Memory, Gender and Reconciliation

“Memory, Gender and Reconciliation: Rural and Urban Women in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-Present”

Hilton Union Square, Union Square 19&20

Chair: Dewen Zhang, Randolph-Macon College


Memory, Trauma, and Reconciliation: A Peasant Woman’s Journeys from Mao to Now

Qiong Zhang, Wake Forest University

From Mao’s Campaigns to Deng’s Reforms: Memory, Education, and Gender

Aihua Zhang, Gardner–Webb University

Visibilities and Invisibilities of Women’s Work and Bodies in Socialist China

Qin Fang, McDaniel College

“From an Internal Immigrant to a Local Leader of Women”: An Odyssey of Chen Yingmei during China’s Dramatical Transition

Patrick Fuliang Shan, Grand Valley State University

Comment: Dewen Zhang, Randolph-Macon College

Panel Abstract

Treating the history of the People’s Republic of China before and after Mao as a collective whole, this panel traces ordinary women’s lives which span those decades of dramatic transformations in the spheres of national politics, economy, society and gender. Using both rural and urban women’s life experiences as windows to look at the unfolding of national history, this panel is concerned with the intersectionality between macrohistory and microhistory. It also raises new questions on the periodization of the People’s Republic of China by treating the Mao and post-Mao era as a continuous background in these ordinary women’s lives.

This panel also attempts to address the issue of possibilities and constraints faced by historians treating their mothers as subjects of research. These papers experiment with oral history methods and interrogate the relationship between gender and memory. Together, the panel explores questions such as gender-specific memory that informs Chinese women’s common and unique experiences in the history of the PRC. In the meantime, these papers inquire into the roles of emotion and intimacy in historian’s intellectual labor. 

Paper Abstracts

Qiong Zhang, “Memory, Trauma, and Reconciliation: A Peasant Woman’s Journey from Mao to Now”

At 77, Yingzhen lives with her husband in a newly developed neighborhood of XX town, the seat of a rural district (formerly a county) within Guilin Municipality in Guangxi Autonomous Region.  Like many of her neighbors here, she is a rural migrant; her official residence belongs to a farm village that lies in a remote corner of the district hours of bus ride away.  She left the village to join her husband in the mid-1990s, after their three children all graduated from college and settled in the cities. Until then, they had lived apart most of the time, as her husband worked for a county office as a temporary worker and was stationed in a different rural town of the county every several months, while Yingzhen carried on farm work at home and raised their children.  Yingzhen looks on her life today with a modest sense of contentment and triumph. Yet deep in her heart there is a wound that remains to be healed.

Born to a pair of diligent and enterprising parents who would soon be classified as “landlords”, this “daughter of the Republic” experienced Mao’s political campaigns as a victim.  She lost her parents and two elder brothers during those campaigns, and her “bad” family origin subjected her to constant abuse within the village and her extended family, which compromised her authority over her own children. The transition to the Reform Era meant true liberation, but the memories from the past continue to haunt her. This paper presents Yingzheng’s recollections of farm labor and village life under Mao and her continuing struggle to reconcile with that history, while also exploring the challenges and limitations of doing oral history with an illiterate subject.

Aihua Zhang, “From Mao’s Campaigns to Deng’s Reforms: Memory, Education, and Gender”

My mother was born to an urban clerk’s family. Upon graduating from a normal university in 1960, she started her teaching career and had stuck to it for more than thirty years until her retirement as school principal in 1993. She witnessed and experienced China’s momentous events in the latter half of the twentieth century. This paper records her memory of how the mass campaigns Chairman Mao launched affected her life, marriage, and work, and how Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms brought her new opportunities and challenges. As a female teacher, education and gender played a crucial role in her life. She benefited from her education backgrounds, which ironically led to her maltreatment during the Cultural Revolution and put her in a tension with those colleagues who received their degree as Work-Peasant-Solider graduates. Her gender contributed to her promotion to the school’s leadership, a position that sometimes required her to go beyond her administrative duties to intervene in teachers’ personal lives. In contrast, she was affected by the traditional gender bias. As a result, she had to juggle the responsibilities as a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, teacher, and leader. Her personal life’s ups and downs were closely linked with China’s shifts and turns, reflecting the interlocking relationships among state, career, family, and gender on a micro level.      

