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Private Sector Development in Xinjiang, China

A Comparison between Uyghur and Han
Le développement du secteur privé au Xinjiang (Chine) : comparaison entre les Ouïghour et les Han
Tyler Harlan
p. 407-418

Résumés

Le développement du secteur privé est resté apathique dans l’Ouest chinois, où les minorités nationales constituent une part importante de la population. Au Nord-Ouest du pays, dans la Région Autonome Ouïghoure du Xinjiang, l’État maintient une présence solide dans le petit secteur privé, dont la croissance est animée surtout par des firmes et entrepreneurs d’origine Han. Les Ouïghours, une des quatorze minorités ethniques officiellement reconnues au Xinjiang, résident principalement dans le Sud agricole plus pauvre, où le secteur privé a encore peu pénétré. Sans surprise, les Ouïghours sont peu présents dans le secteur privé, si ce n’est dans le petit commerce informel. Ceci a des conséquences importantes pour les relations entre groupes ethniques dans une région déjà menacée par les tensions croissantes entre Han et Ouïghours. Les grandes émeutes d’Ürümqi en juillet 2009, déclenchées par des manifestations d’Ouïghours urbanisés, ont mis en valeur le fossé économique important existant entre les groupes ethniques. Cet article se penche sur les disparités dans le secteur privé en enquêtant sur deux questions liées l’une à l’autre : la concentration du secteur privé dans le Nord urbanisé du Xinjiang, et les niveaux de participation des Han et des Ouïghours. La conclusion qui s’impose est que la croissance et l’intégration de l’entreprenariat ouïghour dans le secteur privé sont essentielles pour assurer la stabilité interethnique dans la région.

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Introduction

  • 1 Figures calculated from the Xinjiang Statistical Yearbook, hereafter XSY.

1This paper focuses private sector participation and entrepreneurship in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s far northwest, an area physically and culturally distinct from the economic boomtowns of the coast. Like other border areas of China, ethnic minorities make up a large portion of the population, 54 % in Xinjiang compared to 8 % in China as a whole (XSY, 2008)1. The Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group numbering about 8 million, primarily reside in Xinjiang’s poorer agricultural south in oasis settlements along the old Silk Road (Toops, 2004). Economic reforms have been slow to reach rural southern Xinjiang, and even now Uyghurs primarily engage in agriculture outside the main urban areas. In contrast, Xinjiang’s Han Chinese-populated urban north has benefited from state investment as an industrial hub and the focal point for private sector activity in the region.

2The private sector in Xinjiang, though small, has in recent years attracted growing numbers of entrepreneurs and workers into urban centres. Resources in XUAR are increasingly allocated by the market rather than the state – an environment that, to ethnic minorities, means advantages for Han who have greater access to jobs and self-employment opportunities due to their privileged urban position (Bovingdon, 2004). Though ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs and Kazakhs have a long history of trade and mercantilism (Roberts, 2004), most minority entrepreneurs operate informally on the fringe of Xinjiang’s economic landscape. Rates of private sector participation and entrepreneurship in Xinjiang thus display significant ethnic difference. For Uyghurs, the focus of this paper, this issue has contributed to worsening relations with Han, exacerbated by deadly riots in July and August 2009 (Sainsbury 2009). Thus, the growth and integration of Uyghur entrepreneurs into the urban private sector forms a crucial step in maintaining ethnic stability in the region.

3This paper builds on earlier studies of minority entrepreneurship in Xinjiang that highlight the growing importance of the private sector for the Uyghurs. Research undertaken by Dana (1998) focused primarily on border trade with Kazakhstan, while a later work by Vicziany and Zhang (2004, 2006) examined the relationship between Uyghur migration and entrepreneurship. Both studies note the low levels of Uyghur participation in the private sector ; however, there has been no attempt to investigate the regional variation of Xinjiang’s private sector growth and quantify Uyghur participation and entrepreneurship vis-à-vis the Han. This paper addresses this gap by investigating two related issues : private sector concentration in Xinjiang’s urban north and levels of participation (defined as self-employment or employment in a private enterprise) and entrepreneurship (self-employment) between Uyghur and Han. It forms part of a larger empirical study that analyses the challenges facing new minority entrepreneurs in Xinjiang and their role in development.

