A delegation of Pakistani tour operators took time off a cultural event in Kashgar, Xinjiang, to meet with Zhongkun Group officials and be shown the Kashgar Zhongkun Square (喀什噶尔中坤广场) project, or a scale model of it. The Square, a 9 ha business and resort park with a prominent tower in the middle, will add to the various developments the Group has or plans in Xinjiang, which include scenic parks, historical sites, hotels and a golf course.
Promoting cross-border tourism between the two countries was one of the purposes of the Pakistani visit to Kashgar, a hundred miles from Pakistan and linked to it by the Karakoram Highway. These contacts are particularly relevant to Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistani-controlled, self-governing territory that borders Xinjiang and where tourism is a main source of income. Indeed one attendee (to the Kashgar event, and in particular to the meeting at Zhongkun Group) was Naiknam Karim, a trade association official and head of a company with key operations in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is of strategic importance to China and the target of a good deal of Chinese investment, in particular in transportation infrastructure. Days after the Kashgar event, a Chinese delegation was set to visit Gilgit-Baltistan to discuss investment prospects, led by Yuan Jianmin (袁建民), the top man at a Xinjiang subsidiary of state-owned logistics giant Sinotrans and seemingly an old name in Pakistan-Xinjiang trade (and other) relations. Cross-border road links and tourism were on the agenda.
It’s not immediately clear if Zhongkun and their Pakistani guests talked about any future plans for the Group to invest in resorts across the border. Years ago, Huang Nubo, the Group’s chairman, had shown an interest into extending their Xinjiang operations into neighboring countries, but gave up after becoming embroiled in Kyrgyz politics. Mr Huang’s better-known venture overseas wasn’t much more successful: he’s been trying since 2011 to purchase some $260/ha land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum, northern Iceland, unleashing a political drama that must have broken a few controversy-per-dollar-per-hectare records. I narrated that saga back in March, and intend to post more on it as it continues to develop.
According to an account of the meeting on Zhongkun’s website, one of the visitors was Pakistan’s minister of tourism, which is quite remarkable because that office was abolished by a constitutional amendment in 2011.