Qin Fang, “Visibilities and Invisibilities of Women’s Work and Body in Socialist China” 

In the 1950s, women in both rural and urban areas of China were motivated to break away from the obstacles of traditional society and help build a new China. Li Kexiang (1947- ) was one such woman who dedicated her youth to the country and the factory. Kexiang graduated from middle school in 1963 and was immediately recruited to work in a textile factory. She was proud of her working-class identity and was selected to be trained as a statistician. Later, she became the only female electrician in the factory. Kexiang’s gender views aligned with the ideals promoted by new China, as she often mentioned that “men and women were equal” and “both women and men could excel in science.” Additionally, she was proud to be a mother of two daughters. 

However, Kexiang also expressed discomfort in her factory work, including tensions with colleagues, difficulty with three or four shift schedules, and insomnia problems. She also struggled to have her daughters included in the state’s medical welfare. Kexiang’s memories were often conflicted, revealing both the possibilities and limitations of socialist China’s gender equality ideals and the complex intersection of gender, class, work, and family.  

The memories of Kexiang provide valuable insight into the experiences of ordinary women in new China and how they navigated the challenges and opportunities of this era. By examining Kexiang’s memories and narratives about her workplaces, marriage, housing, and child upbringing, this paper explores the ways in which the history of new China and the memories of Kexiang were interconnected and have shaped our interpretation of socialist China. The paper aims to investigate the extent to which Kexiang’s memories can inform us about her understanding of new China and the ways she dealt with the various challenges she faced in her life and work. Furthermore, the paper explores the ways in which the visual and invisible aspects of women’s bodies and work are embedded in their daily lives. 

Patrick Fuliang Shan, “‘From an Internal Immigrant to a Local Leader of Women’: an Odyssey of Chen Yingmei during China’s Dramatical Transition”

Chen Yingmei was born in 1937 when the Japanese invaded China. When she was young, she witnessed China’s dramatical changes, including Japan’s invasion, China’s civil war, and the communist takeover of the country. Because her family engaged in local business, she was able to gain her education from primary school. Then, the Great Leap Forward forced her family out from the original prosperous commercial town to a remote rural area, because her town along with the entire region would be removed in order to build a huge man-made lake. It was a project of the Great Leap Forward. Thus, she became an internal immigrant and had to settle down in a faraway location. Needless to say, the relocation ruined her prosperous family life. After that, fortunately, she landed a job at the local Supply and Marketing Cooperative (gongxiaoshe) where she worked for decades. In the early 1980s, she became the chairperson of the local township women’s association. She had tried hard to protect local women for decades, for which she got many awards including the one from the provincial government in Henan as a model leader for women. This paper is intended to trace her life which paralleled the history of the People’s Republic of China from the 1950s to the new century.

Commerce, Culture, and Race

“Commerce, Culture, and Race: the U.S.-China Subnational Relations, 1842-2021”

Hilton Union Square, Union Square 19&20

Chair: Mao Lin, Georgia Southern University


The China–US Tea Trade after the Opium War, 1842–1911

Dan Du, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

For God, Gold, and Glory: Iowans in China

Tao Wang, Iowa State University

Massacre, Reciprocity, and Indemnity: Sino-American Negotiations over the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre in Wyoming

Yuanchong Wang, University of Delaware

US–China Relations and Racism against Asians

Guolin Yi, Providence College

Comment: Mao Lin, Georgia Southern University

Panel Abstract

While the U.S.-China relations have become so essential, and controversial, to our own times, this panel examines the two nations’ collaborations and confrontations in transnational commerce, missionary activities, diplomatic negotiations, and media coverage from the mid-nineteenth century to present day, thus enhancing historical understanding of their rocky yet interdependent relations. After all, history rarely repeats itself, but it often rhymes.

Dan Du and Tao Wang examine the close connections between the two nations. Du illustrates their interlinking development through the lens of the China-U.S. tea trade after the Opium War. The United States was the second largest importer of Chinese tea. Americans’ peculiar taste for green and Oolong tea, China’s treaty system, and the U.S. adoption of the Gold Standard intertwined, determining the vicissitudes of China’s global tea trade. Wang illuminates the often-neglected engagement between Iowa, the rural midwestern U.S. state, and China through the experiences of an Iowan missionary, an ambassador, and an engineer, thus presenting the three foci of the early U.S. policy toward China—missionary idealism, diplomatic pragmatism, and commercial interests.

