China Builds New Silk Roads to Revive Fortunes of Xinjiang
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For more than a thousand years, camel cavarans carrying silk, jade and porcelain from inland Chinese towns lined the vast deserts in China's far-flung western region.
Chinese, Central Asian traders who crossed the daunting mountain range with loads of saffron and rugs converged at Kashgar, an oasis town east of the Taklamakan Desert and a trading hub along the ancient Silk Road that connected China to Europe.
The route, however, faded into history with the rise of maritime trade in the 15th Century. Since then, Kashgar, along with many Silk Road stops in what is now the ethnic Uygur-populated Xinjiang region, has been left in the dust as the economy elsewhere in China took off.
But the authorities hope that is about to change.
With China's central government planning to ramp up growth in Xinjiang, Kashgar has a good chance of catching up, officials and analysts said.
Authorities aim to restore southwest Xinjiang, near the borders of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, where Kashgar is located, as a transport and trading hub.
"The prosperity of the Silk Road trade will be gradually restored," said Wang Ning, an economist with the Academy of Social Sciences in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "For a long time, inadequate infrastructure and transportation hindered the region's development."