Xinjiang: The Call of the West Urumqi Turpan Kashgar
The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, also called Xin for short, is located in northwestern China. Largest in area in all the province-level administrative regions of China, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region covers an area of 1.66 million sq.km, one sixth of Chinese territory. Situated in the hinterland of Eurasian continent, Xinjiang of China borders eight countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghiziastan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, India and Afghanistan. The geographic position of Xinjiang makes it very important in strategy. In history, Xinjiang served as the key controlling section of the well-known Silk Road, while now it is an unavoidable part of the railway leading to the second Eurasia Continental Bridge.
Xinjiang, called Western Region in ancient times, has been an inalienable part of China from ancient times. In 60 B.C., Xinjiang officially became a part of China’s territory for that year central government of the Western Han Dynasty founded the West Region Frontier Command here. In 1884, the government of the Qing Dynasty established Xinjiang Province. In 1949, Xinjiang was liberated through peaceful means. October 1, 1955 saw the establishment of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Presently, there are 14 prefectures (including prefectures, autonomous prefectures and prefecture-level cities) and 88 counties (including cities and cities at county level) under the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, including 33 counties (county-level cities) in border areas. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) is an important component part of Xinjiang and has 174 regimental agricultural and stockbreeding farms under it. By the end of 2004, the population of Xinjiang had reached 19.6311 million
Characteristics of landform of Xinjiang are described as mountains and basins alternating with each other and basins caught in mountains’ embrace. Local people simply describe this characteristic as "three mountains with a basin between each two"In the north lies Altai Mountains, in the south is Kunlun Mountains, while Tianshan Mountains lay along the middle dividing Xinjiang into two parts: in the southern part stretches Tarim Basin and in the northern part Jungar Basin. By custom, the part south of Tianshan Mountains is called South Xinjiang, the part north of Tianshan Mountains called North Xinjiang. Tarim Basin, the largest of its kind in China, lies between Tianshan Mountains and Kunlun Mountains. In the center part of Tarim Basin stretches Taklimakan Desert, the largest mobile desert in China and the second largest in the world. 2100-km-long Tarim River is the longest continental river in China. In the east of Xinjiang is Turpan Basin where the lowest point is –154m high, being the lowest part of China in height above sea level. In climate, Xinjiang is under the control of a typical extratropical belt continental climate. According to statistics conducted at the end of 2001, the annual precipitation amount of Xinjiang only stands at around 100 mm. In mountains of Xinjiang, there are many rivers resulting from snow broth on mountains. Oases lie on the edges of basins and in river valleys. With oasis taking up 5% its total area, the eco-system of Xinjiang is characteristic of oasis eco-system.
Xinjiang boasts unique resources of water, soil, light and heat. With advantages such as long sunshine time, high cumulative temperature, big day-night temperature difference and long frost-free period, Xinjiang is only second to Tibet in solar total radiation which is favorable to the growth of crops. According to statistics conducted at the end of 2004, there is 60.38 million mu of cultivated land in Xinjiang, 3.12 mu per capita, 2.1 times the figure of the country. As one of the five major pastoral areas of China, Xinjiang has many fine grasslands around its three mountains and two basins that make Xinjiang rank only after Inner Mongol Autonomous Region in area of natural grassland, being second in China. With annual total surface runoff of 88.2 billion cubic meter, Xinjiang ranks the 12th in China, and its per capita volume of surface water is 2.25 times the average of the country. There is 25.1 billion cubic meter of exploitable underground water in Xinjiang, and the glacier reserve accounts for 50% of the total of China. But some localities suffer the shortage of water resources which in turn hinders further development of local economies due to reasons that Xinjiang is situated in the hinterland of Eurasian Continent and with dry climate, and water resources here suffer change of seasons and are distributed imbalanced in terms of season and location, and the evaporation discharge here is very big.
With complete kinds and considerable reserve volumes, mineral resources of Xinjiang enjoy bright prospect for exploitation. So far, 138 kinds of mineral resources have been found, of which 9 kinds of mineral resources rank first in China in reserve, and 32 the first in northwest China. In addition, Xinjiang is abundant in deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, chromium, copper, nickel, rare metal, salts and nonmetals for building. The oil deposit of Xinjiang reached 20.86 billion tons, 30% of land oil deposit of China. Its deposit of natural gas is 10.3 trillion cubic meter, 34% the total in land of China. With great potential for exploitation, oil and gas of Xinjiang enjoy a bright future for exploitation. The predicted reserve of coal in Xinjiang is 2.19 trillion tons, accounting for 40% the total of the country. Also, Xinjiang is rich in the kinds of gold, gem and jade which are well-known at all times and all over the world.