Yuanchong Wang and Guolin Yi investigate the clashes between Americans and Chinese in the United States. Highlighting the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre in another U.S. western state, Wyoming, Wang reconstructs the anti-Chinese riot to elaborate how Zheng Zaoru, Chinese Minister to the United States, and Thomas Bayard, U.S. Secretary of State, employed the international law and indemnity policies to orchestrate their diplomatic negotiations. Focusing on the anti-Asian sentiment in more recent history, Yi revisits the anti-Asian hatred by showing how American media’s coverage of the Sino-American relations affected public perceptions of Asians and contributed to their hostilities toward Asians during three key historical moments: Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Trade War under the Trump administration. 

Paper Abstracts

Dan Du, “The China-U.S. Tea Trade after the Opium War, 1842-1911”

Through the lens of the tea trade, this research reveals the interlinking but divergent paths of development between China and the United States in the nineteenth century. Previous research usually emphasizes the British dominance in the tea trade with China, whereas this paper highlights the significance of the China-U.S. tea trade in the second half of the nineteenth century. The United States had been the second largest importer of tea from China since the late eighteenth century, second only to Great Britain. After the abolition of the Canton Trade System and more “Treaty Ports” were open to foreign merchants after the Opium War, Americans’ distinctive taste for tea intertwined with the Treaty Ports System to reshape the landscape of China’s tea trade beyond Canton. While British traders controlled the black tea trade, Americans were the most important buyer of Chinese green and Oolong tea in the newly opened ports throughout the nineteenth century. The decline of the tea trade with America thus posed a heavy blow to the Chinese economy, which had suffered heavily from the weakened tea business with Britain. Moreover, the U.S. adoption of the Gold Standard during the Long Depression of 1873-1898 reduced the profitability and accelerated the decline of China’s global tea trade. American tea merchants diverted their capital away from China and invested in domestic industries, whereas Chinese merchants struggled with heavy taxes and fierce competition from Japan and British colonies.

Tao Wang, “For God, Gold, and Glory: Iowans in China”

This presentation examines the early connections between Iowa and China. It studies the experiences of three groups of Iowans who lived in China from the late nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. Eva and Fredrick Price, a missionary couple from Des Moines, worked in Shanxi from 1889 through their deaths in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Edwin Conger (and his wife Sarah Conger), also from Des Moines, was the United States minister to China from 1898 to 1905. Herbert Hoover, born in West Branch, Iowa, worked as a mine engineer and manager in Tianjin from 1899 to 1902. These individuals represented three aspects of early US policy toward China: missionary idealism, diplomatic pragmatism, and commercial interests.

Using primary sources, such as journals and letters by Eva Price and Sarah Conger, diplomatic documents from the Department of State and the Hoover Presidential Library, as well as secondary works, this study tries to accomplish a two-fold goal: it reveals the long, yet neglected, history of the engagement between the rural midwestern state with the remote, populous country on the other side of the Earth; and it demonstrates the themes of early US-China encounters in an era of Western “scramble for China” and American expansion into Asia.

Yuanchong Wang, “Massacre, Reciprocity, and Indemnity: Sino-American Negotiations over the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre in Wyoming”

On September 2, 1885, twenty-eight Chinese laborers of the Pacific Union Railway working in Rock Springs in Wyoming Territory were attacked and killed by white laborers who further burned and looted Chinatown. While the governor of Wyoming and the US Army rushed to Rock Springs to maintain the order, the Chinese minister to the US Zheng Zaoru instructed the Chinese consul at San Francisco, F. A. Bee, and the consul at New York, Huang Xiquan, to co-investigate the massacre in Rock Springs. Soon Zheng intensively negotiated the case with Secretary of State Thomas Bayard for prosecuting the white rioters and paying the victims indemnity. Bayard’s two predecessors’ no-indemnity policy toward the 1880 anti-Chinese riot in Denver forced Zheng to use the reciprocity principle of international law that was included in Sino-American treaties of 1844, 1858, 1868, and 1880 to indicate that China would not pay American victims any indemnity in similar cases if justice was not brought to the victims of Rock Springs. Zheng’s strategy and the pressure of American domestic public opinion forced Bayard to pay the indemnity in 1886, which made the Rock Springs Massacre the only case in the nineteenth century in which the Chinese victims of hate crime received indemnity from the US government. No rioters, however, were prosecuted in the era when the Chinese Exclusion Act was effective and anti-Chinese resentment was prevalent. This paper examines the diplomatic negotiations between Zheng and Bayard with the aim of revealing the multi-layered nature of the reconstruction of the massacre respectively on the Chinese and American sides.