4I first describe the growing importance of the private sector in Xinjiang and the economic role of the state. I then note discrepancies between Xinjiang’s urban north and rural south in private sector development in relation to Han in-migration. I demonstrate that areas with a large Uyghur population have a less developed private sector than areas with a Han majority. I show how Uyghurs have increasingly engaged in private sector activity, though mostly in tertiary industries such as commerce and catering. I conclude by suggesting the need to foster urban minority enterprises to increase Uyghur participation in the private sector and reduce the inter-ethnic gap.

Economic development and the private sector in xinjiang

5Xinjiang’s economy differs markedly from that of China’s coast, where the private sector accounts for over 70 % of the national GDP (Engardio, 2005). Like other western provinces in China, Xinjiang’s remote location has deterred foreign trade and investment – until the collapse of the Soviet Union, little trade filtered through Xinjiang’s 5,000 kilometre-long border. Rather, the central government relied on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC ; hereafter bingtuan), a demobilised branch of the People’s Liberation Army, to ‘reclaim’ land and establish large-scale farming (Toops, 2004, pp. 245-246 ; Seymour, 2000). Xinjiang’s vast resources, strategic position along the Silk Road ‘energy corridor’ and sometimes-violent ethnic tensions have led the central government to retain a firm grip on the economy. Reform in border trade has aided private sector growth, but the economic structure of XUAR remains unbalanced and is dominated by state and bingtuan ownership (Vicziany and Zhang, 2004, pp. 2-5).

6However, while the state maintains heavy control over Xinjiang’s economy, the number of producing units in the private sector has steadily increased in the last few years. The number of private enterprises (siying qiye : 8 or more employees) rose from 3,251 to 5,099 from 2001 to 2004, and self-employed units (getihu : less than 8 employees) increased from 643,000 to 742,000 in the same period (NBS, 2008, Table 5-16 ; NBS, 2002, Table 5-18 ; XESY, 2006, Table 7-18). The number of employed persons in siying qiye and getihu has also burgeoned with the establishment of new enterprises (Figure 1). Several large privately-owned enterprises from eastern China have recently established branches in Xinjiang (Zhao, 2001, p. 218). Local governments now actively encourage the development of Xinjiang’s small and medium enterprises through tax breaks, as well as providing preferential tax policies for foreign-funded enterprises (Xinjiang Daily, 2008). In contrast, employment in the urban state sector has followed the national downward trend through enterprise restructuring and massive layoffs (over 600,000 from 1995 to 2000) (Weimer, 2004, p. 179).

Figure 1. Change in employment by type of ownership, Xinjiang, 200-2006

Figure 1. Change in employment by type of ownership, Xinjiang, 200-2006

Source : China Statistical Yearbook (CSY) 2007 (NBS 2008 : Tables 5-2, 5-13 and 5-14) ;
CSY 2006 (NBS 2007 : Tables 5-4, 5-15 and 5-16) ;
CSY 2005 (NBS 2006 : Tables 5-4, 5-18 and 5-19) ;
CSY 2004 (NBS 2005 : Tables 5-4, 5-18 and 5-19) ;
CSY 2003 (NBS 2004 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18) ;
CSY 2002 (NBS 2003 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18) ;
CSY 2001 (NBS 2002 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18
Calculated by author.

7With declining employment in the state and collective sectors, the private sector will be expected to absorb surplus workers and migrants in Xinjiang. Nonetheless, while the private sector in XUAR continues to grow, economic development has been concentrated in the industrialised, urban north at the expense of the rural south. In the next section, I show how uneven development has resulted in inequalities in private sector growth and participation between regions and ethnic groups.

