Economic gateway

Uighur heartland transforming into an economic gateway.
Uighur heartland transforming into an economic gateway.PHOTO: REUTERS

Located in the west of China, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region borders eight countries including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

As its capital, Urumqi, was once a key town on the ancient Silk Road, it is not a surprise Xinjiang has been designated by Beijing as a "core" region and gateway into Central and West Asia, as part of the economic land belt comprising countries on the original Silk Road. This land belt is the first part of China's "One Belt, One Road" strategy launched in 2013. The second part is a maritime "road" through South-east Asia to the Middle East and Europe.

It is hoped that economic development through this will bring social peace to a poor region where there have been outbreaks of violence.

While it may be remote, the region is served by 18 airports and a 1,800km high-speed railway connecting Urumqi to Lanzhou in Gansu province.

 

Analysts such as economics professor Sun Hui of Xinjiang University said China's aim is to use Xinjiang as a springboard for its firms looking to "go out" into Central Asia and Europe.

Last year, bilateral trade in goods between Singapore and Xinjiang amounted to US$420,000 (S$587,000). To date, Singapore has 11 projects in Xinjiang.

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Economic gateway'. Print Edition | Subscribe