China's Xinjiang region is often associated with ethnic conflict between Han Chinese and Uighurs but there is a growing middle class student community where former rivalries play a lesser role.
Pop music unites Xinjiang's young people
On the campus of Xinjiang University in Urumqi, some students are standing around listening to a Uighur pop song. Abdulla Abdurehim may be getting on a bit but he is still very popular among young Uighurs, especially women.
However, Uighur students are open to all sorts of music, say Alina and Sunip, who are both 21: "We listen to all music, Uighur and English, songs like ‘Take Me To Your Heart’, ‘Cry On My Shoulder’, ‘Just One Last Dance’ for example…"
Uighur women taking a stroll
Alina is from Kashgar and Sunip is from Khotan. In contrast to their parents, they have little against their fellow Han Chinese students.
"They’re really hard workers, I admire them," says Alina. "I don’t know why they work so hard. In any case, none of them ever wastes any time. If you look around here, there are only Uighurs on the street doing nothing, chatting…"
"The noodles are delicious"
The interest seems to be mutual. 24-year-old Lin Xuehao from Hebei province has been studying in Urumqi for over four years.
Although the Han Chinese tend to live separately from the Uighurs in the city, Lin wants to have more contact with the Uighurs because "they’re very warm. If you go to their homes they will give you everything, things that they cannot even afford. And their noodles are really delicious."
Moreover, young qualified Han Chinese and Uighurs have similar interests and problems. They are all looking for good jobs, which are not easy to find in Xinjiang, and they all want to start earning.
"Without money, you’re nothing"
"The best is to make a lot of money," explains Alina. "In China, money and contacts are the most important thing. You can only live well if you have money. Uighurs don’t find it so important but in this society it’s very important if you want to get anywhere. Without money, you’re nothing."
However, there is one thing that keeps Han Chinese and Uighurs apart – neither group seems interested in forming mixed relationships. Alina says she would not marry a Han Chinese man. "I've never thought about it and I don’t want to," she insists.
Children playing in Kashgar
A walk across the university campus gives the impression that Xinjiang’s ethnic conflicts could be resolved if only there was more wealth, social equality and education.
Author: Ye Zhiliang (act)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein