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China issues white paper on history, development of Xinjiang (Part One)

Xinhuanet 2003-05-26 15:21:46

ĦĦĦĦBEIJING, May 26 (Xinhuanet) -- The Information Office of the State Council Monday issued a white paper on the history and developmentof China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

ĦĦĦĦThe white paper, the first about Xinjiang issued by the Chinese government, says the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, with concerted and pioneering efforts, have made historic achievements since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

ĦĦĦĦXinjiang, situated in the border area of northwest China and the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent, occupies an area of 1.6649 million sq km, accounting for one sixth of Chinese territory. It has a land border of 5,600 km bounded by eight countries. It was an important section of the ancient Silk Road.

ĦĦĦĦStatistics show that in the year 2000 Xinjiang had a population of 19.25 million, including 10.9696 million people of other ethnic groups than the Han, China's majority ethnic group. There are 47 ethnic groups in Xinjiang, one of China's five autonomous regions for ethnic minorities.

ĦĦĦĦSince ancient times, Xinjiang has been inhabited by many ethnic groups, the white paper says. Many tribes and ethnic groups lived in Xinjiang in ancient history. By the end of the 19th century, Xinjiang had 13 ethnic groups, namely, Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongolian, Hui, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Tajik, Daur, Ozbek, Tatar and Russian. The Uygurs formed the majority, as they do today.

ĦĦĦĦAs the main passageway and hub for economic and cultural exchanges between the East and the West in ancient times, Xinjiang has always been a region where a number of religions exist side byside, the white paper says.

ĦĦĦĦBefore Islam was introduced into Xinjiang, there had already been believers in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism and Nestorianism. These religious faiths had spread to Xinjiang along the Silk Road and thrived together with the local primitive religions.

ĦĦĦĦAfter the introduction of Islam, the coexistence of diverse religions continued to be the order of the day in Xinjiang, to be joined later by Protestantism and Catholicism.

ĦĦĦĦBefore the foreign religions were introduced into Xinjiang, the ancient residents there believed in native primitive religions and the Shamanism evolved therefrom.

ĦĦĦĦThe major religions in Xinjiang today are Islam, Buddhism (including Tibetan Buddhism), Protestantism, Catholicism and Taoism. Shamanism still has considerable influence among some ethnic groups.

ĦĦĦĦOn the administration of Xinjiang by the successive central governments, the white paper says, close ties between Xinjiang and the Central Plains have existed for a long time.

ĦĦĦĦIn 138 BC, the imperial court of the Han Dynasty sent Zhang Qian to the Western Regions as an envoy in an attempt to forge alliances which would stop raids by the Xiongnu on the dynasty's borders. In 121 BC, a Han army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Xiongnu troops stationed along the Gansu Corridor. After that, theHan Dynasty set up the four prefectures of Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquanand Dunhuang in the region. In 101 BC, the Western Han Dynasty stationed hundreds of garrison troops in Luntai and Quli, south ofthe Tianshan Mountains.

ĦĦĦĦIn 60 BC, the Western Regions Frontier Command was established, which indicated that the Western Han had begun to exercise state sovereignty over the Western Regions, and that Xinjiang had become a component part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation.

ĦĦĦĦDuring the Sui and Tang dynasties, the central government strengthened its rule over Xinjiang. Internal strife in the Central Plains during the Five Dynasties period, and the Song, Liao and Jin dynasties distracted the attention of rulers of the Central Plains from the Western Regions, resulting in several local regimes existing side by side in the Western Regions.

ĦĦĦĦThe local governments of Gaochang, Karahan and Yutian exerciseda great degree of autonomy, but they all maintained close ties with the ruling dynasties in the Central Plains. 

ĦĦĦĦThe founder of the Yuan Dynasty, Genghis Khan, completed the political unification of the regions north and south of the Tianshan Mountains, according to the white paper.

ĦĦĦĦIn 1406, the Ming Dynasty set up a Hami Garrison Command, and appointed the heads of the leading families in Hami as officials to manage local military and administrative affairs, so as to keep the trade routes to the West open and bring the other areas of the Western Regions under its control.