Uneven regional development in xinjiang

8In the PRC as a whole, selling agricultural surplus on the market, the beginnings of ‘primitive accumulation’ (Webber, 2007) heralded the start of a dynamic, ‘home-grown’ private sector of self-employed individuals. Today the penetration of foreign capital into China favours urban areas, leading to higher national rates of urban private sector employment. Yet unlike in the rest of China, farmers in Xinjiang remained more closely tied to the state and were often coerced into growing cash crops, particularly cotton. Only since 1999 have agricultural labourers in Xinjiang been able to sell excess cotton on the market (Chau, 2004, p. 259). In contrast, cities have received the majority of investment (Zhao, 2001, p. 216). Thus the rise of the private sector has followed urbanisation and industrialisation of Xinjiang’s cities as a predominantly urban phenomenon.

Table 1. Urban and rural employment, Xinjiang and PRC, 1995-2005 (in thousand persons)

1995

2000

2005

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang

PRC

Xinjiang

PRC

Total

6 622

6 725

629 789

7 643

680 274

 

(100 %)

(100 %)

(100 %)

(100 %)

(100 %)

Urban Total

3 497

3 184

150 166

3 604

176 400

 

(52.8 %)

(47.3 %)

(23.8 %)

(47.2 %)

(25.9 %)

Private enterprise

68

171

12 679

586

34 584

 

1,9 %

5,4 %

8,4 %

16,3 %

19,6 %

Self-employed

270

409

21 361

571

27 777

 

7,7 %

12,8 %

14,2 %

15,8 %

15,7 %

Rural Total

3 125

3 541

479 623

4 039

503 873

 

(47.2 %)

(52.7 %)

(76.2 %)

(52.8 %)

(74.1 %)

Private enterprise

23

52

11 387

85

23 656

 

0,7 %

1,5 %

2,4 %

2,1 %

4,7 %

Self-employed

216

198

29 339

188

21 228

 

6,9 %

5,6 %

6,1 %

4,7 %

4,2 %

  • 2 Weimer (2004, p. 177) writes that “in contrast to the rest of China, a relatively large share of Xi (...)

9Table 1 illustrates the primacy of urban private sector employment in Xinjiang. There are two main issues of note here. First, Xinjiang’s economy maintains a higher share of urban employment than the PRC as a whole, despite XUAR’s higher proportion of rural residents (in Xinjiang, 37.9 % to 62.1 % ; in China, 43.9 % to 56.1 %) (NBS, 2008, Table 4-1 ; XSY, 2008, Table 4-1)2. Second, Xinjiang’s rural share of private and self-employed individuals is much lower than in urban areas, and its percentage of self-employed individuals has actually decreased since 1995. This can be attributed partly to more rapid urbanisation since the reform period and better opportunities in cities both in employment and in private business.

10Most of Xinjiang’s urban areas, and by far its most industrialised, are located north of the Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountains) along the ‘northern economic belt’ stretching from Urumqi in the east to Karamay in the west (see Map 1). Cities here were originally established as Qing garrison outposts, bingtuan settlements or as industrial centres during China’s interior modernisation program that served as conduits for state-sponsored migration and settlement (Toops, 2004). They have since grown rapidly. Xinjiang’s northern economic belt accounted for nearly half of the Region’s total GDP in 2006 (XSY, 2008, Table 2-10) and 90 % of its heavy industry in 1995 (Zhao, 2001, p. 216). Each has its designated industry : Karamay is a petrochemical centre, Kuitun is involved in energy production, and Changji serves as an industrial suburb to Urumqi. Road and rail transport link the entire economic belt to the hub at Urumqi, where goods can be loaded and shipped off to destinations in eastern China and further afield.

Map 1. Prefectures, administrative districts and northern belt cities, Xinjiang

Map 1. Prefectures, administrative districts and northern belt cities, Xinjiang

Note : Labels in bold refer to prefectures and administrative districts. Other labels refer to northern belt cities. Areas shaded black are administered by the bingtuan.

Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture includes the subdivisions of Tacheng Prefecture and Altai Prefecture.

