Ties Increase Between Xinjiang and China's Central Asian Neighbors

March 30, 2005

The United Nations Development Programme recently announced that it is working with the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to promote increased regional trade and tourism, create better transportation networks, improve informational exchanges, and develop policy regulations. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will help coordinate the two-year, million dollar, "Silk Road Area Development" program.

The Chinese government has hailed cooperation with Central Asia as a key opportunity for creating "flourishing borders and prosperous minorities." Several of the Muslim minority groups (including the Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Tajiks) concentrated along China's border in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region share ethnicity with people living in neighboring Central Asian countries. China has announced several large scale investments in Central Asia, including a $3 billion pipeline construction project with Kazakhstan launched in September 2004.

The Chinese government remains concerned, however, that increased exchanges among Muslims may add fuel to an independence movement supported by some members of these minority groups. In June 2004, the SCO created a Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure based in Bishkek to stamp out the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.