| Now that the Xinjiang paper (and its accompanying research) is done and gone, there's a couple things I'd like to add to the previous entries. |
Regarding the question: "will Han migration eventually swamp the indigenous Uyghur population in Xinjiang?", I would answer, "It's impossible to say". I'm not a demographer, but it does seem that since the process of liberalizing China's migratory reglation regime was begun, the rate of migration of Han Chinese to Xinjiang (and their accompanying share of the population) has held relatively steady. That, of course, is not in and of itself an answer. Any meaningful answer to the question would be enormously complex, having to take into account things like whether the central government can successfully develop those provinces that serve as the main feeders for Han migration into Xinjiang (Sichuan, Gansu, and Henan are the biggest offenders), whether its strategy of developing Xinjiang is successful, if it is successful, who will end up getting the jobs (Uyghur, Han, or both?), whether some kind of social order can be maintained in the province (which is itself dependent on a number of things, including not least the economic situation and inmigration, as well as things like Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkish influences. Also, as a side note, I refuse to call Xinjiang an "autonomous region". If it were, I would call it as such, but it's not, so I won't), etc., etc., etc..
I said I'm not a demographer (I'm not, I swear), but even if I were, I would have a tough time figuring out, ceterus peribus, which way things are going to break in Xinjiang, which, after much hemming and hawing, brings me to my main point: I probably couldn't say anything for sure in such a situation, because of a simple lack of data. China keeps a fairly tight lid on research in Xinjiang, and to conduct any kind of independent research to verify the claims of the concerned parties is nigh on impossible. Uyghurs claim they, along with Han migrants, are systematically undercounted in province censuses to paint a distored picture of the province's demography. Are they right? Hard to say (although it's hard to believe the claims of some Uyghur activists that the CCP's reported total of around 8.5 million is only half the real total). As difficult as it is for western analysts to make any kind of firm predictions about China as a whole (see for example Harry Harding's recent piece on China in Foreign Policy. A masterpiece of bet-hedging), it's even more so in Xinjiang's case. It's remote, it's tightly controlled, and to be honest, we don't have a real good idea of what the big picture is there.
|Something I came across a couple days ago gave me pause. It turns out that the percentage that Han Chinese comprise of Xinjiang's population, while it did climb pretty consistently for quite awhile, has now been holding steady at around 40% for the past ten years or so. Food for thought. Looks like I'm going to have to rethink my previous entry. Although Han Chinese may not end up as the majority (barring, of course, any changes in migration policy towards a more pro-Han migration regime), it may very well be that the region will still get locked into an unhealthy cycle of mutual distrust and recriminations between communities. It is, however, too late (and I am too tired) to extend that line of thought any further. Maybe tomorrow.|
|So Amnesty International put out a report today that describes in pretty deep detail all of the fun trevails migrant workers in China get to deal with (this is ground that I tread in some detail in my thesis, except I was looking more at the economic explanations for why we see the migration patterns we do despite the fact that life sucks for a huge proportion of urban migrant workers. Short version: despite the fact they're descriminated against in the cities, they still make a whole lot more there than they would at home, so they migrate. I know, a revelation, right? The interesting part is not that people migrate, but who migrates, and how those patterns differ from migration patterns seen in other parts of the world.). |
You can read it here (I haven't read the whole thing, but I will at some point, probably after my midterms are over Thursday. Or maybe when I'm supposed to be studying for them Wednesday.).
There is real concern in Chinese leadership circles that, as the report says, migrants will become a "permanent underclass" in Chinese cities. Wen Jiabao in particular seems to be taking the lead on this one, which would be in line with his image as the fuzzy-cuddlebear half of the Wen/Hu tandem. Cracks on Wen aside, the problem is deadly serious, and as with so many of the problems we see in China today, much of the explanation here can be traced back to conflicts in the objectives the CCP seeks to accomplish with the means which they utilize to accomplish them.
