I have been in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, for a week. It snowed two days long, but now spring is in full bloom. It is invigorating with a blue sky that is rarely seen in Shanghai and fresh clean air. During the holy month of Ramadan, we are in a society that fulfills the obligations of Islam. There is peace and respect for faith.
I will follow the proverb attributed to the great traveler, scholar, and linguist Evliya Çelebi (1): “Keep what you eat and drink and tell what you see”.
The biggest economic development in progress
According to the 2023 Program of the Government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Region will achieve the fastest economic development in its history in the next five years. The government program, presented by Autonomous Region Chairman Erkin Tuniyaz at the opening session of the 14th People’s Assembly of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on January 16, 2023, makes this claim. Erkin Tuniyaz stated that the plan is to exceed China’s national average in all economic indicators over the next five years and announced a GDP growth target of 7 percent for 2023.
The link to grasp: opening up!
In politics, there is a concept called the “ring to grasp”. It is used to refer to the step that, how you tackle and solve a set of problems that come your way, this paves the way for the solution of other problems. In the Uyghur Autonomous Region’s “economic boom”, opening up to the outside world has been identified as the “Ring to Grasp”. Xinjiang CPC Secretary Ma Xingrui’s experience as the governor of Shenzhen city and Guangdong province played a major role in this change. Prof. Ma Xingrui, one of China’s renowned rocket scientists, was elected to the Political Bureau of the Central Committee at the 20th Congress of the CPC. He is currently ranked 8th in the CPC hierarchy.
Ma Xingrui, who became the Party secretary of the Uyghur Autonomous Region in December 2021 with the great support of the Xi Jinping administration, brought a breath of fresh air to Xinjiang, which we covered in our article titled “More Socialism, Happier Uyghurs” dated June 10, 2022, at Aydinlik Daily in Turkish. (2)
Ma Xingrui is prioritizing a high level of opening up to make Xinjiang a core region of the “Silk Road Economic Belt”, one of the two main pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Neighboring 8 countries, the region is making an intensive effort to mobilize the opportunities of its geographical location. Erkin Tuniyaz announced the full resumption of all services at the Uyghur Autonomous Region’s 13 land ports at the beginning of the year. (3)
In an interview with CGTN, Kaiser Abdulkerim, Vice President of the Autonomous Region, explains how they will achieve 7 percent growth: “We will vigorously promote the economic vitality of various market actors; we will create an efficient and good business environment for state-owned enterprises to be bold, private enterprises to be daring, and foreign enterprises to be eager to invest. In the future, we will promote the modernization of agriculture, and support the stable production and quality improvement of the cotton industry. We are very excited to welcome visitors from all over the world. This is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society and a place where different civilizations live together. In the coming days, we will utilize these advantages to launch the ‘Xinjiang Tourism Development’ initiative.” (4)
Ma Xingrui’s first trip abroad
On Monday, March 27, Ma Xingrui led a large Sichuan government delegation on an official visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Ma Xingrui is said to have assumed central responsibility for China’s opening to the West. (5)
CPC secretaries of provinces and autonomous regions rarely travel abroad. Ma Xingrui was received at the highest level in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
In Astana, he met with President Kassym Jomart Tokayev and Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov, and in Tashkent with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov.
President Tokayev said Kazakhstan wants to deepen cooperation with China on the basis of strategic partnership and eternal friendship. “We are ready to work with our Chinese colleagues to increase trade volume to $35 billion by 2030,” Prime Minister Smailov said.
Smailov and Ma also discussed measures to eliminate bottlenecks at the border. Green corridors have already been opened at two of the five checkpoints. Ismailov also raised the issue of speeding up visa processing for Kazakh trucks entering China.
Ma Xingrui said, “As a region of China, we are responsible for the country’s ties with the West. We see Kazakhstan as a top priority area of cooperation. In general, China’s cooperation with Kazakhstan is carried out through Xinjiang.” (6)
On November 29, during his visit to Uzbekistan, it was announced that they discussed the implementation of joint projects in the field of renewable energy, the development of transport infrastructure, the creation of industrial parks and agricultural clusters in Uzbekistan with the participation of leading Chinese companies. Mutual interest in accelerating the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway construction project was emphasized. (7)
President Mirziyoyev’s office said in a statement: “It is with deep satisfaction that we note the fruitful results of the historic summit held in Samarkand in September last year, which marked the beginning of a new era in Uzbek-Chinese comprehensive strategic partnership relations.” It said.
Ma Xingrui said the purpose of his visit was “to build a bridge of friendship and cooperation between the north and south of the Tienshan and to enable Xinjiang to contribute to writing a new page of friendship between China and Uzbekistan.”
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, touching upon China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction project noted that it would contribute to the deepening of trade and economic cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and XUAR, and would also have a multiplicative effect on the development of other sectors of the economy.
In particular, the parties signed memorandums of intent to export electricity to China and build a 500-kilovolt power transmission line Kyrgyzstan-China and small hydropower plants in Bishkek. (8)
Xinjiang really opens to the west with Türkiye
The biggest longing of Uyghurs living in the region is access to Turkish goods. The demand for closer economic cooperation with Türkiye has also been the aspiration of the Autonomous Region’s administration, which has made “opening up Xinjiang to the west” a top priority. During our meeting in Urumqi on July 5 last year, Ma Xingrui expressed this desire very strongly and invited us to play a role in developing relations with Türkiye.
Indeed, on Tuesday, March 28, we met with a large government delegation led by Xing Tao, the head of the Trade Administration of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang officials responded positively to all of our requests, reflecting the will of Ma Xingrui.
As TUCEM Turkish-Chinese Business Matching Center, we will organize a special fair and fashion show with the participation of 50 Turkish and European clothing brands in the Khorgos International Free Zone, which is located on the China-Kazakhstan border and has the title of “the world’s largest land port” on July 5-9. The Khorgos International Chamber of Commerce hosts this event.
The President of the Chamber of Commerce, Ma Fuming, is a Hui Muslim. We negotiated and signed the agreement for the Special Fair and Fashion Show during two iftar meals in our honor.
Again, we undertook the Turkish representation of the “Eurasia Commodity and Trade Fair” and “The Tienshan International Shopping Festival” to be held on August 17-21. We will organize the Turkish fashion show in Urumqi as well, and we will create a wind of modern clothing and lifestyle.
In addition, we will serve Türkiye’s leading food, cosmetics, and daily use items to reach 1 billion 400 million Chinese consumers through the Xinjiang market. The Deputy Secretary of the China-Eurasia Expo is an Uyghur: Ms. Mihrigul Tursun.
We also have good news: We have started working to transform a 60 thousand square meter shopping center in Urumqi into an “imported products duty-free sales center”.
Xinjiang government invites Turkish merchants and investors
There have been no terrorist incidents in the region for the last 6 years. Relations between ethnic groups in the region are being repaired. Uyghur villagers are being taught Chinese, while Han-based administrators are learning Uyghur. Uighurs have been liberated and relieved from the oppression and terror of religious bigotry in previous years.
The impact of Ma Xingru’s top priority, “establishing a rule by law”, is felt by ordinary people. An extraordinary effort is being made to “make sure that what happens in Shanghai, what happens in Beijing, happens in Xinjiang”.
Xing Tao, head of the Xinjiang Commerce Administration, said, “We invite Turkish merchants and investors to the Uyghur Autonomous Region. We will give them incentives as long as they develop the economy,” he emphasized.
Turkish business people are smart and entrepreneurial. They will not leave this strong call from the heart of Asia unanswered. Those who want to earn money will do business in the Uyghur Region.