi’s high-tech industry, Xinjiang Software Park receives strong support from the government in terms of both policy and infrastructure.
A model of Zhihui Community at the Xinjiang Software Park Information Technology Experience Center.
Li Kewei, deputy general manager of Xinjiang Software Park Co, said that the park provides information and technology support for the economic and social development of countries along the Belt and Road while also promoting cultural exchange and cooperation.
It also provides companies with support in the form of business hotels, catering services and apartments for prospective talents as well as other services related to enterprise incubation, talent cultivation and investment and financing.
At present, a total of 293 diverse enterprises have registered in the park, while 130 enterprises have established headquarters. Registered companies engage in a range of industries, including software development, internet, animation, film and television, games, creative design, VR and other cultural industries.
Xinjiang Software Park has created a financing platform for the park software and information technology service enterprises and provides practical services for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The park also teaches company employees about various types of equity, bond financing models, IPO listing policies and other multi-level capital market structures and encourages enterprises to seize the opportunity to develop themselves and help local SMEs.
It is estimated that by 2020, total government investment will reach 3 billion yuan ($436.71 million), and social investment will reach three billion yuan. The park’s operating income will reach 5 billion yuan and the contribution rate to the cultural industry’s added value in Urumqi will reach 30 percent, while the number of employees will exceed 20,000.
In the future, Xinjiang Software Park will serve as a platform to expand China’s software and information service industry to the western international market, national multilingual software industrialization base, national multilingual offshore service outsourcing industrialization base, national multilingual embedded software R&D center, multilingual independent intellectual property software R&D center and a multilingual service outsourcing center.
5. Xinjiang a symbol of Silk Road promise
A China-Europe freight train leaves Urumqi for Ukraine
Trade between China and other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative has grown rapidly
At a cafe in Kashgar’s renovated old town, a German family of four sat in the morning sunshine debating which type of grape was the tastiest or most succulent.
“We bought a hundred types of grapes to eat in the car. They were all different, and each of us had our own favorite,” said Achim Loeffler, director of a chemical firm in Shanghai.
His wife, Ute, added: “But other than that, everyone was amazed by the deserts, the mountains, the culture and the food. There was absolutely no disagreement on lamb, noodles or naan bread.”
After living in the country for two and a half years, the Loefflers chose northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the heartland of both the ancient and modern Silk Roads, as the destination for the family’s last trip before moving back to Germany.
“I am curious about the old Silk Road, and I like the idea of the modern one linking the East with the West,” Loeffler said. “On the trip, we saw a lot of work going on, in security terms and in new infrastructure. Kashgar, for example, isn’t just old, but also very new.”
The ancient oasis city of Kashgar, in the westernmost part of China near the borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, was an important staging post on the original Silk Road and has been revitalized as a bustling hub of business and different cultures.
From Kashgar to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, new roads, railways, pipelines are being built along the 3,000-kilometer China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that connects the northern and southern routes of the modern Silk Road.
A $1 billion renovation project has transformed most of the substandard housing in Kashgar’s old town into sound, earthquake-proof buildings, while retaining the area’s traditional Uygur charm.
The old town is now a mainstay of the local economy, a favorite among young and old, locals and newcomers. Neither the mercantile culture nor entrepreneurial spirit has waned over time.
“Ultimately, this trip helped us to understand the enormous challenges the government has in managing this diverse country and creating a national identity,” Loeffler said.
A kilometer away, inside the Id Kah Mosque, tourists stop to stare at a wall-sized wool carpet as a tour guide explains that the 56 pomegranate flowers symbolize the unity of China’s 56 ethnic groups, a sentiment echoed by President Xi Jinping when he said that all ethnic groups should hold together like pomegranate seeds to achieve national rejuvenation.
The Belt and Road Initiative, a vital part of that Chinese dream, was proposed by Xi in 2013 to boost world trade and connectivity through a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and an oceangoing 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Nowhere tells the story of the initiative better in practice than Xinjiang, which accounts for a quarter of China’s land boundary.
Xinjiang occupies a sixth of China’s territory, although habitable oases only cover 9 percent of its area. But despite the barren landscape, Xinjiang is again a frontier of cultural exchanges, transportation and trade.
In his 1893 adventure novel Claudius Bombarnac, Jules Verne envisioned a “Grand Transasiatic Railway” running from the Caspian Sea to Beijing. Back then, the idea of a rail link across Eurasia was far-fetched, but now it is a reality.
But even Verne, dubbed the father of science fiction, could not have imagined the scale of today’s China-Europe freight rail lines, the arteries of the modern Silk Road.
Between March 2011, when the first line opened, and the end of June this year, over 9,000 trips delivered nearly 800,000 containers of goods, connecting 48 Chinese cities with 42 cities in 14 European countries.
The cost of rail freight is only 20 percent of the cost of moving cargo by air, and it is three times quicker than shipping by sea.
