‘Old Bottle, New Wine’? Xinjiang Bingtuan and China’s Ethnic Frontier Governance

Yuchao Zhu and Dongyan Blachford, “‘Old Bottle, New Wine?’ Xinjiang Bingtuan and China’s Ethnic Frontier Governance,” Journal of Contemporary China, 16 September 2015.


Zhu and Blachford maintain that Xinjiang must be understood in terms of frontier governance, and that Bingtuan, a state-run economic and paramilitary organization, will continue to shape the state’s approach to the region’s development, stability, and ethnic relations.


Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Xinjiang Shengchan Jianshe Bingtuan—shortened form Bingtuan) is a distinctive military agricultural settlement and production institution in China’s western region, Xinjiang.It is also a modern form of China’s traditional ethnic frontier governing mechanism. This article discusses Bingtuan’s historical precedents, modern development and innovative change for Xinjiang governance. In an examination of Bingtuan’s main functions for China’s ethnic frontier governance, this article argues that in addition to economic sustainability and territorial security, Bingtuan played an important but multifaceted role in ethnic relations in Xinjiang, such as territorial fragmentation, ethnic separation and redefinition of regional identity; therefore Bingtuan not only makes its administrated area China’s ‘frontier of settlement’ but also acts as a key state agency for whatever future Xinjiang might have.

Keywords: Bingtuan, Frontier Governance, Ethnicity