China's 14th five-year plan for Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region envisions great opportunities for development and westward-facing trade in the region--and the plan makes it clear that it has Xi Jinping's personal stamp of approval. The plan promises huge material economic progress, and it includes measures to ensure it is not impeded by social instability or threats to the communist party's leadership. The plan calls for expanding vocational training schools, reeducating ethnic minorities, and creating Islam with Chinese characteristics.
The Xinjiang plan is an exhausting catalogue of projects that goes on for pages and pages. They include high-tech industry clusters; petroleum- and coal-based chemicals; steel and nonferrous metals; upgrades of textiles and agricultural processing; new energy and e-commerce; industrial clusters and industry parks sprinkled across the desert; new roads, rails and canals crisscrossing the region; hordes of tourists; build new cities and schools; and a reformed string of army-run "production corps" settlements that "maintain border stability." This plan--like others published this year--reveals obsessions with "security," resistance to risks, industry "agglomeration," "clusters," "supply chains" and "industry chains."
Development of Xinjiang is a strategy for shifting the momentum of development westward--the plan describes it as "a national chess move for the new era." Chinese planners view Xinjiang as a westward-facing conduit for trade with Central, South, and West Asia. The plan describes Xinjiang as a core region in the "silk road economic belt," a "highly open border region" and a corridor for trade with the central and eastern regions of China.
The importance of Xinjiang development is reflected by promises of policy support and the plan's advocacy of the "Xinjiang aid counterpart" initiative which presses government organizations and state-owned companies to provide various kinds of support, open branches, offer technical assistance and travel to Xinjiang.
In agriculture, cotton is Xinjiang's most prominent crop--the region produced 87 percent of China's cotton last year. However, the region's priority is to keep cotton output steady and focus on maintaining a slight surplus in the region's wheat production.
The plan calls for upgrading cotton quality, concentrating cotton production in the best-suited areas, building big contiguous cotton fields with roads and irrigation, increasing uptake of improved cotton strains to 98 percent by the end of the plan, and increasing mechanization of cotton production to 80 percent.
Xinjiang's cotton is about 2,500 miles away from most of the textile industry (which requires a transportation subsidy not mentioned in the document) so the plan calls for bringing the textile industry to the cotton. Xinjiang will boost the local yarn-spinning and dyeing industries as well as a labor-intensive industry development plan that includes garment manufacturing. Textile industry plans emphasize production of synthetic fiber--presumably linked to the petrochemical industry plans for Xinjiang.
The plan targets tree fruit and nuts for expansion, including red dates, walnuts, almonds (巴旦木 in Chinese…it’s a long story), grapes, apples, pears, apricots, new plums, and medlars. Agricultural processing industry is another target industry for creating jobs and adding value to local crops. The plan includes instructions to improve the quality of the naan (flat bread) industry, tree fruit, wine, tomato processing, dairy, horses, herbal medicines, chilled aquatic products (in the desert?!) and regional specialties like camel milk and buckthorn.
The plan includes a fleeting endorsement of an ongoing initiative to artificially alter the weather (which has alarmed some of China's neighbors).
Livestock will also be boosted in Xinjiang. Beef, sheep and dairy are mentioned first, but pork is also targeted for development (in a purportedly Muslim "autonomous region"). In a seemingly "back to the future" recommendation, Xinjiang will promote "courtyard vegetable production" to increase the supply of vegetables. Other crops mentioned are oilseeds and sugar beets.
The Xinjiang Production Corps is an archipelago of military settlements and farms strung across the region. The corps is involved in many industries, but it has a significant role in mechanizing cotton production and increasing use of improved varieties. The plan's paragraph on the corps doesn't mention cotton or textiles. The plan says we should "view the army as a game of chess" and calls the corps "...a stabilizer for border security, a melting pot that gathers people of all ethnic groups, and a demonstration area for advanced productivity and culture."
Agricultural and sideline product processing and export-oriented industrial clusters are planned for four locations. Textile and garment import-export processing, export processing districts, border trade and western-oriented opening industry bases will be created in Xinjiang. An International Textile Product Garment Trade Center is planned for the capital, Urumqi. Other export-oriented industries planned include electronics assembly, Chinese herbal medicine, shoes and hats, toys, wigs, bags, and leather goods.
The plan will continue the ethnic employment strategies that have prompted foreigners to ban Xinjiang goods. A paragraph on vocational training and employment targets "surplus workers in rural and urban areas" and poor people. The plan includes an initiative to train 200,000 people for technical jobs in construction over 3 years and to achieve a goal of increasing urban employment by 450,000 per year. Another initiative is a "dynamic reset" for urban households with zero-employment. The plan calls for enrolling all junior high school graduates in vocational education. Another paragraph calls for construction of high quality vocational training schools in counties and cities with relatively large populations, and programs to improve quality of teachers.
Although it's a plan for the "Uighur Autonomous Region," the "Uighur" ethnic group is never mentioned in the 50-page document except in the title. The phrase "Chinese nationality" (中华民族) appears 14 times and "unity" (团结) appears 34 times. According to the plan's prologue, Xinjiang has laid a foundation for development by strengthening "...each ethnic group’s sense of gain, happiness, security...[with] social stability and people living and working in peace and contentment." Yet the plan intones that the region must "persist in maintaining social stability as an overriding political task."
The plan promises to protect freedom of religion, upgrade places of worship and support religious schools. But religion must follow Chinese law, and "infiltration" and "crime" will not be tolerated. The plan requires "Sinification of Islam." Clerics who collaborate ("patriotic religious figures") are promised rewards if they educate religious believers in national, civic and legal awareness and "play a role in critical situations." The plan promises to crack down on religious extremists and continue to deepen de-radicalization. Socialist adaptation for religious people must be improved.
Elsewhere the plan calls for better propaganda education of the masses to unify the people. In education, historical facts and archaeological objects are to be "used effectively" to convince students that members of all ethnic groups that happen to live within the boundaries of communist China have a "common history."
The plan is rounded out by demanding stronger communist party leadership, an unrivaled leadership role for party committees, party leaders as role models, and grass roots party organizations as "citadels in battle."