11Smaller cities in Xinjiang’s south have experienced some urban development, but to a lesser degree owing to their poor infrastructure and vast distances from key markets (Zhao, 2001). A railway line from Urumqi to Kashgar was only completed in 1999, while the Hotan spur is not to be serviceable until 2010 (Zhou, 2008). All of southern Xinjiang’s border crossings are closed for at least six months out of the year, prohibiting overland travel. Distance from inner China pre-empts large-scale investment from reaching most of southern Xinjiang, though the central government plans to invest heavily in select southern cities (Zhao, 2001, pp. 216-217). Economic restructuring in Xinjiang delegates agricultural production and oil extraction as the south’s primary activities ; however, Tarim Basin oilfields continue to be unprofitable for Xinjiang’s residents and most southern inhabitants are involved in small-scale subsistence farming with little income (Becquelin, 2004).

12Private sector development has followed government investment and infrastructure in the urban north and has grown rapidly. Maps 2-5 illustrate the density of producing units and employed persons in both private sector classifications (getihu and siying qiye) for 2004 in each Xinjiang prefecture and prefecture-level city. In both cases, southern Xinjiang displays less density of private sector activity than the north.

Maps 2-5. Private sector producing units and employed persons by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2004 (figures are per thousand population)

Maps 2-5. Private sector producing units and employed persons by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2004 (figures are per thousand population)

Source : Xinjiang Economic Census Yearbook [XESY, 2006, Tables 1-9 and 7-18] ;

XSY, 2007 (2008, Tables 4-7 and 4-12) ; XSY, 2005 (2006, Tables 4-5 and 4-7).

Calculated by author.
Note : Getihu = less than 8 employees ; siying qiye = 8 or more employees.
Note : Areas shaded black are administered by the bingtuan and not included in the analysis

13Nearly all northern prefectures and administrative districts display greater density of getihu and siying qiye than those in the south, particularly the northern belt cities of Urumqi and Karamay and Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture (hereafter AP). In the south, Aksu Prefecture exhibits a slightly higher ratio of enterprises per thousand population than other southern districts, largely due to the presence the Ayal bingtuan unit (Toops, 2004, p. 258). XPCC members are no longer guaranteed labour in Xinjiang and many choose to participate in the private sector (Wiemer, 2004, p. 178), which boosts the density of getihu and siying qiye in Aksu. Bayingolin AP also has much private activity as it includes Korla, a boomtown built on energy resources. Ili Kazakh AP in the north supports border ports and cooperative zones conducive to private trade (Zhao, 2001, p. 216). In contrast, the southern districts of Kizilsu Kyrgyz, Kashgar and Hotan display extremely low densities of self-employed household units and private enterprises.

14The critical issue is that not only have industrial development and investment been concentrated in Xinjiang’s urban north, but that the northern ‘economic belt’ and surrounding industrial cities contain a large majority of Han residents. Many are migrants from eastern China, arriving since de-collectivisation and the establishment of the household responsibility system in 1978 that prompted a second ‘looser’ phase of Han migration into Xinjiang (Ren and Yuan, 2003, p. 96). From 1953 to 2006 the Han population increased its share of Xinjiang’s total population from to 6.1 % to 39.6 % (Toops, 2004, p. 246 ; NBS, 2008, Table 4-7). Though many recent migrants are skilled, those lacking a household registration permit, or hukou, comprise Xinjiang’s ‘floating population’ that reside in Xinjiang’s urban areas, particularly in the north (Solinger, 1995). Bingtuan members are also overwhelmingly Han at 88.8 % of total membership (Seymour, 2000). At the same time, Xinjiang’s Uyghurs and ethnic minorities predominate in rural areas (Table 2) and in southern Xinjiang (Maps 6-7).

table 2. Urban and rural population shares, Xinjiang, 2004 ( %)

Shares within groups

 

Shares between groups

 

 

City

Town

Village

City

Town

Village

Han

43,1

15,2

41,7

70,4

47,1

26,5

Uyghur

10,4

10,1

79,5

20,0

36,8

59,5

Other Minorities

1,8

15,7

66,5

9,6

16,1

14,0

Source : Xinjiang 1 % Population Census Sample 2005 (Xinjiang Statistical Bureau 2007 : Tables 1-1a, 1-1b, 1-1c, 2-1, 2-1a, 2-1b and 2-1c).
Calculated by author.