Guolin Yi, “US-China Relations and Racism Against Asians”

This paper studies how the American media’s coverage of Sino-American relations has contributed to the anti-Asian sentiment in the United States during the key events of Sino-American relations: Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Trade War under the Trump administration. While other scholars study anti-Asian hatred from the perspectives of race and immigration, I look at it from the perspective of Sino-American relations. I look at how the US policy toward China and the media’s coverage, which can be a subjective process, have affected the public perception of Asians. Specifically, I examine four major components: US policy toward China seen through the rhetoric of American officials; Chinese policy toward the U.S.; US media’s coverage of Washington’s policy; and Rhetoric of the Chinese media. By looking at the media perception between China and the United States at different periods, this paper tries to map out the evolution of anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. from the perspective of foreign relations.

Debating “Globalization” and “Deglobalization”

Roundtable Session: Debating “Globalization” and “Deglobalization”

Hilton Union Square, Golden Gate 6


Jingyi Song, State University of New York, College at Old Westbury


Qiang Fang, University of Minnesota Duluth

Patrick Fuliang Shan, Grand Valley State University

Jingyi Song, State University of New York, College at Old Westbury

Yi Ren, Harvard University Fairbank Center

Roundtable Description

International trade across the continents started before the common era when silk and spices became early commodities. Human migration across national borders sped up cultural exchanges. The interdependency of the world has grown with increasing technological advancements, economic integration, and cultural interactions, signifying several waves of globalization. Meanwhile, particularly in recent years, forces of nationalism and security concerns have led to disengagement and conflicts in some parts of the world. “Globalization,” a trendy word with a great deal of economic potency and cross-cultural currency, has been challenged amidst rising nationalisms, a worldwide pandemic and a reconfiguration of the geopolitical landscape. Indeed, “de-globalization” has recently entered the popular lexicon. Now, more than ever, seems to a time that begs the answer to an urgent question as to what defines and constitutes globalization. “Brexit” and the looming unravelling of “Chimerica” notwithstanding, the process of integration seems to be accelerating in other parts of the world. Does the new phenomenon validate the old Chinese saying that “those long divided shall be united and those long united will be divided – such is the way of the universe,” and does it challenge a Western-centered view of globalization in the first place? Or does it symptomize a new round of ideological confrontations and economic conflicts in a troubled world? Scholars at this roundtable make concerted efforts at dissecting the meaning and significance of globalization/deglobalization by examining historical patterns and parallels in the hope of making sense of the global transformations.

Roundtable Participants’ Points of Intervention

Patrick Fuliang Shan, “Globalization and the Dissemination of ‘Democracy” in Modern China”

Democracy was not Chinese but imported to China around 1900. Nevertheless, “democracy” has been attractive to the Chinese who interpreted, practiced, and adapted it in their landscape. Sun Yat-sen fought for the American style democracy. After the 1911 Revolution, a nation-wide election resulted in the organization of an American style Congress (though shortly). After that, the Chinese seldom stop pursuing “democracy.” Political figures, including Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, and others, all claimed that their government was a “democracy.” This paper explores the impact of globalization upon China by a particular focus on the Chinese absorption of “democracy” and their political maneuvers for “democracy.” 

Qiang Fang, “The Paradox of Globalization”   

In the past several years, the often acclaimed and expected “globalization” has suffered major setbacks as the United States and its European and Asian allies have tried to decouple their trade and technology from China. One notable example is the US block of selling cutting-age chips to China to delay for the least and to stop for the best China’s swift development of its advanced weaponry and navy that have already outstripped the speed of the West. The Western move has triggered fear of a deglobalization. In hindsight, however, from Britain’s ban on exporting its steam engine technology in the early 19th century to Western states’ elevation of their tariff in the wake of the Great Depression and the mostly separated trade and technological exchange between the two blocs in the Cold War, we can clearly find that the so-called “globalization” has never fully existed. My preliminary argument is that the current “deglobalization” could best be understood as an “exclusive or selective globalization” that may plunge the world into two or more regional or small-sized “globalized” camps with similar social and political systems.

