ABSTRACT

During the 1990s the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership realised the seriousness of the conflict in Xinjiang and the likelihood that not only would it persist, but it was a serious threat to the stability and integrity of the Chinese state. The only measure that the CCP could envisage implementing for the conflict in Xinjiang was economic development and, by the end of the 1990s, the development of Xinjiang had been linked intimately with a strategic plan to open up the economy of the whole of western China – Great Western Development (Xibu da kaifa). The strategy of embarking on a coordinated plan for the long-term development of the entire western region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged in 1999. It was legitimised as the logical extrapolation of Deng Xiaoping’s analysis of the ‘two overall situations’ (liang ge daju) which envisaged the economic development of the coastal regions as the top priority, followed by the inland territories of China’s west, regions that are remote from the centre of power and are predominantly poor and backward. Jiang Zemin and his ‘third generation’ leadership, in particular the inheritor of Deng’s economic ideas, Zhu Rongji, turned this plan into a tangible and substantial strategy. After the 16th National Congress of the CCP in 2002, Hu Jintao and the ‘fourth generation’ attempted to refine and implement the policy.