Wednesday, 21 September 2016

* Researchers teleport tiny photon particles across cities

Stephen Chen

Chinese and Canadian scientists say they have successfully carried out a form of teleportation across an entire city.
The two teams working independently have teleported near-identical versions of tiny particles called photons through cables across Calgary in Canada and Hefei in Anhui province.

The forms of teleported photons were destroyed in one laboratory and recreated in another more than 8km apart in the two cities through optical fibre.

Similar experiments have been carried out before, but only within the same laboratory.

A physicist not involved in either of the studies said the research was a step forward in the development of a “quantum internet”, a futuristic particle-based information system that could be much more secure than existing forms of digital data.

Quantum networks make eavesdropping almost impossible because the particles used cannot be observed without being altered.

But in his commentary on the research in the scientific journal Nature Photonics, French physicist Frederic Grosshans said the two experiments clearly showed that teleportation across metropolitan distances was technologically feasible.

“The two papers demonstrate that the possibility of quantum [internet] networks that span a city are a realistic proposition, which is an exciting vision for the future,” Grosshans said.

Professor Zhang Qiang, one of the leaders of the Chinese team, said: “Maybe in the distant future, materials can be teleported through a fibre or even open space, too.”

The research was carried out by scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Calgary and their papers were published in the journal.

The research concentrates on the behaviour of particles at a subatomic, or quantum level.

Researchers have long known that a photon particle can be split in two and yet the pair are still “entangled”, which means that any change in the state of one immediately affects the other, although how this happens is still unknown.

This, in theory, means it could be possible to transmit information by manipulating entangled photons, but various factors, including fluctuating temperatures, can interfere with the process over longer distances outside the laboratory.

The researchers used sophisticated equipment to counter these and other problems, allowing the Chinese team, led by Professor Pan Jianwei and Professor Zhang, to achieve “full” quantum teleportation of photons over a optical fibre network 12.5km apart.

The Canadian team led by Professor Wolfgang Tittel also teleported the particles over 8.2km. The teleported photons were a virtual copy of the original.



A team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US reported last year that it had achieved quantum teleportation over a fibre optical network more than 100km in length, but the whole cable was coiled within a laboratory.

Scientists have also teleported photons through the air over 100km, but the technology can only be used at night and in remote areas because too many of the particles are generated by other sources including natural light.Using a cable shields the photons from interference and is viewed by researchers as a more practical way of harnessing the technology.

The Chinese and Canadian teams used different approaches to carry out their experiments. The Chinese team demonstrated a fuller version of the quantum network with higher reliability, but the Canadian approach was more efficient, according to Grosshans.

The Chinese method “comes at the price of a low rate of two teleported photons per hour, which would strongly limit its practical applications if it could not be improved”, he said
.
The Canadian method “allows a faster teleportation rate of 17 photons per minute”, but their low accuracy during transmission “also limits its immediate practical applications”.
Zhang at the University of Science and Technology of China, said the team’s work was only a small step towards the construction of a quantum network.

Many technical hurdles, such as storage for the extremely fragile quantum data, remained and it was difficult to predict when a global quantum internet would be operational.

Grosshans said a useful quantum computer was still a few decades away and “the first ones, whether they will be built in 2030 or 2070 would be very expensive machines”.

China is at the forefront of research into quantum communications.

It is carrying out experiments on a satellite launched last month as part of efforts to develop a communications system that cannot be cracked by hackers.

The experiments involve attempting to transmit information through photons from the satellite to earth.

Monday, 19 September 2016

* Elizabethan England's foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, is the author of the forthcoming “The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.”

Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

*Veda Sunassee: Le problème, c’est que tou morisien mari !

