Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is an autonomous region of China in the northwest of the country. It is the largest Chinese administrative division, the 8th largest country subdivision in the world, spanning over 1.6 million km2 and the most populous amongst the ten largest national subdivisions. It contains the disputed territory of Aksai Chin administered by China. Xinjiang contains China's smaller border with Russia (which is 40 km/24 mi long; the remainder of the China-Russia border is 3,605 km/2,240 mi long, and the rest is taken up by the Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang provinces), but its other international borders are with Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is also bordered, to the south, by Tibet, easily its longest border, when including the Eastern Tibetan disputed territories. It has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.
It is home to a number of ethnic groups including the Uyghur, Han, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Hui, Kyrgyz, and Mongols. More than a dozen autonomous prefectures and counties for minorities are in Xinjiang. Older English-language reference works often refer to the area as Chinese Turkestan. Xinjiang is divided into the Dzungarian Basin in the north and the Tarim Basin in the south by a mountain range. Only about 4.3% of Xinjiang's land area is fit for human habitation.
With a documented history of at least 2,500 years, a succession of peoples and empires has vied for control over all or parts of this territory. Before the 21st century, all or part of the region has been ruled or controlled by the Tocharians, Yuezhi, Xiongnu Empire, Xianbei state, Kushan Empire, Rouran Khaganate, Han Empire, Former Liang, Former Qin, Later Liang, Western Liáng, Tang Dynasty, Tibetan Empire, Uyghur Khaganate, Kara-Khitan Khanate, Mongol Empire, Yuan Dynasty, Chagatai Khanate, Moghulistan, Qara Del, Northern Yuan, Yarkent Khanate, Dzungar Khanate, Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China and, since 1950, the People's Republic of China.
According to J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair, the Chinese sources describe the existence of "white people with lightish hair" or the Bai people in the Shan Hai Jing, who lived beyond their northwestern border.
The well-preserved Tarim mummies with reddish or blond hair, which today are displayed at the Ürümqi Museum and date back to the 3rd century BC, have been found in precisely the same area of the Tarim Basin. Nomadic tribes such as the Yuezhi were part of the large migration of Indo-European speaking peoples who were settled in eastern Central Asia (possibly as far as Gansu). The Ordos in northern China east of the Yuezhi are another example.
Nomadic cultures such as the Yuezhi are documented in the area of Xinjiang where the first known reference to the Yuezhi was made in 645 BC by the Chinese Guan Zhong in his Guanzi 管子 (Guanzi Essays: 73: 78: 80: 81). He described the Yuzhi 禺氏, or Niuzhi 牛氏, as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of :Yushi 禺氏 at Gansu. The supply of jade from the Tarim Basin from ancient times is well documented archaeologically: "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BC, the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China."
The nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi are documented in detail in Chinese historical accounts, in particular the 2nd–1st century BC "Records of the Great Historian", or Shiji, by Sima Qian, which state that they "were flourishing" but regularly in conflict with the neighboring tribe of the Xiongnu to the northeast. According to these accounts:
The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian and Dunhuang, but after they were defeated by the Huns they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui [= Oxus] River. A small number of their people who were unable to make the journey west sought refuge among the Qiang barbarians in the Southern Mountains, where they are known as the Lesser Yuezhi.
Uyghur nationalist historians such as Turghun Almas claim that Uyghurs were distinct and independent from Chinese for 6000 years, and that all non-Uyghur peoples are non-indigenous immigrants to Xinjiang. However, the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) established military colonies (tuntian) and commanderies (duhufu) to control Xinjiang from 120 BCE, while the Tang Dynasty (618-907) also controlled much of Xinjiang until the An Lushan rebellion. Chinese historians refute Uyghur nationalist claims by pointing out the 2000-year history of Han settlement in Xinjiang, documenting the history of Mongol, Kazakh, Uzbek, Manchu, Hui, Xibo indigenes in Xinjiang, and by emphasizing the relatively late "westward migration" of the Huigu (equated with "Uyghur" by the PRC government) people from Mongolia the 9th century. The name "Uyghur" was associated with a Buddhist people in the Tarim Basin in the 9th century, but completely disappeared by the 15th century, until it was revived by the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Traversed by the Northern Silk Road, the Tarim and Dzungaria regions were known as the Western Regions. At the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BC−AD 220), the region was subservient to the Xiongnu, a powerful nomadic people based in modern Mongolia.
At the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), the region was subservient to the Xiongnu, a powerful nomadic people based in modern Mongolia. In the 2nd century BC, The Han Dynasty made preparations for war when the Emperor Wu of Han dispatched the explorer Zhang Qian to explore the mysterious kingdoms to the west and to form an alliance with the Yuezhi people in order to combat the Xiongnu. As a result of these battles, the Chinese controlled the strategic region from the Ordos and Gansu corridor to Lop Nor. They succeeded in separating the Xiongnu from the Qiang peoples to the south, and also gained direct access to the Western Regions. Han China sent Zhang Qian as an envoy to the states in the region, beginning several decades of struggle between the Xiongnu and Han China over dominance of the region, eventually ending in Chinese success. In 60 BC Han China established the Protectorate of the Western Regions (西域都護府) at Wulei (烏壘; near modern Luntai) to oversee the entire region as far west as the Pamir. Tarim Basin was under the influence and control of the Han dynasty.
During the usurpation of Wang Mang in China, the dependent states of the protectorate rebelled and became independent from China in AD 13. Over the next century, Han China conducted several expeditions into the region, re-establishing the protectorate from 74 to 76, 91 to 107, and from 123 onward. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the Tarim Basin and Central Asia. This region was also ruled by the Kushan Empire between 114 and 168. After the fall of the Han Dynasty, the protectorate continued to be maintained by Cao Wei (until 265) and the Western Jin Dynasty (from 265 onward).
A succession of peoples
The Western Jin dynasty succumbed to successive waves of invasions by nomads from the north at the beginning of the 4th century. The short-lived kingdoms that ruled northwestern China one after the other, including Former Liang, Former Qin, Later Liang, and Western Liáng, all attempted to maintain the protectorate, with varying degrees of success. After the final reunification of northern China under the Northern Wei empire, its protectorate controlled what is now the southeastern region of Xinjiang. Local states such as Shule, Yutian, Guizi and Qiemo controlled the western region, while the central region around Turpan was controlled by Gaochang, remnants of a state (Northern Liang) that once ruled part of what is now Gansu province in northwestern China.
During the Tang Dynasty, a series of expeditions were conducted against the Western Turkic Khaganate, and their vassals, the oasis states of southern Xinjiang. campaigns against the oasis states began under Emperor Taizong with the annexation of Gaochang in 640. The nearby kingdom of Karasahr was captured by the Tang in 644 and the kingdom of Kucha was conquered in 649.
