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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Xinjiang-Tajik border opened

Pamir Mountain range "China and Tajikistan have officially opened their shared border at a pass high in the Pamir Mountains. State officials from Xinjiang province (sic) in western China and the Prime Minister of Tajikistan, Aqil Aqilov, cut a red ribbon at the mountain village of Kulma, sending a fleet of ceremonial trucks across to the Chinese side."

I ran a poll on a related website some six months ago asking who my visitors believed would become the pre-eminent influence in Central Asia: Russia, China, America or India.

My own answer was that I thought it would ultimately be Russia with India being a dark horse. I based this on Russia's long history and in depth understanding of the region. My visitors were pretty evenly divided but overall America was seen to be the "winner" with China a close second.

Well some six months later I am beginning to re-think my position and am coming to believe that China will become the power in Central Asia.

This small piece of news is just another example of how by small and large steps China is slowly and inexorably insinuating itself into Central Asia. Recent news has also seen for example announcements of even closer relations between Khazakhstan and China economically and in security matters.

The importance of Central Asia to China is considerable not only from a strategic point of view but also as a source of oil and gas which is much needed in an energy starved economy.

The border between Tajikstan and Xinjiang has according to the linked article been closed for almost a century during the Soviet time. It is just one of many communication links that are opening up everywhere between China and Central Asia. The news abounds daily with reports of new bus route here, airline route there, planned highways and possible train routes in and through Central Asia.

For the Tajiks, like the Afghans a persian race distinct from the Turkic peoples of Xinjiang,Kazakhstan,Krygystan and Uzbekistan, the road provides quicker and cheaper access to Chinese consumer goods and machinery and technology needed to modernise their country. For the Chinese it further opens up another market and provides them with the added ability to trade onwards to other parts of Central Asia.

For the trivia buffs the Kulma Pass set among the towering peaks of the Pamir mountain range is one of the highest trading routes on earth with the border between Xinjiang and Tajikstan being over 4,000 metres high.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | China-Tajik border opened