Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China

UrumqiXinjiang Uyghur is a self governing region in China. Hence it is referred to as the Autonomous region of China. Xinjiang covers a large area that makes up approximately one sixth of the total geographical area of China’s territory. The area, despite its vastness the population of the region is relatively sparse. Xinjiang shares its southern borders with the Tibet Autonomous Region, the borders on the south east with the Qinghai and Gansu province, the border on the east with Mongolia , while Russia lies to the other side of the border on the north and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India are on the western border. The region of Aksai Chin over which the nation of India claims sovereignty is administered by the region of Xinjiang.

History of Xinjiang: A Look into the Past

Following the steps taken by Genghis Khan to unify Mongolia and his subsequent moves to advance towards the west, the state of Uyghur, in the region of Turfan-Urumchi offered its services to the Mongol ruler and his army in the year 1209. They contributed taxes and also troops which helped in maintaining and strengthening the Mongol imperial army. This was a sensible and tactful decision as the Mongols in return allowed the Uyghur rulers to keep hold of their control over their kingdom. Painting a contrasting picture to this alliance, the Mongol army under Genghis Khan’s rule defeated and captured the region of Kara Khitan in the year 1218. In the Kashgar area the Mongols were hailed as liberators and vanquishers of restrictive thought. This was so because the Kara Khitan had discriminated against the religion of Islam and its practices.

From the year 1934 onwards, Sheng Shicai harnessed control over the region of Xinjiang. He retained control for a decade. Sheng Shicai enjoyed continued support from the Soviet Union during his rule and even borrowed from the security policies and ethnics ideals of the Soviet Union in governing his own region. Sheng Shicai called to his courts many Chinese Communists including Mao Zemin who was the brother of Mao Zedong. However, in the year of 1943 Sheng Shicai became fearful and suspicious of a conspiracy being planned against him, and as a result of these suspicions he had all the communists in Xinjiang killed, including Mao Zemin. The region that is now recognized as the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in northern Xinjiang existed as the Second East Turkistan Republic in the period of 1944 to 1945 with the help of the Soviet Union.

The end of the Second East Turkistan Republic was heralded by the coming of the People’s Liberation Army to Xinjiang in the year 1949. According to the Chinese interpretation of events, the Second East Turkistan Republic was to be viewed as the revolution of Xinjiang and was a constructive part of the communist revolution in China. The province was replaced with the formation of the autonomous region of the Xinjiang on the 1st of October, 1955. This year, on the 4th of August, 2008, four days before the inauguration of the Beijing Summer Olympic Games, in what is suspected to be a move orchestrated by the members of the East Turkestan Independence Movement, 16 police officers were killed.

Geography of Xinjiang

As mentioned previously, Xinjiang covers one sixth of the total landmass of the territory of China. It also accounts for a quarter of the boundary length of China. The region of Xinjiang is demarcated into two basins by Mount Tianshan. On the north of Mount Tianshan lies the Dzungarian Basin while on the south there is the Tarim Basin. The highest peak of the mountains is the world famous K2 which pierces the sky at a breathtaking 8611 meters above sea level. The peak of K2 lies on the border of Kashmir. The lowest point of Xinjiang is the Turfan Depression, and it is situated 155 meters below sea level.

Some of the prominent cities of the Xinjiang region are Kashgar, Yining, Shihezi, Urumqi, and Saiga.

Xinjiang: An Economic Overview

The economy of Xinjiang flourishes especially due to its abundance of natural resources. The region is well known and appreciated for its plentiful produce and fruit, especially grapes, pears and melons. Exports of cotton, silk, wheat and walnuts add to the region’s economic growth. Xinjiang also has enviable deposits of mineral ores as well as deposits of oil.

In the year 2004, Xinjiang’s nominal GDP was estimated to be approximately 220 billion RMB. In the year 2007 this recording was replaced by a GDP of 349 billion. This was a result of the China Western Development policy that the State Council introduced in order to boost the economic development levels in Western China. The \per capita GDP noted for 2007 was 16,860 RMB.

Aksu and Karamay both boast of spectacularly booming oil and gas extraction industries, which add significantly to the earning of the region. The region is connected to Shanghai with the means of the West East Gas Pipeline which enhances the business opportunities for the sector. It has been noted that the contributions of the oil and petrochemical sector make up 60% of the total local economy of Xinjiang.

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