Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters

China’s top cotton producer, a quasi-military body formed 60 years ago to settle the far west Xinjiang area, is resisting a government policy that could force it to cut output in an industry employing hundreds of thousands in the restive region.

Farmers stack cotton at a cotton purchase station in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in this November 3, 2010 file picture. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Beijing has pledged to end a costly stockpiling program that has artificially inflated cotton prices and in Xinjiang helped underpin an influx of Han Chinese workers, creating friction in an area home to the Muslim Uighur people.

Reluctant to accept the current weak market price, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) has asked the government to buy part of its crop and store it in state reserves, said two trade sources with knowledge of the issue.

XPCC, also known as the army corps, or ‘bingtuan’, has become a sort of state within a state and gained a dominant role in industries such as cotton, where it employs about 200,000 mainly Han Chinese on some of Xinjiang’s best land.

“Cotton is intimately associated with land usage, ownership, employment and Han in-migration. It’s all tied up,” said Tom Cliff, a scholar at the Australian National University.

Beijing has promised subsidies to help cushion the impact of ending stockpiling, but the total amount is unclear and with the local cotton price plunging any threat to the industry could be a fresh source of competition for jobs.

via Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters.

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