Jingyi Song, “Regional instability and the perpetuity of the Military-Industrial Complex” 

In the midst of an ongoing debate about globalization vs. deglobalization, regional conflicts and wars have thrown the world into a state of disarray with intensifying military buildup and a looming arms race.  While the Russo-Ukraine crisis is raging on and the Taiwan Strait is becoming a renewed hot spot of geopolitical and potentially military conflicts between the U.S. and China, the American Military-Industrial Complex has profited handsomely from the demands for a variety of war-related products.  Warned of the dangers of its “unwarranted influence” by President Eisenhower in the early 1960s, such an infrastructure, intangible as it may be, has morphed into a colossal enterprise six decades later.  Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have, historically and contemporarily, made hefty profits during times of heightened demands for weapons and military technologies.  This discussion focuses on the role of the American Military-Industrial Complex in wielding powerful influences in the political sphere, which have in turn helped to shape the making of American foreign policy and led to massive increases of military spending and, consequently, extensive US involvement in military conflicts overseas.  According to a Forbes article, one third of the world’s military sales in 2022 came from the top five American manufactures, amounting to $192 billion.  Arguably, this enormous Complex has contributed to the erosion of globalization with its role in intensifying regional conflicts.

Yi Ren: “Chinese Propaganda Amid Globalization and Deglobalization”

In today’s era of intertwined globalization and deglobalization, understanding the complexities of information dissemination is crucial. Propaganda, a potent instrument for shaping public opinion, provides a unique lens to examine these global dynamics. While modern propaganda is rooted in Western wartime experiences, its manifestations in other settings, such as China, merit investigation. I will first investigate the historical trajectories of propaganda in both Western and Chinese contexts, demonstrating that Chinese propaganda was neither iconoclastic nor xenophobic. Instead, its conception and implementation in China were shaped by continuous and intricate intercultural exchanges and adaptations. This research further highlights that globalization and deglobalization are interconnected, synchronous processes affecting communication tools and public opinion, which deepens our comprehension of the multifaceted nature of global dynamics.

Negotiations, Compromise, and Social Stability

“Negotiations, Compromise, and Social Stability: A Historical Reappraisal of Xi Jinping’s First Ten Years (2012-2022)”

Hilton Union Square, Union Square 19&20

Chair: Zhaojin Zeng, Texas A&M University-San Antonio


Sino-US Relations Under Xi Jinping

Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma

China’s U-Turn to Personalistic Rule: Xi Jinping’s Centralization of Power

Xiaojia Hou, San Jose State University

Towards a More Joint Strategy: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms and Militia Reconstruction

Lei Duan, Sam Houston State University

Understanding the “Rule of Law” in Xi’s China

Qiang Fang, University of Minnesota Duluth

Comment: Guo Wu, Allegheny College

Panel Abstract

Xi Jinping has been China’s top leader for over a decade and has commenced his third five-year term since March 2023. His ten-year presidency (2012-2022) has enormously impacted China as well as the world. Henceforth, it is necessary for historians to reflect over his first ten years and to offer in-depth analysis of his social, political, and diplomatic policies along with their impact on China and the global community.  The four papers in this panel are intended to offer an analysis of Xi Jinping’s presidency by focusing on U.S.-China relations, interpreting Xi’s centralization of power, evaluating his reforms of China’s armed forces with his moves for military reconstruction, and assessing his reforms in the legal realm. The diverse topics in this panel will enable us to obtain a clear panorama of Xi Jinping’s decade-long governance over one of the largest countries in the world.  

