China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan vowed to "firmly maintain Xinjiang's stability" and "build an iron wall to enhance border defense" when visiting the region as Chinese experts praised improvements for making the region the safest place in China.
Chang visited border posts, examination stations, checkpoints and other border facilities in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Defense Ministry said via its official WeChat social media account on Monday.
The central government sets forth the goal of maintaining Xinjiang's long-term stability. Enhancing frontier construction and border control was an important step toward realizing that goal, Chang noted.
Chang's visit shows the central government pays special attention to Xinjiang, but that does not mean the situation is deteriorating or anything like that, Li Wei, director of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.
On the contrary, Li said, after years of enhancing border defense and increasing police patrols, Xinjiang has become the safest place in China.
Xinjiang has been recruiting more police. In December last year, the city of Korla in the autonomous region announced plans to recruit 1,500 police from Hebei, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, offering to pay candidates with a bachelor's degree 7,730 yuan ($1,176) a month.
Xinjiang has reinforced counter-terrorism ideological efforts, Shen Guiping, a religious expert at the Central Institute of Socialism in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.
At a meeting on January 16, Xinjiang Communist Party officials announced a renewed focus on ideology this year, Xinjiang Daily reported.
The government vowed to "clean up malignant ideological influences in all fields," and to uncover "two-faced" people, according to the Xinjiang Daily's report.
Chang also urged local governments to be aware of the complicated national security situation and strengthen the sense of responsibility to maintain stability.
The government should integrate the military with civilians to tighten border controls and form an "iron wall" of frontier defense, he said.
Earlier this month, China beefed up border controls in Xinjiang to counter jihadists returning from Syria after the widely reported defeat of Islamic State, according to a border defense military officer in Kashgar, a prefecture that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Chang visited Xinjiang in December 2016, and stressed the importance of regional stability.
Earlier this month, Xinjiang's border defense corps held combat training, including fighting on the frontier, the Xinjiang Daily reported.