Problems in Xinjiang between Ethnic Uighurs and Migrant Chinese over Jobs fueled by Oil and Gas Deposits

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

Trouble in Xinjiang province.  Han Chinese migrants are coming in and taking Muslim Uighurs’ jobs (see China violence: 12 dead in Kashgar city in Xinjiang posted 2/29/2012 on BBC News China).

Xinhua news agency reported that rioters killed 10 people, while police shot dead two of the rioters.

The report gives no detail as to what might have triggered the violence.

Security has been high in the north-western province since riots in 2009 in the capital Urumqi between the Muslim Uighurs, who are the largest ethnic group, and Han Chinese migrants…

Almost half of Xinjiang’s residents are Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims with cultural and ethnic links to Central Asia.

Many complain that large-scale migration of Han Chinese workers from the east has cost them jobs and is eroding their culture.

China has invested heavily in Xinjiang and the region’s rich oil and gas deposits are vital to its booming economy.

Now I’m no expert in Muslim Uighurs-Han Chinese relations but I’m guessing the problem is the oil and gas deposits the Chinese want that they have.  To power their economy.  And I’m guessing the Uighurs are not too happy about this intrusion into their autonomous part of the country.  And into their culture.  For they may be in China.  But their people aren’t Chinese.  At least the Muslim Uighurs are not Han Chinese.

Oil is the lifeblood of a modern economy.  So the oil and gas deposits in Xinjiang are going to become even more important to the Chinese economy.  And the Chinese government.  Which means things aren’t going to get better anytime soon in this north-western province.  Which questions the ultimate staying power of the Chinese economy.  For China is a large country.  With a lot of diversity.  And unlike in the United States, the Chinese aren’t saying their diversity is their strength.  Instead they no doubt see it as their curse.  For in an economy that is growing on its exports fueled by a cheap labor force, that diversity will only point out the inevitable income disparities.  And cause discontent.  Which will be further fueled by these cultural and ethnic differences.  As they always are.  Especially when cheap migrant labor comes in and takes people’s jobs.

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