Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, May 28, 2003

China Issues White Paper on History and Development of Xinjiang

The Information Office of the State Council Monday issued a white paper on the history and development of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The 55-page white paper, which is titled History and Development of Xinjiang, consists of ten parts. It is the first white paper about Xinjiang issued by the Chinese government.


The Information Office of the State Council Monday issued a white paper on the history and development of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The white paper, the first about Xinjiang issued by the Chinese government, says the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, with concerted and pioneering efforts, have made historic achievements since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Xinjiang, situated in the border area of northwest China and the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent, occupies an area of 1.6649 million sq km, accounting for one sixth of Chinese territory. It has a land border of 5,600 km bounded by eight countries. It was an important section of the ancient Silk Road.

Statistics show that in the year 2000 Xinjiang had a population of 19.25 million, including 10.9696 million people of other ethnic groups than the Han, China's majority ethnic group. There are 47 ethnic groups in Xinjiang, one of China's five autonomous regions for ethnic minorities.

Since ancient times, Xinjiang has been inhabited by many ethnic groups, the white paper says. Many tribes and ethnic groups lived in Xinjiang in ancient history. By the end of the 19th century, Xinjiang had 13 ethnic groups, namely, Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongolian, Hui, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Tajik, Daur, Ozbek, Tatar and Russian. The Uygurs formed the majority, as they do today.

As the main passageway and hub for economic and cultural exchanges between the East and the West in ancient times, Xinjiang has always been a region where a number of religions exist side by side, the white paper says.

Before Islam was introduced into Xinjiang, there had already been believers in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism and Nestorianism. These religious faiths had spread to Xinjiang along the Silk Road and thrived together with the local primitive religions.

After the introduction of Islam, the coexistence of diverse religions continued to be the order of the day in Xinjiang, to be joined later by Protestantism and Catholicism.

Before the foreign religions were introduced into Xinjiang, the ancient residents there believed in native primitive religions and the Shamanism evolved the refrom.

The major religions in Xinjiang today are Islam, Buddhism (including Tibetan Buddhism), Protestantism, Catholicism and Taoism. Shamanism still has considerable influence among some ethnic groups.

On the administration of Xinjiang by the successive central governments, the white paper says, close ties between Xinjiang and the Central Plains have existed for a long time.

In 138 BC, the imperial court of the Han Dynasty sent Zhang Qian to the Western Regions as an envoy in an attempt to forge alliances which would stop raids by the Xiongnu on the dynasty's borders. In 121 BC, a Han army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Xiongnu troops stationed along the Gansu Corridor. After that, the Han Dynasty set up the four prefectures of Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquanand Dunhuang in the region. In 101 BC, the Western Han Dynasty stationed hundreds of garrison troops in Luntai and Quli, south of the Tianshan Mountains.

In 60 BC, the Western Regions Frontier Command was established, which indicated that the Western Han had begun to exercise state sovereignty over the Western Regions, and that Xinjiang had become a component part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation.

During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the central government strengthened its rule over Xinjiang. Internal strife in the Central Plains during the Five Dynasties period, and the Song, Liao and Jin dynasties distracted the attention of rulers of the Central Plains from the Western Regions, resulting in several local regimes existing side by side in the Western Regions.

The local governments of Gaochang, Karahan and Yutian exercised a great degree of autonomy, but they all maintained close ties with the ruling dynasties in the Central Plains.

The founder of the Yuan Dynasty, Genghis Khan, completed the political unification of the regions north and south of the Tianshan Mountains, according to the white paper.

In 1406, the Ming Dynasty set up a Hami Garrison Command, and appointed the heads of the leading families in Hami as officials to manage local military and administrative affairs, so as to keep the trade routes to the West open and bring the other areas of the Western Regions under its control.

In 1757, the Qing imperial court crushed the long-standing Junggar separatist regime in the Northwest. Two years later, it quelled a rebellion launched by the Islamic Aktaglik Sect leaders Burhanidin and Hojajahan, thus consolidating its military and administrative jurisdiction over all parts of the Western Regions.

Following the Opium War of 1840, Xinjiang was subject to aggression from Tsarist Russia and other powers. In 1884, the Qing government formally established a province in the Western Regions and renamed the area as Xinjiang (meaning "old territory returned to the motherland").

The establishment of Xinjiang as a province was a significant reform, on the part of the Qing government, of the administration of Xinjiang by the previous dynasties. From then on, the military and administrative center of Xinjiang was moved from Ili to Dihua (modern Urumqi). By 1909, the administrative organization in Xinjiang was exactly the same as in the inland areas.

