Xinjiang: Chinese Communist Rule

Chinese Communist Rule

Late in 1949, Xinjiang capitulated to the Chinese Communists without a struggle, but there was a Uigur uprising in Hotan in 1954. On the basis of the 1953 census, which showed the Uigurs to comprise 74% of the population, Xinjiang prov. was reconstituted (1955) an autonomous region. Autonomous districts were created as well for the Kazakhs, Mongols, Hui, and Kyrgyz. In the 1950s and 1960s, the central government sent massive numbers of Chinese to Xinjiang to help develop water-conservancy and mineral-exploitation schemes. This has drastically altered the population balance, and the Chinese are approaching numerical parity with the Uigurs. National defense has also been a consideration in the strategic and sensitive region. In 1969, frontier incidents led to fighting between Soviet and Chinese forces along the border.

In the 1990s, the Turkic peoples of Xinjiang grew increasingly discontented with Chinese rule, in part because of the migration of large numbers of Chinese to the area as a result of government resettlement programs, and rioting by proindependence Muslims broke out in 1997. China subsequently increased the number of troops in the region, and has instituted a harsh crackdown on political dissent and Turkic separatists. Orthodox Islamic practices have been discouraged or suppressed by the government for fear that they will become a focus of Uigur nationalism. The number of Chinese in the region's population has continued to increase, and the funds invested in development have largely benefited them. Occasional anti-Chinese protests and ethnic riots have occurred since 1997, most violently in 2009 (when Uigurs and Chinese attacked each other in the streets), and there also have been separatist attacks on government officials and buildings and other targets. The government has responded with a crackdown that since the late 2010s has included holding a million Uigurs and other Muslims in detention centers and indoctrination camps, and has been accused of using those held in coerced labor and destroying mosques and religious sites. Coercive birth-control restrictions, especially on rural Muslim families, which were formerly allowed three children, have also been introduced.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Chinese and Mongolian Political Geography