China—a state of rapid economic growth, religious and cultural freedom
By Hafiz Ahmadi-Rapid economic growth, construction projects, huge modern cities, rich culture, and very friendly, kind and hospitable people, were my first impressions in my first visit to the People’s Republic of China. These things were completely different from what I had heard before about our neighboring country through the reports and analysis in the Western media.
Economically, China is today an international power and its government’s free business policy has had positive results, opening the doors for foreign investments. Several giant international companies have invested in different sectors such as infrastructure and development. The policy has helped China’s economy increase and has brought an eye-catching change in the people’s economic situation. The foreign investment is just part of the economy, while thousands of its own manufactures that are run by the talented and professional Chinese people export goods to the world, and Chinese products have occupied the international markets. The government of China plans to uproot poverty by the third decade of the current century.
Highways, modern and high-speed rail as well as airlines link China’s cities to each other. Inside the cities, trolleybus lines and speedy subways provide citizens with facilities of transportation besides buses and taxies.
China that once needed to send youth to abroad for higher education, is now welcoming foreigners and thousands of people from different countries are studying in the country’s universities and higher education institutes.
The Belt Road program which is the continuation of the old famous Silk Road can be considered as the biggest economic program was launched in 2013. The five-trillion dollar project that is called as the ‘project of the century” links several countries from Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa, focusing on transportation, energy, railways, gas pipelines and power plants.
The Uyghur autonomous region of Xinjiang in the west of China has been the heart of the Belt Road project and Afghanistan was also part of the Chinese traders to reach to the Western Asia and then to Africa. Xinjiang is a multi-ethnic region in China is home to different the followers of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and other religions.
Xinjiang border Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where people from more than 50 ethnic minorities such as Uyghur, Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Mongol live. Muslims make up the most population from the Uyghur ethnic group.
The Chinese government’s policy is equality among the ethnicities and religions that has been mentioned in the country’s constitution.
People in China enjoy freedom of religion.They have equal rights and responsibilities. There is no restriction for the Chinese people to carry out their religious rituals. Religious and ethnic discriminations are banned in China and the government acts against any kind of discrimination. The Islamic college is the largest theology institute for the Muslims in Xinjiang in which hundreds of Muslim students study Islamic subjects like the holy Koran and Hadith.
The government provides facilities to the Muslims to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia for performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Muslims are free to take fast during the month of Ramadan.
The number of Muslims in Xinjiang region is around eight million that make up both Shiites and Sunnis. However, as a secular country, politics are separated from religious beliefs, and religion should not interfere in the administration and political affairs. China hardly opposes terrorism and extremism under the religious pretext, and students at schools are taught that violence, terrorism and extremism have no place in the country.
Uyghur people speak and write in their own language (Uyghur) and the official language. The signs across the Urumqi city, the capital of Xinjiang read in Arabic and Chinese alphabet. This was interesting for me to see and read the signs in Arabic alphabet.
Media has developed significantly in Xinjiang with dozens of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV broadcasters informing the people what happens in the country and abroad.
Xinjiang is linked to other regions by the newly-built highways, railroads and has an international airport that receives flights from inside the country and abroad. Hundreds of construction and development projects are seen around the city of Urumqi that explains the government and people’s interest and hard work to make a bright future and prosperous life for the next generations.
Maintain old and rich culture is very important for Chinese and the people find their identities and history through this. Monuments, museums and other memorial things display the ancient and historic events about the country to the visitors. An official said that there was no highway to Xinjiang 15 years ago, but now highways play the most important role in connecting the area to other regions.
Chinese people are very interested in cinema, theaters and operas and talented artists perform in the theater halls.