ĦĦĦĦIn 1757, the Qing imperial court crushed the long-standing Junggar separatist regime in the Northwest. Two years later, it quelled a rebellion launched by the Islamic Aktaglik Sect leaders Burhanidin and Hojajahan, thus consolidating its military and administrative jurisdiction over all parts of the Western Regions.

ĦĦĦĦFollowing the Opium War of 1840, Xinjiang was subject to aggression from Tsarist Russia and other powers. In 1884, the Qing government formally established a province in the Western Regions and renamed the area as Xinjiang (meaning "old territory returned to the motherland").

ĦĦĦĦThe establishment of Xinjiang as a province was a significant reform, on the part of the Qing government, of the administration of Xinjiang by the previous dynasties. From then on, the military and administrative center of Xinjiang was moved from Ili to Dihua (modern Urumqi). By 1909, the administrative organization in Xinjiang was exactly the same as in the inland areas.

ĦĦĦĦIn the year following the Revolution of 1911, insurrectionary revolutionaries in Xinjiang set up the New Ili Grand Military Government, marking the end of the political rule of the Qing Dynasty in the Ili region. After the Republic of China was founded, it constantly strengthened the defense of Xinjiang.

ĦĦĦĦXinjiang was peacefully liberated on September 25, 1949. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang greeted the founding of the People's Republic of China together with the rest of the Chinese people on October 1, 1949.

ĦĦĦĦThe white paper says that since the Han Dynasty established theWestern Regions Frontier Command in Xinjiang in 60 BC, the Chinesecentral governments of all historical periods exercised military and administrative jurisdiction over Xinjiang. The jurisdiction ofthe central governments over the Xinjiang region was at times strong and at other times weak, depending on the stability of the period. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang actively safeguarded their relations with the central governments, thus making their own contributions to the formation and consolidation of the great family of the Chinese nation.

ĦĦĦĦWith regard to the "East Turkistan" issue, the white paper says,the term "Turkistan" appeared in Arabic geographical works in the Middle Ages. It meant "the region of the Turks" and referred to the areas north of the Sir River in Central Asia and the adjoiningareas to the east of the river.

ĦĦĦĦWith the evolution of history, the modern ethnic groups in Central Asia were established one after another. By the 18th century, the geographical concept of "Turkistan" was already very vague, and almost nobody used it again in the historical records of the time.

ĦĦĦĦIn the early 19th century, with the growing colonial expansion of the imperialist powers into Central Asia, the geographical term"Turkistan" was revived. Some people in the West called the Hezhong area "West Turkistan" or "Russian Turkistan," and China's Xinjiang region "East Turkistan."

ĦĦĦĦIn the early 20th century and later, a small number of separatists and religious extremists in Xinjiang, influenced by the international trend of religious extremism and national chauvinism, politicized the unstandardized geographical term "East Turkistan," and fabricated an "ideological and theoretical system"on the so-called "independence of East Turkistan" on the basis of the allegation cooked up by the old colonialists.

ĦĦĦĦFrom the early 20th century to the late 1940s, the "East Turkistan" forces created many disturbances with the connivance and support of hostile foreign forces.

ĦĦĦĦSince the peaceful liberation of Xinjiang, the "East Turkistan" forces have never resigned themselves to their defeat. The tiny group of separatists who had fled abroad from Xinjiang collaborated with those at home, and looked for opportunities to carry out splittist and sabotage activities with the support of international anti-China forces.

ĦĦĦĦEspecially in the 1990s, influenced by religious extremism, separatism and international terrorism, part of the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China turned to splittist and sabotage activities with terrorist violence as their chief means.

ĦĦĦĦAfter the September 11 Incident, the voices calling for an international anti-terrorist struggle and cooperation have become louder and louder. In order to get out of their predicament, the "East Turkistan" forces once again have raised the banner of "humanrights," "freedom of religion" and "interests of ethnic minorities" to escape blows dealt by the international struggle against terrorism.