The expansion into Central Asia continued under Taizong's successor, Emperor Gaozong, who dispatched an army in 657 led by Su Dingfang against the Western Turk qaghan Ashina Helu. The military expedition included 10,000 horsemen supplied by the Uyghurs, who were close allies of the Tang. The Uyghurs had allied with the Tang ever since the dynasty supported their revolt against the reign of the Xueyantuo, a tribe of Tiele people. Ashina's defeat strengthened Tang rule in southern Xinjiang and brought the regions formerly controlled by the khaganate into the Tang empire. Xinjiang was administered through the Anxi Protectorate (安西都護府; "Protectorate Pacifying the West") and the Four Garrisons of Anxi.
Tang hegemony beyond the Pamir Mountains in modern Tajikistan and Afghanistan ended with revolts by the Turks, but the Tang retained a military presence in Xinjiang. These holdings were later invaded by the Tibetan Empire to the south in 670. Xinjiang alternated between Tang and Tibetan rule as they competed for control of Central Asia.
A significant milestone of the Tang period of Xinjiang was that it marked the end of Indo-European influence in Xinjiang. This was partially spurred by Chinese policies, which unintentionally sped the turkification of Xinjiang, rather than the sinification that had occurred in other territories conquered by the Tang. The Tang Dynasty recruited a large number of Turkic soldiers and generals, and the Chinese garrisons of Xinjiang were for the most part staffed by Turks rather than those of the Han ethnicity. Xinjiang was beginning its transition into a region that is linguistically and culturally Turko-Mongolic, which it still is to this day.
Uyghur Khaganate and Western Liao dynasty
During the devastating Anshi Rebellion, which nearly led to the destruction of the Tang dynasty, Tibet invaded the Tang on a wide front, from Xinjiang to Yunnan. It occupied the Tang capital of Chang'an in 763 for 16 days, and took control of southern Xinjiang by the end of the century. At the same time, the Uyghur Khaganate took control of northern Xinjiang, as well as much of the rest of Central Asia, including Mongolia.
As both Tibet and the Uyghur Khaganate declined in the mid-9th century, the Kara-Khanid Khanate, which was a confederation of Turkic tribes such as the Karluks, Chigils and Yaghmas, took control of western Xinjiang in the 10th century and the 11th century. Meanwhile, after the Uyghur khanate in Mongolia had been smashed by the Kirghiz in 840, branches of the Uyghurs established themselves in Qocha (Karakhoja) and Beshbalik, near the modern cities of Turfan and Urumchi. This Uyghur state remained in eastern Xinjiang until the 13th century, though it was subject to foreign overlords during that time. The Kara-Khanids converted to Islam. The Uyghur state in eastern Xinjiang remained Manichaean, but later converted to Buddhism.
In 1132, remnants of the Khitan Empire from Manchuria entered Xinjiang, fleeing the rebellion of their neighbors, the Jurchens. They established an exile Chinese empire, the Western Liao, which ruled over both the Kara-Khanid-held and Uyghur-held parts of the Tarim Basin for the next century.
Mongol Empire, Chagatai Khanate, Yuan dynasty and Mongolian Khaganate
After Genghis Khan unified Mongolia and began his advance west, the Uyghur state in the Turpan-Urumchi area offered its allegiance to the Mongols in 1209, contributing taxes and troops to the Mongol imperial effort. In return, the Uyghur rulers retained control of their kingdom. By contrast, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire conquered the Western Liao in 1218. During the era of the Mongol Empire, the Yuan dynasty vied with the Chagatai Khanate for rule over the area, with the latter taking control of most of this region. After the break-up of the Chagatai Khanate into smaller khanates in the mid-14th century, the region fractured and was ruled by numerous Persianized Mongol Khans simultaneously, including the ones of Mogholistan (with the assistance of the local Dughlat Emirs), Uigurstan (later Turpan), and Kashgaria. These leaders engaged in wars with each other and the Timurids of Transoxania to the west and the Western Mongols to the east, the successor Chagatai regime based in Mongolia and in China. Although the region did produce examples of high Persian culture during the period (e.g., the Dughlat historian Hamid-mirza), succession crises and internal divisions (Kashgaria split in two for centuries) meant that little was written about the region during the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 17th century, the Mongolian Dzungars established an empire over much of the region.
The Mongolian Dzungar (also Jungar, Zunghar or Zungar; Mongolian: Зүүнгар Züüngar) was the collective identity of several Oirat tribes that formed and maintained one of the last nomadic empires. The Dzungar Khanate covered the area called Dzungaria and stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan, and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia. Most of this area was only renamed "Xinjiang" by the Chinese after the fall of the Dzungar Empire. It existed from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century.
The Turkic Muslim sedentary people of the Tarim Basin were originally ruled by the Chagatai Khanate while the nomadic Buddhist Oirat Mongol in Dzungaria ruled over the Dzungar Khanate. The Naqshbandi Sufi Khojas, descendants of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, had replaced the Chagatayid Khans as the ruling authority of the Tarim Basin in the early 17th century. There was a struggle between two factions of Khojas, the Afaqi (White Mountain) faction and the Ishaqi (Black Mountain) faction. The Ishaqi defeated the Afaqi, which resulted in the Afaqi Khoja inviting the 5th Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, to intervene on his behalf in 1677. The 5th Dalai Lama then called upon his Dzungar Buddhist followers in the Zunghar Khanate to act on this invitation. The Dzungar Khanate then conquered the Tarim Basin in 1680, setting up the Afaqi Khoja as their puppet ruler.
Khoja Afaq asked the 5th Dalai Lama when he fled to Lhasa to help his Afaqi faction take control of the Tarim Basin (Kashgaria). The Dzungar leader Galdan was then asked by the Dalai Lama to restore Khoja Afaq as ruler of Kashgararia. Khoja Afaq collaborated with Galdan's Dzungars when the Dzungars conquered the Tarim Basin from 1678-1680 and set up the Afaqi Khojas as puppet client rulers. The Dalai Lama blessed Galdan's conquest of the Tarim Basin and Turfan Basin.
67,000 patman (each patman is 4 piculs and 5 pecks) of grain 48,000 silver ounces were forced to be paid yearly by Kashgar to the Dzungars and cash was also paid by the rest of the cities to the Dzungars. Trade, milling, and distilling taxes, corvée labor,saffron, cotton, and grain were also extracted by the Dzungars from the Tarim Basin. Every harvest season, women and food had to be provided to Dzungars when they came to extract the taxes from them.