Maps 6-7. Ethnic shares by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2006

Maps 6-7. Ethnic shares by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2006

Source : XSY, 2007 (2008, Tables 4-7, 4-12, 21-2).
Note : Areas shaded black are administered by the bingtuan and not included in the analysis.

15The majority of Uyghurs in Xinjiang inhabit a series of oasis settlements and rural townships surrounding the southern Tarim Basin, primarily in the Kizilsu Kyrgyz, Kashgar and Hotan districts. However, substantial populations are present in the eastern towns of Turpan (Tulufan) and Qumul (Hami), both known for fruit production, and the traditional centre of Gulja located in Ili Kazakh AP on the border with Kazakhstan. Xinjiang’s thirteen other recognised minority groups are also predominantly rural, and many (particularly Kazakhs) reside in the northern grasslands, mostly in Ili Kazakh AP (Benson and Svanberg, 1998). In contrast, the Han population primarily resides in Xinjiang’s larger ‘northern belt’ cities and in other northern areas linked by rail to eastern China. One exception is Korla, located in the sparsely inhabited Bayingolin Mongol AP, which boasts a large Han population that significantly increases the Han share in the prefecture (Ma, 2003, p. 113). When divided into north and south, Xinjiang thus displays considerable ethnic difference in population.

16Bachman (2004) charges the central government of ‘Han economic imperialism’ in Xinjiang and argues that the main beneficiaries of economic development are urban Han. ‘Internal colonialism’ may not capture the dynamic of Han and urban-centric development in Xinjiang (Sautman, 2000), but it does illuminate the economic inequalities between the north and south and therefore, Han and Uyghur. Statistical data comparing living standards of China’s minorities is unavailable in the PRC (Bovingdon, 2004, p. 40), but existing census figures demonstrate that the Uyghur ‘traditional heartland’ in southern Xinjiang shows poorer economic growth, lower GDP per capita and less private sector development in than in the Han-populated north. Additionally, Wiemer (2004, p. 177) has constructed a regression equation that demonstrates that, when controlling for agriculture, every one-percent increase in Han population corresponds with an increase in per capita GDP of 44¥. These figures together suggest that Uyghurs are more economically disadvantaged and have less access to the private sector than Han.

Gauging uyghur private sector participation and entrepreneurship

17Regional disparity in economic development and in the density of privately-owned units seems to demonstrate ethnic divisions in private sector participation. Several researchers note poor minority performance in the private sector in Xinjiang (Vicziany and Zhang, 2004 ; Wiemer, 2004). Other studies conclude that Han retain easier access to jobs, education the private sector than Uyghurs due to their privileged urban position (Bovington, 2004). Indeed, the location of most Uyghurs in rural areas outside the main economic centres precludes them from private sector participation and entrepreneurship. While preferential policies have accounted for better Uyghur participation in higher-salaried staff-and-worker positions (zhigong) (Hopper, 2005, pp. 46-47), these policies are not extended to the private sector (Bovingdon, 2004, p. 37). Accordingly, Uyghurs experience difficulty in securing private sector employment, often because Han business owners prefer Han employees (Gilley, 2001). Thus, we would expect both Uyghur private sector participation and entrepreneurship to be low vis-à-vis the Han.

18There is little statistical evidence to help determine Uyghur participation and entrepreneurship in the private sector. However, comparisons of workforce shares between ethnic groups in different industries shed some light on the degree of Uyghur private sector participation. Table 3 gives shares between ethnic groups both for agriculture and for non-farm industries, taken from the 2000 census ‘long form’ sample. Han exhibit higher shares in all non-farm industries, particularly in manufacturing, resource extraction and construction positions that offer better remuneration (see Hopper, 2005, p. 42).

