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

22-10-05, 22:37
IV. Solidifying the Nation
Pacification and Integration: Taking Prosperity to the Hinterlands

The Go West plan is designed to give Uighurs (and other minorities in the
west) hope by redressing the dangerous economic rift between east and west.
This strategy rests upon the theory that prosperity will breed greater
minority cooperation and thereby encourage their integration into the "Chinese
Han majority mainstream." [FN93] Chinese officials note: "Separatist
movements gnawing away at Chinese control in ethnic border regions will only
be silenced by an *502 increase in material wealth among local populations."
[FN94] A "long-term program," with a timeline of twenty or thirty years, Go
West emphasizes infrastructure development, local industry, science,
technology, education, improving the investment environment, and working on
environmental protection projects. [FN95] In Xinjiang, thus far the plan has
materialized in the form of large infrastructure projects such as roads,
railroads, and a U.S.$14 billion pipeline running from Xinjiang's natural gas
fields to Shanghai, 2,500 miles to the southeast. [FN96] As part of the Go
West campaign, Xinjiang Regional Development Planning Commission identified
thirty key projects for inclusion in the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005).
[FN97] Three of the thirty projects are in agriculture, four are in the power
industry, two are in urban construction, three are in the petrochemical and
gas industry, five are water resource projects, nine are in transportation
(road and railway construction), and four are in other industries. [FN98]
These projects require a total investment of 70 billion yuan (U.S.$8.46
billion). [FN99] In spite of Beijing's pledges for support, some western
scholars point out that central authorities have back-pedaled from promises of
financial participation, and Go West amounts to little more than an
opportunity for regional elites to demonstrate loyalty to the central
government by waving the Go West banner. [FN100] If rhetoric has any hope of
becoming reality in Xinjiang, the Go West plan will have to overcome the
region's harsh topography, technological backwardness, and infrastructure
deficiencies. [FN101]

In isolated Xinjiang, building transportation links to markets in the east
is of paramount importance. Infrastructure improvements are critical to
reduce Xinjiang's isolation from both central and coastal China and potential
markets in Europe and Central Asia. [FN102] Currently, transportation links
are woefully inadequate. While grapes from California can make it to a
Guangdong fruit stand in less than a week, grapes from Turfan, located in
central Xinjiang, take up to fifteen days. [FN103] Clearly, Xinjiang's
biggest challenge to development is enhancing shipping capabilities and
transportation links. [FN104]

As part of the Tenth Five Year Plan, the central government has promised
approximately 100 billion yuan (U.S.$12.1 billion) for large and medium sized
*503 railway construction projects in west China. [FN105] Plans exist to
extend the recently completed Kashgar-Urumqi line into Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan, [FN106] while another proposed railway project passes through
Yining into Kazakhstan. [FN107] Go West also hopes to improve domestic
east-west links, by either double-tracking existing lines or building new
ones. [FN108] In addition to facilitating the enhanced transport of goods,
improving transportation links helps the central government maintain control
of the region. [FN109]

Another priority for Xinjiang is "shift[ing] from exporting natural
resources to development of higher value-added processing industries in
minerals, agricultural produce and tourism." [FN110] Xinjiang has tremendous
potential for a lucrative tourism industry. The region is replete with
historical and cultural sites, stunning natural beauty, and colorful minority
groups. [FN111] Local authorities also eye increased tourism as the first
phase in luring both domestic and international investment. [FN112]

The two pillar industries, black (oil) and white (cotton), are also central
to Xinjiang's strategy for economic development. [FN113] The emphasis on
these industries, however, demonstrates that Go West's strategy for Xinjiang
does not make sound economic sense. Although Xinjiang does have sizeable oil
reserves, hopeful estimates have largely been disappointed, [FN114] and the
extraction costs make Xinjiang's oil extremely expensive. [FN115] Beijing's
emphasis on Xinjiang's oil also has the undesired effect of fueling local
frustrations. The oil industry in Xinjiang is now almost completely run by
Han Chinese, and the China National Petroleum Company's exploration and
extraction projects have bypassed the Xinjiang Petroleum Bureau altogether.
[FN116] Situations such as these anger locals and some scholars speculate that
the industry is steering the Han onto a collision course with Uighurs. June
Teufel Dreyer points out that the hype surrounding Xinjiang's oil reserves
gives locals the impression that the region could easily be economically
self-sufficient, even wealthy, if only Beijing would stop siphoning off the
valuable natural resources. [FN117] Thus, oil is problematic, both as an
engine for development *504 and as a rhetorical tool for rallying support for
Go West.

