Xinjiang residents develop skills to thrive in the future
Kucha City is known for amazingly distinctive scenes of China’s western regions, but also for its peace and tranquility. Its senior residents enjoy chatting in the sun. Children and young people on electric bicycles wave as they pass.
Kucha is situated where the ancient kingdom of Qiuci was located. Qiuci occupied a strategic location north of the Taklamakan Desert along the ancient Silk Road. Its grotto art is even older than that of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. Kucha is now under the jurisdiction of Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and remains home to various ethnic groups including Uygur, Han, Hui, and Mongolian.
Barely 50 square meters large, the workshop of Adila Clothing Co., Ltd. in Kucha is bustling at most hours. Founder Adila frequently shuttles between the sewing machines and the exhibition area for colorful ready-towear clothes. The company is a comprehensive garment manufacturer that integrates design, tailoring and sewing. It produces school uniforms, security uniforms, curtains, dresses, and travel products.
“I designed this qipao [a traditional Chinese dress] using Atlas silk with Uygur characteristics,” she revealed. “I also tried to add elements of Qiuci culture into the design, which many people like.” Adila plans to leverage her strength in design to build her own brand of garments.
After graduating from Xinjiang Medical University, Adila decided not to become a doctor. Instead, she headed to Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT) to study clothing and apparel design to satiate her ambitions in fashion design. After graduating from BIFT, she was hired as design director for a garment company in Hebei Province at a high salary. However, Adila ultimately decided to return to her hometown. “When I went back to visit my family, I realized that many women in my hometown lacked jobs or professional skills to make a living,” she recounted. “All they could do was stay home and take care of their children. So, I decided to quit my job in Hebei and come back to Kucha to start a business. I wanted to use what I learned to help local women earn money.”
Adila received considerable support from the local government, which provided her a work space and equipment and helped her hire local women. In August 2018, Adila Clothing Co., Ltd. was established. The new and small company didn’t have many orders at first, but thanks to the local government support and her own efforts, the business volume grew steadily soon. Now, the fastgrowing company is capable of producing four to five thousand pieces of clothes a month. In 2019, Adila’s sales reached 400,000 yuan (US$ 62,000).
Although the business is growing, Adila remains modest. “I’m not just the boss,” she said. “I am also one of the tailors, and I work every day. Most importantly, a lot of women are encouraged by working alongside me. I believe we are all embracing a better future.”
In the future, Adila plans to adopt the model of “company+households” to expand her business and create another 100 jobs in her hometown while building her own brand. “I want a brand from Xinjiang to become popular across China and even around the world.”
Highway to a Better Life
Kangcun Village of Age Township, Kucha City, is located at the start of the famous Duku Highway connecting Dushanzi District and Kucha City on China’s National Highway 217.
Blocked by mountains, Age Township used to be the only community in extreme poverty in all of Kucha. Villagers continued subsisting by planting crops, raising animals, and doing odd jobs until recently. Construction of Duku Highway enabled Age Town and Kangcun Village to regain vitality. New industries like tourism developed quickly thanks to support from the local government. New houses are rising, and villagers are earning more money through technical jobs and tourism services.
Muhammad is a villager from Kangcun. He has witnessed the rapid development of the village and benefited greatly from it. Only five years ago, Muhammad and his wife lived on temporary jobs because they lacked education and skills. The family could barely cover daily expenses.
To help villagers find jobs, the local government offered free training classes on working skills and standard Chinese. Muhammad and his wife participated and got hired at a local coal cleaning plant. Jobs in the plant are more secure and reliable, and the yearly income of Muhammad’s family has jumped to nearly 100,000 yuan (US$15,500).
“In the past we lived in shanty houses with dirt floors, and all the roads were unsurfaced,” he said. “But now we live in new and beautiful houses and have asphalt roads. It has been dramatic.” Muhammad smiled when recounting the changes in his hometown. “Since Duku Highway opened, our life has changed tremendously. Villagers opened restaurants and shops and started engaging in tourism and transportation industry. My family income is only at a medium level in the village.”
After embracing a better life, Muhammad started making plans for the future. He did not get much schooling in his younger years, so he is keen on investing in his daughter’s education so she can make greater contributions to the country and society. Starting a business is part of Muhammad’s plans.
“Our village has many coal mines, and demand for coal transportation is big,” he said. “I want to get a driver’s license and then buy a large trailer to transport goods. The work may earn me tens of thousands of yuan each month.”
Muhammad is also planning to travel to other places in China with his wife and daughter. “I have seen a lot of pictures of cities in different parts of the country,” he said. “The scenes were impressive, and I look forward to visiting such places. We might join a tour group to the southern coastal city of Sanya. I want my daughter to see the sea.”
By Pan Zheng, Ran Shanchuan