ĦĦĦĦThe white paper says before the founding of the People's Republic of China, the economy of Xinjiang was a natural economy, with farming and livestock breeding as the mainstay. Famines were frequent in some areas, and the people were impoverished. In the past half century after peaceful liberation in 1949, Xinjiang's economy and social undertakings have advanced by leaps and bounds.

ĦĦĦĦThe GDP of Xinjiang was 148.548 billion yuan in 2001. Taking price rises into account, this was 42.9 times that of 1952, and anannual growth rate of 8.0 percent. The per-capita GDP rose from 166 yuan in 1952 to 7,913 yuan in 2001.

ĦĦĦĦThere was almost no modern transport prior to the founding of New China. In the more than 50 years, Xinjiang has witnessed a drastic change in the communications and transport industry.

ĦĦĦĦBy 2001, the region's operating railway lines totaled 3,010.4 km and highways had been extended to 80,900 km. The highway running through the Taklimakan Desert is a long-distance graded highway, the first one in the world built on shifting sands.

ĦĦĦĦThere are also 92 air lines radiating from the regional capital Urumqi to 65 cities in other parts of the country and abroad and to 12 prefectures and cities within the autonomous region. The total length of the air routes is 161,800 km.

ĦĦĦĦAccording to the white paper, Xinjiang has built a number of digital microwave trunk circuits and optical cable trunk lines. A DDD telephone network now links all the cities and counties in Xinjiang with the rest of China. The local data communications network and multi-media communications network have developed rapidly, and a mobile phone network is now in place to cover the whole region.

ĦĦĦĦBy 2001, Xinjiang had trade relations with 119 countries and regions. Nearly 1,000 commodity items in 22 categories were on theexport list. Among them, 10 export commodities earned more than 10million US dollars each. The total value of Xinjiang's exports andimports amounted to 1.77 billion US dollars in that year.

ĦĦĦĦAs one of the important autonomous regions (provinces) carryingout the government strategy of opening China's border areas to theoutside world, Xinjiang has gradually formed an omnidirectional, multi-level and wide-range opening pattern by expanding the links with foreign countries and China's various provinces along the borders, the Eurasian continental bridge, and trunk communication lines to become China's frontline in opening to the West.

ĦĦĦĦAll social undertakings in Xinjiang have undergone historic changes since the founding of New China, says the white paper.

ĦĦĦĦCompared with that of 1949, the number of primary schools in 2001 in the region increased from 1,335 to 6,221, middle schools from 9 to 1,929 and regular institutions of higher learning from 1to 21. The ratio of the educated population of the region has grown remarkably, and the proportion of illiteracy among the young and middle-aged has dropped to less than 2 percent.

ĦĦĦĦOver the past five decades or more, Xinjiang has achieved 7,102significant scientific and technological findings, of which 201 have won national awards. The technical popularization of Xinjiang's merino sheep has attained the advanced level in China, while the region's technology of desert highway construction is in the forefront of the world.

ĦĦĦĦBefore the founding of New China, there was not a single professional theatrical troupe, artistic research organization or art school in Xinjiang, according to the white paper.

ĦĦĦĦBy 2001, there were altogether 89 theatrical troupes, 107 art research and creation units and an abundance of art schools. A number of literary and artistic works with strong ethnic characteristics have been well received nationwide and even abroad.

ĦĦĦĦAll the 85 counties (cities) of the region have hospitals, sanitation and anti-epidemic stations, and health centers for women and children. Each township has a hospital, and each villagea clinic. Many difficult and complicated illnesses can be treated within the region. Endemic and contagious diseases that afflicted people of all ethnic groups in the past have been basically wiped out.

ĦĦĦĦAs the economy and various social undertakings improve, the living standard of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang is improving year by year.

ĦĦĦĦIn 2001, the average net income per capita in the rural areas of Xinjiang was 1,710.44 yuan, which was more than what was neededfor food and clothing. The average annual salary of an urban employee was 10,278 yuan. Urban residents, as a whole, led comfortable lives.

ĦĦĦĦLife expectancy in Xinjiang has been extended to 71.12 years. The demography of Xinjiang shows the features of low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate. Xinjiang was cited as one of the four longevity areas in the world by the International Society of Natural Medication in 1985.  (More)

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