Frontiering the Chinese “West”: a Closer Look

Page 8
As however the XPCC is an arm of the higher reaches of the socialist-developmental state, not the self-colonial-capitalist one that seems to be gaining ground in the “East”, and is also burdened with the “minority” aid mission, its pay-scale – if benefits are factored in (mainly disability) – is/was relatively high within the larger world of migrant/seasonal worker, and insensitive to supply-demand conditions (the benefit of a Marxist slave economy): it can range as high as Ɏ 1.1 RMB/KG (Units 1,2 and 5) down to 0.8 (Unit 4), which (at 15-20 kg/day) comes in at the (PPP) equivalent of $2.70/day or about $220/season (30% or so of the average Xinjiang “rural” income of about Ɏ 4,500/yr or (PPP) $650/yr./family or household). By contrast in the private sector, “rush” harvests etc. can drive the daily harvest worker rate as high as Ɏ1.25 RMB/kg, but are presumably not much more than half that on non “state farms”). As such (i.e. politically inflated wage) of course it serves to “keep’em down on the farm” (in the face of harvester mechanization) as well, the corporation insists, as motivation a relatively high, homogenious level of best-size flower collection.

Table: the XPCC cotton farms system within Xinjiang Cotton Agriculture (Data from Territory reportage and 5YP documents)

Xinjiang ands Corps Cotton 2000 ro 2015

This “state-kulakizing” of raw cotton growing and harvesting at first, as I have mentioned, came in association with a state-subsidized above-market wage benefit for part-time (harvest) workers, but since the world recession of 2008, XPDC management has had to revamp its marketing strategy by cutting labor costs and replacing human with mechanical harvesters, some 1,000 or so of which now or will be 2015 operate in that agency’s collective farms – which themselves account for for 35-45% of all marketed raw cotton grown in Xinjiang (1.3 of 3.125 mill MT forecast for 2015). By the time the full impact of “2008” feeds through, something like US $ 150- 200 million in annual supplementary income for temporary workers will have disappeared, surely much of which will come from Uighur local “housewives” who have been the primary beneficiaries of this now-drawing-to-a-close era in “wetback” plantation farming.

Perhaps the writing was always on the wall, but the question of finding alternative sources of non-farm income at this point has only one likely or even possible solution: cotton mill jobs that are already expanding rapidly as Xinjiang moves into a planned forward integration investment program designed (here’s the vulnerability) to attract foreign (cross-Pamir) investment for back-export into the presumably overpriced yarn and cloth markets of Kazakhstan and its neighbors, whose factories are out of date legacies of Soviet era colonization.


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