border review | 29 July 2011

Development plans for Xinjiang

The Economist on development plans in Xinjiang:

In Kashgar they speak of the city’s “leapfrog development”. Their model is Shenzhen, the grandfather of Chinese boom towns, on the border with Hong Kong. Kashgar, they say, is to become a trading hub and manufacturing centre that will tap markets in South and Central Asia and even Europe with a web of new roads and railways. Its new “special economic zone” (a concept pioneered by Shenzhen) will produce everything from petrochemicals and cars to halal food, they say. “In the east is Shenzhen, in the west is Kashgar,” is the new official slogan. […]

Xinjiang Economic Daily, closely controlled by the government, reports that Kashgar’s new zone could create as many as 600,000 jobs, a staggering figure given that only 460,000 people live in the city’s core urban area. The government speaks of training thousands of Uighur peasants to help them transfer to factory work.

However, there are those who doubt that Uyghur peasants will be good factory workers:

Tang Lijiu of Urumqi’s East-West Economic Research Institute says that creating the right kind of jobs for Uighurs is the key. “Because of their lifestyle, asking them to go into big industrial production, onto the production line: they’re probably not suited to that,” says Mr Tang, who is Han Chinese. Better, he suggests, to develop something like, well, basketball. That, Mr Tang says, might work in the same way that America’s National Basketball Association creates “more job opportunities for blacks”.