Agriculture has long been important to Xinjiang's economy and, with government encouragement, it is increasingly undertaken on a large scale. Cotton, sugar beets, wheat, rice, millet, potatoes, sorghum, and fruit are grown. The Manas irrigation project in S Dzungaria is one of several extensive modern government attempts to expand the area under cultivation. Although extensive areas of grazing land have been converted to raising crops, large-scale animal husbandry remains important, and the number of livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels) is increasing. Many of the Kazakh and Mongol stock-herders are still at least seminomadic.
Xinjiang also has rich mineral resources, and their extraction has become more significant economically. The vast oil fields at Karamay (served by both highways and an airline) are among the largest in China, and there are extensive deposits of coal, silver, copper, lead, nitrates, gold, and zinc. New mines as well as associated industry, such as refineries, ironworks, steelworks, and chemical plants, have been established. Other industries include textile (especially cotton and wool) and cement production and sugar refining.
The region is linked to the Chinese rail network by line from Lanzhou, Gansu, to Ürümqi (completed 1963). West and south of Ürümqi transportation is mainly by highways built along two ancient roads: the north road, which skirts the southern edge of the Dzungaria and connects Ürümqi with the Turkistan-Siberia rail line, and the south road, encircling the Tarim basin. The camel remains an important means of transport, but the use of trucks continues to increase.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.