Xinjiang: regional prosperity is the best weapon against terrorism


China faced terrorism somewhat later than Russia. The peak of terrorist attacks came in 2012–2014. On March 1, 2014, the bloodiest of them took place: 29 people were killed then. It happened on the square of the main train station in Kunming. There were terrorist attacks in other places, including in the heart of Beijing, in Tiananmen Square.

But the roots of terrorism are broadly similar — religious and national hatred. The source of terrorism was China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, part of whose population — mostly ethnic Uyghurs, and they are Muslims — fell under the influence of the Wahhabi underground. It was not without outside interference. It should be taken into account that Xinjiang borders with eight states. The relative poverty of the region and its historical traditions also gave ground for terrorist manifestations. But we are talking about a huge region — the area of Xinjiang is 1 million 664 thousand 900 square kilometers, which is about one-sixth of China’s land area.

But 2014 was the beginning of the Chinese authorities’ systematic fight against terrorism as a phenomenon and its roots. At the first stage, a large-scale operation was carried out to clear Xinjiang of terrorists, eliminating gangs and extremist religious cells. In 2015, a new special law on combating terrorism and extremism was adopted, which toughened penalties and untied the hands of law enforcement agencies. However, forceful methods were used only at the initial stage. Emphasis was placed on economic and social development of the region, elimination of poverty and illiteracy. Not the least role was played by work with religious leaders.

The West tries to present all this as a fight against a national minority and suppression of dissent, and purely Chinese methods of re-education, such as labor camps for Islamists, as illegal. But this does not take into account Chinese specifics and the dangers of religious and nationalist extremism. China believes that the state’s task was to ensure the security and prosperity of the entire country and the Xinjiang Uygur region in particular. It is, by the way, home to 56 different nationalities. And this has been done with success. Now, according to surveys, 99 percent of Chinese feel safe and unafraid of terrorism, compared to 87.58 percent 10 years ago.

«The authorities have curbed the spread of terrorism by ensuring social stability and protecting the lives, health and property of citizens. China has cracked down on most terrorist practices at the root, safeguarding national security and public order», the State Council of the People’s Republic of China said in a recently published White Paper on counter-terrorism in China.

Over the past decade, Xinjiang has been developing at a faster pace. Since 2014, the region’s GDP has doubled. In 2022, the gross product of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region totaled 1 trillion 774 billion 100 million yuan. Per capita it is 68552 yuan (9450 dollars). More than 70% of the regional government’s financial expenditures are spent on ensuring a high standard of living and improving people’s welfare. As a result, nearly five million jobs have been created. About 3.06 million people have been lifted out of poverty — that’s by UN standards. Poverty in Xinjiang has been officially defeated. Twenty-four civilian airports have been built here — more than in any other province. The number of private and state-owned enterprises has doubled to 2.21 million.

Twenty border checkpoints and a transshipment center for China-Europe freight trains in Urumqi, as well as the Sino-Kazakhstan center for international cross-border cooperation Khorgos have been built here. Xinjiang now trades with 179 countries and regions around the world.

In 2023, 265 million Chinese and foreign tourists visited the autonomous region, which is a historical record. Xinjiang’s total tourism revenue amounted to 296 billion 700 million yuan, showing an increase of 227% year-on-year. Tourists are attracted by the region’s natural beauty, historical monuments and religious shrines, which are not only preserved but also restored. About 3,000 religious people are educated in religious schools, and religious freedom is not restricted. The authorities only make sure that preachers do not go beyond religious cults.

«Religious extremism is not religion… While fighting extremism, the PRC protects freedom of conscience and religious practice», China’s White Paper on Combating Terrorism in China emphasizes.

Despite the fact that the situation in Xinjiang is calm and the region is prospering, the U.S. does not give up its attempts to sway the situation under the pretext of fighting for «human rights» and use Xinjiang to wage an information war against the PRC. At the behest of America, Western media are spreading false information: alleged «genocide» is taking place in Xinjiang, «forced labor» is being used, and religious cults are being persecuted. The U.S. adopted the so-called «Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act» and imposed sanctions on Chinese companies and officials.

However, these measures have also hit U.S. companies that have businesses in the region or employ Uighurs elsewhere in China. The case of Sketchers, an American company that employs Uyghurs in its factories, is widely known: after falling under its own government’s sanctions, it was forced to sue. Even large European companies have to justify themselves. For example, the German concern Volkswagen had to conduct an independent audit of its factory in Xinjiang, as a result of which the auditing agency found no signs or evidence of «forced labor» there.

The U.S., having lost its ability to nurture terrorism in Xinjiang, is now using the region to so-called “contain” China and undermine its international image.