Houston Community News >> China Plans 12 New Highways to Central Asian Countries

4/6/2007 --  China plans to build 12 new highways linking its northwestern Xinjiang region and Central Asia, state media reported. The planned roads will connect the region with China's neighbors including Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, the Xinhua news agency reported late Thursday, citing the regional transport administration. They will also connect region, populated by people hailing from Turkic roots, and Istanbul. 

Xinjiang region is also known as the Uygur Autonomous Region of China, inhabited by the Turkic descent Muslim population of China. Especially after September 11 in 2001, China started to increase the weight of the anti-terror arrangements and one of the main regions of concentration was Xinjiang. Xinjiang is one of the biggest problem areas for Turkish-Chinese relations because the Chinese government occasionally accuses Turkey of hosting the leaders of the separatist movements of the region. Some circles in Turkey believe they have historical and ethnic ties with people of the region and that they are half-brothers of the Turks. However, on a political level, Turkish governments have chosen to keep their neutral position between the Chinese and the Turkic side. Therefore, the construction of these new roads holds not only cultural and metaphorical importance, but also political importance, as it will create a direct physical link between the ‘half-brothers.'

The longest road will stretch from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, the report said. From Tashkent onwards, people traveling by car will be able to reach Iran's Mashhad, Turkey's Istanbul and ultimately Europe, the report said. The road will be completed before 2010, it said, without detailing when the other highways will be opened.

Energy-hungry China has actively courted central Asia's resource rich nations over the last few years as it seeks to power an economy that continues to roar ahead at average growth rates of around 10 percent. Although the physical and political ties are now clear, the economic effects of these roads will have to be examined in the longer term.

(Contributed by Turkish Daily News)