Where Will the New Silk Road Lead? The Effects of Chinese Investment and Migration in Xinjiang and Central Asia

Brown, Rachel

Liu Yazhou, a general in the People’s Liberation Army once wrote that Central Asia is “the thickest piece of cake given to the modern Chinese by the heavens.” Over the past three decades, China has sought to take advantage of its strategic location next to Central Asia and its influence in the region has grown dramatically. China’s relationship with Central Asia is strongly influenced by its policies and aspirations concerning the western province of Xinjiang. The province borders three of the five Central Asian states and its largest ethnic group, the Uighurs, share a Turkic heritage and Muslim religion with many Central Asians. As the Chinese government has tried to integrate Xinjiang into the rest of the country to establish that it is more cohesively a part of China, the province has been beset by tensions between the native Uighur population and Han migrants.3 In 2013, the Chinese government announced the “New Silk Road,” a grand scheme to develop inter-Asian transportation and trade routes, a large portion of which run through Xinjiang and Central Asia. An article by Wu Jianmin, former president of the China Foreign Affairs University, described the project as “the most significant and far-reaching initiative that China has ever put forward.”4 Due to the unstable situation in Xinjiang, the New Silk Road, unlike many other instances of Chinese investment abroad, is likely to have a direct domestic impact in China.


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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April 26, 2016