Road, has two time zones, two hours apart. How you set your watch
depends not only on the neighborhood, but on your profession and
ethnicity, religion and loyalty. People living on both sides of the
time divide say there is little confusion because they have as little
to do with each other as possible.
A few years back I had the chance to travel to the city of Kashgar, and below is what I wrote about the Xinjiang time warp in a post I titled "Someone is in Denial."
I recently had the chance to spend a
few days in Kashgar, China's westernmost city. It's about 2000 miles
west of Beijing, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Flying time is
about 6 hours, with a mandatory change of planes in Xinjiang's capital,
Urumqi, which has the distinction of being the city in the world that
sits farthest from an ocean. Two main groups of people live in
Kashgar–the local Uighur ethnic minority people, and the Han Chinese,
who have migrated to Xinjjiang since China assumed control of the
region in the early 20th century.
Now, you know what happens when you travel west—the sun does too.
Apparantly that's not so obvious in China, a country that is slightly
bigger than the US, but still only has one time zone. The entire
country is on Beijing time, the position of the sun notwithstanding.
Officially then, Kashgar time is Beijing time–there is no time
difference. But the locals know better–know that it's a bit silly for
your watch to show 9AM just as the sun is coming up over the horizon.
So they operate on an unofficial "Xinjiang time." It can get quite
confusing because all official things (train schedules, plane
schedules, banking and office hours) are according to Beijing time,
while informal things (meals, visiting friends, etc) are in local
time. If your flight is scheduled to depart at 8AM, you'd better be
thinking about Beijing time, not local time, or you're going to miss
your flight by 2 hours.
It seems to me that someone in Kashgar is in denial, but I'm not
sure who it is. Is it the Han Chinese who are in denial that the
local time should have at least some relationship to the position of
the sun? Or maybe they are in denial they they are out there instead
of enjoying the relative comfort and ease of Beijing. Or are the
locals in denial that the Chinese are in control?
Perhaps it's a little bit of both.