View Full Version : China's Great Western Development Project and Xinjiang III

22-10-05, 22:36
V. Legitimitizing the Current Regime by Taming the Wild West
Since the PRC's inception, Party ideology has served as the theoretical
basis for all major policies. [FN161] In spite of China's economic
liberalization and the movement towards capitalism, the Party has refused to
renounce its fundamental ideology. Insistence on "socialism with Chinese
characteristics," demonstrates an attempt to reconcile the contradictions
between economic reforms and Party ideology, thereby sustaining political
legitimacy. [FN162] The contradictions between official ideology and the
process of economic reform create a legitimacy crisis threatening the current
regime. [FN163] When Jiang Zemin said that the development of the west is
crucial to China's stability, the Communist Party's hold on power, and the
"revitalization of the Chinese people," [FN164] he acknowledged the political
*509 imperative behind western development.

While scholars recognize a number of bases for political legitimacy other
than performance, an unelected regime without a state religion, a charismatic
leader, or a viable ideology has little to justify its claim to power. [FN165]
A strong performance demonstrating a "[p]roper and effective use of power to
promote the collective well-being of the political community can generate
moral authority." [FN166] The CCP hopes that successful development of the
west will lend the regime legitimacy in the eyes of both Han Chinese
throughout the country and Uighurs in Xinjiang. The program's primary thrust,
however, is directed at the minority groups in the west. Given the intended
"beneficiaries" of the plan are minority groups, the Go West project should be
considered in the context of China's evolving minority policy--a weaving story
of appeasement and movement towards eventual assimilation.

VI. CCP Minority Policy in Xinjiang: Road to Integration
A brief history of China's minority policy and its impact in Xinjiang is
needed to fully contextualize the Go West project. China's minority policy
has general characteristics, applicable to all minority nationalities, but
this history will focus on the policy's impact on Xinjiang. Chinese policy
towards the peoples of Xinjiang has generally followed a trajectory of
integration with the implicit expectation of assimilation at a later date.
[FN167] Since "liberation" in 1949, the central government's integration
policies have paralleled concerns for territorial integrity and stimulation of
greater Chinese nationalism. Tracing the evolution of CCP minority policy
from pre-liberation pacification to the current system of regional autonomy
reveals that although policy has undergone several major transformations, the
underlying goals of quelling unrest, moving the Uighurs steadily towards
assimilation, and ensuring continued control over the region have always
guided central government decision-making. [FN168]

Early Appeasement: Unify and Conquer

In the PRC's early years, the Party line maintained that Xinjiang, Tibet,
and Mongolia should be "autonomous states," ultimately voluntarily uniting
with China in a federated republic. [FN169] Communist leaders recognized that
minorities on China's frontiers harbored both deep nationalist desires and
strong fears of forced *510 assimilation, and policy was thus crafted to
assuage these fears. In 1931, the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic
(Jiangxi Constitution) [FN170] emphasized the equality of minorities [FN171]
and recognized "the right of self-determination of the national minorities in
China, their right to complete separation from China, and to the formation of
an independent state for each national minority." [FN172] In 1934, however,
Mao acknowledged that the minority policy set out in the Jiangxi Constitution
was an effort to enlist minority support against the Guomindang (KMT) and
imperialist forces. [FN173] Both the option of secession and the promise of
self-determination quickly evaporated once the rhetoric outlived its
usefulness. [FN174]

The Party soon shifted its position--eliminating both the possibilities of
secession or true self-determination. [FN175] Under the CCP's new policy,
minorities were granted equal rights with the Han, they were encouraged to
develop their own cultures, were not forced to learn Chinese, and they were
promised control of their own affairs--as long as they remained part of a
unified Chinese state. [FN176] In the years leading up to the founding of the
PRC in 1949, the CCP introduced a new brand of rhetoric: unifying the nation
by broadening the Chinese "family."