The Turkic Muslims of the Turfan and Kumul Oases then submitted to the Qing dynasty of China, and asked China to free them from the Dzungars. The Qing accepted the rulers of Turfan and Kumul as Qing vassals. The Qing dynasty waged war against the Dzungars for decades until finally defeating them and then Qing Manchu Bannermen carried out the Zunghar genocide, nearly wiping them from existence and depopulating Dzungaria. The Qing then freed the Afaqi Khoja leader Burhan-ud-din and his brother Khoja Jihan from their imprisonment by the Dzungars, and appointed them to rule as Qing vassals over the Tarim Basin. The Khoja brothers decided to renege on this deal and declare themselves as independent leaders of the Tarim Basin. The Qing and the Turfan leader Emin Khoja crushed their revolt and China then took full control of both Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin by 1759.
The Manchu Qing dynasty of China gained control over eastern Xinjiang as a result of a long struggle with the Dzungars that began in the 17th century. In 1755, with the help of the Oirat nobel Amursana, the Qing attacked Ghulja and captured the Dzungar khan. After Amursana's request to be declared Zunghar khan went unanswered, he led a revolt against the Qing. Over the next two years, Qing armies destroyed the remnants of the Dzungar khanate and many Han Chinese and (Hui) moved into the pacified areas.
The native Dzungar Oirat Mongols suffered heavily from the brutal campaigns and a simultaneous smallpox epidemic. One writer, Wei Yuan, described the resulting desolation in what is now northern Xinjiang as: "an empty plain for several thousand li, with no Oirat yurt except those surrendered." It has been estimated that 80% of the 600,000 or more Zunghars were destroyed by a combination of disease and warfare, and it took generations for it to recover.
The Qianlong Emperor rejected earlier ideas that only Han could be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China, instead he redefined China as multiethnic, saying in 1755 that "There exists a view of China (zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China's subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty's understanding of China, but is instead that of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties." The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China was multiethnic and did not just refer to Han. Han migration to Xinjiang was permitted by the Manchu Qianlong Emperor, who also gave Chinese names to cities to replace their Mongol names, instituting civil service exams in the area, and implementing the county and prefecture Chinese style administrative system, and promoting Han migration to Xinjiang to solidify Qing control was supported by numerous Manchu officials under Qianlong. A proposal was written in The Imperial Gazetteer of the Western Regions (Xiyu tuzhi) to use state-funded schools to promote Confucianism among Muslims in Xinjiang by Fuheng and his team of Manchu officials and the Qianlong Emperor. Confucian names were given to towns and cities in Xinjiang by the Qianlong Emperor, like "Dihua" for Urumqi in 1760 and Changji, Fengqing, Fukang, Huifu, and Suilai for other cities in Xinjiang, Qianlong also implemented Chinese style prefectures, departments, and counties in a portion of the region.
The Qing Qianlong Emperor compared his achievements with that of the Han and Tang ventures into Central Asia. Qianlong's conquest of Xinjiang was driven by his mindfulness of the examples set by the Han and Tang Qing scholars who wrote the official Imperial Qing gazetteer for Xinjiang made frequent references to the Han and Tang era names of the region. The Qing conqueror of Xinjiang, Zhao Hui, is ranked for his achievements with the Tang dynasty General Gao Xianzhi and the Han dynasty Generals Ban Chao and Li Guangli. Both aspects pf the Han and Tang models for ruling Xinjiang were adopted by the Qing and the Qing system also superficially resembled that of nomadic powers like the Qara Khitay, but in reality the Qing system was different from that of the nomads, both in terms of territory conquered geographically and their centralized administrative system, resembling a western stye (European and Russian) system of rule. The Qing portrayed their conquest of Xinjiang in officials works as a continuation and restoration of the Han and Tang accomplishments in the region, mentioning the previous achievements of those dynasties. The Qing justified their conquest by claiming that the Han and Tang era borders were being restored, and identifying the Han and Tang's grandeur and authority with the Qing. Many Manchu and Mongol Qing writers who wrote about Xinjiang did so in the Chinese language, from a culturally Chinese point of view. Han and Tang era stories about Xinjiang were recounted and ancient Chinese places names were reused and circulated. Han and Tang era records and accounts of Xinjiang were the only writings on the region available to Qing era Chinese in the 18th century and needed to be replaced with updated accounts by the literati.
The Dzungar (or Zunghar), Oirat Mongols who lived in an area that stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of which is located in present-day Xinjiang), were the last nomadic empire to threaten China, which they did from the early 17th century through the middle of the 18th century. After a series of inconclusive military conflicts that started in the 1680s, the Dzungars were subjugated by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the late 1750s.
Clarke argued that the Qing campaign in 1757–58 "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." After the Qianlong Emperor led Qing forces to victory over the Zunghar Oirat (Western) Mongols in 1755, he originally was going to split the Zunghar Empire into four tribes headed by four Khans, the Khoit tribe was to have the Zunghar leader Amursana as its Khan. Amursana rejected the Qing arrangement and rebelled since he wanted to be leader of a united Zunghar nation. Qianlong then issued his orders for the genocide and eradication of the entire Zunghar nation and name, Qing Manchu Bannermen and Khalkha (Eastern) Mongols enslaved Zunghar women and children while slaying the other Zunghars.
The Qianlong Emperor issued direct orders for his commanders to "massacre" the Zunghars and "show no mercy", rewards were given to those who carried out the extermination and orders were given for young men to be slaughtered while women were taken as spoils. The Qing extirpated Zunghar identity from the remaining enslaved Zunghar women and children. Orders were given to "completely exterminate the Zunghar tribes," and this successful genocide by the Qing left Zungharia mostly unpopulated and vacant. Qianlong ordered his men to- "Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous campaigns were too lenient." The Qianlong Emperor did not see any conflict between performing genocide on the Zunghars while upholding the peaceful principles of Confucianism, supporting his position by portraying the Zunghars as barbarian and subhuman. Qianlong proclaimed that "To sweep away barbarians is the way to bring stability to the interior.", that the Zunghars "turned their back on civilization.", and that "Heaven supported the emperor." in the destruction of the Zunghars. According to the "Encyclopedia of genocide and crimes against humanity, Volume 3", per the United Nations Genocide Convention Article II, Qianlong's actions against the Zunghars constitute genocide, as he massacred the vast majority of the Zunghar population and enslaved or banished the remainder, and had "Zunghar culture" extirpated and destroyed. Qianlong's campaign constituted the "eighteenth-century genocide par excellence."
Qianlong emperor moved the remaining Zunghar people to China and ordered the generals to kill all the men in Barkol or Suzhou, and divided their wives and children to Qing soldiers. In an account of the war, Qing scholar Wei Yuan, wrote that about 40% of the Zunghar households were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or the Kazakh Khanate, and 30% were killed by the army, leaving no yurts in an area of several thousands of li except those of the surrendered. Clarke wrote 80%, or between 480,000 and 600,000 people, were killed between 1755 and 1758 in what "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." 80% of the Zunghars died in the genocide. The Zunghar genocide was completed by a combination of a smallpox epidemic and the direct slaughter of Zunghars by Qing forces made out of Manchu Bannermen and (Khalkha) Mongols.