Dans son édition en ligne, le 6 septembre, CNN qualifie l’African Leadership University, sise à Beau-Plan, de «Harvard de l’Afrique». Cette flatteuse comparaison est-elle justifiée ? Et que propose-t-elle de plus que les autres ? Veda Sunassee, directeur de la vie des étudiants à l’African Leadership University, nous répond.
Qu’est-ce que ça fait de travailler pour le «Harvard» de l’Afrique ?
Il est certainement flatteur d’entendre un tel compliment ! Mais comme l’a dit l’un de nos étudiants, l’African Leadership University (ALU) est une institution unique, à sa manière. Mais, c’est néanmoins un honneur, ayant moi-même étudié à Princeton, un établissement américain du même niveau. Pouvoir revenir à Mauricie et offrir mon expérience me fait chaud au coeur, surtout en sachant que plusieurs Africains auront accès à travers l’ALU, à ce niveau d’éducation sans avoir à dépenser Rs 2,2 millions mais seulement quelque Rs 365 000 par année d’étude. Un coût qui est appelé à diminuer au fur et à mesure de notre expansion.

Avons-nous en face de nous un leader de demain ?
(Rires) De demain ? Et pourquoi pas d’aujourd’hui ? Le titre de leader, ça se mérite. Les valeurs qui sont à la base du leadership sont l’intégrité, la compassion. On ne naît pas leader, on le devient.

À quoi sert un directeur de la vie des étudiants ?
Je m’occupe de tout ce qui n’est pas académique, ce qui est hors de la salle de classe. Je dois m’assurer que les élèves sont en bonne santé, qu’ils mangent bien et qu’ils bougent bien. Nous travaillons aussi avec des ONG et effectuons des partages culturels avec des étudiants de tout le continent. Je dirige une équipe de huit personnes, soit deux psychologues, deux project managers, deux conseillers et un sport guru.

Comment vous êtes-vous embarqué dans cette aventure?
Au bout de deux ans d’études en mechanical and aerospace engineering aux États-Unis, j’ai réalisé qu’il y avait tellement de domaines que je ne maîtrisais pas comme l’économie et la politique. J’en avais un peu marre des sciences et je savais que je voulais faire quelque chose qui aurait un impact social. J’ai parlé à mes responsables d’études et ils m’ont introduit au social entrepreneurship. J’ai fini ma troisième année avec un diplôme en science politique et en économie politique. Pour ma quatrième année, je voulais être de nouveau proche de l’Afrique et j’estime que Maurice en fait partie. J’ai décroché une bourse, Princeton in Africa, pour aller travailler à Johannesbourg, au sein de l’African Leadership Academy (ALA). C’est là que j’ai rencontré Fred Swaniker (NdlR, fondateur de l’ALU), qui était alors le CEO. Je devais faire deux ans en Afrique et deux autres en Inde pour comprendre l’autre partie de mon identité, étant d’origine indienne.

En 2014, sur le parking du campus, Fred m’a parlé de son projet de fonder l’ALU. Il voulait que l’entrepreneurial leadership, que j’enseignais déjà, fasse partie intégrante du programme. J’ai voulu en savoir un peu plus. Nous avons échangé quelques courriels, je lui ai dit que cela m’intéressait. C’est là qu'il m’a dit que le projet allait se concrétiser à Maurice.

Quelle a été votre réaction ?
À ce moment-là, je ne savais pas si j’étais prêt à rentrer au pays. J’ai quand même beaucoup changé pendant les dix années passées à l’étranger. Je savais aussi que si je rentrais, trouver un emploi qui me conviendrait n’allait pas être chose facile. Quand Fred m’a proposé d’aller à Maurice, «avec le job», je me suis dit pourquoi pas. En janvier 2015, j’ai commencé à travailler sur le programme de leadership de l’ALU. La première année, tous les élèves suivent le même cours. Ils font deux premiers trimestres ici sur le campus et un troisième, en stage. Actuellement, nous avons 174 élèves partout sur le continent, tout comme en Chine, en France, à Maurice avec PwC, Ernst & Young, la MCB et d’autres sont ici avec nous à l’université comme stagiaires.

Quel est le nombre d’étudiants formés par l’ALU à ce jour ?
Exactement 174 et nous sommes en train d’accueillir notre deuxième cuvée. Nous avons une centaine d’élèves qui viennent de nous rejoindre cette semaine.

Comment se sont déroulées les inscriptions pour la première cuvée ?
Les étudiants proviennent d’au moins 38 pays africains ; Maroc, Tunisie, Sénégal, Cameroun, Zambie, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, Sénégal, Rwanda et même Madagascar. Tous les étudiants de notre première classe ont obtenu une bourse. On les appelle des fondateurs.