Creating a Chinese "Family"

The next stage in the development of the minority policy reflects efforts by
the CCP to unify the country and cultivate a sense of Chinese nationhood. The
new regime's legitimacy in the hinterlands hinged upon the CCP's ability to
recreate the Chinese national identity. [FN177] Successful and lasting
unification required a stimulation of Chinese nationalism that spanned
regional differences and overcame localism. [FN178] In 1924, Dr. Sun Yat-sen,
regarded as the father of *511 modern China, highlighted the importance of
instilling a sense of Chinese nationhood:
The Chinese people have shown the greatest loyalty to family and clan with
the result that in China there have been family-ism and clan-ism but no real
nationalism. Foreign observers say that the Chinese are like a sheet of loose
sand . . . The unity of the Chinese people has stopped short at the clan and
has not extended to the nation. [FN179]

Sun Yat-sen's words resonate throughout the early policy statements of the
CCP. [FN180] Preparing to declare the formation of the PRC, Mao realized
Sun's observations revealed a critical aspect of Chinese society the CCP could
utilize in mobilizing the masses. Party rhetoric synthesized the concepts of
nation and clan into a familial metaphor, declaring: "All nationalities within
the boundaries of the People's Republic of China are equal. They shall
establish unity and mutual aid among themselves, and shall oppose imperialism
and their own public enemies, so that the PRC will become a big fraternal and
cooperative family composed of all its nationalities." [FN181] The Party's
new language tried to inculcate both patriotism and the notion that "older
brother" had arrived to assist his "younger brothers" develop their own
languages, customs, religious beliefs, and traditions. [FN182]

Creation of the Autonomous Regions

By casting minority integration in familial terms and by reneging on the
promise of the right to secede, the CCP paved the way for the creation of
autonomous minority regions. When the XUAR was created in 1955, CCP rhetoric
was tinged with overtones of the "Han man's burden," and the long-term goal
was ultimate assimilation of the province through sinification. [FN183] While
a few basic rights were incorporated into the 1954 Constitution, insufficient
guarantee for these rights meant they basically did not exist. [FN184] Many
have argued the long-*512 term Chinese policy is founded on the principle that
giving minority areas a degree of autonomy pacifies them by sustaining their
own customs, religion, language, and limited self-government until the
immigration of Han Chinese slowly changes the makeup of the population.
[FN185] Go West, and the accompanying policy of "mixing sand" fit very nicely
into this pattern.

The Deng Years: Building a Legal Framework for "Autonomy"

As China shook off the lingering effects of the Cultural Revolution [FN186]
and attempted to restore some semblance of law and order, CCP leaders
reconsidered the minority issue. [FN187] By the early 1980s, the central
government was quite aware of growing minority discontent: "In 1981, a Han
Chinese official in Xinjiang complained that Uighurs would tell him
repeatedly: 'What difference does it make if the Russians come. They'll cut
off the heads of the Han, not ours."' [FN188] The 1982 Constitution upgraded
the status of minorities and granted them more rights than ever before--
reflecting demands by minority leaders for an immediate realization of
regional autonomy as promised in the 1950s. [FN189] In 1984, the central
government promulgated the Law on Regional National Autonomy, the "basic law
for the implementation of the system of regional national autonomy prescribed
by the Constitution." [FN190]

The LRNA Avoids the Issue of Autonomy

The LRNA does not grant Xinjiang, or the other autonomous regions, any
degree of meaningful autonomy. [FN191] Although official pronouncements laud
the autonomy regime as a system of self-government "established for the
exercise of autonomy and for people of ethnic minorities to become masters of
their own areas," [FN192] Western scholars criticize the system as little more
than "fake" or "paper autonomy." [FN193] One scholar even likened China's
autonomous areas to "political eunuchs serving at the pleasure of the
Communist court in Beijing." [FN194] In fact, the modern autonomy regime, as
defined by the 1982 Constitution and the LRNA, is *513 designed as a clever
dance around the issue of true autonomy. Both documents represent variations
on the same theme of "give" and "take." They give autonomous regions rights
and powers, and then by tying these rights to central government approval,
effectively take them away. While the modern system is the most far-reaching
autonomy regime to date, autonomous regions are still subject to the
"despotism and arbitrary wills of authorities and functionaries [of the
central government]." [FN195]

Ultimately, "autonomy" as implemented under the Constitution and LRNA
amounts to little more than a different way of describing the central-local
relationship. [FN196] In spite of the claim that the LRNA "takes into account
the characteristics and special needs of the country's autonomous areas and
ensures the full exercise of autonomy by organs of self-government which have
bigger decision-making powers than other local governments," [FN197] there is
actually little difference in the substantive powers enjoyed by autonomous
regions and the provinces. [FN198] In Xinjiang, the central government walks
a fine line between encouraging a safe amount of autonomy (thereby placating
ethnic minorities) and breeding local nationalism, or worse separatism.
Economic prosperity (Go West) is the promised panacea--it is supposed to tip
the balance in favor of greater integration by demonstrating that Uighurs will
benefit more from cooperation with the Chinese regime than resistance against
it. [FN199]

