Xinjiang progress key to national unity

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Communist Party of China has been highlighting that China is a country with many ethnic groups and follows a governance policy with Chinese characteristics. As such, China has created and implemented the system of regional ethnic autonomy, while promoting equality and unity among all ethnic groups.

The system of governance with Chinese characteristics has also paved the way for the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's development since its establishment 65 years ago.

First, regional ethnic autonomy provides an institutional guarantee for the development of Xinjiang and equality of all ethnic groups. The central government has always attached the highest importance to the development of Xinjiang, which is home to multiple ethnic groups, and geopolitically and strategically important for national security and stability.

By implementing regional ethnic autonomy, the central government has adhered to the rule of law, ensured national unity and stability, and promoted the economic development of Xinjiang in the new era thus laying a solid foundation for the overall socioeconomic progress and unity of the entire nation.

The system of regional ethnic autonomy, written into the Constitution, grants the broadest rights to all ethnic groups and promotes inter-ethnic unity. As a result, the successive chairpersons of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and chiefs of the region's top legislature and political advisory body have been elected from different minority groups. And the heads of autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties in Xinjiang have been chosen from among local residents.

About 62.1 percent of the deputies to the 13th Xinjiang people's congress, and 46.7 percent of the members of the region's 13th Xinjiang political advisory body are from ethnic minorities, and they play important roles in the decision-making process for local development.

By protecting and promoting the traditional cultures of different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, the central government has ensured that their spoken and written languages are widely used in everyday life and in various fields including education, print and electronic media, the internet, and the administration and judiciary.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, Xinjiang's GDP has increased on average 8.5 percent annually, and per capita disposable income in urban and rural areas has increased 8.4 percent and 8.2 percent respectively.

Attaching utmost importance to education, the Xinjiang regional government has taken the lead in the country to offer 15-year free education from kindergarten to high school in the southern part of the region, and increased the financial aid for students from poverty-stricken families. Because of such measures, the education gap has significantly narrowed between northern Xinjiang and southern Xinjiang, between urban and rural areas, and between different districts of the region.

Apart from the annual aid of 400 billion yuan ($58.63 billion) paid by the central government, 19 provinces and municipalities invested 18.82 billion yuan in Xinjiang in 2019 alone. And more than 80 percent of the capital has been used to improve grassroots people's livelihoods, and promote social stability and economic growth for all ethnic groups.

Second, ethnic unity is the cornerstone of Xinjiang's progress and development, and is related to national stability and fundamental interests. But aside from promoting different ethnic groups' languages and safeguarding their distinct ethnic cultures, the common cultural identity, a key part of national identity, is vital to promote ethnic unity. So it's important for all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to develop a sense of national identity and culture, which will help safeguard sovereignty and national security, and combat secessionism and terrorism in the region.

The autonomous region, in line with the principle of national governance, has taken a series of measures to promote exchanges among different ethnic groups and strengthen their sense of national identity. In fact, the growing number of mixed ethnic neighborhoods and towns in Xinjiang has boosted communication among different ethnic groups.

In other words, only by continuing to improve the system of regional ethnic autonomy and consolidating ethnic unity in the new era can all ethnic groups in Xinjiang work together to boost national unity and realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

The author is vice-president of Xinjiang Normal University.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.