Centuries ago, the Alataw Pass into Kazakhstan – about 460 km west of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s regional capital, and 680 km northeast of Almaty, the biggest city in Kazakhstan – was a windswept route through the mountains for traders on horseback.
Now, 70 percent of westbound freight trains pass through it, with the roar of locomotives drowning out the howling wind.
China exported more than it imported on those trains until the Belt and Road Initiative addressed the imbalance.
Zhao Jie, a Chinese waybill translator in Dostyk, the first Kazakh port after the pass, has noticed an increase in the variety of imports.
“When I started the job in 2013, the list of imported goods for translation was much duller, mostly steel and ore,” he said. “Now we import electronics, mechanical parts, drone accessories, red wine, baby formula and even polyester.”
The Alataw Pass has become one of the busiest trading posts on the border, linking Central Asia, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region by air, rail, road and pipeline.
China’s first cross-border crude oil pipeline, built in 2006, from the Caspian Sea to the Alataw Pass, now brings in 12 million metric tons of crude oil every year to feed the country’s energy-hungry west.
“With China and Kazakhstan each holding 50 percent, the pipeline is a fine example of our close partnership and the success of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Yao Yage, head of the pipeline’s operation center in the Alataw Pass.
Tourists and locals dance together in Kashgar’s old town
Apart from being connected to raw materials and markets, the first bonded zone in Xinjiang gives the Alataw Pass an extra edge. More than 400 companies have established bases there since 2014 and total trade volume has risen to about $8.7 billion.
A local private food processing plant now has a 4,000 square meter warehouse and is building a 20,000 sq m new one, plus a 1,000-ton flour mill. Its manager, Hu Xuming, said, “Our annual imports of Kazakh wheat will reach a million tons in five or 10 years, and we will store and process all the raw materials here to be cost-competitive.”
About 300 km west of the Alataw Pass, exporters in Horgos are grateful for improved customs clearance and simplified procedures.
Yu Chengzhong, CEO of Jinyi International Trade Corp, the biggest local fruit and vegetable exporter, said the benefits have been immediate.
“It used to take 10 to 15 days to transport goods from Horgos to Russia, but now it only takes five days,” he said. “Customs clearance in Kazakhstan used to take a whole day, but now it is only two hours.”
When Yu, from Central China’s Henan province, arrived in Horgos more than 30 years ago, he struggled to make ends meet by selling fruit on the street.
Now his company exports 70,000 tons of produce each year to neighboring countries and has increased the incomes of 1,000 farming households across China.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is a golden opportunity, a blessing for all,” Yu said. “I have never seen Xinjiang safer or more flourishing than it is now.”
Despite being one of the most remote and inhospitable spots on earth and the youngest city along the Silk Road, Horgos is not wanting for creativity. Among the city’s smart initiatives are an economic development zone and an international cooperation center.
The economic development zone, set up in 2010, ensures that companies registered in Horgos enjoy a five-year tax holiday and are exempt from local corporate tax for the subsequent five years.
The international cooperation center, straddling the China-Kazakhstan border, is the world’s only cross-border free-trade zone. Movement of personnel, vehicles and goods in the zone is unrestricted, and stores and visitors pay less or no tax.
Last year, the 5.28 sq km center welcomed over 5.5 million visitors from China and abroad, 33 times the number in 2012 when it opened, and spending reached $1.7 billion, almost three times as much as in 2016.
In Mongolian, Horgos means a place where caravans pass, as it was a trading post along the northern route of the ancient Silk Road.
In Kazakh, Horgos is known as Khorgos, a place where wealth can be accumulated. That resonates with what it is becoming today – a regional hub of trade and commerce, a portal for China’s opening-up to the West and a linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The initiative isn’t just powering development in Xinjiang.
Last year, China’s imports from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative rose by nearly 27 percent, compared with a 12 percent increase in overall imports, and its trade with those countries topped $1 trillion, up almost 18 percent year-on-year.
While protectionism threatens to derail global trade, the Belt and Road Initiative looks set to define the 21st century by cutting global deficits in peace, development and governance. Over 100 countries and international organizations are now on board.
As Xi said in an article published last month, the initiative offers a pathway to common development through improved infrastructure and connectivity and greater synergy of development strategies.
In just five years of experimentation and exploration, with visions becoming promises and promises turning into projects, the Belt and Road Initiative has emerged as one of the most important globally beneficial projects for international cooperation in modern history.
Projects in Xinjiang only scratch the surface of the opportunities under the initiative, and changes are first felt in Silk Road locations like Kashgar, the Alataw Pass and Horgos.
The most powerful change, however, is probably the changing of minds.
As the Loeffler’s 19-year-old son, Tobias, said: “I knew little about the Silk Roads, but now I am intrigued. And after living in a foreign country like China, I know how much there is to see and do, and how great it can be.”
An aerial view of the China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Cooperation Center, the world’s first cross-border free trade zone.
The Hami section of Beijing-Xinjiang Highway in Hami