VII. Go West's Legal Wake: Recentralizing power
CCP leaders recognize that developing, or taming, the west will require more
than rhetoric and money for infrastructure projects. In government news
organs, Party leaders note that the success of Go West depends upon the
promulgation of enabling legislation and the creation of a favorable legal
environment. [FN200] A state-run website touts the achievements in legal
reform of the last twenty years, but acknowledges that the legal climate still
needs improvement. [FN201] This website quotes Lu Hushan, vice-chairman of
the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region People's Political Consultative
Conference, as saying that the CCP should address the following areas:
legislation establishment, the systemic problems of law enforcement agencies
and judicial departments, and legal awareness. [FN202] In fact, Go West's
legal wake sends ripples through the existing autonomy regime -- *514
contracting Xinjiang's powers of self-control and recentralizing
decision-making authority.

In March of 2001, President Jiang Zemin signed an order announcing revisions
to the LRNA. [FN203] Xinhua cites the wide economic gap between autonomous
regions in the west and prosperous coastal areas in the east as the primary
motivation for the changes. [FN204] Officials say the amendments will
"promote the prosperity of all nationalities by narrowing the economic and
social development gap between autonomous minority nationality areas [and
other regions]." [FN205] Li Dezhu, minister in charge of State Ethnic Affairs
Commission notes the revisions promote legal construction in the autonomous
regions and help to foster an "equal, united, and mutually beneficial
relationship among all of China's fifty-six nationalities." [FN206] The
revisions to the LRNA are appropriately viewed as an integral component of the
Go West campaign.

Recent Revisions to the LRNA

CCP pronouncements accompanying the recent amendments to the Law on Regional
National Autonomy demonstrate that the Go West project and the LRNA are
inextricably intertwined. [FN207] Xinhua notes that amendments to the law
were "grounded in the need to build a socialist market economy and implement
the grand development of western China." [FN208] Another report indicates
that the newly amended law "will play an even more important role in promoting
the development of minority areas and preserving the nation's unification."
[FN209] The changes to the LRNA, prompted by Go West's political and economic
agendas, are designed to help the central government realize its political
objectives in Xinjiang.

The revised law, which includes seventy-four articles, instead of the
original sixty-seven, changes the definition of regional autonomy in the
Preamble from "an important political system of the state" to "a basic policy
system of the state." [FN210] This semantic shift is intended to demonstrate
the CCP's redoubled commitment to minority ethnicities and the system of
regional autonomy. [FN211] In fact, the revisions *515 are a step towards
greater integration of minority areas into the Chinese fold. Several of the
few revisions that actually have a substantive bite recentralize
decision-making powers, rather than expanding the autonomy regime. [FN212] The
changes focus primarily on financial incentives and preferential policies
designed to "accelerate the economic and social development of ethnic
minorities and promote national solidarity." [FN213] Although the revised law
is replete with Go West rhetoric, it is short on substance. Some of the
amendments are merely statements of intent and carry little practical force.
Article 69, in an expression of idealism and magnanimity, provides that "state
and higher level people's governments should . . . help impoverished
populations shake off poverty as soon as possible and realize a moderately
high standard of living." [FN214] The LRNA, however, does nothing to
actualize such aspirations.

The exploitation of natural resources is an integral aspect of Go West in
Xinjiang. [FN215] While the revised LRNA takes the important step of
addressing compensation for resource exploitation, the law quietly shifts
control of resources and agricultural products to the central government.
Article 65 maintains the state will provide "certain compensations to the
national autonomous areas exporting natural resources." [FN216] This
provision suggests the state acknowledges autonomous areas should be
compensated for the exploitation of their natural resources--a right
previously not recognized. [FN217] The Chinese Constitution states: "In
developing natural resources [which, according to Article 9, are owned by the
state] and building enterprises in the national autonomous areas, the state
shall give due consideration to the interests of those areas." [FN218] This
marks a potentially significant change, as it affords the autonomous areas in
the west the opportunity to capitalize on resources taken from them to fuel
the east. Notwithstanding the recognition of rights to compensation, the
revised law takes steps to shift control of those resources from the
autonomous areas to the central government.

