The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the west of China has seen a huge rise in textiles exports, as the benefits of China’s One Belt One Road initiative begin to show.

Exports of textiles and garments to Central Asian countries as well as Russia have risen by 60% this year, compared with the equivalent period in 2015.

Rmb16.57bn in garments were exported out of ports in Xinjiang, worth almost US$2.5bn, with 70% of these exports going to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

While Xinjiang has always been a producer of quality raw cotton, used in many other parts of China throughout its decades-long domination of the garments manufacturing business, it is only recently that the national government has attempted to set the region up as an international trade hub.

In bordering Pakistan, China is providing tens of billions of dollars in funding to boost trade infrastructure. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC) will cost some US$46bn to complete.

It will upgrade Pakistan’s infrastructure and, as an important cog in the Belt and Road scheme, will provide trade links between hubs in Xinjiang and the Andaman Sea, via ports such as Gwadar – where a huge seaport facility is under construction.

This in turn will allow Xinjiang better access to energy imports from the Gulf, as well as giving their own products better access to buyers in the Middle East and Africa.

China hopes that by 2020, Xinjiang will be a major textiles producing region. Its cotton harvest accounted for 60% of China’s total output in 2015. But serious investment in infrastructure within the region has seen the level of exports grow significantly in recent years.

According to the Hong Kong Trade and Development Centre, freight volume of its ports increased from 20.93 million tonnes in 2009 to 46.65 million tonnes in 2014, while the total value of their imports and exports soared from US$22.29bn in 2009 to US$46.14bn in 2014.

In a report emphasising the growing importance of the region to Chinese foreign trade, the HKTDC wrote: “Geographically, Xinjiang borders a number of Central Asian countries. Culturally, Xinjiang’s Uyghur population and other minorities have similar customs and habits to people in Central Asia.

“Border inhabitants’ petty trade ties with neighbouring countries are long-established. Xinjiang’s export companies are mainly found in Urumqi and border ports such as Yining and Khorgas, with Urumqi as their top choice.”