[lg policy] China Announces Development Plan for Restive Region. But many Uighurs resist so-called bilingual programs

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 28 14:48:40 UTC 2010

China Announces Development Plan for Restive Region
Published: May 28, 2010

BEIJING — The new leader of the restive region of Xinjiang in western
China has announced a series of economic measures to bolster
confidence in the regional government, which was widely criticized by
ordinary citizens after deadly ethnic rioting there last summer.

Stability is a top priority for Chinese authorities, and the new
measures are intended to help reach that goal by improving livelihoods
and living conditions, according to a report on Friday in China Daily,
an official English-language newspaper. Over the last year, Xinjiang
has emerged as a prominent weak spot in the system of Chinese
authoritarian control, with ethnic tensions at a constant boil.
Earlier this month, the central government held a high-level policy
conference on Xinjiang and announced new steps to invigorate the
regional economy and, in the words of Chinese officials, ensure
“leapfrog development and lasting stability.”

The announcement on Thursday by the new Communist Party secretary of
Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, 57, came on the heels of the national
planning session. Mr. Zhang said the regional government would focus
on developing the relatively poor areas of southern Xinjiang, which is
the heartland of the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people who migrated
from the Mongolian steppe centuries ago.

The Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, generally resent
discrimination by the Han, who dominate China and are moving in large
numbers to the region. On July 5, 2009, frustrated Uighurs went on a
rampage through the streets of Urumqi, the regional capital, attacking
Han civilians; the government said at least 197 people were killed and
more than 1,600 injured, most of them Han. Overseas Uighur groups say
an unknown number of Uighurs were injured or killed by security

Mr. Zhang said Thursday that a regional work conference this week had
drawn up critical development policies, China Daily reported. One was
to promote bilingual education in all schools by 2015, especially in
southern Xinjiang, so that all students can speak fluent Mandarin
Chinese by 2020. Another was to move 700,000 urban families to “safer
and earthquake-resistant houses” by 2015 and force 100,000 nomads to
settle down. Officials will also try to find jobs for the unemployed
and ensure that all elderly people in rural areas are covered by
social welfare and insurance by 2012, China Daily reported.

Some of those policies could stoke ethnic tensions. Many Uighurs say
so-called bilingual programs in schools are diluting Uighur culture by
steering young Uighurs toward the study of Mandarin at the expense of
their native language. In Kashgar, an ancient oasis city, Uighurs are
already being forced to move from the old quarters because officials
say homes in those neighborhoods are not earthquake-resistant. The
government has been gradually tearing down a large part of the old
quarter, which was built in the pattern of the ancient Silk Road

The economic policies announced by the central government last week
include reforming tax policies in Xinjiang, encouraging foreign and
commercial banks to open branches there, releasing more land for
construction and easing market access for some industries. The goal is
to create a “moderately well-off society” in the region by 2020,
according to Chinese leaders.

The “massive economic support package is significant,” wrote Alistair
Thornton, an analyst with IHS Global Insight, an international
economic analysis group. However, he said, “whether breakneck economic
development can placate Uighur grievances is uncertain.”


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list