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Friday, November 21, 1997 Published at 14:35 GMT


The future shines for China's Silk Road

Traders sell their wares on the Silk Road

Trade is booming in the remote province of Xinjiang in China as cities turn their backs on years of isolation and encourage foreign traders to move in.

The conversion is rejuvenating China's ancient Silk Road to the west, immortalised by Marco Polo in the 14th century but rarely used since sea routes made the camel trains redundant.

Economic reforms are beginning to penetrate China's most remote outposts, cities such as Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan.

Many traders are stepping away from the traditional silk market to make the most of the new and varied demand.

Pakistani drivers travel for miles across the desert to buy the goods and are optimistic trade links between their country and China are strengthening.

One said: "The future is bright, very bright. It will develop more and more.

"We can purchase a lot of things from China to import into Pakistan."

The Chinese government is throwing its weight and money behind the boom. It will spend more than $23 million building a railway network in the region to transport goods such as cotton, fruit and many other commodities to domestic and overseas markets.

Pakistan and Russia are as enthused about the Silk Trade Route's revival as China itself.

With improved transport China's neighbours can make the most of the markets' competitive prices while also trying to sell their own specialised goods in the remote Chinese cities.

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