Xinjiang is abundant and unique in its tourist resources. Xinjiang boasts at least 56 of the 68 kinds of tourist resources in China listed in China National Norms for General Survey on Tourist Resources, ranking first in China. Further, landscapes here are both unique and beautiful. If you go there, you will be attracted by wild landscapes and particular combination of natural sights. Here, you can see snow-capped mountains stand in very hot land, and deserts neighbor on oases. Some famous scenic spots maybe have already been known to you, such as Tianch Lake, Kanas Lake, Bosten Lake and Bayanbulak Grassland. Xinjiang is also rich in cultural tourist resources. The world famous ancient Silk Road had three trunk lines across Xinjiang totaling over 5000km. Along the three trunk lines of Silk Road there are hundreds of cultural sights such as ancient cities, ancient tombs, thousand-Buddha caves and ruins of ancient garrison troops-cultivated land. Of them, well known both at home and abroad are Jiaohe Ancient City, Gaochang Ancient City, Loulan Ancient City, Kizil Thousand-Buddha Grotto and Apak Hoja Tomb (commonly known as Xiangfei Tomb). Xinjiang is a multi-ethnic region where cultures, art and custom of various ethnic groups constitute cultural sights with rich ethnic features that are popular with tourists from both home and abroad.
Biotic resources in Xinjiang are in a great number and with unique and diverse breeds, and have a great potential for development. There are over 4000 breeds of wild animals and plants in Xinjiang. The number of breeds of local crop and introduced crop reached over 10,000, among which many breeds are fine in quality. Breeds of Xinjiang local livestock and fowls possess such fine properties as strong adaptability, anti-disease and being adaptable to coarse fodder. In addition, Xinjiang is the original and secondary birthplace for many kinds of fruit trees, where it is rich in fruit tree resources and there are about 300 fine breeds of fruit trees. Medicine plants are widely distributed here, such as Chinese ephedra, kendyr, liquorice and snow lotus, all of which are fine and unique in quality and property.
After the founding of People’s Republic of China, especially since the policy of reform and opening up was adopted, great achievements have been made in economic and social development of Xinjiang. Overall strength of national economy increased sharply. A national economic system was established with agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading sector. And a regional economic pattern was shaped by and large with the economic belt along northern side of Tianshan Mountains as the reliance, with trunk lines of railway and highway as framework of transport and with regional economic center cities as the impetus provider to bring along regional economic development. In 2002, the GDP of the entire region reached 159.828 billion RMB, up 8.1% over the previous year, the same growth rate as the previous year. The added value of the primary industry was 30.5 billion yuan, increased by 5.0%; the added value of the secondary industry reached 67.210 billion yuan, increased by 8.4% (of which, added value of industry is 47.3 billion yuan, increased by 8.6%; added value of building industry is 19.91 billion yuan, increased by 7.9%), the added value of the tertiary industry hit 62.118 billion yuan, increased by 9.6%. The amounts of added value of the primary, secondary and tertiary industry account for 19.1%, 42.0% and 38.9% of the GDP respectively. The percentage of the primary industry added value in GDP decreased by 0.3 percentage point, that of the secondary industry by 0.4 percentage point, and that of the tertiary industry increased by 0.7 percentage point. The per capita GDP reached 8,365 yuan, increased by 6.2%.
In 2002 the gross output value of farming, forestry, animal husbandry, side-line production and fishery hit 52.5 billion yuan, increased by 5.2% over the previous year. Of the output value, the output value of farming sector reached 36.3 billion yuan, up 3.9%; the output value of animal husbandry 14.8 billion yuan, increased by 8.9%; the output value of forestry 1.1 billion yuan, up 11.5%; the output value of fishery 300 million yuan, increased by 2.1%. Efforts have been intensified to optimize the mix of farming sector. High-quality and high-yield industries and industries with local characteristics are developing rapidly, the planted area for grain, vegetable, melons and fruits, and other crops with local characteristics increased, the planted area for cotton was reduced. In 2002, the planted area for grain was 1.494 million hectares, increased by 7.1%; the planted area for cotton was 944,000 hectares, decreased by 16.4%; the planted area for oil-bearing crops was 215,100 hectares, decreased by 1.1%; 87600 hectares of beet was planted, increased by 2.5%; 150000 hectares of vegetables was grown, increased by 19.1%. In 2002, the yield of grain hit 8.71 million tons, up 9.4%; that of cotton reached 1.50 million tons, decreased by 4.5%; the yield of oil crops was 430,000 tons, increased by 0.8%; the output of beet maintained the same volume as that of the previous year, 4.55 million tons; 5.63 million tons of vegetables was produced, up 15.6%; the yield of melons reached 2.35 million tons, increased by 50.4%; 1.97 million tons of fruits was produced, up 27.7%.
