Territory, Border, Infrastructure: Imagining and Crafting National Borderlands in Twentieth Century China
Judd Kinzley and Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi
Territory, Border, Infrastructure: Imagining and Crafting National Borderlands in Twentieth Century China.
This paper analyzes the role that infrastructures have played in the discourses and practices of sovereignty and territory in China's far western province of Xinjiang from the late 19th century into the mid-20th. The paper reveals the gap between the Qing and Republican reformers' plans for a state-encompassing transport system and, the fragmented piecemeal character of the actual network. The archival materials analyzed here suggest that the central government's involvement in funding and designing infrastructures in Xinjiang was limited. One of the aims of the present paper is thus to identify the territorializing agents in this border region. Though both Qing and Republican reformers dreamt of encompassing infrastructures, the hard financial reality of twentieth century China set clear limits to these dreams. As a result, we can observe an ongoing process of negotiation between the dreams of national integration, highly limited central funding and the provincial and local governments' attempts to patch the financial and technological gaps with resources that were available. This led to the opening of the province to Russian, and later the Soviet Union. The material analyzed here foregrounds this somewhat paradoxical role that foreign-built infrastructures in Xinjiang played in the processes of Chinese state territorialization in the twentieth century.
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