Table.3 Ethnic shares between groups by industry, Xinjiang, 2000 ( %)

 

 

 

Han

 

Uyghur

Other

minorities

Total

41,4

45,6

13,0

Agriculture & primary industries

25,1

59,9

15,0

Non-farm industries

67,2

23,0

9,8

Extractive

75,9

14,4

9,8

Manufacturing

70,6

23,0

6,3

Construction

89,5

7,3

3,2

Transport/storage

72,3

18,2

9,4

Commerce/catering

66,9

23,2

9,9

Commercial services

77,6

13,1

9,3

Social services

56,4

30,2

13,4

Other

58,6

28,2

13,2

Source : Xinjiang Population Census 2000 (2002, Table C2-1).
Data from long form. Calculated by author.
Note : Commercial services includes : ‘finance and insurance’ and ‘real estate’. Social services includes : ‘social services’, ‘hygiene, sport and social welfare’ and ‘education, culture and art, radio, film and television’. All other categories classified as other.

19However, much of this disparity in secondary and tertiary sector employment between ethnic groups is due to the high percentage of the Uyghur population being employed in agriculture. Noticeable Uyghur shares of trade and catering services (23.2 %) and manufacturing (23.0 %) thus suggest some level of participation. When considering shares within ethnic groups, commerce/catering and manufacturing account for 7.8 % of total Uyghur employment and, importantly, 40.1 % of Uyghur non-farm employment (Xinjiang Population Census 2002, Table C2-1). Thus, to obtain a better picture of Uyghur private sector participation within the ethnic group, we should examine overall employment of the non-farm workforce only. In Table 4, shares within ethnic groups are divided by the proportion of the ethnic group engaged in non-farm activities, demonstrating that Uyghurs outside agriculture migrate toward employment in other industries, particularly commerce.

Table 4. Ethnic shares (non-farm workforce) within groups by industry, Xinjiang, 2000 ( %)

 

 

 

Total

 

Han

 

Uyghur

Other

minorities

Agriculture & primary industries

61,4

37,3

80,6

70,9

Non-farm industries

38,6

62,7

19,4

29,1

of non-farm workforce, shares in :

 

 

 

Extractive

3,2

3,6

2,0

3,2

Manufacturing

19,4

20,4

19,5

12,5

Construction

8,3

11,0

2,6

2,7

Transport/storage

8,3

8,8

6,7

7,9

Commerce/catering

20,5

20,4

20,6

20,6

Commercial services

2,6

3,0

1,5

2,4

Social services

21,2

17,9

27,8

29,2

Other

16,3

2,9

2,1

2,7

Source : Xinjiang Population Census (2002, Table C2-1). Data from long form. Calculated by author.

Note : Categories grouped as in Table 3.

20When shares within groups for the non-farm workforce only are examined, the percentage of Uyghurs engaged in commerce/catering and social services actually exceeds that of Han, while reaching similar levels in manufacturing and transport. Shares for other minorities experience a similar jump. Since a large proportion of Xinjiang’s private sector is skewed toward commerce and transport (see XESY, 2006, Tables 1-9 and 7-18), these figures suggest that non-farm Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities may be inclined toward private sector participation.

21The census data, however, cannot accurately gauge Uyghur private sector participation, nor do they demonstrate the degree of Uyghur involvement in entrepreneurship. Fortunately, figures from a 1998 PRC study of minorities in Xinjiang, compiled by Wiemer (2004, p. 180), show the density of getihu by ethnic group, a useful gauge of self-employment. As with industry shares between ethnic groups in Table 4, the Uyghur population in Table 5 exhibits a lower density of getihu than the Han population, suggesting that Uyghurs are less inclined toward self-employment than Han. However, if the number of getihu in non-farm industries is divided by the proportion of the population in the non-farm workforce, the density of getihu for Uyghurs increases significantly to nearly double the ratio for the Han population (see Table 5). Not surprisingly, the majority of self-employed Uyghurs are involved in commerce and catering, which validates the data in Table 4.

