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Transportation boost puts region on road to riches

By Cui Jia and Mao Weihua Source: China Daily Updated: 2021-06-21

Creative development

Despite being one of the youngest settlements along the new Silk Road, the development of Horgos is driven by creativity. The city's International Cooperation Center, which straddles the China-Kazakhstan border, is the world's only cross-border free trade zone. Movement of personnel, vehicles and goods within the zone is unrestricted, and stores and visitors pay little or no tax.

In a written interview with China Daily this month, Chen Quanguo, Party secretary of Xinjiang, said the Horgos Economic Development Zone is expected to become a key engine in Northwest China to further boost Xinjiang's opening up as the region plans to accelerate the speed at which it becomes a core area on the Silk Road Economic Belt.

According to the regional government's work report, published in January, Xinjiang will attach great importance to building an international land port zone in Urumqi, along with economic development zones in Horgos and the southern city of Kashgar, a key settlement on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In addition to becoming a transportation hub and trade center, Xinjiang aims to become a focus for financial services, culture and technology, and medical services along the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Connectivity is so crucial for Xinjiang's development and key to making it a key corridor on the Silk Road Economic Belt that both the regional and central governments have continuously invested heavily to improve the transportation infrastructure.

Xinjiang is now connected to neighboring countries by 118 highways, the highest number among all China's provinces and regions. By 2019, all the region's prefectures and cities had been connected by highways.

On May 20, construction of the last section of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway in the region was completed, making it the second highway to connect Xinjiang with other parts of China, following the Lianyungang-Horgos Expressway that runs to Jiangsu province.

The Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway stretches more than 2,768 kilometers, passing through Beijing, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi and Gansu before reaching Urumqi.

Furthermore, 15 civil airports will be completed or under construction in Xinjiang within five years, Zhang Jun, chairman of the Xinjiang Airport Group, said in February.

The number of civil airports in Xinjiang has risen to 22 in the past five years, but the 14th Five-Year Plan will see the total rise to 37, the highest number among all China's provinces and regions.

Xinjiang will gain many advantages by integrating the development of countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and other parts of China once the transportation infrastructure and supporting policies are in place, said Liu Yilei, head of the Research Institute for Economic Development and Reform in Western China at Xinjiang University.

"By taking part in the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt and other parts of China, Xinjiang will be able to explore new opportunities to achieve high-quality development, which is important for maintaining lasting stability in the region," Liu said.

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