As for cotton, "there is little evidence that cotton is [even] economically
viable" in the region. [FN118] Imported cotton is still fifteen per cent
cheaper than the local product, and heavy government subsidies keeping the
industry going are proving very costly for the central government. [FN119]
China's textile crisis has left the state with a stockpile of four million
tons of cotton, equivalent to three years of Xinjiang's output. [FN120] The
cotton strategy also demonstrates the need for nationally integrated planning.
Many of Go West's projects are conceived and implemented from "the bottom up,"
[FN121] with little or no national coordination. One commentary from Xinhua
News Agency points out the danger of such an approach, noting that if regional
plans are not coordinated centrally, it will be "hard to avoid running around
in circles when the work is fully underway, and we may have to pay a
considerably higher price for the 'remedies' after problems crop up, which
will inevitably impair the entire process of development." [FN122] In
Xinjiang, as in other regions, development policies that make little sense
economically are often driven by an underlying political agenda. Some have
speculated that the explanation for the importance of cotton in Xinjiang "lies
in the opening up of new land through reclamation: a key element in bringing
in massive numbers of Han settlers to reinforce territorial consolidation."
[FN123] This explanation resonates with Beijing's desire to shore up control
of the region by diluting restive indigenous populations with Han settlers, a
process colloquially referred to as "mixing sand." [FN124]

"Mixing Sand": Han Migration and Integration into the Chinese Fold

When Communist forces "liberated" Xinjiang in 1949, over ninety percent of
Xinjiang's population was ethnically non-Han. [FN125] The region, embroiled
in a long tradition of ethnic and religious animosity (both among native
groups and towards the non-Muslim Han), proved to be a difficult land to
control. [FN126] After the CCP consolidated power, the authorities launched a
massive program of Han resettlement, thereby dramatically increasing the Han
population in the region. [FN127] By 1979, almost half of Xinjiang's eleven
million people were Han. [FN128] The 1990 census, however, indicated a steady
and continuing decline of the Han population *505 in Xinjiang--owing in large
part to lower Han birthrates. [FN129] The central government, concerned by
the implications of such a demographic shift countered the trend with a
strategy of increased Han migration, colloquially called "mixing sand."

Go West continues the recent trend of accelerated Han migration to Xinjiang.
Increased economic opportunities and improved transportation links facilitate
a steady stream of Han migrants, and according to some estimates, 250,000 Han
make the journey west each year. [FN131] Go West's large infrastructure
construction projects provide jobs for migrant workers and in spite of
preferential policies for ethnic minorities, [FN132] jobs often go to Han
workers rather than indigenous Uighurs. For example, among 20,000 oil workers
in the Tarim Basin, relatively few jobs have been allocated to minorities; in
the Taklamakan Desert oil exploration project, only 253 of 4,000 technical
workers came from minority groups. [FN133] Employment discrimination adds to
Uighur frustrations and resentments of the Han. One young Uighur in Xinjiang
vents: "Look, . . . I am a strong man and well-educated. But [Han] Chinese
firms won't give me a job. Yet go down to the railway station and you can see
all the [Han] Chinese who've just arrived. They'll get jobs. It's a policy, to
swamp us." [FN134] Given the large number of Han Chinese moving to Xinjiang,
Go West may well be a Trojan Horse--Beijing tempts Xinjiang with the prospect
of economic prosperity while using development projects as a vehicle for
flooding the region with Han Chinese.

The steady stream of Han Chinese into Xinjiang has a powerful assimilative
effect on the Uighurs. In spite of the fact that Uighurs are the largest
ethnic group in Xinjiang, they demonstrate a much higher rate of assimilation
to the Han, than vice versa. [FN135] The potency and supremacy of Han Chinese
culture stands as a strong and well-established principle in the Chinese
world-view, and Han leaders have long recognized its assimilative power.
Mencius (fourth century b.c.) [FN136] commented: "I have heard of man using
the doctrines of our great land to change barbarians, but I have never yet
heard of any being changed by barbarians." [FN137] For *506 the Uighurs,
socioeconomic advancement is often tied to assimilation into the Han social
structure. [FN138] Han Chinese, however, do not see similar rewards for
assimilating into the Uighur social system. [FN139] Therefore, rather than
creating a balanced blend of Han and Uighur, the Go West policy of "mixing
sand" will produce a Han-dominated social structure--the Uighurs will be
forced to assimilate, or "drown" in the "quicksand" of a Han dominated
socioeconomic structure.