One of the more significant changes to the LRNA is not an added provision,
but rather an article that the new law does not include. The old version of
the LRNA included a provision granting autonomous areas the right to
independently arrange for the "use of industrial, agricultural, and other
local and special products after fulfilling the quotas for state purchase."
[FN219] This right disappears in the revised law. [FN220] The new version of
the LRNA subtly shifts the right to control resources and industrial and
agricultural products from the autonomous regions to the central government.
Article 65 provides: "While exploiting resources and *516 carrying out
construction in national autonomous areas the state should take the interests
of national autonomous areas into consideration." [FN221] The LRNA makes very
clear that the state will play an integral role in resource exploitation and
agricultural production. Xinhua inadvertently highlights the inherent irony
in official rhetoric accompanying the law: "Economically, the Regional
National Autonomy Law is imbued with the spirit of self-reliance for national
autonomous areas, with sharp state support and active aid by economically
developed regions." [FN222] Under the revised LRNA, "self-reliance" means
greater state involvement and increased dependence on other regions.

Other Go West inspired changes to the LRNA are merely statements of existing
policy--allowing the CCP to wave the banner of progress and generosity without
loosening the reigns of political control. Article 62 stipulates that
autonomous areas are entitled to special treatment from fiscal authorities at
higher levels. [FN223] This "special treatment" is intended to "increase
funds for national autonomous areas to be used in expediting the economic
development and social progress of national autonomous areas and gradually
narrowing the gaps with developed areas." [FN224] This provision, however,
does not signify anything new for Xinjiang. Since 1992, the XUAR has
benefited more than any other province from preferential fiscal transfer
policies. [FN225]

Interestingly, the revisions also indicate some of the difficulties facing
Go West. Article 65 stipulates that the state will "guid[e] and encourage
enterprises in economically developed areas to act according to the principle
of mutual benefit and reciprocity to make investment in national autonomous
areas and conduct economic cooperation of diversified forms." [FN226] This
provision exposes the reality that capital will not flow west naturally.
Moreover, the subsidies necessary to fund Go West are taken from the
prosperous east, and may become a source of resentment. One troubling
possibility is that "[t]he growing numbers of unhappy people in the west will
. . be joined by growing numbers of people in the east who are unhappy at
the increasing cost to them of financing the Great Leap West." [FN227] CCP
leaders may unwittingly promote the very beast they hope to eradicate--
increased regionalism and national division.

Revisions to the LRNA do, however, offer a kernel of hope for Xinjiang's
large and decrepit state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Article 61 provides that
the state "formulates preferential policies, supports autonomous areas to
develop foreign economic and trade activities, expands the decision-making
right of production enterprises in national autonomous areas in conducting
foreign trade, encourages and develops the export of local superior products,
and implements *517 preferential border trade policy." [FN228] Depending on
their implementation, several aspects of this amendment have the potential to
dramatically affect Xinjiang. Four-fifths of the XUAR's industrial assets
remain in state hands, and this remains one of the most serious impediments to
Xinjiang's development. [FN229] China's SOEs are lumbering and inefficient
and do not facilitate growth. [FN230] According to the government's National
Statistics Bureau, somewhere between half and two-thirds of all SOEs are in
the red, and keeping them afloat requires enormous state subsidies. [FN231]
If Article 61 translates into greater autonomy for Xinjiang's large state
sector, when combined with the prospect of favorable border trade policies,
there is hope yet that Xinjiang will fulfill its potential as a "regional
powerhouse." [FN232]

The revised LRNA offers no clear prescription for accomplishing its
expressed commitment to autonomous areas--none of the changes expand, or even
address autonomy. Arguably, all the amendments are policies designed to
recentralize decision-making powers. The amendments elucidate
responsibilities or commitments of the central government to the autonomous
areas, without offering the autonomous areas any expansion of power. Thus,
the recent revisions to the LRNA seem to suggest greater state involvement in
the affairs of autonomous areas [FN233]--a trend incongruous with the concept
of autonomy itself.