Table 5. Self-employment by ethnicity, Xinjiang, 1998 (in number of getihu per thousand population)

 

Han

Uyghur

 

Han

Uyghur

Overall

25,33

15,99

 

40,40

82,42

Agriculture

0,00

0,00

 

0,00

0,00

Extractive

0,01

0,01

 

0,00

0,00

Manufacturing

2,79

2,02

 

4,45

10,41

Construction

0,07

0,06

 

0,11

0,31

Transport/Storage

2,39

0,82

 

3,81

4,23

Commerce/Catering

15,31

11,42

 

24,42

58,87

Social Services

4,27

1,51

 

6,81

7,78

Other

0,49

0,15

 

0,78

0,77

 

 

 

 

 

 

22The self-employment trends illustrated in Table 5 suggest that low levels of Uyghur self-employment for the whole population are mainly due to participation in agriculture rather than an inability to conduct business. In fact, the non-farm Uyghur workforce shows a much greater density of commerce and catering getihu than Han, showing that Uyghur self-employment outside agriculture is actually twice as common as with Han, particularly in commerce and restaurant/catering industries.

23Furthermore, the figures in Table 5 actually underestimate levels of Uyghur self-employment for at least two reasons. First, Xinjiang’s private sector has grown substantially in the last decade since the 1998 getihu study was published, and Uyghur entrepreneurship has increased with it (see Vicziany and Zhang, 2004). Second, much of Uyghur self-employed activity goes uncounted in statistical data. Uyghurs who engage in informal self-employment, usually by selling excess crops or handicrafts, may do so without reporting their activities to the local government office. This ‘informal’ private sector is common in both the countryside and in cities where traders and petty entrepreneurs operate without a fixed location (Solinger, 1995). Thus, small scale trade and craft production among Uyghurs may not be represented in the official data.

  • 3 Hui Muslims also own restaurants and eateries throughout Xinjiang, though Uyghurs rarely eat in Hui (...)

24These official statistics and other studies of Xinjiang demonstrate that most Uyghur entrepreneurs in Xinjiang are engaged in trade and catering services (such as restaurants). Many traders rent stalls in regional and urban bazaars selling goods obtained from eastern China. Uyghur eateries abound in Xinjiang’s cities due to their ‘cultural monopoly’ on halal food services (Vicziany and Zhang, 2004)3. In addition, a significant number of Uyghur merchants have forged trade links with Central Asia, with whom they have a cultural and linguistic affiliation. Merchants may ‘sojourn’ in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan for months at a time selling Chinese-made goods and then scour domestic markets for more products (Roberts, 2004). Several merchants have grown quite wealthy in this way (see Vicziany and Zhang, 2006, p. 58).

25However, Uyghur merchants who have grown accustomed to skirting customs duties on imports and exports have found increasing scrutiny at the border in recent years (Roberts, 2004, pp. 221-224). Many merchants now operate through approved channels or through urban-based import/export agencies. In addition, Central Asian buyers who prefer to purchase goods in bulk now often head straight for factories in eastern China or large-scale markets in Urumqi, rather than operating through Uyghur ‘middlemen’ (ibid, p. 224). Thus, while border trade remains lucrative for some Uyghur merchants, industries within the urban private sector are growing in importance, and access to them is necessary for Uyghur business development.

Conclusion

26This paper has described Uyghur private sector participation and entrepreneurship compared to Han. I have argued that while Xinjiang’s private sector has grown in importance, self-employment and private enterprise are mostly limited to urban areas in the north. This affects Uyghur participation and entrepreneurship in the private sector, which is significantly lower than Han. However, I have demonstrated that Uyghurs outside agriculture are more inclined toward self-employment than Han, particularly in trade and catering services. A survey of other recent studies (Roberts, 2004 ; Vicziany and Zhang, 2004) has revealed that many Uyghur entrepreneurs are involved in informal or unregistered private sector activity, many as merchants along the Central Asian border. However, changing economic conditions in Xinjiang are boosting the importance of urban entrepreneurship for Uyghurs. There is a need, then, to foster and encourage the development of urban Uyghur enterprises that will facilitate greater minority participation in the private sector.

