Database Entry: Chen Quanguo: The Strongman Behind Beijing’s Securitization Strategy in Tibet and Xinjiang
Surveillance Civilian Informants

Chen Quanguo: The Strongman Behind Beijing’s Securitization Strategy in Tibet and Xinjiang

September 21, 2017
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Between August 2016 and July 2017, Chen Quanguo pushed this multi-tiered policing system to its logical conclusion. Within the space of a single year, Xinjiang advertised 90,866 security-related positions—nearly twelve times the number advertised in 2009 following the Urumqi riots. The vast majority of these jobs (95 percent) were assistant police positions associated with the establishment of an estimated 7,500 convenience police stations across Xinjiang

…the XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region] might now have considerably more convenience police stations per capita than the TAR [Tibet Autonomous Region]: 323 versus the TAR’s 216 per 100,000 of the population. On the other hand, the TAR advertised 400 policing-related positions per 100,000 of its population during Chen Quanguo’s rule there, while Xinjiang advertised 394 such positions. Yet the security build-up in Xinjiang is continuing, and likely to surpass the level achieved in the TAR as early as September this year. That said, the sheer number of positions advertised in the XUAR during such a short period of time is apparently making it increasingly difficult to attract new applicants.

Chen Quanguo’s securitization strategy achieves two stability maintenance (维稳) goals at the same time: the construction of a dense network of police surveillance, and a range of new employment opportunities in a region where stable, well-remunerated jobs are still relatively scarce.

Even though Chen has not replicated the full employment promise in Xinjiang, security-related work is now the single most important source of new jobs. Growth in “urban non-private units,” a technical term that refers to stable, well-remunerated posts in a) public institutions and b) larger private corporations, slowed down considerably in 2014 and 2015 compared to previous years. Excluding employment in public institutions, Xinjiang’s private corporate sector by itself virtually stagnated during that period. Key sectors such as manufacturing, mining, construction, and transportation actually saw a reduction in employment. This is likely a negative side effect of the region’s exorbitant new security measures. A local businessman told us that Chen’s security measures have resulted in numerous businesses going bankrupt, even in the wealthier north. As a consequence, investors are said to be withdrawing their capital, and qualified employees are leaving the region. Official data reflects this trend.

As in the TAR, Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities (including Uyghurs) have been able to secure a large proportion of these new security positions. Whereas formal government (or corporate private sector) employment mandates that applicants must hold a university degree, assistant police positions usually require only a middle or high school education. For the large number of lesser-educated and socially disadvantaged rural minorities, especially the Uyghurs, an informal policing job that pays 3,000-6,000 RMB per month is an attractive offer, especially when it comes with a level of social status and authority.