In the year following the Revolution of 1911, insurrectionary revolutionaries in Xinjiang set up the New Ili Grand Military Government, marking the end of the political rule of the Qing Dynasty in the Ili region. After the Republic of China was founded, it constantly strengthened the defense of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang was peacefully liberated on September 25, 1949. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang greeted the founding of the People's Republic of China together with the rest of the Chinese people on October 1, 1949.

The white paper says that since the Han Dynasty established the Western Regions Frontier Command in Xinjiang in 60 BC, the Chinese central governments of all historical periods exercised military and administrative jurisdiction over Xinjiang. The jurisdiction ofthe central governments over the Xinjiang region was at times strong and at other times weak, depending on the stability of the period. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang actively safeguarded their relations with the central governments, thus making their own contributions to the formation and consolidation of the great family of the Chinese nation.

With regard to the "East Turkistan" issue, the white paper says, the term "Turkistan" appeared in Arabic geographical works in the Middle Ages. It meant "the region of the Turks" and referred to the areas north of the Sir River in Central Asia and the adjoining areas to the east of the river.

With the evolution of history, the modern ethnic groups in Central Asia were established one after another. By the 18th century, the geographical concept of "Turkistan" was already very vague, and almost nobody used it again in the historical records of the time.

In the early 19th century, with the growing colonial expansion of the imperialist powers into Central Asia, the geographical term"Turkistan" was revived. Some people in the West called the Hezhong area "West Turkistan" or "Russian Turkistan," and China's Xinjiang region "East Turkistan."

In the early 20th century and later, a small number of separatists and religious extremists in Xinjiang, influenced by the international trend of religious extremism and national chauvinism, politicized the unstandardized geographical term "East Turkistan," and fabricated an "ideological and theoretical system"on the so-called "independence of East Turkistan" on the basis of the allegation cooked up by the old colonialists.

From the early 20th century to the late 1940s, the "East Turkistan" forces created many disturbances with the connivance and support of hostile foreign forces.

Since the peaceful liberation of Xinjiang, the "East Turkistan" forces have never resigned themselves to their defeat. The tiny group of separatists who had fled abroad from Xinjiang collaborated with those at home, and looked for opportunities to carry out splittist and sabotage activities with the support of international anti-China forces.

Especially in the 1990s, influenced by religious extremism, separatism and international terrorism, part of the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China turned to splittist and sabotage activities with terrorist violence as their chief means.

After the September 11 Incident, the voices calling for an international anti-terrorist struggle and cooperation have become louder and louder. In order to get out of their predicament, the "East Turkistan" forces once again have raised the banner of "human rights," "freedom of religion" and "interests of ethnic minorities" to escape blows dealt by the international struggle against terrorism.

The white paper says before the founding of the People's Republic of China, the economy of Xinjiang was a natural economy, with farming and livestock breeding as the mainstay. Famines were frequent in some areas, and the people were impoverished. In the past half century after peaceful liberation in 1949, Xinjiang's economy and social undertakings have advanced by leaps and bounds.

The GDP of Xinjiang was 148.548 billion yuan in 2001. Taking price rises into account, this was 42.9 times that of 1952, and an annual growth rate of 8.0 percent. The per-capita GDP rose from 166 yuan in 1952 to 7,913 yuan in 2001.

There was almost no modern transport prior to the founding of New China. In the more than 50 years, Xinjiang has witnessed a drastic change in the communications and transport industry.

By 2001, the region's operating railway lines totaled 3,010.4 km and highways had been extended to 80,900 km. The highway running through the Taklimakan Desert is a long-distance graded highway, the first one in the world built on shifting sands.

There are also 92 air lines radiating from the regional capital Urumqi to 65 cities in other parts of the country and abroad and to 12 prefectures and cities within the autonomous region. The total length of the air routes is 161,800 km.

According to the white paper, Xinjiang has built a number of digital microwave trunk circuits and optical cable trunk lines. A DDD telephone network now links all the cities and counties in Xinjiang with the rest of China. The local data communications network and multi-media communications network have developed rapidly, and a mobile phone network is now in place to cover the whole region.

By 2001, Xinjiang had trade relations with 119 countries and regions. Nearly 1,000 commodity items in 22 categories were on the export list. Among them, 10 export commodities earned more than 10million US dollars each. The total value of Xinjiang's exports and imports amounted to 1.77 billion US dollars in that year.

As one of the important autonomous regions (provinces) carryingout the government strategy of opening China's border areas to the outside world, Xinjiang has gradually formed an omnidirectional, multi-level and wide-range opening pattern by expanding the links with foreign countries and China's various provinces along the borders, the Eurasian continental bridge, and trunk communication lines to become China's frontline in opening to the West.