Anti-Zunghar Uyghur rebels from the Turfan and Hami oases had submitted to Qing rule as vassals and requested Qing help for overthrowing Zunghar rule. Uyghur leaders like Emin Khoja were granted titles within the Qing nobility, and these Uyghurs helped supply the Qing military forces during the anti-Zunghar campaign. The Qing employed Khoja Emin in its campaign against the Zunghars and used him as an intermediary with Muslims from the Tarim Basin to inform them that the Qing were only aiming to kill Oirats (Zunghars) and that they would leave the Muslims alone, and also to convince them to kill the Oirats (Zunghars) themselves and side with the Qing since the Qing noted the Muslims' resentment of their former experience under Zunghar rule at the hands of Tsewang Araptan.
It was not until generations later that Dzungaria rebounded from the destruction and near liquidation of the Zunghars after the mass slayings of nearly a million Zunghars. Historian Peter Perdue has shown that the decimation of the Dzungars was the result of an explicit policy of extermination launched by Qianlong, Perdue attributed the decimation of the Dzungars to a "deliberate use of massacre" and has described it as an "ethnic genocide". Although this "deliberate use of massacre" has been largely ignored by modern scholars, Dr. Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide, has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence." The Dzungar (Zunghar) genocide has been compared to the Qing extermination of the Jinchuan Tibetan people in 1776.
Demographic changes due to the genocide
The Qing "final solution" of genocide to solve the problem of the Zunghar Mongols, made the Qing sponsored settlement of millions of Han Chinese, Hui, Turkestani Oasis people (Uyghurs) and Manchu Bannermen in Dzungaria possible, since the land was now devoid of Zunghars. The Dzungarian basin, which used to be inhabited by (Zunghar) Mongols, is currently inhabited by Kazakhs. In northern Xinjiang, the Qing brought in Han, Hui, Uyghur, Xibe, and Kazakh colonists after they exterminated the Zunghar Oirat Mongols in the region, with one third of Xinjiang's total population consisting of Hui and Han in the northern are, while around two thirds were Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin. In Dzungaria, the Qing established new cities like Urumqi and Yining. The Qing were the ones who unified Xinjiang and changed its demographic situation.
The depopulation of northern Xinjiang after the Buddhist Öölöd Mongols (Zunghars) were slaughtered, led to the Qing settling Manchu, Sibo (Xibe), Daurs, Solons, Han Chinese, Hui Muslims, and Turkic Muslim Taranchis in the north, with Han Chinese and Hui migrants making up the greatest number of settlers. Since it was the crushing of the Buddhist Öölöd (Dzungars) by the Qing which led to promotion of Islam and the empowerment of the Muslim Begs in southern Xinjiang, and migration of Muslim Taranchis to northern Xinjiang, it was proposed by Henry Schwarz that "the Qing victory was, in a certain sense, a victory for Islam". Xinjiang as a unified, defined geographic identity was created and developed by the Qing. It was the Qing who led to Turkic Muslim power in the region increasing since the Mongol power was crushed by the Qing while Turkic Muslim culture and identity was tolerated or even promoted by the Qing.
The Qing gave the name Xinjiang to Dzungaria after conquering it and wiping out the Dzungars, reshaping it from a steppe grassland into farmland cultivated by Han Chinese farmers, 1 million mu (17,000 acres) were turned from grassland to farmland from 1760-1820 by the new colonies.
After the defeat of the Dzungars, the Qing made members of a clan of Sufi shaykhs known as the Khojas, rulers in the western Tarim Basin, south of the Tianshan Mountains. In 1758–59, however, rebellions against this arrangement broke out both north and south of the Tian Shan mountains. The Qing were then forced, contrary to their initial intent, to establish a form of direct military rule over Dzungaria (northern Xinjiang) and the Tarim Basin (southern Xinjiang). The Manchus put the whole region under the rule of a general of Ili who established a center of government at the fort of Huiyuan (the so-called "Manchu Kuldja", or Yili), west of Ghulja (Yining). The Qing dynasty Qianlong Emperor conquered the Jungharian (Dzungarian) plateau and the Tarim Basin, bringing the two separate regions, respectively north and south of the Tianshan mountains, under his rule as Xinjiang. The south was inhabited by Turkic Muslims (Uyghurs) and the north by Junghar Mongols (Dzungars). The Dzungars were also called "Eleuths" or "Kalmyks".
After 1759 state farms were established, "especially in the vicinity of Urumchi, where there was fertile, well-watered land and few people." From 1760 to 1830 more state farms were opened and the Chinese population in Xinjiang grew rapidly to about 155,000.
The Qing identified their state as "China" (Zhongguo), and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu. The Qing equated the lands of the Qing state (including present day Manchuria, Dzungaria in Xinjiang, Mongolia, and other areas as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi ethnic state. When the Qing conquered Dzungaria, they proclaimed that the new land was absorbed into "China".
Xinjiang at this time did not exist as one unit. It consisted of the two separate political entities of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Eastern Turkestan). There was the Zhunbu (Dzungar region) and Huibu (Muslim region). Dzungaria or Ili was called Zhunbu 準部 (Dzungar region) Tianshan Beilu 天山北路 (Northern March), "Xinjiang" 新疆 (New Frontier), Dzongarie, Djoongaria, Soungaria, or "Kalmykia" (La Kalmouquie in French). It was formerly the area of the Zunghar Khanate 準噶爾汗國, the land of the Dzungar Oirat Mongols. The Tarim Basin was known as "Tianshan Nanlu 天山南路 (southern March), Huibu 回部 (Muslim region), Huijiang 回疆 (Muslim frontier), Chinese Turkestan, Kashgaria, Little Bukharia, East Turkestan", and the traditional Uyghur name for it was Altishahr. It was formerly the area of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate 東察合台汗國, land of the Uyghur people before being conquered by the Dzungars. The Chinese Repository said that "Neither the natives nor the Chinese appear to have any general name to designate the Mohammedan colonies. They are called Kashgar, Bokhára, Chinese Turkestan, &c., by foreigners, none of which seem to be very appropriate. They have also been called Jagatai, after a son of Genghis khan, to whom this country fell as his portion after his father’s death, and be included all the eight Mohammedan cities, with some of the surrounding countries, in one kingdom. It is said to have remained in this family, with some interruptions, until conquered by the Eleuths of Soungaria in 1683."
Between Jiayu Guan's west and Urumchi's East, an area of Xiniiang was also disginated as Tianshan Donglu 天山東路 (Eastern March). The three routes that made up Xinjiang were - Tarim Basin (southern route), Dzungaria (northern route), and the Turfan Basin (eastern route with Turfan, Hami, and Urumqi).
