A merchant is seen at the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 24, 2017. (Xinhua/Zhao Ge)
Authorities in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region announced an annual GDP growth rate of 9.3 percent since 2012, and experts said that the key is to strike a balance between economic development and stability in the region.
Xinjiang's gross domestic product rose from 750.5 billion yuan ($112.7 billion) in 2012 to 961.7 billion yuan in 2016, an annual increase of 9.3 percent and 2.2 percent higher than the national average, according to a statement from the region's development and reform commission on Saturday.
The region's average per capita income has reached 40,427 yuan, the commission said.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), 5,587 projects worth 59.8 billion yuan have been implemented in Xinjiang, fueling the region's economic and social development, it said.
"Xinjiang has been facing a complicated environment and pressure in recent years and its achievements since the 18th Party congress could instill confidence in the people of the region and unite them," Shen Guiping, a religious expert at the Central Institute of Socialism in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Shen said that Xinjiang has been developing rapidly since 2012 thanks to measures including poverty alleviation and cooperation with other parts of China.
"The conferences on Xinjiang held by the Central Committee of the CPC have created a comprehensive path for Xinjiang's development, together with the efforts of the local government and people of different ethnic groups," Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Meanwhile the number of residents living in poverty dropped from 2.6 million in 2013 to 1.2 million in 2016, the commission said.
The Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday that the region raised 4.17 billion yuan in 2017 in relocation funds as part of its poverty reduction drive. The fund, up from the previous year's 1.3 billion yuan, will be used to house 83,900 people being relocated to more developed areas from poverty-hit regions.
Xinjiang also raised the allowances of border residents. The average monthly subsidies for border guards on plateau areas have risen from 1,000 yuan to 2,600 yuan in the last five years.
According to a development plan released by the region's education department, more than 98 percent of children will have access to three years of free preschool education. By 2020, all students attending kindergarten, primary and junior schools will be provided with bilingual education and students from ethnic minority groups will have a basic command of standard spoken and written Chinese.
The region has also focused on building a core area for the Belt and Road initiative. By the end of 2016, the region had four comprehensive bonded zones, 15 first-class open border ports and 111 international transport lines shared with five neighboring countries, the commission said.
From 2012 to 2016, the region built 1,250.7 kilometers of railway, including 717 kilometers for high-speed trains. The combined regional railway network reached 5,868 kilometers.
The region produced 133 million tons of crude oil and 141 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the past five years and has provided energy resources to other parts of China, making the region increasingly vital to the national energy system, the commission said.
The trade volume of cross-border e-commerce in Xinjiang reached $1.22 million from July to September, the region's customs office said Saturday. Some 176,000 items have been exported from Xinjiang since the region started cross-border e-commerce in July, Xinhua reported.
"Xinjiang continues to face the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as economic development and social stability affect each other," Xiong said.
"Therefore, close dependence on the Party and people of different ethnicities to maintain stability is necessary," he said.
The crackdown on extremism has made headway in recent years. To maintain development, it is necessary for all levels of governments in Xinjiang to stay away from extremist influences, Shen noted.