Paper Abstracts

Xiaobing Li, “Sino-U.S. Relations under Xi Jinping”

Xi Jinping seems to be facing the similar challenges as Mao did in 1950, while he has to maintain the legitimacy of the CCP in the party-state, fight against Taiwan’s pro-independence movement, continue economic reforms, and improve the PLA’s capacity in modern warfare, including an effective nuclear deterrence like the one adopted by the former Soviet Union against US superior military power. Nevertheless, China may replay the game of “strategic triangulation” by establishing a new China-US-Europe triangle structure and bringing the US back to the game table to replay the “China card.” There is, however, a possibility of a tragic repetition in the development of a new cold war between the United States and China, if the latter continues its effort in creating “one world, two systems.” In China’s bi-polar world, one system is the current American-centered community and the other is a China-centered system. With no single enemy to unite against, and with the PRC emerging as a major economic power, the relationship between the U.S. and China arrives at a historical crossroad. Trump made a fundamental change in US policy toward China by terminating the “common ground” principle and removing the “China card.” Perceiving China as the major threat to the United States, Washington deems it necessary to fight back against China as its potential enemy whenever it could. After taking office, Biden has continued Trump’s hardline policy and describes China as the “strategic competitor” of the U.S..

Xiaojia Hou, “China’s U-turn to Personalistic Rule: Xi Jinping’s Centralization of Power”

Three generations of Chinese leadership after Mao Zedong had strived to establish collective leadership, decentralize authority, and balance the power between the party and state. But since Xi Jinping’s ascent as general secretary of the CCP in 2012, he has reversed the trend of de-centralization. My paper investigates how Xi Jinping perceives party-state relationships and examines the way he reconstructs the decision-making processes to reclaim more power from the state while elevating his own authority within the party. It in particular attempts to analyze these changes from a historical lens and explore Xi Jinping’s sources of legitimacy and of inspiration from the past. For example, what lessons did Xi learn from the fall of the Soviet Union? How did he employ Mao’s practices of purging and instigating mass movement for political maneuvers? How did he revive Mao’s rituals to control official narratives, and use national security to censor public opinion? These are the questions that this paper intends to address.

Lei Duan, “Towards a More Joint Strategy: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms and Militia Reconstruction”

Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China’s armed forces have undergone unprecedented reforms in their scale and scope of organizational and strategic changes. For the goal of modernizing and strengthening the Chinese military, Xi has adopted the most sweeping and radical reforms with a focus on efficiency, technological innovation, and joint operations. Seeing the formation of a powerful military as an integral part of the China Dream, Xi has shifted the national security strategy to a defensive-offensive one. China has also strengthened its militia organization and training works. In particular, China’s maritime militia has undergone significant building and modernization. Many sources suggest that China’s armed fishing militia has dual-use capabilities for both military and civilian purposes. As an official component of China’s armed forces, the maritime militia has been integrated closely with the regular navy and has played an increasing role in supporting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. This paper aims to take a fresh look at the Chinese military reform by focusing on the cooperation and coordination of the People’s Liberation Army and the militia force. It suggests that the government has integrated both regular military and paramilitary forces in pursuit of China’s ambition.

Qiang Fang, “Understanding the ‘Rule of Law’ in Xi’s China”

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in late 2012, many scholars around the world have studied his policies. Most of them have focused their research on Xi Jinping’s political, foreign, and economic policies; only a few of them have briefly examined his legal policies and practices. Zheng Yongnian, for example, went too far as to argue in 2016 that Xi aimed to establish the rule of law in China. His only evidence was Xi’s proclamation in early 2014 that law was the last hope for social justice and he wanted Chinese officials to comply with law. However, as evidenced in a cluster of eminent legal practices from 2014 to 2022, Xi and Chinese law enforcements had often flouted law in campaigns against corrupt officials, rights lawyers, and dissidents. More important, Chinese officials and police have often used extra-legal means such as forced and arbitrary detention, beating, and incarceration navigating minorities and contrarians in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. This study will be the first serious one to delve into Xi Jinping’s legal policies in prominent cases such as anti-corruption campaigns, harsh and arbitrary crackdowns of rights lawyers, and the kidnapping of several Hong Kong book sellers. I argue that the legal policies and practices of Xi Jinping’s “rule of law” with Chinese characteristics (zhongguo shi fazhi) should better be referred to as “Rule of My Law” as the CCP under Xi is selective in adopting ancient legalism, which in many aspects go farther and bolder than the law during earlier periods.