The industrial added value of the entire region reached 47.3 billion yuan, increased by 8.6% over the previous year. The added value of light industry was 7.9 billion yuan, up 12.5%; that of heavy industry hit 39.4 billion yuan, increased by 7.8%.
In 2002, the output of yarn reached 317,000 tons, increased by 4.7%; 524,000 tons of sugar was produced, up 24.8%; 380,000 tons of canned food, increased by 82.7%; 300,000 tons of drinks, up 1.4%; 2.21 million wood furnishings, an increase of 15.7%; 29.10 million tons of raw coal, increased by 3.2%; 20.36 million tons crude oil, up 4.6%; 10.50 million tons of crude oil was processed, increased by 3.5%; 21 billion KWH of electricity, an increase of 6.3%; 1.754 million tons of steel, increased by 33.1%; 1.52 million tons of product steel, up 13.1%; 10.30 million tons of cement, increased by 5.0%; 157,000 tons of ethene, decreased by 7.4%; 760,000 tons of chemical fertilizer, an increase of 4.3%; 11.79 million kva of transformer, increased by 16.9%.
In 2001, 2.36 billion yuan of goods were exported, an increase of 28.8% over the previous year. The sale rate of industrial products reached 99.4%, increased by 0.9 percentage point. The sale rate of light industrial products hit 97.4%, up 3.2 percentage point; that of heavy industry products was 99.9%, increased by 0.4 percentage point.
In 2002, economic benefit composite index of industrial enterprises above government-required scale stood at 136.5%, decreased by 6.8 percentage point over that of the previous year. The contribution rate of total assets decreased by 1.3 percentage point, the value-maintained and value-added rate of assets increased by 2.9 percentage point, asset-liability ratio decreased by 3.5 percentage point, current asset turnover ratio increased by 0.2 times, the rate of profit based on the cost of production and expenses decreased by 3.0 percentage point, all-personnel labor productivity increased by 6,142 yuan/person year, the loss rate of enterprises stood at 41.6%, increased by 3.2 percentage point over the previous year.
Great progress was achieved in the development of infrastructure, and the environment for investment was improved significantly. Since 1978, accumulatively 487.975 billion yuan has been invested in the development of infrastructure. As a result, a great number of key infrastructure projects were completed, such as Tarim Agriculture Irrigation and Environment Protection Project, Uruwat Water Pivotal Project, Stage One Project for Development of Ertix River, South Xinjiang Railway Project and its Western Extension Project, North Xinjiang Railway, Alternate Line of Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway, Desert Highway, the Turpan-Urumqi-Dahuangshan Highway, the Urumqi-Kuytun Highway and Optical Cable across Xinjiang. By the end of 2002, the length of railroad lines in service stood at 3010 km, the same as that of the previous year; the road lines opened to traffic reached 59,200 km, increased by 2.6%; the length of civil air lines hit 172,000 km, up 6.3%. In 2002, the freight mileage of all kinds of traffic means in the entire region 75.999 billion tons.km, increased by 6.4%. Of which, 42.53 billion ton km was completed by the railway sector, up 6.6%; 29.797 billion ton km was completed by highway sector, increased by 8.0%; 82 million ton km was completed by civil aviation sector, increased by 30.2%; and 3.95 billion ton km was completed by pipeline sector, increased by 5.6%.In 2002, the passenger miles reached 33.076 person km, up 6.8%, of which 10.6 billion person km was accomplished by railway, increased by 1.8%, 18.560 billion person km was accomplished by road, up 9.0%, while the civil aviation sector achieved 3.916 billion person km, increased by 10.9%.
In 2002, the total volume of postal and telecommunication service reached 9.453 billion yuan, increased by 49.0% over the previous year. The volume of telecommunication business hit 8.790 billion yuan, up 53.7%; the volume of postal service stood at 663 million yuan, increased by 6.4%. By the end of 2002, the penetration rate of fixed telephone had reached 33.8%, while that of mobile phone had reached 15.8%, the number of Internet users stood at 448,000.
In 2002, 9.6794 million domestic came here, increased by 13.3%; and the income from these people reached 8.395 billion yuan, up 16.9%. In that year, Xinjiang hosted 275,400 international tourists, an increase of 0.9%, including 41,600 tourists from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, decreased by 23.5%; and the income form international tourism service was 99.42 million USD, increased by 0.9%.
