Exports from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are mainly light industrial products, more than 70 percent are finished products like processed food, shoes, textiles, apparel, daily necessities and home electronic appliances. Although some Central Asian consumers have begun to purchase higher-end goods, most exported products are still in the lower range. High-value-added mechanical, electronic, chemical and petroleum products are rarely sold through Xinjiang's border trade ports.
Most products are manufactured by township or individually owned private enterprises located in Zhejiang, Hebei, Fujian, Guangdong and the northeastern provinces. These products are generally delivered to wholesale markets in rural areas or small towns, rather than into retail stores in larger cities.
In 1988, border trade imports and exports totaled only US$36.0 million, accounting for 8.8 percent of the total foreign trade of the autonomous region. It was in the 1990s that the border trade really began to take off, climbing from US$94.4 million in 1991 to US$981.0 million in 2001. It accounted for more than half of the autonomous region's foreign trade for 10 consecutive years. The border trade has become a pillar and major growth area of Xinjiang's foreign trade and its economy as a whole.
Since 1986, when the central government gave approval to Xinjiang to conduct border trade, the region has looked for ways to take advantage of its potential for growth. By 2002, its border trade was the second largest among the nine land border provinces, second only to Heilongjiang.
Xinjiang is centrally located in the Eurasian continent, on the northwest frontier of China, with 33 border counties and cities. It abuts on Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan in the west, north and northeast; borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in the southwest; and is near to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The border extends about 5,600 km, of which 3,700 km are shared with three Central Asian countries.
Xinjiang now has 16 Class A ports, where foreign transport vehicles may deliver goods directly, and 11 Class B ports. The ports are all located within 200 to 500 km of large cities.
The Second Eurasia Continental Bridge, starting from Lianyungang in the east and ending at Amsterdam in the west, passes through Xinjiang. China and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) control nearly 80 percent of the total length of the Continental Bridge. The Alataw Pass is the western bridgehead of China. The Continental Bridge is China's gateway to the West, and provides a convenient passage for technological cooperation and border trade between Xinjiang and Central Asian countries.
Xinjiang is home to a number of ethnic groups that share origin, languages, religious beliefs, customs and consumption behavior with neighboring countries. Since ancient times, Xinjiang has kept close economic and cultural exchanges with neighboring countries.
Nongovernmental exchanges are frequent, with countless ties among different ethnic groups. With the development of economic zones along the Continental Bridge and accelerated opening, Xinjiang has broadened cooperation with Central Asia.
Climate suitable for agriculture
Xinjiang is blessed with plentiful sunshine, a long frost-free season and significant differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures, conditions favorable for crop growth.
By the end of 2001, Xinjiang had 4.2 million hectares of farmland, giving it a per capita available farmland about 2.3 times the national average.
Xinjiang is also one of the five largest pasturing areas of China, with abundant fine pastureland in the Tianshan, Altun and Kunlun mountains and Turpan and Qaidam basins. Its natural pastureland area is smaller only than that of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The annual runoff volume of surface water in Xinjiang is 79.4 billion cubic meters, ranked No. 12 in China. Per capita surface water is 2.2 times the national average and the deposit volume of ground water is 25.5 billion cubic meters. Xinjiang is the site of about 50 percent of the country's glaciers.
Xinjiang utilizes a distinctive form of oasis and irrigation agriculture. The oases, on sediment plains in front of mountains or river valleys, have fertile land and lush greenery that provide excellent conditions for agriculture, grazing and forestry. Xinjiang's main crops are wheat, corn, cotton, rapeseed, sugar beets, Hami melons, grapes and pears.
Xinjiang's varied mineral deposits bode well for exploitation. To date 138 different minerals have been found there, of which five have the largest deposits in the country and 24 are among the top five. There are substantial reserves of petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, chromium, bronze, nickel, rare metal and salt and other nonmetal minerals.
Petroleum reserves are estimated at 20.9 billion tons, accounting for 30 percent of the petroleum on land in China; while natural gas reserves are 10.3 trillion cubic meters, or 34 percent of the total land-based natural gas deposits. There are estimated 2.2 trillion tons of coal in the region, accounting for 40 percent of the country's total. Mineral export s account for a healthy share of Xinjiang's border trade.
Xinjiang is proud of its beautiful natural scenery. Glaciers coexist with volcanoes and vast bodies of water are situated adjacent to oases. The famous sights include Tianchi (Heavenly Pool), Kanas Lake, Bosten Lake, Salim Lake and the Bayinbuluke Grassland.
Xinjiang is also rich in manmade landscapes. Trade on the ancient Silk Road -- actually a network of roads that once extended for thousands of kilometers from China to lands in the west -- left hundreds of cities, tombs and Buddhist grottoes. The Jiaohe and Gaochang ancient cities, Loulan Ruins, Qizil Thousand-Buddha Caves and Tomb of Xiangfei are among the best known worldwide.
As a living community of various ethnic groups, Xinjiang features a mixture of art, culture and folk customs, forming a human landscape rich in color and diversity.
(China.org.cn December 15, 2004)