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Kashgar, a westernmost city in the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region bordering Central and South Asia, was paired with the southern city of Shenzhen, the most successful special economic zone for its future development. The development of Kashgar’s economy in specific and the Xinjiang in general is a part of China’s new Silk Road project which serves multi-purpose goals, such as narrowing regional disparity, reducing ethnic tensions, fighting terrorism and balancing US pivot to Asia. It is skeptical whether the Shenzhen model can be transplanted into Kashgar. The plan of developing Kashgar’s economy and establishing Kashgar special economic zone may be considered a new bottle with old wine. The development programmes in the past several decades did not address the roots of ethnic tension, including suppression of cultural autonomy and unequal distribution of the benefits and social costs of economic growth. Besides that, the success of the Shenzhen special economic zone is an exception, not a rule. It was unsuccessful in the past attempts to transfer the successful experience from Shenzhen to other special economic zones. It is skeptical whether the Shenzhen experience can be transplanted to Kashgar, whose geographical location and investment environment was much inferior.

Original publication




Journal article


East Asia

Publication Date





117 - 136