After Qing dynasty defeated the Dzungars Oirat Mongols and exterminated them from their native land of Dzungaria in the Zunghar Genocide, the Qing settled Han, Hui, Manchus, Xibe, and Taranchis (Uyghurs) from the Tarim Basin, into Dzungaria. Han Chinese criminals and political exiles were exiled to Dzhungaria, such as Lin Zexu. Chinese Hui Muslims and Salar Muslims belonging to banned Sufi orders like the Jahriyya were also exiled to Dzhungaria as well. In the aftermath of the crushing of the 1781 Jahriyya rebellion, Jahriyya adherents were exiled.
The Qing enacted different policies for different areas of Xinjiang. Han and Hui migrants were urged by the Qing government to settled in Dzungaria in northern Xinjiang, while they were not allowed in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin oases with the exception of Han and Hui merchants. In areas where more Han Chinese settled like in Dzungaria, the Qing used a Chinese style administrative system.
The Manchu Qing ordered the settlement of thousands of Han Chinese peasants in Xinijiang after 1760, the peasants originally came from Gansu and were given animals, seeds, and tools as they were being settled in the area, for the purpose of making China's rule in the region permanent and a fait accompli.
Taranchi was the name for Turki (Uyghur) agriculturalists who were resettled in Dzhungaria from the Tarim Basin oases ("East Turkestani cities") by the Qing dynasty, along with Manchus, Xibo (Xibe), Solons, Han and other ethnic groups in the aftermath of the destruction of the Dzhunghars. Kulja (Ghulja) was a key area subjected to the Qing settlement of these different ethnic groups into military colonies. The Manchu garrisons were supplied and supported with grain cultivated by the Han soldiers and East Turkestani (Uyghurs) who were resettled in agricultural colonies in Zungharia. The Manchu Qing policy of settling Chinese colonists and Taranchis from the Tarim Basin on the former Kalmucks (Dzungar) land was described as having the land "swarmed" with the settlers. The amount of Uyghurs moved by the Qing from Altä-shähär (Tarim Basin) to depopulated Zunghar land in Ili numbered around 10,000 families. The amount of Uyghurs moved by the Qing into Jungharia (Dzungaria) at this time has been described as "large". The Qing settled in Dzungaria even more Turki-Taranchi (Uyghurs) numbering around 12,000 families originating from Kashgar in the aftermath of the Jahangir Khoja invasion in the 1820s. Standard Uyghur is based on the Taranchi dialect, which was chosen by the Chinese government for this role. Salar migrants from Amdo (Qinghai) came to settle the region as religious exiles, migrants, and as soldiers enlisted in the Chinese army to fight in Ili, offen following the Hui.
After a revolt by the Xibe in Qiqihar in 1764, the Qianlong Emperor ordered an 800-man military escort to transfer 18,000 Xibe to the Ili valley of Dzungaria in Xinjiang. In Ili, the Xinjiang Xibe built Buddhist monasteries and cultivated vegetables, tobacco, and poppies. One punishment for Bannermen for their misdeeds involved them being exiled to Xinjiang.
In 1765, 300,000 ch'ing of land in Xinjiang were turned into military colonies, as Chinese settlement expanded to keep up with China's population growth.
The Qing resorted to incentives like issuing a subsidy which was paid to Han who were willing to migrate to northwest to Xinjiang, in a 1776 edict. There were very little Uyghurs in Urumqi during the Qing dynasty, Urumqi was mostly Han and Hui, and Han and Hui settlers were concentrated in Northern Xinjiang (Beilu aka Dzungaria). Around 155,000 Han and Hui lived in Xinjiang, mostly in Dzungaria around 1803, and around 320,000 Uyghurs, living mostly in Southern Xinjiang (the Tarim Basin), as Han and Hui were allowed to settle in Dzungaria but forbidden to settle in the Tarim, while the small amount of Uyghurs living in Dzungaria and Urumqi was insignificant. Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty. Spirits (alcohol) were introduced during the settlement of northern Xinjiang by Han Chinese flooding into the area. The Qing made a special case in allowing northern Xinjiang to be settled by Han, since they usually did not allow frontier regions to be settled by Han migrants. This policy led to 200,000 Han and Hui settlers in northern Xinjiang when the 18th century came to a close, in addition to military colonies settled by Han called Bingtun.
Professor of Chinese and Central Asian History at Georgetown University, James A. Millward wrote that foreigners often mistakenly think that Urumqi was originally a Uyghur city and that the Chinese destroyed its Uyghur character and culture, however, Urumqi was founded as a Chinese city by Han and Hui (Tungans), and it is the Uyghurs who are new to the city.
While a few people try to give a misportrayal of the historical Qing situation in light of the contemporary situation in Xinjiang with Han migration, and claim that the Qing settlements and state farms were an anti-Uyghur plot to replace them in their land, Professor James A. Millward pointed out that the Qing agricultural colonies in reality had nothing to do with Uyghur and their land, since the Qing banned settlement of Han in the Uyghur Tarim Basin and in fact directed the Han settlers instead to settle in the non-Uyghur Dzungaria and the new city of Urumqi, so that the state farms which were settled with 155,000 Han Chinese from 1760-1830 were all in Dzungaria and Urumqi, where there was only an insignificant amount of Uyghurs, instead of the Tarim Basin oases.
Han and Hui merchants were initially only allowed to trade in the Tarim Basin, while Han and Hui settlement in the Tarim Basin was banned, until the Muhammad Yusuf Khoja invasion, in 1830 when the Qing rewarded the merchants for fighting off Khoja by allowing them to settle down. Robert Michell noted that in 1870 there were many Chinese of all occupations living in Dzungaria and they were well settled in the area, while in Turkestan (Tarim Basin) there were only a few Chinese merchants and soldiers in several garrisons among the Muslim population.
The Oirat Mongol Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Zungharia through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire, which was then expanding to the south and east. The Russian Orthodox church pressured many Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy. In the winter of 1770–1771, about 300,000 Kalmyks set out to return to China. Their goal was to retake control of Zungharia from the Qing dynasty of China. Along the way many were attacked and killed by Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, their historical enemies based on inter-tribal competition for land, and many more died of starvation and disease. After several grueling months of travel, only one-third of the original group reached Zungharia and had no choice but to surrender to the Qing upon arrival. These Kalmyks became known as Oirat Torghut Mongols. After being settled in Qing territory, the Torghuts were coerced by the Qing into giving up their nomadic lifestyle and to take up sedentary agriculture instead as part of a deliberate policy by the Qing to enfeeble them. They proved to be incompetent farmers and they became destitute, selling their children into slavery, engaging in prostitution, and stealing, according to the Manchu Qi-yi-shi. Child slaves were in demand on the Central Asian slave market, and Torghut children were sold into this slave trade.
