The extraordinary growth rates of China’s “reform socialist” economy have helped to finance not only the United States’ debt but also large-scale transfers to the country’s underdeveloped regions. Yet violence in Tibet in 2008 was followed in July 2009 by major rioting in Xinjiang. This article approaches the latter events through the analysis of contemporary labor markets, socialist policies toward ethnic minorities, and the history of Xinjiang’s incorporation into the Manchu empire. Theoretical inspiration for this longue durée analysis is drawn from Adam Smith, via Giovanni Arrighi’s recent reassessment of the Smithian market model; anthropological work points to flaws in this vision.
Ethnicity, political economy, and violence in Xinjiang, 1759–2009
The Kazakhs, Turkmens, Tajiks, Uyghurs and Uzbeks in Central Asia share some distinct religious elite groups – Xojas – some lineages of which appear in two or more of them. The Xoja group is a patrilineage, which traces kinship through blood relationships. Endogamous marriages prevail among the Uzbekspeaking Xoja contrary to descendants of nomadic, Kazakh-speaking Xojas. In this article I compare the kinship systems of the Uzbek-speaking Xoja of the Uzbek people and the Kazakh-speaking Xoja of the Kazakh people and analyse their transformation in the twentieth century. The analysis shows that interpretation of differences in kinship terminology is situational: in some cases it is interpreted as an example of adaptation to different cultures, and in other instances it may serve as a symbol of belonging.