Aucun élève mauricien alors que vous êtes basés à Beau-Plan ?
Nous venons d’accueillir notre première étudiante mauricienne. On aimerait évidemment en avoir plus. Cela s’explique sûrement par le fait que le projet est tout nouveau. Il y a aussi le fait que le Mauricien rejette son identité africaine. C’est triste. Et puis traditionnellement, pour les Mauriciens, ce sont l’Angleterre, la France et les États-Unis qui font rêver. J’ai également rencontré plein de jeunes Mauriciens qui viennent de terminer le collège et la première chose qu’ils demandent, c’est si l’on offre des cours en médecine. Alors qu’il y a 150 médecins qui sont au chômage à Maurice… Je me demande si le pays est vraiment en train d’aider nos jeunes à prendre de bonnes décisions en ce qui concerne leur carrière.

Est-ce le cas ?
Non. On doit faire beaucoup mieux. Déjà culturellement, il y a cette pression venant de la famille mauricienne, qui veut que tout le monde devienne médecin ou avocat, entre autres professions bénéficiant d’un statut. Il y a une renaissance de l’éducation à travers le monde dont nous ne sommes pas au courant à Maurice. Les compétences du 21e siècle nécessitent un mélange de connaissances générales et de spécialisations.

Comment y remédier ?
Le problème, c’est que c’est devenu un «self -fulfilling prophecy». Si le système éducatif ne fait rien pour changer cette mentalité, les jeunes seront toujours influencés et formés par la génération précédente, c’est-àdire, les parents. Cette culture de compétition, qui commence dès le primaire, exige qu’il faut avoir les cinq «A» et être classés parmi les 100, 200 premiers. Ensuite au collège, il faut décrocher six unités. Puis, il faut se préparer à devenir lauréat ! Non pas parce que tu veux développer tes compétences en chimie ou physique mais parce que tu auras tes 24 heures de gloire dans la presse. Après cela, personne ne se souvient de toi ! Pourquoi, comment, quelles compétences acquérir ? On n’en a cure. C’est un cercle vicieux. Une rat race. Nous ne pensons pas au-delà. C’est une grosse erreur.

En quoi l’ALU est-elle différente ?
Au coeur même de notre programme, nous avons la skills map. Nous avons une liste de compétences requises. C’est-à-dire, comment être son propre leader, comment diriger les autres, avoir la pensée critique, la pensée analytique et comment gérer des tâches complexes. Les études démontrent que la plupart des emplois qu’occuperont nos enfants dans le futur n’ont pas encore été créés. Alors, comment prépare-t-on des gens pour ces postes ? C’est la raison pour laquelle, ici, nous formons des gens à devenir extrêmement malléables, versatiles, pour qu’ils puissent apprendre rapidement. Fred veut aussi introduire le concept de Mission not major. Ainsi, au lieu d’avoir un diplôme en une matière, l’on se donne une mission. Exemple : ma mission est de régler le problème d’urbanisation à Lagos. Il faut alors que je décide de quel genre de compétences j’ai besoin pour résoudre ce problème. Nous trouvons ainsi les ressources pour développer ces compétences. Les étudiants se focalisent dès lors sur des études qui auront un impact.

Les Mauriciens peuvent donc réussir autrement ?
Absolument. Nous avons déjà six exemples de Mauriciens admis à l’ALA. Quand ils reviennent aujourd’hui, vous voyez une différence extraordinaire, déjà dans leur façon de s’exprimer. Une étudiante qui a 18 ans est venue en vacances l’année dernière et a créé un camp de leadership. Elle a invité plusieurs de ses amis, dont des lauréats. Fred et moi étions aussi invités. Là-bas, nous nous sommes demandé ce qui se passait. Alors que ses amis étaient timides, notre élève était, elle, est en train de faire le «show», de faciliter les différents ateliers et enseigner le leadership et l’entreprenariat. Certains d’entre eux ont postulé à l’ALU et ont même été admis, mais ils ne sont pas allés de l’avant car les parents ont dit que c’est une université africaine…
Un conseil à nos politiciens pour devenir de bons leade
rs ?
 Ayez de la compassion. Écoutez les gens. Ne les écoutez pas uniquement pour remporter des élections. Il faut aussi ne pas avoir peur de prendre des décisions qui vont vraiment les aider. Trop souvent, ils essayent d’être des people pleasers alors que nous devons avoir des visions pour le développement sur les 10, 15, 20 ans. Les politiciens, c’est comme des chevaux portant des oeillères. Ils ne voient pas au-delà des cinq années que dure leur mandat alors que le développement ne se fait pas en ce laps de temps.

