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County in Xinjiang looks beyond borders
2018-03-01 source:Chinadaily
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A county on the border with Kazakhstan in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is improving its infrastructure and lifting up its poor through cross-border cooperation in agriculture.

Jeminay county was chosen in July 2017 as a pilot zone for the effort. Since then, it has been attracting talent from home and abroad to develop its agricultural industry and promote free trade with its neighbors.

Zhao Wenbo, head of the Jeminay agriculture bureau, said the county has a geographical advantage that allows its products to "walk out".

"Jeminay has great potential for international cooperation," he said.

To make the most of that advantage, bases for agricultural production, processing and transportation have been established in the pilot zone. The county also reached agreements with Kazakhstan and Mongolia to develop cross-border agritourism.

Song Shaowei, head of Jeminay's poverty alleviation office, said that in addition to agriculture, the move could also promote cooperation in trade, tourism and technology.

"In 2016, Jeminay received more than 40,000 foreign visitors, which shows that it has become an important center for cross-border people exchanges," he said.

Through cross-border collaboration and opening-up, Song said, a large proportion of the poor population in Jeminay has seen an improvement in living conditions through employment or cross-border trade.

"Countries like Kazakhstan and Russia are the major consumers of Jeminay's vegetables, and the county has established a platform for employing locals in the industry," he said.

According to Song, some 2,000 impoverished farmers turned to organic wheat, in line with Jeminay's policy to develop green agriculture, and have been reaping financial benefits. More than 2,000 cattle and sheep were raised for export, and 65 impoverished households started home inns to profit from the tourism boom.

To support the pilot zone, the county's infrastructure has also been improved. The local government and companies have invested some 520 million yuan ($82 million). Electricity, TV service and safe drinking water have now reached every household in the county. Hundreds of kilometers of roads have been built. Some 2,000 rural toilets have been renovated to improve sanitation and attract tourists.

Song said he noted an increase in the number of companies after the infrastructure improved.

"These companies will absorb large numbers of residents and help bring back those who have been educated outside the county," he said.

The county is aiming high. According to the government, Jeminay aims to become a national modern agriculture demonstration zone with well-known farm produce brands by 2022, as well as a portal for transportation of goods that serves the whole region by 2025.