“Kashi Special Economic Zone: The Last Chance to Get Rich for the Rich”

More on the Kashgar violence, this time from the Xinjiang Review. They attribute the problems to a growing gap between Han and Uyghur citizens which bridges the gap between ethnic conflict and class war:

During a recent trip to various cities and counties in southern Xinjiang, I heard many Han businessmen had repeatedly stated that Kashgar, as a special economic zone, is the last to get rich. It is said that within two years, the housing price has doubled in good locations in Kashi. This may explain why, in addition to political reasons, local officials and businessmen are eager to tear down old Uyghur communities and build skyscrapers in the name of economic development and ethnic harmony, a fortune-seeking pattern popular seen in many interior cities.

Since most Uyghurs are unable to “upgrade” to new apartments or to “re-model” their old houses, they have increasingly become marginalized even in their “town:” not only does the destruction of their tradition houses and business worsen their current economy, but also the coming of large number of Han officials, volunteers, merchants, police, workers, and others who benefit from the development contribute to rising prices, from housing to food.

Several Chinese scholars in Beijing have actually noticed the dilemma in state-sponsored development that on the one hand, economic development is expected to reduce ethnic tension between the Han and Uyghurs, while on the other hand, the beneficiary are mostly Han, which actually increases economic gap between the two groups and generates more ethnic problems.

In other words, violence in Xinjiang cannot be interpreted only in ethnic terms. From an economic perspective, it is also a class struggle between the poor Uyghurs and the rich Han. What complicates the Uyghur-Han relation is that it is a mixture of ethnicity and economy. The Chinese Communist Party was proud of overthrowing oppressive classes and liberating oppressed classes within the Han ethnic group in the past. Today, the class issue in Xinjiang (embodied in ethnic tension) between oppressed Uyghur and oppressor Han, coupled with international forces and influences, is a real test for China’s proletariat party if it truly represents the oppressed people, be it Uyghur or Han.

I don’t want to entirely undersell the ethnic dimension to this, but parts of that analysis certainly ring true. I have to laugh about the ‘proletariat party,’ though. It’s been some time since the Party has even pretended to aspire to anything like that, outside of downplayed rhetoric and old politics lessons.

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5 Comments

Filed under China, class conflict, ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

5 responses to ““Kashi Special Economic Zone: The Last Chance to Get Rich for the Rich”

  1. “I have to laugh about the ‘proletariat party,’ though…”

    This is a best way I can find to describe the realiy that Xinjiang is under the CCP rule and to express the hope that the CCP takes a class struggle view on the Uyghur issue.

  2. Oh, I definitely didn’t mean I was laughing at you- I agree fully that class struggle is a really important way to understand these issues. I just laughed at the idea of the Party, which still surrounds itself in the trappings of a proletarian movement, ever siding with poor Uyghur over rich (han) businessmen. It was a somewhat bitter laugh, if you can’t tell. It would be a huge improvement over the way things are done now, but we’re a long way from there…

    Might I say, I’m a huge fan of your blog, as might be obvious from how often I quote it, haha. Definitely one of my favorite places for good Xinjiang commentary.

  3. I do believe that the Xinjiang issue is not really an ethnic issue if you visit Uyghur towns and counties and talk to the Uyghurs. the real challenge his how different interest groups (political factions, historical legacies, regional and ethnic solidaries, old and new residents, and etc).

    what worries me is that I think the CCP has been aware of these situations. but why they insist ideological wars? for the larger geopolitical engagement in whole Central Asia? Just think about, if there were no more terrorist in XJ, what could justify China’s military presence there, esp close to India, Pak, and Central Asian republics? in this sense, the Uygur is probally the victim of another great game there between China and other powers.

  4. I do believe that the Xinjiang issue is not really an ethnic issue if you visit Uyghur towns and counties and talk to the Uyghurs. the real challenge his how different interest groups (political factions, historical legacies, regional and ethnic solidaries, old and new residents, and etc) manipulate the issue….

    what worries me is that I think the CCP has been aware of these situations. but why they insist ideological wars? for the larger geopolitical engagement in whole Central Asia? Just think about, if there were no more terrorist in XJ, what could justify China’s military presence there, esp close to India, Pak, and Central Asian republics? in this sense, the Uygur is probally the victim of another great game there between China and other powers.

    • Plenty of ethnic conflicts are more complicated than Ethnicity A vs Ethnicity B, though. To be sure, interest groups do a lot of pulling compared to average citizens, but I don’t know if I can agree that it isn’t an ethnic issue. Just because plenty of Uyghur are essentially non-actors in the entire thing doesn’t negate the fact that the (almost entirely Han) leadership of the PRC is relying on (mostly Han) armed forces to fight against Uyghur groups and Uyghur protests in ways that produce collateral damage for Uyghur citizens, while also enacting policies that restrict the expression of Uyghur identity.

      Class is definitely a huge part of it, but the intersection of ethnicity, religion, culture, and language dimensions makes it sound like classic ethnic conflict to me.

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