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Tuesday, December 07, 1999, updated at 09:29(GMT+8)
Business Nanjiang Railway: Road of Unity and Benefit (I)

This report written by Our Staff Reporter Jiang Shijie reads in part as follows: The 1446.37-km-long Nanjiang Railway was opened to traffic on December 6. In the eyes of the people of various nationalities in Xinjiang, the Nanjiang (southern Xinjiang) Railway is a road of hope, wealth, unity, development and rejuvenation.

Tianshan Mountain, which lies across the middle part of Xinjiang, divides the region into two parts-Nanjiang (southern) Xinjiang and Beijiang (northern) Xinjiang.

The vast expanse of territory of Nanjiang, which covers an area of 1.06 million sq km, is equal to one-ninth of the country's total. Its west borders on five countries, namely Tadzhikistan, Kirghizstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. It has a long boundary line and enjoys an important position in its opening westward. It is a region inhabited by minority nationalities in compact communities, among the 7.66 million people, 85 percent are minority ethnic groups. Nanjiang is rich in water, soil, light and heat resources, the output of grain and cotton respectively account for 43 percent and 56.6 percent of the autonomous region, the varieties of its melon and fruit are reputed at home and abroad. The area is also China's largest commodity cotton base in the planning stage. Tarim Basin in the central part, which abounds in petroleum and natural gas resources, is a strategic reserve area for China's petrochemical industry; other mineral resources, such as copper, iron, lead, zinc, gold, gypsum and vermiculite, are also very rich and have great potential for development.

However, over the vast territory of Nanjiang, there is only the 476.49-km Turpan-Kuerle railway completed in 1984. Traffic difficulty has become the main "bottleneck" hindering the economic development of Nanjiang, the direct results it brought about are low per-capita GNP, low self-sufficiency rate of finance and low-income level for farmers; among the 42 counties, 20 receive poverty relief from the State Council and the government of the autonomous region.

One obvious truth is: when Nanjiang's pace of development is slow, the construction pace of Xinjiang's development cannot be rapid; without the modernization of Nanjiang, there would be no modernization for Xinjiang as a whole. The rapid construction of the west-extension project (Kuerle to Keshen) of Nanjiang Railway is the primary condition for a fundamental change in the backward state of the Nanjiang area.

The Party Central Committee and the State Council show great concern for and pay high attention to the construction of Nanjiang Railway. In December 1994, when General Secretary Jiang Zemin listened to the report on Xinjiang's work, he clearly expressed support for the construction of the west-extension project of Nanjiang Railway, requiring that Xinjiang step up connection with relevant departments.

In September 1995, when the then Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji inspected Xinjiang's work, he said, "now the central government has decided to build the Nanjiang Railway, it is necessary to spend the money, it is imperative to perform the formality in accordance with the capital construction procedure, and the quicker to do so, the better".

On September 6, 1996, construction of the west-extension project of Nanjiang Railway was formally started, the then Premier Li Peng shoveled earth to lay the foundation and made an important speech.

Why did the Party Central Committee and the State Council paid so much attention to Nanjiang Railway? Because over the past few years, the collective leadership of the Party's third generation, acting on the idea about the "two general situations" clearly put forward by Comrade Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, has intensified efforts to reduce the gap between the eastern and western regions. The first general situation is that the eastern coastal areas should speed up their opening to the outside world, so as to enable them to develop rapidly, the central and western regions should take this general situation into consideration. The other general situation is that when development has reached a certain stage, we should devote greater strength to helping central and western regions to speed up their development. The eastern coastal areas should also be subordinated to this general situation. The rapid start of constructing the west-extension project of Nanjiang Railway is a concrete expression of the encouragement and support given by the Party Central Committee and the State Council to speed up the development of the western region.

"The huge railway army work hard to build this road of happiness, the people of Keshen will never forget to draw up a grand plan for development". This was the big-character poster appeared in Heshen when Nanjiang railway tracks were laid up to the city on May 6 this year. This slogan voices the aspirations of the 7.66 million people of various nationalities in the Nanjiang area.

Since it was put into temporary operation on December 1 last year, the Kuerle-Aksu section of Nanjiang Railway has brought about tremendous change to the economic development of the Aksu region.

The opening to traffic of Nanjiang Railway has provided convenient conditions for personnel, material and information exchanges between the frontier and inland areas. In the past, motor vehicles were used as a means of transportation each year in the Aksu region, the transportation expense of motor vehicles is 0.31-0.35 yuan per ton/km, that of railway is 0.11-0.13 yuan ton/km. So in transportation expense alone, the Nanjiang region can save at least 100 million yuan a year.

The opening to traffic of the Nanjiang Railway has caused municipal construction to become a new area of urban economic growth. Since last year, places, including Kuche, Xinhe, Aksu and Yuergun, have put construction of railway station areas high on the agenda of the local economic work.. In the meantime, catering, hotel, warehouse, short-distance transportation service emerged near railway stations have also developed very rapidly.

The opening to traffic of Nanjiang Railway has provided an excellent opportunity for transforming resources advantage into market and competition advantages. Over the past year, many businesses from across the country have set up sales agencies in Aksu, bringing in a variety of brand-name consumer goods from the whole country, this has brought about a 12 percent increase in the area's total value of retail sales of commodities in the January-October period over the same period of the previous year. At the same time, the number of local individual and private economic businesses and the taxes they paid maintained a 10 percent growth over the same period of the previous year. What is particularly exciting is that after railway trains were put into service, an increasing number of businesses from outside have come to invest and set up factories in Aksu.

With the Nanjiang Railway, I believe that in less than 10 years, world-shaking change will take place in the Nanjiang area. That was how Wang Lequan, secretary of the Party committee of new Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, appraised the tremendous role Nanjiang Railway will play.

An expert from the First Exploration and Designing Institute of the Ministry of Railways, a designing unit of Nanjiang Railway, told this reporter: The construction of Nanjiang Railway has hastened the emergence of the China-Kirghizstan-Uzbekistan international railway, it is estimated that in the early 21st century, Nanjiang Railway will become a component of the third Eurasian continental bridge.

On September 12, 1990, the Urumqi-Alatau Pass section, (from Wuxin of Gansu to Urumqi of Xinjiang of China), was formally connected with Kazakhstan to form the second Eurasian continental bridge which is the focus of world attention. The opening of the western section of Nanjiang Railway has created the prerequisite for China's eastern ports to take the shortest way to contact West Asia, the Near East and South European countries through the Central Asian region. Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan neighboring the Nanjiang area have also proposed constructing a new international railway, this proposal was included in the joint communiques between China and these two countries, and the China-Kirghizstan-Uzbekistan railway three-nation joint working committee was set up. The China-Kirghizstan-Uzbekistan railway totals 577 km in length, of which 485 km (166 km are within China) are newly built railway lines. The railway extends westward from Uzbekistan and forms a modern Silk Road leading to Central, Southern and Western Europe, together with the first and second Eurasian continental bridges, they form a new Eurasian continental bridge network.

Yao Yongfeng, secretary of Keshen prefectural Party committee, happily said, "the construction of the China-Kirghizstan-Uzbekistan railway will make the whole of Nanjiang become a bridgehead for China to open westward.

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