Taming the West: A "Civilizing Project"

With increased separatist violence, and international awareness of the
Uighur plight growing, [FN140] CCP leaders recognize that this frontier powder
keg is the single greatest threat to their hold on power. [FN141] Cadres from
Beijing's leading Group on Developing the Western Areas readily admit Go
West's political agenda: "boosting national unity, maintaining social
stability, and consolidating the border defences." [FN142] Party officials
have repeatedly stated that the only way to silence separatist movements and
consolidate control of ethnic border regions is to increase wealth and
economic prosperity in local minority populations. [FN143] One official
noted: "Only a strong economy and improved material and cultural living
standards can show the advantages of socialism . . . and promote the
unification of all peoples towards the Communist Party." [FN144] A member of
the special team set up by the State Council to draw up a master plan for the
west even said:
*507 The aim of the government's program to develop China's western
provinces is to prevent China's foreign enemies using poverty to create a
Kosovo-style crisis in the region . . . Providing ethnic minorities in those
regions with more economic development would help guarantee the inviolability
of China's borders and political and social stability in the region. [FN145]

Given that fifty-two of China's fifty-five ethnic minority groups live in
the west, [FN146] the Go West plan looks very much like a "civilizing
project," designed to assuage ethnic tensions and further integrate outlying
minority regions into the Chinese fold. In fact, the Go West project is an
example of what Dru Gladney calls internal colonialism--a situation
"predicated upon the unequal rates of exchange between the urban power centers
and the peripheral, often ethnic, hinterlands." [FN147]

The ideological basis for "civilizing projects" is a combination of the
civilizing center's perceived superiority and a commitment to raise the level
of peripheral peoples' civilization. [FN148] Han Chinese widely view their
own culture to be "one of progress, opportunity, science, and reason," [FN149]
while Uighur culture is perceived to be "backward, poor, weak, superstitious,
and worst of all, 'feudal'." [FN150] One Chinese (Han) specialist of minority
affairs characteristically proclaimed: "[T]he Han nationality has always kept
a higher level of development, so many of the ethnic minorities have learned a
lot from the Han nationality's mode of production and way of life." [FN151]
Members of the Ninth Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
(CPPCC) echo this sentiment when they assert that ethic minority groups will
be the biggest beneficiaries of the Go West development scheme. [FN152] Wei
Jiezheng, a minority member of the CPPCC National Committee notes: "China's
ethnic minorities have been poor and backward for centuries, but we are
confident of the future." [FN153] Go West as a civilizing project, however,
has serious implications running counter to Beijing's objectives. Civilizing
projects invariably precipitate greater ethnic consciousness in those people
being civilized. [FN154] Ethnic awareness does not necessarily lead to an
increase in separatist agitation, but in the past ten years increased
identification with Uighur culture has paralleled an increase in Uighur
protests. [FN155]

*508 The explicit agenda of China's new "civilizing project" attempts to
tackle the separatist threat. The stated goals of "boosting national unity,
maintaining social stability and consolidating border defenses," [FN156]
clearly address the west's problem of separatist agitators. Uighur and
Tibetan groups vying for independence have made Beijing painfully aware that
the economic disparity between ethnic minorities in the west and Han Chinese
in the east strengthens the cause of separatist movements. [FN157] A 1994
State Ethnic Affairs Commission report to the CCP Central Committee notes:
"[M]inority nationalities are complaining that all the rich are Han people and
that the Communist Party could not care less about the minorities. This
problem, if ignored, surely will deepen nationality contradictions." [FN158]
In 1994, China Today recognized that of the eighty million people living under
the poverty line, eighty percent (sixty-four million) live in minority areas.
[FN159] Mou Benli, Vice Minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission
recently hailed the Western Development strategy, noting it provides ethnic
minorities their "best ever historical opportunities." [FN160] Although
minorities are the intended "beneficiaries" of Go West, the plan's political
and economic agendas are crafted with a broader audience in mind. Go West
also plays an important role in the CCP's efforts to legitimize the current
political power structure and justify the continued existence of the regime.

Dawami bar.........