China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In plan and in practice, state-led urbanization in twenty-first century Urumqi overwhelmingly favors the Han-majority northern regions of this highly segregated city. In fact, after 2009, the guiding spatial development principle of “Control the South, Expand the North” appears to be an exemplar of ethnocracy: a strategy by the local government to accord public goods almost exclusively to the ethnic group that holds political power. However, a careful analysis of the city’s changing master plans in the context of related documentary evidence reveals a different operation of power at the core of Urumqi’s urban expansion. This paper makes use of ministry publications, political speeches, and government work reports to contextualize the bureaucratic politics at play in the drafting of Urumqi’s 2000 and 2010 master plans. Together, these sources reveal a distinct power grab by the local offices of the ministries tasked with development. The effect of the 2009 riots on the city was a simultaneous revanchism of centralized state power vis-à-vis both Uyghur society and the city itself.