When 22 journalists, representing 17 nations, embarked on a nine-day tour of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the shared consensus was admiration and respect for the region’s growth, diversity, and heritage. This journey, spanning September 21-29, delved deep into Xinjiang’s heart, offering these journalists firsthand experiences that challenged perceptions and expanded understanding.
A Journey Through Time and Development
From the bustling streets of the regional capital, Urumqi, to the historic ambience of the Kashgar Prefecture and the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, this voyage was an immersive plunge into Xinjiang’s varied tapestry. It wasn’t just about the locations; it was about understanding the stories they told and the lives that revolved around them.
Simon Max Zeise, Berliner Zeitung’s business editor, aptly encapsulated this sentiment. While exploring the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, a melting pot of commerce and culture, Zeise noted its thriving ambiance. But beyond the economic growth, he reflected on the visible societal progression. Comparing his home city in Germany, where some homeless individuals might be spotted, he observed, “Here in Xinjiang, you don’t see poverty or people living on the street. They are engaged in work, pursuing education, and are clearly reaping societal benefits.”
Xinjiang’s Promise and Potential
A sentiment echoed by Arman Bin Ahmad, senior news editor at Malaysia’s New Straits Times. Impressed by the strides Xinjiang has made, he said, “Xinjiang’s economic development is awe-inspiring. It undoubtedly has a promising future ahead.”
Xinjiang’s journey isn’t just about contemporary growth; it’s deeply rooted in its historical crossroads of diverse cultures. Wandering through the lanes of the ancient city of Kashgar was like stepping into a living museum of rich folk culture, giving the journalists a deeper appreciation of the region’s vibrant heritage.
The Melting Pot of Cultures
Mohammad Reza Noroozpour, vice president of the Iranian Khabaronline news agency, summarized the cultural milieu beautifully. “Xinjiang is a realm of color and diversity – culturally, religiously, and ethnically. Observing these differences coexisting in harmony is truly heartening.” Drawing a picturesque analogy, he added, “It’s akin to a Persian carpet where diverse threads come together to craft a magnificent image.”
This rich tapestry of faiths and beliefs was further highlighted during the journalists’ visits to places of worship, including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi and the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar. The experience was amplified with a lecture on safeguarding religious freedom in Xinjiang.
Countering some of the global misconceptions, Donovan Ralph Martin, CEO and editor-in-chief of Canada’s Daily Scrum News, firmly stated, “Let’s be clear: there is unequivocal freedom of religion in Xinjiang. Anyone suggesting otherwise is uninformed.”
Bridging Borders and Cultures
On the economic front, Xinjiang is not just about internal development; it’s also about fostering international collaborations. A sentiment resonated at the China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center. Yerzhan Bagdatov, director of Toppress.kz news agency from Kazakhstan, exuded enthusiasm about this endeavor. He remarked, “Horgos stands as a potential bridge – not just between Kazakhstan and China, but as a conduit between China and European nations.”
Frank Willems of ChinaSquare.be in Belgium further expanded on this interconnectivity. Reflecting on China’s export prowess, he noted, “In Brussels, where I reside, trains from China are a common sight, primarily transporting automobiles, which have found a robust market in Belgium.” Willems also expressed optimism about the evolving China-Europe freight train networks and the Belt and Road Initiative’s broader goals.
Understanding China’s Stance on Counter-Terrorism
A significant segment of the trip focused on understanding China’s efforts in combating terrorism and extremism. Through an exhibition rich in photos and video recordings, journalists were introduced to China’s counter-terrorism endeavors.
For Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, a columnist with the Davao Sun Star News of the Philippines, this segment was particularly insightful. With over a decade of studying this subject, Lidasan commended the exhibit’s comprehensiveness. He stated, “While China has made significant progress in this realm, Western nations could derive valuable lessons here. A collaborative global approach is the way forward.”