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Modernization, local tradition equally embraced

By Zhao Manfeng in Kashgar, Xinjiang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-14 09:49
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"Xinjiang is modernizing quickly while keeping its ethnic traditional culture, and the region will embrace a hopeful future," said Australian sinologist Colin Mackerras.

Mackerras, professor emeritus at Griffith University in Australia and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, made the remarks during his keynote speech at the International Forum on the History and Future of Xinjiang on Wednesday.

Citing Xinjiang's poverty alleviation efforts, life expectancy and health level — including infant mortality, Mackerras said Xinjiang has become very modern since his first visit to the region in 1982.

"Despite spurious reports spread by some Western media that China is trying to eradicate the local culture, factual data and my experience show otherwise," said Mackerras.

"What I see in Xinjiang is attempts to preserve culture, arts, the historical relics, language, and there are more mosques in Xinjiang per capita than anywhere else in the world."

Mackerras took the example of his travel to Yarkant county in 2018, where he saw that the Twelve Muqam, a kind of traditional music of the Uygur ethnic group, was being taught in a dance training school.

"The ethnic culture is surviving quite well here in Xinjiang, and the ethnic music and dance is continually performed both by professionals and by ordinary people, and the Uygur language seems to me to be used very wildly, much more widely than the use of indigenous languages in Australia or the United States," said Mackerras.

"In the process of modernization, Xinjiang has a retention of culture, which includes languages, arts, architecture and food," he said.

"Xinjiang has a diverse and integrated culture, and the multiculturalism is indeed an important part of the great Chinese civilization."

The sinologist attributes the West's misinformation to ignorance of Chinese policies. "The West knows so little about how much support the Chinese government got from its people," said Mackerras.

Looking ahead, with the Belt and Road Initiative creating infrastructure across the greater Eurasian continent, Xinjiang will embrace more opportunities in trade and civilization dialogues.

"From any perspective of development, Xinjiang has performed excellently in recent years, and it has a bright future ahead," he concluded.

Mackerras studied the Tang Dynasty (618-907) for his master of letters degree at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1964, and completed his PhD on Chinese opera at the Australian National University in Canberra six years later.

Mackerras has spent 60 years teaching and writing about China. Specializing in Chinese history, art and ethnic minorities, he has written or edited more than 40 books on these topics.

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