The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), established in 1954, assumes the duties of cultivating and guarding the frontier areas entrusted to it by the state. It is a special social organization, which handles its own administrative and judicial affairs within the reclamation areas under its administration, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and with economic planning directly supervised by the state. It is subordinated to the dual leadership of the central government and the People’s Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Also known as the China Xinjian Group, the XPCC has 14 divisions (reclamation areas), 174 regimental agricultural and stockbreeding farms, 4,391 industrial, construction, transport and commercial enterprises, and well-run social undertakings covering scientific research, education, culture, health, sports, finance and insurance, as well as judiciary organs. The total population of the XPCC is 2,453,600, including 933,000 workers.
The XPCC was established against a special historical background. In 1949, Xinjiang was peacefully liberated. To consolidate border defense, accelerate Xinjiang’s development, and reduce the economic burden on local governments and the local people of all ethnic groups, the People’s Liberation Army units stationed in Xinjiang focused their efforts on production and construction, starting large-scale production and construction projects. By 1954, after making arduous pioneering and enterprising efforts, 34 farms and eight pastures had been constructed, with a total cultivated area of 77,200 ha. The farming and stockbreeding products gathered not only provided for the logistic needs of the troops stationed in Xinjiang, but the PLA units had also set up a number of modern industrial, mining and commercial enterprises, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.
In October 1954, the Central People’s Government ordered most of the PLA units in Xinjiang to be transferred to local civilian work by the unit, and be separated from the setups of national defense forces to form a production and construction corps, whose missions were to carry out both production and militia duties, and cultivate and guard border areas. Starting from May 1956, the XPCC was subordinated to the dual leadership of the Ministry of State Farms and Land Reclamation and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
China has a centuries-old tradition of developing and protecting its border areas by stationing troops to cultivate and guard the frontier areas. According to historical records, all the dynasties in Chinese history adopted the practice of stationing troops to cultivate and guard frontier areas as an important state policy for developing border areas and consolidating frontier defense. The beginning of this practice by the central authorities on a massive scale in Xinjiang can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty, to be subsequently carried on from generation to generation. This policy had played an important historical role in uniting the nation, consolidating frontier defense and promoting social and economic development in Xinjiang. The decision of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China in 1954 to establish the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps represented a continuation and development of this historical experience in the new historical conditions.
The XPCC grew in strength through arduous pioneering efforts. Since its founding, the XPCC has taken it upon itself to reclaim land, guard the border areas and work for the well-being of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. It has followed the line of combining the efforts of workers, farmers, merchants, students and soldiers; overall development of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline production and fisheries; and comprehensive operation of industry, communications, commerce, construction and services.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, following the principle of “not competing for benefits with the local people,” the XPCC built water conservancy works and reclaimed wasteland along the edges of the Taklimakan and Gurbantünggüt deserts to the north and south of the Tianshan Mountains, respectively, and along the borders where the natural environment was adverse. Now they have built up ecologically sound economic networks of oases, with contiguous fields, crisscrossing canals, ubiquitous forest belts and radiating roads. Starting by processing agricultural and sideline products, the XPCC developed modern industry and gradually formed a multi-sector industrial system with light and textile industries as the main part and supplemented by iron and steel, coal, building materials, electricity, chemicals and machinery industries. With these projects in full swing, the XPCC saw its education, science and technology, culture and other undertakings follow suit. By the end of 1966, all the XPCC’s undertakings had developed to a rather high level.
The XPCC was dissolved in 1975, but in December 1981 the central government decided to revive it. Then the XPCC started its pioneering work once again, entering a new era of construction and development. By 2001, the XPCC had built a maze of irrigation works, sandbreaks and forest belts, rigged up a green barrier totaling several thousand km in length, created new oases with a total area of 1.064 million ha, brought into existence a number of new towns such as Shihezi and Wujiaqu, and reaped a GDP that accounted for 13.2% of the autonomous region’s total.
The XPCC has played an important role in maintaining the development of Xinjiang. In the past several decades, while paying taxes to local governments as required by the law, the XPCC’s regimental agricultural and stockbreeding farms and industrial, transportation, construction and commercial enterprises have adhered to their aim of serving the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and actively aided the construction of local areas. Each year, they send batches of technicians to adjacent counties, townships and villages to give training courses in growing crops and operating and repairing farm machinery, and to spread advanced technologies. Since 1964, they have pooled funds each year to aid the local areas in planning and construction, and offered medical aid to people of all ethnic groups, as well as help in many other aspects. To support industrial development in Xinjiang, the XPCC has transferred gratis a batch of large, well-developed industrial, transportation, construction and commercial enterprises to the local areas, making great contributions to the modernization efforts of Xinjiang.
As an important force for stability in Xinjiang and for consolidating frontier defense, the XPCC adheres to the principle of attaching equal importance to production and militia duties. It has set up in frontier areas a “four-in-one” system of joint defense that links the PLA, the Armed Police, the XPCC and the ordinary people, playing an irreplaceable special role in the past five decades in smashing and resisting internal and external separatists’ attempts at sabotage and infiltration, and in maintaining the stability and safety of the borders of the motherland.
During the process of cultivating and guarding the border areas, the XPCC has established a close relationship with local governments. The XPCC conscientiously accepts the leadership of the People’s Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, abides by the laws and regulations of the government, respects the customs and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities, strives to do practical things in the interest of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and endeavors to develop a blending type of economy. In this way, the XPCC has forged flesh-and-blood ties with people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and attained the aim of joint frontier defense, sharing of resources, mutual complementarity and common prosperity.
The development of the XPCC in turn has continuously received aid and support from governments at all levels in the autonomous region, and from people of all ethnic groups. In its initial period of land reclamation, people of all ethnic groups provided the XPCC with guides, production tools and other forms of aid, while local governments allocated large plots of state-owned wasteland and pastureland, mines and natural forests, which laid the foundation for the development of the XPCC. Many of the policies formulated by the autonomous regional people’s government since the reform and opening-up have been expressly suitable for the XPCC and have thus gone a long way toward promoting the harmonious development between the XPCC and local economies.
During its long years of development, the XPCC has become a mosaic of people from 37 ethnic groups, including the Han, Uygur, Kazak, Hui and Mongolian. In the reclamation areas live Muslims, Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics. The population of Muslims is over 250,000. Carrying out the central government’s policies toward ethnic groups and religions in an all-round way, the XPCC handles religious affairs in accordance with the law, and has become a large, united, multi-ethnic family.
The development of the XPCC in the past five decades has played a very important role in accelerating the economic development of Xinjiang, promoting unity among ethnic groups, maintaining social stability, consolidating border defense, and shoring up the unification of the motherland.