Right at the edges of China’s jagged borders sits Kashgar, once a strategically located crossroads between the east and the west, it’s now set to return to its former glory. It appears that Chinese officials have spotted Kashgar as a new economic hub, opening up trade between the east and west, which makes Shenzhen look very 2006.
Literally setting up camp in the desert lands, developers from the east coast of China have bought land in hopes of constructing successful factories for the rising economic tide of the future.
“The plan is that by 2020 we should close the gap between east and west and allow the west to share in the prosperity of the east,” said Wang, who is based in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.
After the nonchalant bulldozing of Kashgar’s old city last year, Kashgar’s residents have reason to be cautious as these new proposals roll in, fearing the loss of their culture in the hands of greedy businessmen.
Until a decade ago, 90% of Kashgar’s 355,000 permanent residents were Uighurs, a Turkic people whose language, appearance and Islamic faith more closely link them to Central Asia than to Beijing. New census data won’t be available until next year, but activists suspect that the Uighur population has dropped to 70% with the migration of of about 150,000 Han Chinese to Kashgar.
Unfortunately Kashgar is no Shenzhen, with its harsh, winding roads the route to this chosen gateway to the west is a difficult one. Kashgar is also not the safest place considering its recent history of a terrorist attack that injured 16 policemen in 2008 and the blatant absence of human rights when dealing with Japanese reporters soon after. It’s going to take more than a handful of instant noodle factories to turn Kashgar into a sustainable trading port, especially one resistant to change.