When they hear a reference to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), many people might well think of agriculture. However, after some 50 years of endeavor the XPCC has left its pioneering footprints all across the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. And now it is set for a transformation as it grows beyond its agricultural roots and moves on into the building and operation of whole towns and cities.
On January 19 this year, three county-level cities Alar, Tumushuke and Wujiaqu were established on the same day under the jurisdiction of the XPCC. Now the construction of 38 key small towns is fully underway. Funding put at some 650-million-yuan (US$78.5 million) is already in place for the early stages of construction.
When the XPCC was first established, regimental farms were mostly built on the edge of desert land. In the dozens of years that have passed since then, XPCC personnel have taken responsibility for water conservancy projects, wasteland reclamation, forestation programs, bridge-building and road-maintenance. The XPCC has established its modern mechanized agricultural presence on a truly massive scale. Owning 11 listed enterprises, the XPCC has brought modern industrial, distribution and business methods to the region.
In 2003, the ratio of second and third industries set up by the XPCC went through the 60 percent mark, demonstrating a clear move away from a sole dependency on agriculture.
By 2003 the average annual income of people in the region had risen to over 9,000 yuan (US$1,087) in 2003. The traditional pit dwellings called 'Diwozi' that XPCC personnel used to live in have now been replaced by row upon row of modern multi-storey buildings.
In the old days more than half the troops of the XPCC had only water from unprocessed sources, now nearly 90 percent have tap water. Today they can expect to have not only a post office, but also a library, a hall for cultural activities and a gymnasium and 95 percent have radio and TV coverage.
Nowadays, the sites of many XPCC regimental farms have all the essential features of fully functioning townships. This year the XPCC will accelerate its construction of small townships as it supports the fundamental transformation from a farming society to the modern world.
According to Chen Xianzheng, director of the XPCC's Development and Reform Committee, the 38 small towns are like so many torches lighting up the remote mountainous and rural areas. They can not only raise the development of the XPCC itself on to a new level, but can also play a significant role in hastening the modernization of Xinjiang. What's more they can promote social stability and help consolidate frontier security.
The XPCC says it will build the 38 small towns on the guiding principles of "a good ecological environment, proper facilities, clear industrial benefits and strong potential to promote the spread of development out into the surrounding areas".
The 123rd Regiment located at the Chepaizi reclamation area has raised significant public investment through the sale of land. In just half of a month, this has enabled the go-ahead to be given for several large-scale projects including four commercial buildings, two agricultural markets and one passenger transport station.
The 89th Regiment in the Tasierhai reclamation area has attracted a wide range of investors to become involved in its regimental township. Since the end of January it has raised investment funding of over one-million-yuan (US$120,815) from private sector business from east China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
At present, although Tianshan Mountain is still a world of snow and ice, the various regiments are showing their warm enthusiasm for the work of constructing small towns. Beitun Town is home to the Fourth Agricultural Division. It is in Aletai, the coldest area of Xinjiang. Here projects to widen three principle arterial routes were carried through to completion in early February.
It has been reported that the construction of the XCPP's 38 small towns will be finished by the end of 2005 bringing over 40 percent of its sites up to full township level.
(China.org.cn by Wang Qian, April 15, 2004)