Why Xinjiang is strategic for Beijing

Why Xinjiang is strategic for Beijing
Why Xinjiang is strategic for Beijing

Published on : 09/01/2022 – 09:19

UN report on human rights in Xinjiang finally published. As you might expect, he is very critical of Beijing. The central power is accused of persecuting and exploiting the Uyghur people. This autonomous region is a vital area for China. Close-up on the economic stakes that this region represents for Beijing.

Xinjiang, three times the size of France, is a vast desert region located in northwest China. It is one of the poorest regions of the people’s republic. Its is still fed up to 30% by transfers from the central power. Beijing is pulling out all the stops to develop this region considered strategic. Due to geography. This former stage of the Silk Road has regained its function of yesteryear with the new silk road initiated by Xi Jinping. According to the terminology of the official media, it is the “bridgehead of China’s opening up to the west”. With immediate neighbors in Central Asia. They are eight including Russia. And with the most distant like the Europeans: thousands of freight trains leave each year for Europe from a port in Xinjiang. New communication channels are springing up like mushrooms. In the last few months alone, a new airport, a new section of highway and a section of railway around the desert have been put into operation.

It is also a key region for agricultural and mining raw materials.

The subsoil is rich in oil, it contains the largest reserves of China, coal is also abundant there. Local coke production continues to grow while it declines in other Chinese producing regions. Xinjiang is also crucial for the photo voltaic industry. About half of the world’s production of polysilicon, an essential material for the manufacture of solar panels, is produced locally. The autonomous region also cultivates rice, wheat and maize. A quarter of the tomatoes consumed in the world, a fifth of the global supply of cotton are produced in Xinjiang. It is therefore a priority economic zone for China, developed in part thanks to the forced labor imposed on the Uyghurs.

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A worker near an oil field in Tuha in the Xinjiang region of northwest China © ROBYN BECK / AFP

Does the American embargo on all products from this region already have an impact on the local economy?

Xinjiang cotton is struggling to sell today, reserves are still full while the next harvest will begin in two months. But overall, the embargo in place since June has had little impact on exports from the region; those of the textile industry even progressed in July. Because Xinjiang mainly trades with its immediate neighbors. It carries out two thirds of its trade with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. In comparison, in 2018 exports to the United States represented only 3% of the total. Finally, it should be borne in mind that Xinjiang is a thoroughfare but not a major player in international trade, it represents only 8% of its GDP, against 20% for the whole of China. Western decisions therefore do not necessarily have a strong economic impact on the spot. On the other hand, if Europe follows in the footsteps of the United States, tomato sales destined for Italy would be seriously compromised. This is 20% of the region’s exports.

The article is in French

Tags: Xinjiang strategic Beijing

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