Further opening up the economy of Xinjiang and boosting its trade with neighbouring countries are the keys to the region's rapid development, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday as he opened the first China-Eurasia Expo in the regional capital, Urumqi .
Xinhua quoted Li as saying that the government was working to accelerate the opening up of Xinjiang by setting up special economic zones in two border cities, restructuring local industries, expanding the number of border trade ports, and implementing financial measures to encourage the use of the yuan in cross-border trade and investment.
Li also urged neighbouring countries to fast track cross-border infrastructure projects - roads, railways, airports, pipelines and telecommunication networks - to explore the full potential of transport across the Eurasian heartland.
In a bid to stem unrest in the region - where the former Uygur majority is outnumbered by Han Chinese and where ethnic clashes in July 2009 left nearly 200 people dead - the Communist Party has vowed to pursue rapid development and long-term peace and stability by providing the region with huge amounts of capital and human resources.
Security was extremely tight in and around the expo venue in an Urumqi suburb, with scores of policemen carrying machine guns patrolling and all those attending the event, including reporters, being subjected to head-to-toe security checks.
There have been reports that Urumqi had been targeted for terrorist attacks, with Urumqi party secretary Zhu Hailun saying on Wednesday that police had thwarted several attempts to sabotage public safety in the run-up to the event, Xinhua reported.
Li also met Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Macau Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on yesterday.
In a speech to the forum, Tsang said that as the most important source of funds for Xinjiang, Hong Kong had contributed up to US$130 million of actual investment - making up 54 per cent of all outside funding flowing into the northwestern region.
'Hong Kong's accumulated investment in Xinjiang has grown to 400 items, covering textiles, light industries, food, petrochemicals, tourism, transport and other businesses,' the chief executive said.
He also said that four Xinjiang corporations had raised a total of HK$13 billion by listing on the Hong Kong stock market last year, with Xinjiang investing more than US$30 million in the special administrative region that same year.
The expo is an upgraded version of the former Urumqi Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Fair, which began in 1992 and became the highest-level trade fair in western China.
Organisers of the event said about 50,000 officials and businessmen from China and about 30 countries, regions and international organisations are expected to attend the five-day trade fair.