ALU devrait octroyer des bourses à nos dirigeants…
Oui, je suis d’accord. Beaucoup de nos leaders politiques doivent venir passer du temps avec nous pour au moins essayer de comprendre la nouvelle façon d’aborder le leadership. Nos politiciens devront travailler sur leur intelligence émotionnelle et mettre de côté leur ego.

Mais encore ?
Trop souvent à Maurice, on entend la même chanson. Quand je réfléchis aux conversations que j’ai eues avec des gens, le «moi» revient en permanence. Mwa mon fer sa. Grâce à mwa, inn ariv sa. Le problème, c’est que tou Morisien mari ! Cela signifie que nous avons échoué et que l’on ne sait pas comment surmonter notre ego. Nous sommes devenus tellement individualistes. Ce que mon voisin fait, je dois en faire de même. So garson inn vinn dokter mo oussi mo bizin vinn dokter. Linn met enn miray, mo oussi mo bizin met enn miray. Nous copions sans comprendre pourquoi nous le faisons. C’est dangereux.

Le parfait leader serait…
Nous avons besoin de leaders adaptables et situationnels qui peuvent être des leaders au moment même et pas des leaders héroïques.

Des projets?
ALU veut créer un minimum de 25 universités regroupant 10 000 élèves sur les 15 prochaines années. La construction de notre campus ici, en partenariat avec Terra, démarre en novembre-décembre, et il devrait être prêt dans un an.

Carte de visite

Âgé de 31 ans, Veda Sunassee est originaire de St-Julien-d’Hotman. Né d’un père laboureur et d’une mère couturière, cet ancien élève du collège Royal de Port-Louis a vécu pendant dix ans à l’étranger, notamment aux États-Unis et en Afrique du Sud.

Monday, 5 September 2016

* Meet Generation M: the young, affluent Muslims

Harriet Sherwood
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case they’re wrong. In the foreground is a young woman with fuchsia lipstick, Jackie O-style sunglasses and a colourful headscarf. Behind her is a young man, with a hip, trimmed beard, headphones jammed in his ears and one hand casually resting in his pocket.


They are part of Generation M, and the eponymous book, subtitled Young Muslims Changing the World, is the first detailed portrait of this influential constituency of the world’s fastest growing religion. According to author Shelina Janmohamed, they are proud of their faith, enthusiastic consumers, dynamic, engaged, creative and demanding. And the change they will bring about won’t depend on the benevolence of others: instead, the Muslim pound, like the pink pound before it, will force soft cultural change by means of hard economics.

To demonstrate all that, the cover image was crucial. “When you’re talking about Muslims in particular, but actually people of religion in general, the images you get are really quite depressing,” she says over coffee and baklava in her garden in the outer suburbs of London. “But I think this really captures it. It’s bold, it’s vibrant, the woman’s got so much attitude. They are exactly the kind of people I’m writing about.”


                    Lutfi Radwan with his family on his organic halal farm near Oxford

Janmohamed recalls going into a bookshop some years ago. “They had this display of books about Muslims, and it was all misery memoirs of women in veils with cast-down eyes who’d been kidnapped and sold, and people riding on camels in faraway deserts,” she says.

“But young Muslims are crying out for a voice to say this is not what we’re like, we do ordinary things like everyone else, and we have interesting things to say – particularly when the conversation is about Muslims.” There are precious few mainstream publications about the experience of being a young Muslim, beyond politics and theology, she says.

Generation M are the Muslim millennials, the global generation born in the past 30 years, but with a twist. Unlike their Christian counterparts in the US and western Europe, most of whom are turning their backs on organised religion, Generation M has “one over-riding characteristic, which is that they believe that being faithful and living a modern life go hand in hand, and there is absolutely no contradiction between the two,” says Janmohamed.

