Just after the sunrise, Liu Xiulan came to the square in front of the Wujiaqu city government to fly a kite. The flowing kite thread brought back many memories from the past. “When I first came to Xinjiang, I learned that there were only five families here. I never thought there would be a day when this place would become a modern city!” When Wujiaqu became a listed city, all the retired farm workers of the Agricultural No.6 Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps became city residents.
The change not only occurred to Liu Xiulan. So far, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps has built four cities; and another 38 small towns under are construction. From developing agriculture to running cities, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps has made a historical leap.
In 1954, using the “359th Brigade” as an example, Xinjiang military forces became farm workers in accordance with the instructions of Chairman Mao. Since then, many young people have come to this piece of the hinterland and enthusiastically joined the ranks to open up uncultivated land and defend the border.
Chairman Mao had a principle: “stay away from people’s profits.” In accordance with this principle, most Corps farms were set up along the desert’s edge with few water resources, roads, and electricity facilities. However, violent storms and boundless sands did not stop our heroes. With no means of transportation, they carried everything on their shoulders and backs; with no livestock, they plowed the wasteland by themselves; with an insufficient food supply, they ate corn with salt water and chili peppers. From fathers having sons; and from sons having grandsons, generations have come and gone. Now the population of the Corps has increased from 175,000 people to over 2.5 million people. Generations of children grew up in the Corps, as well as in the Gobi desert. They have deep roots in this place, and never leave this piece of land. It is ultimately a life pillar that never moves.
The Taklimakan Desert is also known as the “sea of death.” More than half a century ago, a team of explorers from Switzerland entered this piece of barren land. In the end, only one of them survived. All the rest starved to death. Now this area is full of green woods and exuberant grass. “We are not only defenders of the homeland, but also guardians of ecology.” The history of the Corps reflects the history of the healthy development of ecological balance. Every plant along the desert edge demonstrates the efforts of each Corps member.
Located in an area of 400 kilometers along the Taklimakan Desert edge, the Agricultural No.3 Division suffered sand storms several years following its entrance into the desert. Today, however; the 18 farms of the Division have forced the edge of the desert 30 km back into the desert’s hinterland. Over the past 50 years, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps has created more than 15 million mu of new oases in the wilderness.