Thursday, May 16, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

“A new decade for the BRI: Xinjiang – Gateway to the future”

The modern China

"Go West, Young Man!" was the 19th century rallying cry for economic growth and development in the United States. It was also Abraham Lincoln's vision to build the transcontinental railroad to facilitate this development. Today, China's Belt and Road Initiative exhibits the same spirit of progress and development, exemplified by the astounding development of Xinjiang, writes BRIX Sweden chairman Stephen Brawer.

Updated yesterday 12:43 Published 9 May 2024
Stephen Brawer at the Forum on Global Human Rights Governance in Beijing in June 2023.
This is an opinion piece. The author is responsible for the views expressed in the article.

My visit to Xinjiang in November 2023 was the opportunity of a lifetime. Since I became chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden, the mainstream media in Sweden and Europe has been pouring out false information, attacking China for “human rights” abuses, forced labor camps, and even genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. This disinformation campaign is directed mainly toward the European population and has worked only because they lack the experience and the ability to see the reality for themselves. I am very happy and very privileged to have been given this opportunity personally. Xinjiang is a province in the far west of China. Although it is the province with the largest land area, it is also one of the least populated provinces with a total population of approximately 25 million.

The landscape is among the most beautiful I have seen in my lifetime. The seemingly unending sands of the Taklamakan desert and the snow-covered peaks of the Tian Shan mountains combine for an unforgettable experience of the power of Nature.

Xinjiang covers an area as large as Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined.

Xinjiang literally means “New Frontier” in Chinese. Since China embraced the policy reforms of Deng Xiaoping’s “Opening Up” in 1978, China’s rapid development transformed the Guangdong province. The city of Shenzhen has been particularly successful in implementing Deng’s policies, growing from a small fishing village into a high-tech metropolis of more than 20 million people. Shenzhen is now, in fact, the model for how to replicate this great success in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang literally means “New Frontier” in Chinese.

My visit included a trip to Kashgar. I was an invited speaker at a major conference on the Belt and Road Initiative held at Kashgar University. The expansion and development of the University as a major source of knowledge and higher education was by itself an inspiring experience. In his speech in Beijing on the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative in October 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on the next 10 years for the further development of the Belt and Road Initiative. My presence at the Belt and Road Forum, made clear to me China’s commitment to Xinjiang, in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

A picture of the old town of Kashgar, taken by the author of the article during his visit there.

 

Kashgar by night.

Xinjiang borders eight countries, all of which can and will play a central role in connecting China to Central Asia and Europe. Major infrastructure, industrial, energy and trade corridors are being built to connect Xinjiang with these countries. These neighbouring countries are Kazakhstan, Russia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, and Afghanistan.

There can in the not-so-distant future be a network of fast trains running between China and these bordering countries through Xinjiang. Ürümqi has already become a logistics hub with 6 500 freight trains carrying goods manufactured in Xinjiang to 19 countries in Europe and Central Asia. China is receiving large portions of its gas pipeline imports from Central Asia.

Stephen Brawer speaking at the conference on the Belt and Road Initiative held at Kashgar University.

The potential of natural gas reserves as well as hydro power development is a natural organic connection between Xinjiang and China, into Central Asia, and further into Southwest Asia, Africa, and Europe. Not to join in such a grand development perspective which the BRI envisions is worse than short-sighted. It is in fact sabotage of mankind’s best interests.

Ürümqi has already become a logistics hub with 6 500 freight trains carrying goods manufactured in Xinjiang to 19 countries in Europe and Central Asia.

It was in 2004, that the Chinese government launched its “Go West” campaign. The purpose was to balance the economic growth of China’s wealthier and more populous eastern provinces with the less developed and more sparsely populated western regions. The BRI, which was an extension of this “Go West” strategy, has expanded China’s “Opening Up”, to include the vast landmass of Eurasia. During my visit to Shenzhen, I was able to visit the historical museum, which describes the great transformation which was led by Yuan Geng. It was inspiring to see how Shenzhen was transformed into what is today one of the main drivers of China’s economic growth. The vision of Xinjiang becoming a new Shenzhen was an underlying theme of the conference at Kashgar. The coming ten years of the BRI have all the potential to turn Xinjiang into the gateway of prosperity in Central and West Asia.

Ironically, the internal development of the United States was based on precisely the same type of vision. “Go West, Young Man!” was the 19th century rallying cry for economic growth and development in the United States. It was also Abraham Lincoln’s vision to build the transcontinental railroad to facilitate this development. If only there were leaders, like Lincoln, in the United States today, that would operate and think in similar ways, there would be no problem in bringing the United States and Europe on board to join and cooperate with the BRI.

“Go West, Young Man!” was the 19th century rallying cry for economic growth and development in the United States.

Stephen Brawer, Chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden in dialogue with Professor Tao Yitao, Dean of Shenzhen University and Director of the China Center for Special Economic Zones Research and Xie Yifei, lead reporter and producer for Guangdong TV.

Xi Jinping’s Global Civilization Initiative is a framework for uniting human civilization around cultural dialogue. In light of this, the religious, cultural and historical archive of Xinjiang can impact not only Eurasia, but most importantly Western civilization. It addressess the need to build bridges between East and West. Only by improving understanding and knowledge which ultimately unites human civilizations can we achieve the goal of “a community for a shared future for mankind”.

Only by improving understanding and knowledge which ultimately unites human civilizations can we achieve the goal of “a community for a shared future for mankind”.

Let us proceed in light of these higher ideals of human reason. It is with this goal in mind that the work of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden will go forward and grow.

 

Stephen Brawer,

Chairman of BRIX Sweden – The Belt and Road Institute in Sweden

BRIX Sweden - the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden, is a non-profit association founded by the organizers, speakers and participants of a seminar on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its economic and strategic importance for Europe and Sweden, which took place in Stockholm on 30 May 2018. The seminar was jointly organized by the Schiller Institute and the China-Sweden Business Council.

BRIX members include entrepreneurs, economists and strategic experts with a wide range of expertise in Swedish and Chinese economic issues. Their common conclusion is that the BRI is not only important for good economic and political relations between China and Sweden, but also fundamentally favorable for economic development and peace among all countries.

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