KARAMAY, China — In a desolate park on the city outskirts here, oil bubbling from the ground fills small pools next to a wooden walkway. By one pool is a statue of a bearded ethnic Uighur man sitting on a donkey, playing a lute.
The symbolism is telling. China is ramping up energy production here, turning the northwestern Xinjiang region into a national hub for oil, gas and coal, while the increasingly marginalized Uighur people are memorialized in what appears to be a bronze homage to a romantic past.
China is investing more than ever in the vast, resource-rich Xinjiang region with the aim of bolstering oil extraction and refining, coal production, power generation, and natural gas production and transport. That is happening despite soaring ethnic violence. In deserts once traversed by Silk Road camel caravans, sands are now crisscrossed with pipelines and high-voltage wires.
“Look at how much they’re drilling,” said Lu Weidong, the team leader of a half-dozen technicians in hard hats and oil-stained red coveralls working one recent morning on oil pumps in the desert here. “Hundreds of pumps are being built, and there are hundreds more behind those hills that you can’t see.”