Research in China, and Thoughts on Xinjiang’s Ties to Shanghai

I have been in China since July 14 to complete preliminary research on the connections between Xinjiang and greater China since 1949. Based mainly in Shanghai and with a brief stop in Beijing, I have visited or attempted to visit six Chinese archives. I have had complete success at two (the Shanghai Municipal Archives and the Jing’an District Archives), moderate success at two more (Zhabei District Archives and Huangpu District Archives), and was unable to access anything at the final two archives (Changning District Archive and the Foreign Ministry Archive).

In Shanghai I have found an extensive number of documents on efforts to link up the center and the periphery. In the 1950s, many ethnic minority delegations from Xinjiang visited Shanghai, while in the 1960s many Shanghai factories were moved in full to Xinjiang. As is well known, also in the 1960s thousands upon thousands of youth from China’s eastern urban hubs–Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and other cities–were relocated to Xinjiang. The reasons for the relocation seem to be more multifaceted and complex than I initially suspected. There was a strong demand for labor from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, while at the same time Shanghai was grappling with problems of urban population density and a shortage of jobs for educated youth. In addition to this convenient convergence of interests between Xinjiang and Shanghai, there was also an ideological component: for a city allegedly poisoned by capitalist tendencies, the CCP wanted to encourage Shanghai’s youth to value agricultural labor and to support the country’s socialist construction.

All in all, it has been a successful couple of weeks in China so far as I continue to discover new research and writing opportunities. If anything, however, I’ve learned that I simply need to spend more time in China! I could really use an entire year to do all of the research I want to complete…

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