Chinese Communist Power and Policy in Sinkiang, 1949-73: Revolutionary Integration vs. Regionalism

McMillen, D. H. (1977). Chinese Communist Power and Policy in Sinkiang, 1949-73: Revolutionary Integration vs. Regionalism. Link (or message for PDF)

Thesis Abstract

This dissertation examines Chinese Communist Party rule in Sinkiang and the policies by which it sought to achieve the political, socio-economic, and cultural integration of the region with the People’s Republic of China from 1949-73. The primary sources used in this study are Sinkiang Daily, Urumchi Radio, and other publications in Chinese from Mainland China.

Chapter I describes Sinkiang’s setting and its pre-1949 history highlighting the emergence of several historical problems and special conditions accruing to Sinkiang and its peoples which were to have a continuing and crucial impact on later Party power and policy. These include the traditional anti-Han sentiments and separatist ambitions of its predominantly non-Han, Muslim population; its great distance from Central authority in China Proper; its strategic location along the Sino-Russian border which had permitted substantial Soviet penetration and influence in the region; its relatively backward economy; and its wealth of natural resources.

Chapter II discusses the establishment of Communist authority in Sinkiang after 1949 by First Field Army units of the People’s Liberation Army. Until 1968, Han elements affiliated with this group, and headed by Wang En-mao, came to monopolize all key posts in the regional leadership, while minority nationals were normally relegated to nominal positions of prestige.

Chapter III examines and evaluates the various policies implemented in Sinkiang by Wang En-mao prior to the Cultural Revolution. Based upon his long tenure and experience in Sinkiang, Wang increasingly recognized that Party policies should be implemented firmly, but flexibly and in accordance with the special problems and conditions extant there. Generally, he did not emphasize the more radical, ideologically-oriented, and universalistic policy line advocated by Chairman Mao for fear it would arouse the sensitivities of the minorities and encourage Soviet meddling. Wang did not deny the future relevancy of Mao’s vision in Sinkiang, but rather felt that Sinkiang and its peoples were not yet ready or willing to embark on a wholly Maoist revolutionary course. The available data supports the conclusion that Wang’s policies had succeeded in achieving national security, establishing internal unity and law and order, initiating the gradual cultural/ideological transformation of the non-Han groups; and developing a modern economy in Sinkiang by 1966, thus paving the way for the region’s virtual integration with China Proper. However, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution neither Wang’s well-entrenched regional power base nor his policy stance endeared him to the Maoist ideologues in Peking who felt that he had come to personify the evils of regionalism and revisionism.

Chapters IV and V describe the Maoists’ protracted political struggle to remove Wang Enmao during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-69. Wang was successfully removed, his power base was destroyed, and a new, more responsive collective leadership composed of various factional representatives was installed in Sinkiang by the Central authorities by mid-1973. The debate over regional policies, which had been virtually subsumed in the political struggle until Wang’s demise in 1969, is analyzed in Chapter V. By all indications the Maoists ultimately failed in their efforts to introduce more radical, ideologically-oriented policies in Sinkiang and, in fact, their attempts to do so only worsened the dislocations and tensions which had emerged during the power struggle against Wang. As a result, in late 1971 the Central authorities sanctioned a return to many of the more moderate policies which had been advocated by the now departed Wang. The main thesis of this study, therefore, is that while the Central authorities managed to remove the well-entrenched regional leadership of Wang, they ultimately were compelled to retain many of his regional, and avowedly revisionist, policies.

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