Kashgar is Central Asia with Chinese Characteristics. Along the busy streets, Tajik herders truck their flocks past jewelry merchants from Pakistan and Uigher knife makers from Yengisar. Off the main streets, the city’s remaining narrow alleyways and traditional mud-brick homes are being bulldozed over, block by block, to make room for all the scientific development and unity that the Chinese propaganda banners proclaim. The new identikit concrete residences, painted a fairly convincing mud-brick brown, certainly look nicer to live in by any scientific measurement. Then there’s the new city park, laid out in place of another demolished old neighborhood, where people now can be seen enjoying a nice new grassy space–as a place to graze their goats. Also new: a huge new special economic zone, built on seized farmland outside the city, that is supposed to transform this ancient Central Asian trade hub into, well, a Central Asian trade hub.
Travel tip: If you’re looking for Ye Olde Kashgaria, you can skip Kashgar.