With the economic development, social undertakings of Xinjiang progressed in a compressive way, such as science and technology, education, culture, public health, sports, television and broadcast service, and people’s living standards keep increasing. The scientific and technologic strength has been progressing. By the end of 2002, there had been 387,700 various kinds of professional technical personnel working in Xinjiang, an increase of 0.7% over the previous year. 207 major scientific and technological achievements had been registered, including 9 ones in the field of basic theory, 193 ones of application technology and 5 ones of soft sciences. In 2002 alone, 1239 patents were handled, and the number of authorized patent was 627. In that year, 1350 technology contracts were evaluated, increased by 2.8%, and the business volume reached 1.007 billion yuan, an increase of 22.2%. The educational undertaking is progressing steadily. In 2002, there were 24 common higher institutions of learning in which 132,300 students were studying, up 22.4%. Great progress was achieved in ethnic minority education. The enrolment of ethnic students in different kinds of schools in the entire region accounted for 46.0% the total of the entire region. The cultural undertaking is booming. Radio broadcast service covered 91.6% of the population, and television service covered 91.7% of the population. Public medical conditions were improved greatly; three-level (county, town and village) health care and prevention network was further consolidated. By the end of 2002, there had been 8,627 medical institutions in the entire region, including 1,440 hospitals or health centers, 182 centers for preventing and controlling diseases, 82 mother and child health care institutions. In the entire region, there are 66,800 patient beds, of which 65,000 are in hospitals or health centers. 91,900 medical technical personnel are working in Xinjiang. There are 810 town health centers in which 9,728 doctors or health workers are working.
As a treasure land under development in the west of the motherland, Xinjiang enjoys a bright prospect for development. In the new century, with the implementation of the strategy of west development, the development of Xinjiang is surely to be accelerated greatly to narrow the gap between Xinjiang and inland provinces and regions and accomplish the common prosperity and common progress of all ethnic groups. In recent years, the Central Party Committee and Central Government have given more support to Xinjiang in investment and policy. A number of major projects such as Comprehensive Development of Tarim River Vally and West-East Gas Transmission will effectively promote industrial upgrading of Xinjiang, bring along rapid growth of investment and give great impetus to economic and social development of Xinjiang.
The next 5—10 year is a new development stage for us, in this period we shall effectively carry out the Strategy of West Development, build the well-off society in an overall way, and speed up the socialist modernization drive. To do this, we must size opportunity, deepen reforms and open our gate wider to the outside world to continually advance overall economic strength and increase people’s living standards. For the first three years, we plan to make our GDP grow 8% annually, and the growth rate for GDP in the rest seven years will be increased to over 10%. By 2010, the GDP in 2000 will have been doubled, the general public will have lived a better life, and the socialist market system will have become perfect. To attain this goal, we shall keep on implementing the market-oriented Strategy of competitive edge resources development, the Strategy of developing Xinjiang through science, technology and education, and the Strategy of sustainable development. Also, we shall work to boost domestic demand, strengthen the development of infrastructure facility and make efforts to foster new economic growth point. With richening people and making Xinjiang economically strong as our objective, we shall effectively push forward the shift in economic system and economic growth pattern, and enhance economic growth quality and efficiency; with reform and opening up to the outside as the impetus, we shall make pillar industries strong and develop economies with local characteristics by vigorously adjusting and optimizing industrial structure and strengthening agriculture as the foundation of the economy. In addition, we shall determine priority and give support to the strong and promote the balanced development of regional economies, make more efforts to protect eco-environment so as to achieve the sustainable development of population, resources, environment and society. We must strengthen the development of advanced socialist culture and ideology, increase the quality of the people and promote social progress in a comprehensive way.
When to go
Xinjiang has a desert climate with a low annual rainfall of only 150 millimeters (6 inches). Winters are very cold and summers extremely hot. The best time to visit this province is in the autumn, when the days are long, the sky is clear and temperatures more bearable than in the heat of the summer. Another excellent reason to visit at that time is the abundance of delicious melons and other fruits and vegetables which are then available.
Xinjiang has a long history. The area was called Xiyu in ancient China which means "West Region". It was plundered by the Huns before the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). During the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), Xinjiang was treated as an integral part of the nation's territory. Since then, Xinjiang was governed by all successive dynasties.
What to see
Superlatives are often used when describing Xinjiang: It is the most arid province; also contains the hottest and the coldest places; the longest inland river, the Tarim; the lowest marsh, the Aydingkol Lake (Moonlight Lake) in the Turpan Basin; the largest inland lake and the largest desert. In Xinjiang tourists can visit the world-famous Yardang Spectacle in Korla, stone forests, enjoy the mystery of the desert with its spectacular sand mountains. The ancient Silk Road brought Xinjiang a mix of eastern and western cultures which left behind stunning relics. Today, those ancient cities, caves, temples and tombs attract countless tourists from home and abroad.
While you are visiting Xinjiang, it is important to be aware of the time zone being used. Although officially run on Beijing time, Xinjiang people also use there own system. If Beijing time is used it means that the sun doesn't raise until 9am and it is still light at midnight in the summer months. When making travel arrangements, be sure which time zone or system is being used or you could get caught out.