By the mid-19th century, the Russian Empire was encroaching upon Qing China along its entire northern frontier. The First and Second Opium Wars along with the Taiping and other rebellions had severely weakened the dynasty's ability to maintain its garrisons in distant Xinjiang. In 1864 both Chinese Muslims (Hui) and Uyghurs rebelled in Xinjiang cities, following on-going Chinese Muslim Rebellions in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces further east. Yaqub Beg's Turkic Muslim troops also committed massacres upon the Chinese Muslims. In 1865, Yaqub Beg, a warlord from the neighbouring Khanate of Kokand, entered Xinjiang via Kashgar and conquered nearly all of Xinjiang over the next six years. At the Battle of Ürümqi (1870) Yaqub Beg's Turkic forces, allied with a Han Chinese militia, attacked and besieged Chinese Muslim forces in Urumqi. In 1871, Russia took advantage of the chaotic situation and seized the rich Ili River valley, including Gulja. At the end of this period, forces loyal to the Qing held onto only a few strongholds, including Tacheng.
Yaqub Beg's rule lasted until the Qing general Zuo Zongtang (also known as General Tso) reconquered the region between 1875 and 1877. In 1881, the Qing recovered the Gulja region through diplomatic negotiations, via the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881).
Conversion of Xinjiang into a province
In 1884or, according to some sources, 1882the Qing dynasty established Xinjiang ("new frontier") as a province, formally applying to it the political systems of the rest of China and dropping the old names of Zhunbu 準部 (Dzungar region) and Huijiang, "Muslimland."
The two separate regions, Dzungaria, known as Zhunbu 準部 (Dzungar region) or Tianshan Beilu 天山北路 (Northern March), and the Tarim Basin, which had been known as Altishahr, Huibu (Muslim region), Huijiang (Muslim-land) or "Tianshan Nanlu 天山南路 (southern March), were combined into a single province called Xinjiang by in 1884. Before this, there was never one administrative unit in which North Xinjiang (Zhunbu) and Southern Xinjiang (Huibu) were integrated together.
A lot of the Han Chinese and Chinese Hui Muslim population who had previously settled northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria) after the Qing genocide of the Dzungars, had died in the Dungan revolt (1862–77). As a result, new Uyghur colonists from Southern Xinjiang (the Tarim Basin) proceeded to settle in the newly empty lands and spread across all of Xinjiang.
After Xinjiang was converted into a province by the Qing, the provincialisation and reconstruction programs initiated by the Qing resulted in the Chinese government helping Uyghurs migrate from southern Xinjiang to other areas of the province, like the area between Qitai and the capital, which was formerly nearly completely inhabited by Han Chinese, and other areas like Urumqi, Tacheng (Tabarghatai), Yili, Jinghe, Kur Kara Usu, Ruoqiang, Lop Nor, and the Tarim River's lower reaches. It was during Qing times that Uyghurs were settled throughout all of Xinjiang, from their original home cities in the western Tarim Basin. The Qing policies after they created Xinjiang by uniting Zungharia and Altishahr (Tarim Basin) led Uyghurs to believe that the all of Xinjiang province was their homeland, since the annihilation of the Zunghars (Dzungars) by the Qing, populating the Ili valley with Uyghurs from the Tarim Basin, creating one political unit with a single name (Xinjiang) out of the previously separate Zungharia and the Tarim Basin, the war from 1864-1878 which led to the killing of much of the original Han Chinese and Chinese Hui Muslims in Xinjiang, led to areas in Xinjiang with previously had insignificant amounts of Uyghurs, like the southeast, east, and north, to then become settled by Uyghurs who spread through all of Xinjiang from their original home in the southwest area. There was a major and fast growth of the Uyghur population, while the original population of Han Chinese and Hui Muslims from before the war of 155,000 dropped, to the much lower population of 33,114 Tungans (Hui) and 66,000 Han.
A regionalist style nationalism was fostered by the Han Chinese officials who came to rule Xinjiang after its conversion into a province by the Qing, it was from this ideology that the later East Turkestani nationalists appropriated their sense of nationalism centered around Xinjiang as a clearly defined geographic territory.
In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor of Xinjiang, fled. One of his subordinates, Yang Zengxin (杨增新), took control of the province and acceded in name to the Republic of China in March of the same year. Through Machiavellian politics and clever balancing of mixed ethnic constituencies, Yang maintained control over Xinjiang until his assassination in 1928.
Mongols have at times advocated for the historical Oirat Dzungar Mongol area of Dzungaria in northern Xinjiang, to be annexed to the Mongolian state in the name of Pan-Mongolism.
Legends grew among the remaining Oirats that Amursana had not died after he fled to Russia, but was alive and would return to his people to liberate them from Manchu Qing rule and restore the Oirat nation. Prophecies had been circulating about the return of Amursana and the revival of the Oirats in the Altai region. The Oirat Kalmyk Ja Lama claimed to be a grandson of Amursana and then claimed to be a reincarnation of Amursana himself, preaching anti-Manchu propaganda in western Mongolia in the 1890s and calling for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty. Ja Lama was arrested and deported several times. However, he returned to the Oirat Torghuts in Altay (in Dzungaria) in 1910 and in 1912 he helped the Outer Mongolians mount an attack on the last Qing garrison at Kovd, where the Manchu Amban was refusing to leave and fighting the newly declared independent Mongolian state. The Manchu Qing force was defeated and slaughtered by the Mongols after Khovd fell.
Ja Lama told the Oirat remnants in Xinjiang: "I am a mendicant monk from the Russian Tsar's kingdom, but I am born of the great Mongols. My herds are on the Volga river, my water source is the Irtysh. There are many hero warriors with me. I have many riches. Now I have come to meet with you beggars, you remnants of the Oirats, in the time when the war for power begins. Will you support the enemy? My homeland is Altai, Irtysh, Khobuk-sari, Emil, Bortala, Ili, and Alatai. This is the Oirat mother country. By descent, I am the great-grandson of Amursana, the reincarnation of Mahakala, owning the horse Maralbashi. I am he whom they call the hero Dambijantsan. I came to move my pastures back to my own land, to collect my subject households and bondservants, to give favour, and to move freely."
Ja Lama built an Oirat fiefdom centered around Kovd, he and fellow Oirats from Altai wanted to emulate the original Oirat empire and build another grand united Oirat nation from the nomads of western China and Mongolia, but was arrested by Russian Cossacks and deported in 1914 on the request of the Monglian government after the local Mongols complained of his excesses, and out of fear that he would create an Oirat separatist state and divide them from the Khalkha Mongols. Ja Lama returned in 1918 to Mongolia and resumed his activities and supported himself by extorting passing caravans, but was assassinated in 1922 on the orders of the new Communist Mongolian authorities under Damdin Sükhbaatar.
