Xinjiang Bingtuan's security role stressed in white paper

October 06, 2014 13:52
The Beijing government has switched to a more politically focused policy for Xinjiang Bingtuan from an economically focused one. Photo: People's Daily Online

Xinjiang Bingtuan has a role to play to help maintain stability and combat violence and terrorism in the northwestern autonomous region, China’s State Council said.

It is an important and long-term strategy for China to support the development of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Bingtuan) and let it perform its special duty of safeguarding security in the border areas, the Chinese cabinet said it a white paper issued over the weekend. The 7,800-word document is the first white paper on Bingtuan.

Wang Lixiong, a scholar known for analysis of Xinjiang problems, once cited a local ballad in his book to describe the organization: “It’s a ‘government’ with an obligation to pay tax; it’s an ‘enterprise’ that also shoulders public functions; it’s an ‘army’ but without military expenditure; and the farmers have to join the workers' union.”

The white paper repositioned Bingtuan’s functions to “maintain stability and garrison the border” from “open up wasteland and garrison the border”.

The two positions are not substantially different but the new one is a better response to the current situation in Xinjiang, Ma Dazheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying by China Newswire on Monday.

Unnamed analysts said the repositioning shows the government has switched to a more politically focused policy from an economically focused one to handle Xinjiang affairs.

Amid an increasingly serious terror situation, the white paper said Bingtuan has formed a militia to help build the border security defense mechanism with local troops, armed police and residents from all ethnic groups.

As at the end of 2013, Bingtuan has a population of 2.7 million, accounting for 11.9 percent of the total in Xinjiang, the white paper says. Its jurisdiction covers about 70,600 square kilometers.

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EJ Insight reporter