Aid from across China aims for sustainable improvements in Xinjiang

07:57, July 05, 2010      

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As in many parts of rural China, women in Shule County of remote Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region stay behind as their menfolk migrate to cities for low-paid laboring work.

Without proper education or training, ethnic Uygur girls who venture out of rural Xinjiang to larger cities outside the region often find themselves lost with few suitable, decent jobs.

But a range of new initiatives is aiming to provide more opportunities at home.

Nurbiya Tohu, 16, was among 1,800 who enrolled in vocational training classes to be launched in this month.

She chose a tailoring course from 20 subjects that include clothing design, catering, ethnic knitting, and rug weaving.

"After graduation, I want to open a tailor's store," says Nurbiya Tohu. "I want to be a good tailor, so I won't be a burden to the family."

She says the vocational school is good news for teenage girls like her who in the past could only learn by experience at small, private stores.

The training scheme, costing an estimated 30 million yuan, was co-financed by Shule's treasury and that of the eastern coastal city of Dongying, Shandong Province with the latter covering most of the expense.

In late March, China's central government mobilized a new round of support packages from 19 provincial or municipal governments across the country to help develop Xinjiang's economy.

As of the end of May, 71 assistance programs had been drawn up with a committed investment of 2.2 billion yuan, including 1.4 billion from outside Xinjiang.

Analysts say the new round of support focuses more on livelihood programs such as job training, medical care, and education that could make Xinjiang attractive to local talent and outside investors.

Previously, they said, assistance tended to flood the region with money and educated people, but contributed relatively little to the long-term sustainable development of the region.

To Shule, a state-listed impoverished county with a large population but little land, job creation is a paramount concern.

Chen Zepu, the county's Communist Party chief, says as long as one young member of a family gets a job and helps the household to earn about 10,000 yuan a year, it can be lifted out of poverty.

Official figures show more than 56,000 residents of rural Shule left to find work in 2008, earning 12.6 million yuan in total, of which about 2 million was sent home.

In the Dongying-funded vocational school, students study for free and get a monthly meal subsidy of 150 yuan, says Zhao Jianting, the county's education chief.

"To allow the young people to learn a life skill for free and subsequently get a job means quite a lot to maintaining stability," Zhao says.

Xinjiang, which has a large proportion of ethnic Uygurs in its population and lies at China's far west bordering Central Asian states, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, is the country's frontline against terrorism.

In the country's worst riot in decades, 197 people were killed while 1,700 were injured when violence broke out in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, on July 5, 2009.

Separatists and extremists abroad were blamed from inciting the violence, authorities said. But in the wake of the riot, the central government also ramped up development drives in this relatively poor region to clear away the seeds of violence and tension.

According to the plan, the central government aims to narrow the gap between Xinjiang and other inland regions as much as possible over 10 years and guarantee that Xinjiang fulfills the goal of achieving a "moderately prosperous society in all aspects" by 2020.

Last year, the per capita GDP (gross domestic product) of Xinjiang was 19,926 yuan, or 79 percent of the national average.

That means Xinjiang's annual growth over the next five years reaching 10.5 percent year-on-year.

In Shule, job creation programs are being supplemented by programs on infrastructure, agricultural machinery, building earthquake-resistant homes, and resettling slum residents.

Also, an elementary school, an elderly care home, and a public hospital funded by the government of south China's economic hub of Shenzhen will rise in Shule in the near future.

"We aim to achieve a well-off society in Xinjiang in 10 years with the aim of allowing local people to live in good houses, have good jobs near home, and live a good life," says Zhang Chunxian, the regional Communist Party chief.



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