Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

A unique Neighbor of Afghanistan: China’s Xinjiang

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A unique Neighbor of  Afghanistan: China’s Xinjiang

Last month, 20 Afghan agricultural officials finished their two month session of agricultural training program held in Xinjiang, China. Excitement and indulgence can still be felt from their talks with Chinese diplomats in Kabul. They were deeply impressed by the wonderfully arranged training courses, beautiful scenery and multiple culture of Xinjiang as well as warm hospitality of Chinese people, asking to convey their heartfelt gratitude to the hosts. Some said they would like to travel back to Xinjiang together with their family if there is a chance in the future. Yes, Afghan friends are warmly welcome to Xinjiang by which China borders with Afghanistan. The 93 kilometers of border makes China and Afghanistan neighbored to each other.

Xinjiang, situated in the northwest of the country, is China's largest province, which covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometers. It used to be the passage between Europe and Asia for land transportation and cultural exchanges. The famous Silk Road went through there.

Today, the population in Xinjiang has reached 22 million and there are 55 ethnic groups living there. Among them, the largest group is Uyghur, which accounts for 45.7% of the total. Han is the second largest group, and there are also Kazak, Hui, Kirgiz, Mongolian, Tajik, Manchu, Uzbek, Russian and Tatar ethnic groups.

The policy of ethnic regional autonomy is implemented in Xinjiang. The Xinjiang Autonomous Region was established in 1955, and all the ethnic groups, with the Uyghur as the main group, are managing their internal affairs in the region. The Uyghurs account for 66% of all the delegates of the region's people's congresses, which are the top legislature bodies. The posts of the top executive and judicial officials are both taken by the citizens of the ethnic minority groups. It not only effectively guarantees the rights of the people in the region, but also enables more and more talents of the ethnic minority groups to go into politics

For thousands of years, the people of different ethnic groups in Xinjiang have lived in harmony, helped each other and showed their talents. For example, Uyghurs and Huis are good at running business and catering, Hans specialize in planting vegetables, and Kazaks are competent in herding horses and sheep. The different living styles and the same aim of becoming well-off make them cooperate with each other and develop together. In the past 30 years, the per capita net income of the farmers in Xinjiang has grown by 28 folds and the per capita disposable income of the residents in towns has risen by 35 folds. The people's living standard is improving steadily.

In Xinjiang, the different ethnic groups live in peace while the different religions coexist in harmony and develop together. There are 24, 000 mosques and millions of Muslim believers. You can feel the deep Islamic culture in the streets. Apart from that, there are also a large number of Buddhist temples and Cathedrals, as well as monks and priests coming to worship. In such an environment, sometimes you could be confused about whether you are in the East or the West.

Xinjiang is abundant in resources and has very beautiful landscape. The people are hospitable and good at singing and dancing. Local special products, such as Tianshan Snow Lotus, Yili horses, Manaizi grapes and Hami sweet melons, are famous both in China and abroad. The tourists were deeply impressed by the unique yellow sand oasis, the sheep herd under the blue sky, the affectionate folk songs and the passionate dances. Last year, there were over 25 million domestic and foreign tourists visiting Xinjiang, The people from Xinjiang also work and live in other places of China to pursue better life. You are able to find Xinjiang restaurants and taste the unique lamb kebab in many places, whether in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Harbin.

Like other provinces in China, Xinjiang also encounters plenty of problems and challenges in the process of its development, such as unbalanced development, widening gap between the rich and the poor, increasing pressure on employment and environmental protection. As a western province, Xinjiang's development also lags behind the regions in the coastal areas of the east. To cope with it, China's central government has decided to expand the investment in the road, railway and other infrastructure in Xinjiang. In the next five years, the total investment will be over 2 trillion yuan (312 billion US dollars). At the same time, a lot of efforts will be made to improve people's living standard. We have every reason to believe that there is a promising future for Xinjiang.

I have also noticed that some western media quoted the attacks from some overseas "East Turkistan" organizations to the policy of China's central government, such as "plundering the resources in Xinjiang", "suppressing the human rights of the ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang", and their claims that "the contradictions between Uyghurs and Hans are intensifying", "Uyghurs in Xinjiang should break up with the other ethnic groups in China and Xinjiang should gain independence from China". In fact, these accusations and instigations have been used by some radical organizations to incite chaos in China. The "East Turkistan Islamic Movement", which was included by the United Nations in the terrorist groups' list, and some other organizations have masterminded a series of terror activities in China. There were over 200 such cases between 1990 and 2001. The "July 5 incident" in 2009 and the "Kashgar incident" of this year deprived many kind people in Xinjiang of their beloved ones forever. The terror acts are strongly condemned by all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and they do not allow their quiet and peaceful life to be destroyed.

Similar to Afghanistan, China as a country and Xinjiang as a region are both composed of multi-ethnic groups. Afghan people have a deeper understanding about the significance of ethnic solidarity to a country or a region. Uyghur is one of the 56 ethnic groups in the big family of the Chinese nation, and the prosperity, harmony and unification have always been China's national goal. The fate of all ethnic groups is closely linked with Chinese nation's prosperity. As China develops and makes progress, Xinjiang will definitely enjoy a more stable, harmonious and glorious future.

Both Xinjiang and Afghanistan, located in the heart of Eurasia continent, are at the stage of crucial development. The rapid growth and openness of Xinjiang offer good opportunities for neighboring countries including Afghanistan, while the reconstruction process of Afghanistan also needs active participation of the neighboring countries. Xinjiang, the unique neighbor of Afghanistan, could surely bridge peace, friendship and cooperation between China and Afghanistan.

Xu Feihong is the current Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan.

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