Accepted paper:

Early Twentieth Century Agro-Developmental Visions in Xinjiang


Brian Cwiek (Indiana University)

Paper abstract:

This paper focuses on locating the origins of present day discourses pertaining to the significance of agriculture in state-led economic development efforts in Xinjiang. I argue that the precursors to these discourses emerged from the provincial government's political leaders in the first half of the twentieth century. Consequently, the People's Republic of China's policies in the region must be understood at least in part as a product of these precedents. Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, a series of Han governors oversaw a bureaucracy that claimed to rule over an ethnically diverse region that conformed to previous imperial administrative boundaries. Two governors, Yang Zengxin and Sheng Shicai, developed long term economic visions that could serve as reference points for altering economic activity within Xinjiang's boundaries. Both visions relied on transformation of Xinjiang's agricultural base in order to put provincial finances and security on a stable footing, so they could more effectively exercise their authority. These leaders imagined state-led efforts that would introduce and spread initiatives throughout the province. Although Yang and Sheng both embraced a basic commitment to the introduction of new techniques, technologies, and expertise to alter what farmers in Xinjiang produced and how they produced it, the ultimate goals of their visions differed dramatically. Whereas Yang envisioned a self-sufficient provincial economic system that included the production and processing of agricultural crops, Sheng worked to implement a model that would employ new technology to increase export-oriented production. These visions were a partial outgrowth of each governor's perception of and relationship with Russia/the Soviet Union and reflected pragmatic responses to challenges raised by actors and resources within Xinjiang. This paper is based on work with materials from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region archives, periodicals, provincial government publications, and the published collection of Yang Zengxin's writings.

panel HIS-12
Mongols, Uyghurs and Xinjiang