Xinjiang and Central Asia: China’s Strategic Shift

Friday, January 6, 2023: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Room 306

Jessica Ann Sheetz-Nguyen, University of Central Oklahoma

Central Asia—China’s Xinjiang: Reasonable Concerns and Development Interaction
Baktybek Beshimov, Northeastern University

Necessitated by Geopolitics: China’s Economic and Cultural Initiatives in Central Asia
Yi Sun, University of San Diego

Xinjiang—From Strategic Rear to Strategic Frontier
Xiao-Bing Li, University of Central Oklahoma

Will the New Local CCP Secretary Bring about Economic and Security Balance?
Xiaoxiao Li, University of Central Oklahoma

Comment: Harold Tanner, University of North Texas

Panel Description:

Beijing repositioned China by creating a new center of gravity in Central Asia, even though this policy faced new challenges and created new problems with the US. China’s policy shift changed Xinjiang’s status from the strategic rear to strategic joint in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Historians on this panel discuss the profoundness and complexity of the issues relating to the conflicts and violence in Xinjiang, as well as different government attempts to find solutions. Moreover, the panelists strike at the very core of the issues to present how people confront difficulties and break barriers such as racial and ethnic conflict and ideological differences to reach their goals of sustaining human dignity and rights while fighting for peaceful coexistence in the fast-growing and diverse world.  

Paper Abstracts

  •  “Central Asia – China’s Xinjiang: Reasonable Concerns and Development Interaction”, Baktybek Beshimov, Northeastern University

The author explains why China’s Xinjiang issue regarding Muslim ethnic minority groups becomes the concern of Central Asian societies, how reasonable and legitimate these concerns are, and what kind of economic opportunities the rapid development of Xinjiang offers to its neighboring states in post-Soviet Central Asia.

  •  “Necessitated by Geopolitics: China’s Economic and Cultural Initiatives in Central Asia”, Yi Sun, University of San Diego

on January 25, 2022, China and the five Central Asian countries– Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan — held a video summit, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China’s diplomatic relations with the five republics and affirming the multilateral intentions to continue their economic and security cooperation in an effort to create a “common community of destiny.” Largely overshadowed by other international news, this summit and the accompanying joint declaration nonetheless marked an important milestone in China’s relations with Central Asia. This paper is intended to take a close look at the development of this multifaceted relationship in the wake of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union during the early 1990s. Although political and diplomatic activities initially focused on resolving the border disputes and overcoming the uncertainties stemming from the new-found independence of these republics, China’s relations with Central Asia have increasingly reflected a desire to protect its border economic and security interests in that region. Even before the onset of the One Belt One Road (BRI) Initiative, a vast network of trade, transportation, and communication, including roads, railroads and oil and gas pipelines, had already linked China closely to Central Asia.  In recent years, the BRI, accompanied by over a dozen Confucius Institutes, has further deepened China’s economic and cultural influence in the area.  Arguably, beset by American-led geopolitical encirclement of China in the Indo-Pacific, Central Asia remains an oasis in China’s strategic achievements. 

  • Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma

When the Chinese Communist Party started its governance over Xinjiang in 1949, Xinjiang was the grand strategic rear and base of economic supply to the overall economic development for the whole country. Xinjiang has witnessed shifts of its political and economic positions from the first generation of leadership to the current Xi Jinping administration. To find a breakthrough and establish a system that enables China to further its economic development under the current turbulent economic and geopolitical environment and great changes not seen in a century, Xi Jinping proposed the Belt Road Initiative in 2013. Xinjiang, then, became China’s strategic frontier ever since. This presentation tries to answer questions such as “Is China’s BRI a response to the perceived US strategy to contain China?” and explores such questions by reviewing the brief history of Xinjiang’s geopolitical positions under different leaderships and its new role and strategic position in Xi Jinping’s BRI strategy and national security.

  • “Will the New Local CCP Secretary Bring About Economic and Security Balance?”, Xiaoxiao Li, University of Central Oklahoma

Ma Xingrui was appointed the Xinjiang CCP Secretary on December 26, 2021 to replace Chen Quanguo, who had come to Xinjiang on August 29, 2016 from his former position as the CCP Secretary of Tibet. At the start of Chen’s tenure in Xinjiang, in September 2016, his leadership announced the plan to hire 30,000 additional policing positions in an effort to increase surveillance capabilities in the region. Most of the new hires were associated with convenience police stations. Such tight control over the people halted economic development in the region that has become the main hub for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.  How has Ma Xingrui been coping with these challenges in Xinjiang? This presentation will briefly review the differences between Ma Xingrui and his predecessor Chen Quanguo and how Ma tries to balance economy and security.