Everyday when their shift ends, workers in Kashgar of Xinjiang line up to take a seat in one of over a dozen coaches waiting to take them home.8 In the latest poverty-relief drive across Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, thousands of former farmers, mostly of Uygur ethnicity, have found more-secure, better-paid jobs in factories.
Shenzhen Industrial Park, located in Jiashi County, Kashgar, is a booming complex with dozens of companies spanning diverse sectors including electronics, garments, textiles and handicrafts. Industrial infrastructure in southern Xinjiang, one of the poorer parts of the region, is underdeveloped, and many companies are from other provinces.
One of the industrial park's largest companies is privately-owned Guangdong Sike Electronics, which first opened a factory in Xinjiang two years ago. It now employs over 2,000 people at seven factories in Kashgar.
Sike produces and exports smart phone charging devices and other electronic accessories.
"Companies like Sike are the sort of firms that many officials fight for. They create many jobs and are not big polluters," said Zhang Ke, deputy chief of the Communist Party of China committee of Jiashi.
"Companies, such as these, come to Xinjiang with big orders to fill and plenty of money to play with. The job opportunities created by these firms offer a much more efficient approach to poverty-relief work than asking farmers to find ways to raise their income themselves," said Zhang.
Workers at Sike are paid 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a month, and a single job is enough to lift a family out of poverty, said Zhang. Jiashi has 125,000 people living below the national poverty line of 2,800 yuan (418 U.S. dollars) per year.
Miyasil Tulson, 16, is employed at a Sike factory near her home. For this entry-level job, she earns 1,200 to 1,500 yuan (about 180 U.S. dollars) a month, but she is the main breadwinner for her family and she pays her siblings' school fees.
China aims to lift 30 million people out of poverty through industrial development before 2020.
Industry plays a fundamental role in the central government's poverty alleviation efforts, Vice Agricultural Minister Yu Xinrong said at a forum on poverty reduction last week.
In many of western provinces, companies and business associations have taken an active role in helping improve the lives of people who live in poor villages through industrial development.
In the southwestern province of Guizhou, over 1,700 companies are now engaged in an initiative to help raise the income of the residents of over 2,000 villages. One of the big sponsors, Chinese entertainment conglomerate Wanda has promised 60 billion yuan to help develop cultural tourism in the province.
"Jobs are like keys -- they unlock the problem of poverty and are a way to create sustainable wealth for locals," said Ma Xiangyu, a Party member working in Xinjiang.
China must carefully weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of each town to attract suitable industries who will create fitting jobs for the people, said Ma.
JOBS FOR GROWTH
About 2.61 million people in Xinjiang -- less than 10 percent of the region's population -- live in poverty.
Zinat, a single mother of two, has struggled for years to find a job in her hometown, Yining County.
Her new job at Yijia Ethnic Garments Co. has not only helped her financially but also boosted her confidence. The company, based in the eastern province of Jiangsu, produces hats, carpets and robes for the export market.
"The robes I sew will be sold to Morocco, a country I had never even heard of before working here!" Zinat said.
More than 200 of Zinat's colleagues come from poor backgrounds.
A total of 36 companies from the provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong will open businesses in southern Yining, creating 5,000 jobs in the next few years.
"As the industrial infrastructure and business climate develop in Xinjiang, more jobs will be created," said Ma.