Other legal changes designed to buttress the Go West project also help
recentralize decision-making powers. In an effort to encourage foreign
investment in the west, the central government has granted a number of tax
incentives to foreign investment enterprises (FIEs). The incentives, which
include a reduced income tax rate and import tax breaks on technological
equipment, only apply to investment in projects and categories approved by the
State Council. [FN234]

The recent revisions to the LRNA and the new tax laws are consistent with
the two-pronged strategy of loudly granting Xinjang preferential economic
policies, while quietly recentralizing fiscal and decision-making powers.
[FN235] Almost all of the revisions take the form of state commitments to the
autonomous areas, thereby fostering greater integration of Xinjiang. [FN236]
Beijing has taken care to tie Xinjiang's economic development to other Chinese
provinces, while also *518 ensuring that large sectors of Xinjiang's economy
remain under the control of the central government. [FN237] The amendments to
the LRNA fit nicely into this strategy and in spite of the CCP's expressed
commitment to regional autonomy, Go West translates into a contraction of the
autonomy regime.

VII. The Economics of Go West: Empty Promises?
Some of China's most influential economists question the ability of Go West
to bring prosperity to Xinjiang. [FN238] Hu Angang, head of the National
Situation Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, points out
numerous stumbling blocks for Go West:
First, the policies of the 9th Five Year Plan cannot effectively curb the
widening of regional disparities, which will continue to increase in the next
five years. Second, global economic restructuring weakens the comparative
advantages of the western regions in agriculture, energy, raw materials, and
so on. Third, the formation of a pattern in which supply exceeds demand on
the domestic market has weakened the west's relative advantages in resource
exploitation. Fourth, after China joins the WTO, the opportunities will
outweigh the challenges in the eastern regions, but the opposite will apply in
the west. [FN239]

As Hu notes, in the short term, Go West is likely to disappoint. Even if Go
West does meet its economic objectives in the long-term, Beijing's political
hopes for the project are also suspect.

The underlying theory of the Go West strategy is that prosperity fosters
greater minority acquiescence and assists integration into the Han framework.
[FN240] In fact, there is reason to believe that economic prosperity may cut
the other way. Gladney points out that "[o]ne of the unexpected consequences
of economic reforms in China has been ethnic revitalization." [FN241] Reforms
designed to bring prosperity to minorities, and thereby encourage integration
into the Han mainstream, instead fostered an ethnic resurgence. [FN242] A
former director of the CCP United Front Work Department also acknowledged this
The imbalance between the economic and cultural development of different
areas and different races is widening. On the one hand, the Han and minority
peoples are getting closer in terms of economic and cultural connections, and
on the other the consciousness of minorities, their sense of pride,
nationalism and self-respect is getting stronger and stronger. [FN243]

Deng's economic reforms have strengthened and enhanced ethnic *519
differences, [FN244] while the state's promotion of Han-centered "racial"
nationalism has effectively alienated minority people. [FN245] Thus, even if
the Go West program fulfills its economic objectives, the plan may stimulate
the very forces of disintegration it was designed to counteract.

IX. Conclusion
Viewed within the context of China's evolving minority policy, Go West looks
more like the latest incarnation of Beijing's strategy to integrate and
assimilate ethnic minorities into the fabric of greater China, than it does a
serious economic development and poverty alleviation plan. The economic
policy is a vehicle for Beijing's political agenda in the region, and thus
comparisons to the Trojan Horse are not entirely inappropriate. However, if
the political benefits (i.e., national unity, social stability, border
security) of Go West are to accrue, the CCP must accompany the policy of
integration and assimilation with expanded autonomy and increased
decision-making powers for Xinjiang. Some scholars have pointed out that the
goal of Uighur separatists "is true autonomy, the kind promised in the 1950s
by the People's Republic of China but never really delivered." [FN246]

The current system of autonomy, created in the mid-1980s and premised on a
planned economy is dominated by central power and guided by central
decision-making. [FN247] China's economic success stories suggest that those
jurisdictions granted the greatest political and economic latitude--the SEZs--
have also received a tremendous developmental advantage. [FN248] If Go West's
political agenda is to have any chance of success in Xinjiang, the central
government must expand the XUAR's powers of autonomy--specifically granting
Xinjiang greater political and economic latitude. Ultimately, the Go West
program and the promise of prosperity will not be enough to assuage separatist
agitators. Furthermore, given the program's design, Go West makes little
economic sense. Go West does little to alleviate poverty and fails to
adequately address the role of the state in the economy--one of the primary
reasons for Xinjiang's economic backwardness. [FN249] Even if the promised
economic benefits do come to fruition, increased prosperity may have the
undesired effect of pushing the "New Frontier" further from Beijing.