27In a previous study, Vicziany and Zhang (2004, p. 13) state that Xinjiang's unique political economy (prevalence of state-owned enterprises, the bingtuan, and central government subsidization of the economy) make state support a key to successful entrepreneurship, and call for state funds invested in inefficient bingtuan enterprises be redirected toward subsidies for minority entrepreneurs. Though this would be a welcome improvement, similar funding schemes thought already to be in place have been poorly implemented and inaccessible for most Uyghurs. Thus, state efforts should focus on quality implementation of funding opportunities for enterprises as well as working toward restructuring finance channels through banking and microfinance programs (Park et al., 2001). In addition, entrepreneurship training strategies similar to those in place in other inner provinces of China should be made more widely accessible to Uyghurs (see ADB 2008 for a description of these programs). These approaches should accompany the ongoing development of reforms tackling education, poverty and infrastructure to further promote indigenous entrepreneurship among Uyghur communities. Uyghur entrepreneurs can provide a valuable source of employment and income for the community, making them a vital component in reducing economic disparity and improving ethnic relations in Xinjiang.

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Notes

1 Figures calculated from the Xinjiang Statistical Yearbook, hereafter XSY.

2 Weimer (2004, p. 177) writes that “in contrast to the rest of China, a relatively large share of Xinjiang’s population resides in urban areas, 50 percent of the total versus 30 percent for China as a whole.” This conclusion is based on pre-2000 census data taken from the Xinjiang Statistical Yearbook, which listed the urban and rural proportion in 1999 at 52.3% and 47.7%, respectively [XSY, 2008, Table 4-1]. However, from 2000 the yearbook notes that “the total urban and rural population is calculated on the 5th national population censuses, data of population is calculated on the annals of public security in other years” (ibid, Table 4-1). As other studies of Xinjiang evince gradual urbanisation since 1949 (see Ren and Yuan, 2003), we can conclude that a sharp decline in urban population is unlikely. As census data are generally more accurate in Xinjiang, revised ratios provide a better picture of overall proportions. The most recent 2005 1% census sample gives ratios as urban = 24.4%, town = 12.8%, village = 62.8% (calculated by author) [Xinjiang Statistical Bureau, 2007, Tables 1-1a, 1-1b and 1-1c].

3 Hui Muslims also own restaurants and eateries throughout Xinjiang, though Uyghurs rarely eat in Hui establishments.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Change in employment by type of ownership, Xinjiang, 200-2006
Crédits Source : China Statistical Yearbook (CSY) 2007 (NBS 2008 : Tables 5-2, 5-13 and 5-14) ;CSY 2006 (NBS 2007 : Tables 5-4, 5-15 and 5-16) ;CSY 2005 (NBS 2006 : Tables 5-4, 5-18 and 5-19) ;CSY 2004 (NBS 2005 : Tables 5-4, 5-18 and 5-19) ;CSY 2003 (NBS 2004 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18) ;CSY 2002 (NBS 2003 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18) ;CSY 2001 (NBS 2002 : Tables 5-4, 5-17 and 5-18Calculated by author.
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/3772/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 288k
Titre Map 1. Prefectures, administrative districts and northern belt cities, Xinjiang
Crédits Note : Labels in bold refer to prefectures and administrative districts. Other labels refer to northern belt cities. Areas shaded black are administered by the bingtuan.
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/3772/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Maps 2-5. Private sector producing units and employed persons by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2004 (figures are per thousand population)
Crédits Source : Xinjiang Economic Census Yearbook [XESY, 2006, Tables 1-9 and 7-18] ;
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/3772/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M
Titre Maps 6-7. Ethnic shares by prefecture/district, Xinjiang, 2006
Crédits Source : XSY, 2007 (2008, Tables 4-7, 4-12, 21-2).Note : Areas shaded black are administered by the bingtuan and not included in the analysis.
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/3772/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 536k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Tyler Harlan, « Private Sector Development in Xinjiang, China », Espace populations sociétés, 2009/3 | 2009, 407-418.

Référence électronique

Tyler Harlan, « Private Sector Development in Xinjiang, China », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2009/3 | 2009, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2011, consulté le 24 septembre 2017. URL : http://eps.revues.org/3772 ; DOI : 10.4000/eps.3772

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Auteur

Tyler Harlan

Department of Resource Management & Geography
The University of Melbourne
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australie
trharlan@unimelb.edu.au

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