The part Buryat Momgol Transbaikalian Cossack Ataman Grigory Semyonov declared a "Great Mongol State" in 1918 and had designs to unify the Oirat Mongol lands, portions of Xinjiang, Transbaikal, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Tannu Uriankhai, Khovd, Hu-lun-pei-erh and Tibet into one Mongolian state.
The Buryat Mongol Agvan Dorzhiev tried advocating for Oirat Mongol areas like Tarbagatai, Ili, and Altai to get added to the Outer Mongolian state. Out of concern that China would be provoked, this proposed addition of the Oirat Dzungaria to the new Outer Mongolian state was rejected by the Soviets.
The Chinese Muslim General Bai Chongxi advocated swamping Xinjiang with disbanded Chinese soldiers to prevent the Soviet Union from seizing control during this time.
During the Ili Rebellion the Soviet Union backed Uyghur separatists to form the Second East Turkistan Republic (2nd ETR) from 1944 to 1949 in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay Districts) in northern Xinjiang while the majority of Xinjiang was under Republic of China Kuomintang control. The People's Liberation Army entered Xinjiang in 1949 and the Kuomintang commander Tao Zhiyue surrendered the province to them. Also, five ETR leaders, who would negotiate with the Chinese, died in an air crash in 1949 in Soviet airspace over the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.
According to the PRC interpretation, the 2nd ETR was Xinjiang's revolution, a positive part of the communist revolution in China; the 2nd ETR acceded to and welcomed the PLA when it entered Xinjiang, a process known as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang. However, independence advocates view the ETR as an effort to establish an independent state, and the subsequent PLA entry as an invasion.
Uyghur nationalists often incorrectly claim that 5% of Xinjiang's population in 1949 was Han, and that the other 95% was Uyghur, erasing the presence of Kazakhs, Xibes, and others, and ignoring the fact that Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty.
The autonomous region of the PRC was established on October 1, 1955, replacing the province. In 1955 (the first modern census in China was taken in 1953), Uyghurs were counted as 73% of Xinjiang's total population of 5.11 million. Although Xinjiang as a whole is designated as a "Uyghur Autonomous Region", since 1954 more than 50% of Xinjiang's land area are designated autonomous areas for 13 native non-Uyghur groups. The modern Uyghur people experienced ethnogenesis especially from 1955, when the PRC officially recognized that ethnic category - in opposition to the Han - of formerly separately self-identified oasis peoples.
The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, on October 16, 1964. A Japanese researcher known for prominently opposing the tests as "the Devil's conduct" speculated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people may have been killed due to the consequential radiation, although the Lop Nur area has not been permanently inhabited since the 1920s, being located between the Taklamakan and Kumtag deserts in Ruoqiang County, which has an area of almost with a population density of only 0.16/km2. Chinese media challenged this conclusion without providing an alternate number.
The People's Republic of China has directed the majority of Han migrants towards the sparsely populated Dzungaria (Junggar Basin), before 1953 most of Xinjiang's population (75%) lived in the Tarim Basin, so the new Han migrants resulted in the distribution of population between Dzungaria and the Tarim being changed. Most new Chinese migrants ended up in the northern region, in Dzungaria. Han and Hui made up the majority of the population in Dzungaria's cities while Uighurs made up most of the population in Kashgaria's cities. Eastern and Central Dzungaria are the specific areas where these Han and Hui are concentrated. China made sure that new Han migrants were settled in entirely new areas uninhabited by Uyghurs so as to not disturb the already existing Uyghur communities. Lars-Erik Nyman noted that Kashgaria was the native land of the Uighurs, "but a migration has been in progress to Dzungaria since the 18th century".
Both Han economic migrants from other parts of China and Uyghur economic migrants from southern Xinjiang have been flooding into northern Xinjiang since the 1980s.
Southern Xinjiang is where the majority of the Uyghur population resides, while it is in Northern Xinjiang cities where the majority of the Han (90%) population of Xinjiang reside. Southern Xinjiang is dominated by its nine million Uighur majority population, while northern Xinjiang is where the mostly urban Han population holds sway. This situation has been followed by an imbalance in the economic situation between the two ethnic groups, since the Northern Junghar Basin (Dzungaria) has been more developed than the Uighur south.
From the 1950s to 1970s, 92% of migrants to Xinjiang were Han and 8% were Hui. Most of these migrants were unorganized settlers - "as [they are still] now", coming from neighboring Gansu province to seek trading opportunities.
The Soviet Union incited separatist activities in Xinjiang through propaganda, encouraging Kazakhs to flee to the Soviet Union and attacking China. China responded by reinforcing the Xinjiang-Soviet border area specifically with Han Bingtuan militia and farmers. The Soviets massively intensified their broadcasts, inciting Uyghurs to revolt against the Chinese via Radio Tashkent since 1967 and directly harbored and supported separatist guerilla fighters to attack the Chinese border. In 1966 the amount of Soviet sponsored separatist attacks on China numbered 5,000. The Soviets transmitted a radio broadcast from Radio Tashkent into Xinjiang on 14 May 1967, boasting of the fact that the Soviets had supported the Second East Turkestan Republic against China. In addition to Radio Tashkent, other Soviet media outlets aimed at disseminating propaganda towards Uyghurs urging that they proclaim independence and revolt against China included Radio Alma-Ata and the Alma-Ata published Sherki Türkistan Evazi ("The Voice of Eastern Turkestan") newspaper. After the Sino-Soviet split in 1962, over 60,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs defected from Xinjiang to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, in response to Soviet propaganda which promised Xinjiang independence. Uyghur exiles later threatened China with rumors of a Uyghur "liberation army" in the thousands that were supposedly recruited from Sovietized emigres.
The Soviet Union was involved in funding and supporting the East Turkestan People's Revolutionary Party (ETPRP), the largest militant Uyghur separatist organization in its time, to start a violent uprising against China in 1968. In the 1970s, the Soviets also supported the United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET) to fight against the Chinese.
"Bloody incidents" in 1966-67 flared up as Chinese and Soviet forces clashed along the border as the Soviets trained anti-Chinese guerillas and urged Uyghurs to revolt against China, hailing their "national liberation struggle". In 1969, Chinese and Soviet forces directly fought each other along the Xinjiang-Soviet border.
