From dungans to Xinyimin: China, Chinese migration and the changing sociopolitical fabric of central asian republics

Yeoh, Emile Kok Kheng (2015) From dungans to Xinyimin: China, Chinese migration and the changing sociopolitical fabric of central asian republics. Contemporary Chinese Political Economy and Strategic Relations, 1 (2). pp. 187-245. ISSN 2410-9681,

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This paper looks at the issue of ethnic identity of the Dungans – descendants of early Chinese migrants in Central Asia – and its change and preservation in the context of the fragile social fabric of the Central Asian states that were born from the shadow of the now-defunct Soviet Union, the arduous processes of nation-building plagued by often violent, competing emergent nationalisms as well as political and economic turbulence, and the impact brought by the emergence of the xinyimin (Chinese new migrants). These Chinese-speaking Dungans staying in compact communities mostly in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are descendants of political and war refugees from China’s provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu who moved across the border into the territory of Czarist Russia in the later part of the nineteenth century after the crushing of the Northwest Uprising by the Imperial Ch’ing (the Manchu dynasty) army which bordered on genocide and ethnic cleansing. This paper analyses how a new ethnic identity has since emerged due partly to the geographical isolation imposed by the formidable natural barrier of the Tianshan (“Heavenly Mountains”) However, their Chinese language in the form of a mixture of the Shaanxi and Gansu regionalects, remarkably written today not in Chinese characters but in the Cyrillic alphabet, and Chinese traditions of the Shaanxi and Gansu varieties have been fiercely preserved through the generations until today, including nineteenth-century vocabulary and traditions which are no longer found in modern China, due both to the cohesiveness of communal life and an aversion to marriage outside the community. After analysing the community’s dilemmas of identity preservation and identity creation, this paper then proceeds to look at the impact of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1 991 resulting in the birth of the post-Soviet independent Central Asian republics, and the influx of the xinyimin from China since the early 1 990s that has triggered xenophobic response with varying intensity in many of these Central Asian societies, towards these descendants of early Chinese migrants who are now facing a whole new set of challenges brought about both by the onslaught of nationalisms of the new politically dominant ethnic groups in these Central Asian states and the economic turmoil faced by these new republics following the collapse of the Soviet command economy.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Central Asia; China; Dungans; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Migrants; Uzbekistan; Xinyimin
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Divisions: Faculty of Economics & Administration
Depositing User: Ms. Juhaida Abd Rahim
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 05:38
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2019 01:14

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