Ethnicity and Economic Development in Xinjiang

in Inner Asia
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Abstract

Although Xinjiang, comprising one-sixth the land area of the People’s Republic of China, is rich in oil and other natural resources and produces high-quality cotton, fruit, wool, and mutton, it has failed to meet central government expectations for economic development. During the 1990s, a drop in world market prices for the autonomous area’s major exports, oil and cotton, combined with the Asian currency crisis and ethnic unrest in both Xinjiang and its major Central Asian trading partners to inhibit growth. Ambitious plans to improve the infrastructure, irrigate deserts, and restructure money-losing state enterprises are likely to produce improvements in certain sectors. However, they will also work against the central government’s desire for social control. Faced with a choice between economic growth and social control, party and government are likely to opt for the latter.

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