The Soviet Union supported Uyghur nationalist propaganda and Uyghur separatist movements against China. The Soviet historians claimed that the Uyghur native land was Xinjiang and Uyghur nationalism was promoted by Soviet versions of history on turcology. Soviet turcologists like D.I. Tikhonov wrote pro-independence works on Uyghur history and the Soviet supported Uyghur historian Tursun Rakhimov wrote more historical works supporting Uyghur independence and attacking the Chinese government, claiming that Xinjiang was an entity created by China made out of the different parts of East Turkestan and Zungharia. These Soviet Uyghur historians were waging an "ideological war" against China, emphasizing the "national liberation movement" of Uyghurs throughout history. The Soviet Communist Party supported the publication of works which glorified the Second East Turkestan Republic and the Ili Rebellion against China in its anti-China propaganda war. Soviet propaganda writers wrote works claiming that Uyghurs lived better lives and were able to practice their culture only in Soviet Central Asia and not in Xinjiang. In 1979 Soviet KGB agent Victor Louis wrote a thesis claiming that the Soviets should support a "war of liberation" against the "imperial" China to support Uighur, Tibetan, Mongol, and Manchu independence. The Soviet KGB itself supported Uyghur separatists against China.
Uyghur nationalist historian Turghun Almas and his book Uyghurlar (The Uyghurs) and Uyghur nationalist accounts of history were galvanized by Soviet stances on history, "firmly grounded" in Soviet Turcological works, and both heavily influenced and partially created by Soviet historians and Soviet works on Turkic peoples. Soviet historiography spawned the rendering of Uyghur history found in Uyghurlar. Almas claimed that Central Asia was "the motherland of the Uyghurs" and also the "ancient golden cradle of world culture".
Xinjiang's importance to China increased after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, leading to China's perception of being encircled by the Soviets. The China supported the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion, and broadcast reports of Soviet atrocities on Afghan Muslims to Uyghurs in order to counter Soviet propaganda broadcasts into Xinjiang, which boasted that Soviet minorities lived better and incited Muslims to revolt. Chinese radio beamed anti-Soviet broadcasts to Central Asian ethnic minorities like the Kazakhs. The Soviets feared disloyalty among the non-Russian Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz in the event of Chinese troops attacking the Soviet Union and entering Central Asia. Russians were goaded with the taunt "Just wait till the Chinese get here, they'll show you what's what!" by Central Asians when they had altercations. The Chinese authorities viewed the Han migrants in Xinjiang as vital to defending the area against the Soviet Union. China opened up camps to train the Afghan Mujahideen near Kashgar and Khotan and supplied them with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of small arms, rockets, mines, and anti-tank weapons.
Since the Chinese economic reform from the late 1970s has exacerbated uneven regional development, more Uyghurs have migrated to Xinjiang cities and some Hans have also migrated to Xinjiang for independent economic advancement. Increased ethnic contact and labor competition coincided with Uyghur separatist terrorism from the 1990s, such as the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings.
In the 1980s, 90% of Xinjiang Han lived in north Xinjiang (Jiangbei, historical Dzungaria). In the mid-1990s, Uyghurs consisted of 90% of south Xinjiang (Nanjiang, historical Tarim)'s population. In 1980, the liberal reformist Hu Yaobang announced the expulsion of ethnic Han cadres in Xinjiang to eastern China. Hu was purged in 1987 for a series of demonstrations that he is said to have provoked in other areas of China. The prominent Xinjiang and national official Wang Zhen criticized Hu for destroying Xinjiang Han cadres' "sense of security", and for exacerbating ethnic tensions.
In the 1990s, there was a net inflow of Han people to Xinjiang, many of whom were previously prevented from moving because of the declining number of social services tied to hukou (residency permits). In 1996, 13.6% of Xinjiang's population was employed by the publicly traded Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Bingtuan) corporation. 90% of the Bingtuan's activities relate to agriculture, and 88% of Bingtuan employees are Han, although the percentage of Hans with ties to the Bingtuan has decreased. Han emigration from Xinjiang has also resulted in an increase of minority-identified agricultural workers as a total percentage of Xinjiang's farmers, from 69.4% in 1982 to 76.7% in 1990. During the 1990s, about 1.2 million temporary migrants entered Xinjiang every year to stay for the cotton picking season. Many Uyghur trading communities exist outside of Xinjiang; the largest in Beijing is one village of a few thousand.
A chain of aggressive and belligerent press releases in the 1990s making false claims about violent insurrections in Xinjiang, and exaggerating both the number of Chinese migrants and the total number of Uyghurs in Xinjiang were made by the former Soviet supported URFET leader Yusupbek Mukhlisi.
In 2000, Uyghurs "comprised 45 per cent of Xinjiang's population, but only 12.8 per cent of Urumqi's population." Despite having 9% of Xinjiang's population, Urumqi accounts for 25% of the region's GDP, and many rural Uyghurs have been migrating to that city to seek work in the dominant light, heavy, and petrochemical industries. Hans in Xinjiang are demographically older, better-educated, and work in higher-paying professions than their Uyghur cohabitants. Hans are more likely to cite business reasons for moving to Urumqi, while some Uyghurs also cite trouble with the law back home and family reasons for their moving to Urumqi. Hans and Uyghurs are equally represented in Urumqi's floating population that works mostly in commerce. Self-segregation within the city is widespread, in terms of residential concentration, employment relationships, and a social norm of endogamy. In 2010, Uyghurs constituted a majority in the Tarim Basin, and a mere plurality in Xinjiang as a whole.
During the Great Chinese Famine (1958–1961), Xinjiang experienced a great emigration of residents both to the Soviet Union and to East China. After a number of student demonstrations in the 1980s, the Baren Township riot of April 1990 led to more than 20 deaths. 1997 saw the Ghulja Incident and Urumqi bus bombs, while police continue to battle with religious separatists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
Han Youwen, a Salar general, once served as vice chairman of Xinjiang.
In recent years, Xinjiang has been a focal point of ethnic and other tensions.
Recent incidents include the 2007 Xinjiang raid, a thwarted 2008 suicide bombing attempt on a China Southern Airlines flight, and the 2008 Xinjiang attack which resulted in the deaths of sixteen police officers four days before the Beijing Olympics. Further incidents include the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, the September 2009 Xinjiang unrest, and the 2010 Aksu bombing that led to the trials of 376 people. In 2013 and 2014 a series of attacks on railway stations and a market, which claimed the lives of 70 people, and wounded hundreds more, resulted in a 12-month government clampdown. Two mass sentencing trials involving 94 people convicted of terrorism charges, resulted in three receiving death sentences, and the others lengthy jail terms.
From 1949 to 2001, education has expanded greatly in the region, with 6,221 primary schools up from 1,335; 1,929 middle schools up from 9, and institutions of higher learning at 21, up from 1. The illiteracy rate for young and middle-age people has decreased to less than 2%. Agricultural science has made inroads into the region, as well as innovative methods of road construction in the desert.
Culturally, Xinjiang maintains 81 public libraries and 23 museums, compared to none of each in 1949, and Xinjiang has 98 newspapers in 44 languages, up from 4 newspapers in 1952. According to official statistics, the ratios of doctors, medical workers, medical clinics, and hospital beds to people surpass the national average, and immunization rates have reached 85%.