- Nov 4, 2011
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China ‘proactively building’ image as Central Asian media bosses taken on Xinjiang tour
- Heads of 21 media organisations from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have wrapped up week-long visit organised by Xinjiang authorities
- Event is China’s latest attempt to project positive image of Xinjiang amid rights abuse allegations as it tries to build influence in Central Asia
Published: 6:11pm, 30 Aug, 2023
Uygur people outside the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region. Photo: AFP
China is “proactively building” the image of Xinjiang in Central Asia, an observer said, as authorities in the western Chinese region hosted media bosses from four former Soviet republics with deep cultural and historical connections to it.
The heads of 21 media organisations from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan arrived in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi on Thursday for a week-long visit organised by regional authorities, Chinese state media reported over the weekend.
Events during the trip included a seminar in Urumqi and a visit to the northern Hui autonomous prefecture of Changji, where they visited a power company with ties to Central Asia and a hi-tech agriculture park, official agency China News Service (CNS) reported.
They also travelled to the bustling city of Turpan and the Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture on the border with Kazakhstan, the report said.
“We all know that there is a lot of fake news about Xinjiang outside China. But we have seen Xinjiang with our own eyes so that we can better showcase its achievements,” a CNS video report broadcast on Monday showed the deputy editor-in-chief of the Interfax-Kazakhstan News Agency as saying.
The general manager of Silk Road Today, a media outlet based in the Kazakh city of Almaty, highlighted the future prospects of Xinjiang.
“Xinjiang has unlimited development potential as an important window for China’s opening up to its west,” he told local Communist Party mouthpiece Xinjiang Daily.
On Wednesday, the visitors were treated to a Peking opera performance in Urumqi ahead of their departure.
The event is the latest attempt by China to project a positive image of Xinjiang amid allegations of human rights violations against Uygurs and other Muslim minorities, as Beijing tries to establish its influence in Central Asia.
China denies all rights abuse allegations and says its policies in Xinjiang are correct and necessary.
Earlier this year, top Xinjiang officials pledged to bring in more foreign visitors in the hope of generating favourable publicity for the region. Regional party chief Ma Xingrui also went on a rare trip to Central Asia in March. His visit to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was aimed at widening Xinjiang’s trade ties with the three countries.
Zhu Yongbiao, a professor at the School of Politics and International Relations in China’s Lanzhou University, said the visit of the media executives might be part of an official “proactive building” of Xinjiang’s image.
“One event won’t change anything, but it is a signal,” he said, hailing the trip as a “landmark” in China-Central Asia ties.
The independence of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union was among factors Beijing once blamed for violent clashes in Xinjiang, which it said were aimed at separating the region from China.
Zhu said the visit was significant because Central Asia had long offered a basis for “Western-led” narratives against China’s Xinjiang policies.
“Kazakhstan shares a long border with Xinjiang and interaction among Kazakhs [across the border] has been active,” he said, in a reference to Central Asian cultural affinities with Xinjiang that had contributed to their previously being regarded as supporters of “separatist forces” identified by China.
Zhu speculated that representatives from Turkmenistan, the remaining Central Asian country, were not among the visiting group because the country had relatively little interaction with the outside world, including Xinjiang, and “is not a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation” led by China and Russia.
The media delegation was among multiple Central Asia-related events hosted by Xinjiang in recent weeks, including a visit earlier this month by Akylbek Japarov, chairman of the Cabinet in Kyrgyzstan.
Japarov’s itinerary included the Kyrgyz-Chinese business forum in Urumqi and a meeting with regional party boss Ma.
Kyrgyzstan could serve as a window to the European Union market for Chinese investors, Japarov told the forum, where agreements worth more than US$1 billion were signed, official Kyrgyz media said.
Beijing sees Central Asia as an important part of its ambitious transnational Belt and Road Initiative, and key to maintaining stability in Xinjiang as well as building its economy.
The leaders of China and the five Central Asian countries and some of their spouses at a welcome ceremony for the first China-Central Asia summit, in Xian in May. Photo: EPA-EFE/Kyrgyzstan President Press Service Handout
Japarov’s visit and the just-concluded media tour were both part of increased Central Asia-oriented activities in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China this year.
Late last month, Xinjiang authorities invited more than 200 experts, scholars, journalists and online influencers from a number of belt and road countries to participate in a “Hello, Silk Road” international online communication conference.
In May, Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted the first China-Central Asia summit attended by leaders of all five countries in the region.
“The world needs a harmonious Central Asia. Brotherhood is better than all wealth,” Xi said in a keynote speech at the two-day summit in the northwestern city of Xian, as he called for greater economic, trade and energy cooperation.
Event is China’s latest attempt to project positive image of Xinjiang amid rights abuse allegations as it tries to build influence in Central Asia.