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Xinjiang: an integral part of nation's development

(China Daily)

09:30, December 09, 2011

The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in China's northwestern border region and sitting at the heart of the Euro-Asian continent, has played an integral role in the nation's opening-up process and the development of foreign trade during the past decade.

Xinjiang has huge potential as a major window and pillar of this opening-up policy, thanks to its unique geographic advantages.

Its land boundary is 5,600 kilometers, about a quarter of China's total land border, and is adjacent to eight countries. There are 29 trade hubs in Xinjiang, with 17 being first-class national ones.

Over the past decade, Xinjiang has been operating under an outward-looking economic policy. It has economic and trade relations with 167 countries and regions around the world.

The province's foreign trade, coupled with its access to Central Asian countries, has experienced rapid development since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Foreign trade skyrocketed from $13.7 billion in 2007 to $22.2 billion in 2008, ranking Xinjiang first among the country's 12 western provinces and autonomous regions.

However, since the opening-up, Xinjiang has faced difficulties and challenges from both inside and out.

Trade with neighboring countries is still limited to some degree, mainly by factors such as unstable political situations in some countries, an underperforming investment environment and ineffective laws and regulations.

Most of China's exports are manufactured in other regions, bringing limited opportunities for Xinjiang's economic and industrial development. Meanwhile, locally processed products from Xinjiang only accounted for a small portion of exports.

In addition, a number of customs problems have impeded the healthy development of border trade and brought huge economic losses to exporters.

Xinjiang is still underdeveloped, but is destined to become a future economic highlight of China's western region and Central Asia.

The process of opening-up and linking Xinjiang with China's neighbors in Central and South Asia has been accelerated, since the State Council established the Kashgar and Korgas economic development zones in May 2010.

On completion, the two economic zones will become bases for export processing, services and logistics and will help establish Xinjiang as a regional hub for China's opening-up to other Asian countries and Eastern Europe.

Wang Ning is the director of the Economic Research Institute at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

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