In the book, she writes: “Their faith affects everything, and they want the world to know it. This is what sets them apart from their non-Muslim peers. It’s the single factor that will shape them and a world that they are determined should cater to their needs … They are a tech-savvy, self-empowered, youthful group who believe that their identity encompasses both faith and modernity.”

The demographics depict an extraordinary trajectory. In 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, a figure forecast to grow by 73% in the next four decades – more than double the general rate of growth. By 2050, according to the Pew Research Center, there will be 2.8 billion Muslims globally, more than a quarter of the world’s population.

Of the 11 countries expected to join the world’s largest economies this century, six have overwhelmingly Muslim populations and two have big Muslim minorities. By 2050, India will have the largest Muslim population in the world, at an estimated 311 million, although they will still be a minority among the country’s vast numbers. Muslim minorities in Britain, Europe and North America are young, affluent and growing. One-third of all Muslims are under the age of 15, and two-thirds under 30.

The Muslim middle class is expected to triple to 900 million by 2030, driving consumption as well as social and political change. Their spending power is enormous: the most recent State of the Global Islamic Economy Report forecasts the halal food and lifestyle industry to be worth $2.6tn by the end of this decade, and Islamic finance is on a similar trajectory. Muslim travel could be worth $233bn. In 2014, Muslim fashion was estimated to be worth $230bn, and $54bn was spent on Muslim cosmetics.

“Through their sheer numbers, their growing middle-class stature, the shift of economic and political power towards the Middle East and Asia, home to most of the world’s Muslims, through the Muslim minorities that act as influential and well-connected leaders, by the inspirational force of their faith and their refusal to accept the status quo, Generation M are determined to make change. And what a change it’s going to be,” writes Janmohamed.
          
She charts the beginnings of this change. The demand for halal (permitted) products has been the impetus for growth in a range of businesses, such as food, fashion, cosmetics and travel. Among dozens of entrepreneurs cited in the book are the Radwan family, who started an organic halal farm in Oxfordshire; the producers of non-alcoholic beer – a sector that grew 80% in the five years to 2012, according to the Economist; Shazia Saleem, who launched ieat, a range of halal ready-meals including shepherd’s pie and lasagne, which are now sold at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco; and “a whole new Muslim fashion industry”, incorporating online retailers, video bloggers, catwalk shows and haute couture.

But Generation M, according to the book, wants to go beyond halal to tayyab, which roughly translates as “ethical and wholesome”. They want the entire supply chain of production and consumption to have integrity. “Resources must be properly respected, workers in primary industries must not be exploited. Sustainability and renewability are part of the Islamic idea of ‘stewardship of the Earth’, which Generation M eco-Muslims … are championing.”

According to Janmohamed, this Muslim millennial generation has been shaped by two monumental factors. One is the events of the past 15 years, since 9/11, and the global response to Islamic extremism and terrorism; the other is the internet, described in the book as “the glue that binds [Generation M] together and creates the critical mass that turns them into a globally influential force”.

The internet has also, she tells me, “given space for [traditionally] marginalised voices within the community – younger Muslims and women – to express their views”.

Among those views are frustration and resentment at being defined by their hijabs or being told they are oppressed by their faith. Janmohamed quotes Azra, 20: “I’m a young Muslim woman. I am not oppressed by my hijab, I’m liberated by it. If you don’t understand that, that’s completely fine, you don’t need to … The emotion you’re seeing in my eyes is not a plea to ‘help me’ but one for you to take your self-righteous bullshit and shove it up your arse.”
           
Rather than being downtrodden and subjugated, Muslim women are experiencing increasing empowerment in education, employment, public life, marriage and childbearing, says Janmohamed.

“If we were to pick a face that captures the global pace of change, it would most likely be a Muslim woman – she is part of the largest population, in nations where change is happening fastest, and in the segment where change is most potent. In short, Muslim women are where it’s happening.”
Although beyond the cusp of Generation M at 42, Janmohamed in many ways embodies the young Muslim woman she describes.

