Lead


Lay summary
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region borders eight countries, is rich in natural resources and land, and is indispensable to the Chinese state also as a corridor for resource-transfer from Central Asia. In order to prevent its secession and disintegration, the Chinese state has invested substantial efforts in strategies of territorial delineation and control in the region. These include, most prominently, the operation of Production and Construction Corps; government-encouraged Han migration into the region; urbanization; the development of a string of border-cities; and the development of transportation network within the region and between the region and the rest of the country.The construction of infrastructure (e.g. roads, railways) is fundamental to the processes of delineation of state territory and should facilitate the material and symbolic integration of the border regions with the rest of the country. Roads integrate distant regions more closely within the national network, connect villages with regional centers, open areas to migration and the development of industry, and have a great impact on social life and employment patterns. Thus, in the first part of this study, we are going to explore the construction and modernization of roads and streets as a strategy to increase spatial control of the Chinese state in Xinjiang.The second part of the project focuses on urban development of the region. Cities in Xinjiang have for a long time been shaped by the trade flow along the Silk Road crossing the region from East to West. Today, the old towns are rebuilt and new infrastructural projects are implemented (e.g. Kashgar). Additionally new cities near oil extraction sites are constructed to accommodate the immigrating Han workers (e.g. Karamay). The newly built cities are no longer shaped by local traditions based on environmental conditions, but look like their counterparts in eastern China. In this part of the project we explore this modernization of urban landscape accompanied by an immense social transformation triggered by the immigrating Han Chinese.This study, based on data collected through participant observation, interviews and archival research, provides a fresh, theoretically grounded perspective on the ongoing ethnic and territorial conflict in Xinjiang. Our research will be helpful in understanding not only the policy of the Chinese government towards this contested region but also in the international arena. Moreover, it will offer insights into China's energy concerns, its engagement in the Central Asian region as well as China's stance in global security issues.