As part of the CCP's bargain with the Chinese public, the party has committed itself to continual economic growth as an engine for expanding prosperity and reinforcing the legitimacy of its rule. One of the most important ways it goes about this is through a system of incentives for administrators at the local and provincial levels wherein their promotion up through the ranks is tied with their promotion of economic growth in their respective administrative areas. While economic growth is not the only criterion by which cadres are evaluated, it is the most important. Aspiring political superstars are thus given the incentive to put economic growth at the top of their agenda, with the human costs of that growth important only in the sense that they might contribute to social instability that would undermine further growth. There's all sorts of nasty side effects to this, the discussion of which could probably just about fit into a 400-page book (Ph.D. dissertation, anyone?), but the one most pertinent to our post today is the way the system strips said administrators of any will to challenge the current economic status quo, which spits out wonderful growth numbers quarter after quarter (and which, to be fair, has produced massive properity in the cities for hundreds of millions of people, not the least of which are my girlfriend and her family), but which is, to a large extent, built on the back of exploited migrant laborers. The government started to address this issue in earnest a couple years ago, but apparently they haven't been able to make the reforms they had in mind then stick.
And why would they? The incentives system remains largely the same. It would seem that changing the way cadres are promoted to include a more wholistic set of evaluative criteria would go a long way towards making the party an engine of positive social change, but no one really wants to take that step. There's too many risks involved, too many entrenched interests. I was going to say "in the US we call that wholistic set of evaluative criteria 'democracy'", but geez, this is starting to sound a lot like US politics.
And while were making that comparison, if the migrants are already well on their way to constituting a permanent underclass, is there any chance that they'll start to develop some sort of collective identity, some sort of collective consciousness of the fact that they've been locked out of the system by virtue of nothing more than where they (or their parents) where born? In my view it's unlikely, at least in the short term, not least of all because of the wildly diverse cultural backgrounds the migrants are coming from (a migrant from Sichuan would be very, very unlikely to hang out with a migrant from, say, Hebei. Different languages, different culinary tastes, different lots of stuff). Now, if a generation from now the kids of all those migrants, who grew up in the big cities speaking Putonghua a lot better than their padres do, are still disenfranchised, still by in large denied any opportunities for advancement up the ladder, then all bets are off. If that's the case, God help the CCP.
|Maybe as random as the ellipses comment, though this one will take us down a markedly different path. |
It China really, really wanted to develop its western Xinjiang provinces, what form would its plan take?
Obviously, massive capital diversion from the richer costal provinces would be a must; and, in fact, that's something that's taking place right this very moment.
Similarly large investments in infrastructure and education would most likely be in order as well. Once again, Beijing fails to dissappoint.
So, take large amounts of capital, add in rapidly improving infrastructure and education levels, stir vigorously, and you should have the makings of a boom on your hands.
Of course, there's been a whole lot more that's happened in Xinjiang in the past thirty-odd years, some of which might lead a skeptical observer to conclude that Beijing has more in mind than mere economic development. Most interesting has been the significant inflows of Han migrants. In 1978, Hans were a tiny minority of Xinjiang's population. Now they're the majority, and their numbers are still growing rapidly.
And that's why looking at Beijing's Xinjiang policy from a purely economic perspective can't explain everything. Economically speaking, there's no good reason for such large inflows. When the migration began in the late seventies, there wasn't the kind of income gap between Xinjiang and other Chinese provinces that would justify a huge flow of migrants over such a large distance.
Sure, you could make the argument that the immigrants represent an inflow of intellectual capital which would be commensurate with a desire to develop Xinjiang. Somehow, though, I suspect that anyone taking a close look at the demographic numbers for the immigrants (assuming such figures are available outside of Chinese policymaking circles, which they most likely aren't) would find that immigrants to Xinjiang don't represent any kind of significant talent inflow. And if you wanted to import talent, would such a large number really be necessary? You couldn't make due with several tens of thousands?
No, something else is at work here besides simple economics. I'd say the central government has made a strategic decision to permit--indeed, to encourage--large numbers of Han immigrants so as to place Xinjiang ever more firmly under Beijing's thumb, and at the rate things are going, I'd say we'll eventually see the Uighurs as a solid minority in their own land, marginalized and disenfranchised.
|And now I'm back, just like I came, with neither rhyme nor reason, borne by my fingers to the electronic fields.|
Random thought of the moment: if an ellipses were an animal, what animal would it be? Caterpillar springs to mind, but that seems too facile. Maybe if I just think it through for a minute . . .