She was born in London to immigrant parents who arrived in the UK with a suitcase and £75 in cash, and she went to a school at which there were few non-white faces. “Religion was important in our family – I remember my parents praying and fasting, going to the mosque was extremely regular; the Muslim community they were part of was the foundation of the family’s social life. But at school, I spent my time hiding my hennaed hands, not telling people I was eating curry at home, being very shy about being Muslim.”

Only when she went to Oxford did she start to wear a headscarf. “I found university a liberating experience. I got to explore who I was, and part of that was my Muslim identity, which had been very suppressed at school.”

After university, she joined a graduate trainee scheme in marketing, and later spent a year working in Bahrain, which “opened my eyes to the global experience of being Muslim”. She returned to the UK shortly before 9/11, and following the London bombings in July 2005, began writing a blog “talking about what it’s like to be British and Muslim and a woman. It felt like that conversation, about someone who straddles different heritages and feels comfortable in all of them, just wasn’t being heard.”

The blog led to a book, Love in a Headscarf, published in 2009, about her 10-year quest for love via the route of a traditional arranged marriage. Janmohamed was headhunted to help launch Ogilvy Noor, a division of advertising and marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather, which advises brands on engaging with Muslim consumers.

Ogilvy hired her when she was eight months pregnant with her first child, and Generation M was largely written during her second pregnancy and since the birth of her younger daughter 18 months ago. In the book’s dedication, Janmohamed writes: “To my girls. Because you can do anything. Take it from Mummy.”

Generation M, she says, has high aspirations. “They want to be astronauts, you’ve got fencers at the Olympics and ice skaters going to the Winter Olympics, female air crew for Brunei airways – these are young people who are really battling the fact that they have aspirations that should be unfettered versus a reality that is trying to confine them to a particular box.”

But, she acknowledges, not all young Muslims are Generation M. Inclusion does not depend on disposable income or level of education, but sharing the characteristics of faith and modernity. “Their counterparts might be called the Traditionalists … more socially conservative, believing in maintaining harmony, more deference to authority and, as their name suggests, trying to hold firmly on to what they see as the good elements of family, community and tradition,” she writes.

And a few young Muslims, of course, become radicalised, hijacking Islam for violent extremism and hatred, the polar opposite of Generation M.
            
I ask her who the book is aimed at. One of her goals was to offer a platform for Generation M, she replies, “for people to have their voices heard”. “So there’s a recognition of their own identity, a consolidation of who they are, how they talk to one another.”

Then, she adds: “There’s a conversation for the wider Muslim community to have, to understand some of the dynamics that are happening within it, some of the challenges young Muslims are facing and how they can be resolved.”

But the book is also – and perhaps mainly – for a wider audience. “People who work in business, politics, culture, development. The UK [Muslim] population is just shy of 3 million, the European population is 50 million and growing, there’s a worldwide population of 1.6bn. I think anyone who’s quite serious about understanding what’s happening around the world has something to gain.”

And the marketing executive in Janmohamed wants global brands and multinational corporations to wake up to the power of the Muslim pound, dollar, rupee, rupiah or euro. “Brands have been a little bit over-cautious,” she says, pointing out that business is not immune to prevailing tropes and stereotypes. “It seems to be a really radical idea that Muslims actually buy stuff. Muslims are saying: ‘Hello, we’ve got lots of money to spend, we’re young, we’re cool, please can you deal with us in the same way you deal with everyone else?’”

Friday, 2 September 2016

* China's new Silk Road to Europe

SPIEGEL ONLINE
By Erich Follath


In Kashgar, on the western edge of the Peoples' Republic of China, the view is reminiscent of the Bible and the days when the ancient Silk Road began to take shape here in the 1st century B.C. Today, the government plans to use Kashgar as the starting point for a new, global trade route -- but at this point, there is still little evidence of it.

"Posh, Posh," the men shout on their horse-drawn carts, as they make their way to the meadow where drivers are selling camels. Potential buyers expertly reach into the animals' mouths to examine their health. The air is dusty and filed with the sounds of animals neighing, braying and bleating, as if the horses, donkeys and goats know that they won't stay tied up for long. Women, only a few of them wearing veils, walk through the chaos carrying sacks of apricots and raisins.