All social undertakings in Xinjiang have undergone historic changes since the founding of New China, says the white paper.

Compared with that of 1949, the number of primary schools in 2001 in the region increased from 1,335 to 6,221, middle schools from 9 to 1,929 and regular institutions of higher learning from 1to 21. The ratio of the educated population of the region has grown remarkably, and the proportion of illiteracy among the young and middle-aged has dropped to less than 2 percent.

Over the past five decades or more, Xinjiang has achieved 7,102significant scientific and technological findings, of which 201 have won national awards. The technical popularization of Xinjiang's merino sheep has attained the advanced level in China, while the region's technology of desert highway construction is in the forefront of the world.

Before the founding of New China, there was not a single professional theatrical troupe, artistic research organization or art school in Xinjiang, according to the white paper.

By 2001, there were altogether 89 theatrical troupes, 107 art research and creation units and an abundance of art schools. A number of literary and artistic works with strong ethnic characteristics have been well received nationwide and even abroad.

All the 85 counties (cities) of the region have hospitals, sanitation and anti-epidemic stations, and health centers for women and children. Each township has a hospital, and each village a clinic. Many difficult and complicated illnesses can be treated within the region. Endemic and contagious diseases that afflicted people of all ethnic groups in the past have been basically wiped out.

As the economy and various social undertakings improve, the living standard of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang is improving year by year.

In 2001, the average net income per capita in the rural areas of Xinjiang was 1,710.44 yuan, which was more than what was needed for food and clothing. The average annual salary of an urban employee was 10,278 yuan. Urban residents, as a whole, led comfortable lives.

Life expectancy in Xinjiang has been extended to 71.12 years. The demography of Xinjiang shows the features of low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate. Xinjiang was cited as one of the four longevity areas in the world by the International Society of Natural Medication in 1985.

Xinjiang, as one of the areas practicing regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in China, has fully implemented the ethnic and religious policies laid down by the central government, safeguarded the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups, and formed, developed and consolidated a new type of relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among ethnic groups, the white paper says.

Ethnic minorities' right to autonomy is protected by laws and regulations. Chief leaders of ethnic autonomous areas are citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned.

Today, there are as many as 348,000 ethnic-minority cadres, accounting for 51.8 percent of the total number of cadres in the autonomous region. Meanwhile, the number of women ethnic-minority cadres has exceeded 46 percent of the total number of women cadres in the whole region.

The proportions of the ethnic-minority deputies to people's congresses at all levels are all approximately four percentage points higher than the proportions of the ethnic-minority populations in the total populations of the relevant areas in Xinjiang in the corresponding periods. The proportions of ethnic-minority deputies in the total number of Xinjiang's deputies to the National People's Congress of all previous terms have all exceeded 63 percent -- all higher than the proportions of such ethnic populations in the region's total population in the corresponding periods.

Ethnic minorities' freedom and right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages are fully respected and protected.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, to change the extremely backward situation in education among the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, a whole array of measures have been adopted, the white paper says.

Focus and priority of arrangement and support have been given to the education of ethnic minorities in terms of development program, fund input, and teacher training.

Today, a total of 5,882 primary and middle schools serve ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, accounting for 69 percent of the total number of primary and middle schools in the region. By the end of 2001, the enrollment rate of school-age children had reached 97.41percent for primary schools and 82.02 percent for junior middle schools.

The implementation of a more liberal childbirth policy for ethnic minorities than for the Han people has promoted the growth of the population of ethnic minorities.

In 2001, the natural population growth of ethnic minorities was13.04 per thousand, whereas that of the Han was 8.25 per thousand. The first national census conducted in 1953 showed that the combined population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was 4.54 million, while the figure had risen to 10.9696 million according to the fifth national census in 2002.

The right to freedom of religious belief for various ethnic groups is fully respected, and all normal religious activities areprotected by law.

Now, there are more than 24,000 venues for religious activities in Xinjiang, of which 23,753 are Islamic mosques. There are 26,800clerical persons, of whom 26,500 are of the Islamic faith. Every year, the government allocates specialized funds for the maintenance and repair of major mosques, monasteries and churches.

The white paper says religious personages in Xinjiang enjoy full rights to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs.

Currently, more than 1,800 religious personages in Xinjiang have been elected to posts in people's congresses and committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at all levels, participating in deliberation and administration of state affairs on behalf of religious believers, and in exercising supervision over the government in respect to the implementation of the policy of freedom of religious belief.

Since 1982, a total of 88 religious organizations have been reinstated or established in the autonomous region. All religious bodies independently carry out religious activities within the scope prescribed by law.

