“Silk Road Plan for Xinjiang Makes for a Rough Tapestry”

WSJ has an article about how Beijing plans to pacify Xinjiang. It turns out the plan is to just dump some money somewhere, and also build a train to Pakistan:

By building roads and railways from its Muslim northwest to Pakistan and Central Asia it hoped to increase trade and spur development that would help quiet the region’s 8.3 million ethnic Uighurs. Two years on, fresh bloodshed has claimed 39 lives in the last month, and exposed the flaws in China’s growth-focused master plan for the region and other big minority areas.

Cross-border trade, new infrastructure, and an influx of money and people are indeed transforming cities like the desert outposts of Hotan and Kashgar. Yet the benefits are bypassing many Uighurs—especially the large numbers who do not speak Chinese—feeding animosity toward Beijing and the growing numbers of migrants from China’s Han ethnic majority, who already account for 40% of Xinjiang’s population.

China has tried to paint the recent unrest as rooted in Islamist extremism rather than in anti-Han sentiment, thought there is scant public evidence backing its claim it was caused by an organized Jihadist independence movement, some of whose leaders were trained in Pakistan.

The central government plans to invest 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) on infrastructure in Xinjiang between 2010 and 2015, including six airports, 8,400 kilometers (about 5,200 miles) of railways and 7,155 kilometers of highways. One key element was completed last month when a 488-kilometer rail link was opened between Kashgar and Hotan, where 18 people were killed in mid-July when a crowd of Uighurs stormed a local police station.

To help fund the transformation, Beijing ordered several richer southern and eastern provinces and cities to invest in Xinjiang, and paired Kashgar with the southern megacity of Shenzhen, a former fishing village opposite Hong Kong that became China’s first SEZ in 1980.

One of the next big steps in China’s master plan is construction of a railway from Kashgar to Pakistan, which will eventually stretch to all the way to the Arabian Sea Port of Gwadar.

Construction could start next year, according to one senior local Communist Party official.

The aim is to create a new land route for China’s oil imports from the Middle East, and for exports of Chinese consumer goods to Central and South Asia.

But the plan also presents China with a dilemma given the strict checks most Uighurs have to undergo before getting a passport, some experts say.

Allowing Uighurs to move more freely over the border could facilitate access to extremist mosques, madressahs and training camps. Denying them a share in the border trade, however, will only fuel further resentment.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

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