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Pakistani traders ride county's booming economy

By Chen Meiling in Kashgar, Xinjiang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-30 10:39
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More Pakistani traders are settling in the Tashikurgan Tajik autonomous county of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, to tap the strong business potential.

As the county is close to their homes, they said it's easy to commute and fit into the local community. Booming tourism also brings more tourists, which benefits their businesses.

Murad Shah, a Pakistani jeweler, said his gemstone store in the county has welcomed about 100 to 200 tourists a day after it resumed operations in April.

He said his business is starting to recover after China optimized its COVID-19 policies. "There are a lot of tourists. The county has a diverse culture and landscape, and so many good attractions to see," he said, adding he is hopeful about the future.

One good reason for him to open a store in the county is that his hometown, a small village in Pakistan, is just 200 kilometers away, which can be reached in only three hours by car.

Another reason is that China is developing very fast with a sound economy, he said. "Many Pakistanis prefer to do business here because there is money here," Shah said.

At the store of Pakistani merchant Nazar Karim Ali, visitors come to buy gemstones, jewelry, blankets, cotton bed sheets, clothes and handicrafts, all made in Pakistan.

Karim is the second generation of business owners in his family. His father and uncle exported silk from China between 1989 and 1992.

He said over the last 32 years, the county has made him feel at home, and he shares the same culture with local people.

Many initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have made it very easy to do business, Karim said. There are good opportunities for Chinese people to invest in Pakistan, which also benefits Pakistanis, he said.

Located on the Pamir Plateau, the county, with an area of 25,000 square kilometers and a population of 41,000, is the only one in China that borders three countries — Pakistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It has two land ports — the Khunjerab Pass is 125 km from Sust Port in Pakistan, and the Karasu Port is only 14 km from Kulma Pass in Tajikistan.

Due to the ease of transportation, Tashikurgan Tajik trades with neighboring countries frequently, importing mainly minerals, agricultural products, and seafood while exporting textiles and clothing, mechanical and electrical products, and household goods, according to local authorities.

The number of tourist visits reached more than 1.34 million from January to late December, up 86 percent year-on-year, with May to October the peak season. Tourists are lured by the county's many unique attractions such as the 7,546-meter Mount Muztagata and Mount Qogir, or K2, the world's second-highest peak at 8,611 meters, and a 2,000-year-old ancient stone city.

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