In order to ensure the normal operation of religious activities,Xinjiang has established an Islamic college specializing in training senior clergymen.

To protect normal religious activities, the regional government has formulated and promulgated the "Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Religious Activity Venues in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" and other regulations in accordance with the Constitution and other laws.

According to the white paper, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) was established in 1954 against a special historical background.

Assuming the duties of cultivating and guarding the frontier areas entrusted to it by the state, the XPCC is a special social organization, which handles its own administrative and judicial affairs within the reclamation areas under its administration, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state and the autonomous region and with economic planning directly supervised by the state.

It is subordinated to the dual leadership of the central government and the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

China has a centuries-old tradition of developing and protecting its border areas by stationing troops to cultivate and guard the frontier areas, the white paper says.

The beginning of this practice by the central authorities on a massive scale in Xinjiang can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty. The decision of the central government of the People's Republic of China in 1954 to establish the XPCC represented a continuation and development of this historical experience in the new historical conditions.

As an important force for stability in Xinjiang and for consolidating frontier defense, the XPCC played an irreplaceable special role in the past five decades in smashing and resisting internal and external separatists' attempts at sabotage and infiltration, and in maintaining the stability and safety of the borders of the motherland.

The white paper says it is a basic state policy of the Chinese government to help ethnic minorities-inhabited border areas with their political, economic and cultural development, and to lead all the ethnic groups of the country onto the road to common prosperity.

From 1950 to 2001, with energetic state support, investment in fixed assets in Xinjiang added up to 501.515 billion yuan, with 266.223 billion yuan of it from the central government.

Preliminary statistics show that from 1955 till 2000, the financial subsidies Xinjiang received from the central government totaled 87.741 billion yuan. The regular financial subsidies Xinjiang receives from the central government increased from 5.907billion yuan in 1996 to 18.382 billion yuan in 2001.

The central government has also increased its fund input and support of other forms through all kinds of special financial transfer payment as well as financial transfer payment under the preferential policy for ethnic minorities. The central government also supports Xinjiang in actively using loans from international financial organizations and foreign governments.

Xinjiang is rich in petroleum and natural gas resources. To promote Xinjiang's economic development, the central government has adhered to the policy of large-scale prospecting for, exploitation of and investment in petroleum and natural gas resources in Xinjiang, so as to bring benefits to people of all ethnic groups there.

To realize the strategic plan of building Xinjiang into China's largest petrochemical industry base, the central government had increased investment in prospecting for and exploiting petroleum and natural gas in Xinjiang year by year, despite the dropping domestic and international prices of petroleum and natural gas, and the high cost of prospecting and exploitation.

An investment to the tune of well over 120 billion yuan is planned for the project of "transporting western natural gas eastward," which, with Xinjiang as the main source, is already well on the way.

The rapid development of the petroleum, natural gas and petrochemical industry has met the demand of Xinjiang's economic development for energy and petrochemicals. It has also given strong impetus to the development of the machine-building, transportation, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals industries, agriculture, and produced a great impact on the formation and improvement of Xinjiang's regional economic structure.

As a result, there has been a great increase in the numbers of people employed.

Since the founding of New China, and especially since the reform and opening-up started some 20 years ago, the central government has drawn up economic development and other policies tilted in favor of Xinjiang, while transferring and training outstanding professional and technical personnel from inland regions to work in Xinjiang, the white paper said.

Xinjiang also receives strong support from other provinces, autonomous regions and centrally administered municipalities around China.

For more than 20 years, economic and technological cooperation and exchanges, and the interflow of highly qualified personnel between Xinjiang and other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have kept expanding. A new market-oriented pattern of aiding Xinjiang's economic and social development has shaped up.

With leadership and support of the central government, Xinjiang has made historic and outstanding achievements in its economic and social development.

However, as Xinjiang is located in China's northwest border, with rough natural conditions and a weak economic foundation, it is still faced with many difficulties in developing its public undertakings, such as education, culture and medical care and health. There is still the onerous task of raising the living standard of the people of all ethnic groups.

It is the common wish of the people of all the ethnic groups in Xinjiang, as well as the strategic plan of the central government, to speed up Xinjiang's development.

China's strategy to develop the vast western part of the country provides a rare historical opportunity for Xinjiang's development. The autonomous region has drawn up its 10th Five-Year Plan and a development plan for the period up to 2010, in accordance with the state's general plan on implementing this strategy.

The white paper says with the support of the central government and the rest of the country, the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, through arduous efforts, will build their autonomous region into an even more beautiful and prosperous place.

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Full Text of White Paper on History and Development of Xinjiang


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