The Sunday market in Kashgar, one of the world's largest, attracts several thousand livestock owners and traders to the oasis city on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, near the high mountains of the Pamir and the Hindu Kush. It is a fascinating mix of ethnicities. Uighurs, wiry men with knives in their belts, are in the majority. There are Nomadic Kyrgyz wearing felt hats, and occasional light-skinned, green-eyed boys who look like descendants of Alexander the Great. The market is policed by the region's true rulers, the Han Chinese.

Here, people can still taste and feel the myth of the old Silk Road.

On the edge of the market, an artist captures the past on old silk paper. He paints images of the ancient caravans that struggled through deserts and across high mountains beyond the Jade Gate Pass, passing through the Kashgar oasis on their way to cities like Samarkand, Bukhara, Tehran and Baghdad, or transferring their precious goods, in a relay race of sorts, to other caravans that continued to the Mediterranean and the Roman Empire. The caravans introduced silk and jade, ceramics, paper and tea to the Western world, and brought garlic and castor oil to the Far East. The Silk Road was a meeting place of world cultures and a missionary route for religions, first for Buddhism and later for Islam. When Mongolian dominance collapsed in the 14th century, the trade routes petered out.

Massive New Project
Xi Jinping, 63, the president of China and general secretary of the Communist Party, wants to revive the myth and build a New Silk Road, in large parts along the old trade route. It would mark the return of a legend. For some time now, many of his speeches have included references to "yi dai yi lu," or "a belt, a road." It is a gigantic project, and China envisions about 60 countries being involved, or about half of humanity.

China wants to expand trade along the route and develop infrastructure. Beijing has earmarked $40 billion (€36 billion euros) for the project, to be invested in building new roads, and in railroads, pipelines and ports from Lithuanian to the Horn of Africa, Sri Lanka to Israel, and Pakistan to Iran. Two railroad lines lead to Germany, one from Zhengzhou to Hamburg and the other from Chongqing to Duisburg.

In order to finance the massive project, the Peoples' Republic initiated the establishment of a financial institution: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). For years, Xi Jinping was displeased by the fact that Washington provided his country with little say in organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In June 2015, 57 countries signed the charter of the AIIB, against the will of the United States. They included France, Great Britain and Germany. Everyone wants to be involved when the Chinese are planning big things.

But what is Beijing trying to achieve with its Silk Road plan? Does the Chinese leadership want to promote economic development in nearby and faraway countries and "bring together" the world, as it insists in its government propaganda? Is it because Chinese companies need globalization to bolster their stuttering economy and create new export routes for surplus production of goods, as well as routes for importing oil? Or is the real goal to break the West's political dominance -- a plan, in a sense, to conquer the world?

Beijing has deployed officials to work on the major project in Kashgar, where it is developing a new economic corridor. The high mountain road to Pakistan is being expanded, and when it is finished it will lead across the Khunjerab Pass to Gwadar, a port the Chinese are building from scratch on the Arabian Sea. Feasibility studies for ambitious new railroad lines to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are stacked on the engineers' desks. And although the proposed lines present enormous technical challenges, everything seems possible since the Chinese built a railroad line to Tibet, at altitudes above 5,000 meters (16,400 feet).

It's clear that China's Communist Party is investing enormous amounts of money in its transit routes toward Central Asia and in new economic zones. The standard of living among Kashgar residents is rising, and tax-advantaged high-tech parks have created new jobs in the provincial capital of Ürümqi. The economy is growing at 9 percent in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, outpacing growth in many other parts of the country.

In return, Beijing expects gratitude and compliance -- mistakenly. For most Uighurs, there is something far more important than having a better choice of goods to buy: respect for their people and their religion, Islam. Instead, they often experience the opposite. Mosques are placed under video surveillance, Muslim men are no longer permitted to wear long beards, and Chinese officials force their children to break the fast during Ramadan.

Economic and political elites welcome the opportunities brought by Beijing's financial injections, but the local population in Xinjiang view the new Silk Road, and the domination by Han Chinese that comes with it, with considerable skepticism. This is a recurring pattern, with concerns becoming even greater immediately beyond China's borders.