Frontiering the Chinese “West”: a Closer Look

Page 9

At the other end of the input-output flow has been the post-1982 deployment/development of internationally borrowed cotton seed types, most notably the introduction of ludimian and haidao mian and the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) hybrid after its spread across the US in the late 90s, first in corn, which is genetically modified (Monsanto) strain with pest-killing properties, though local strain experimentation (also by the XPCC’s mega-farms) has proved a better pathway in many many parts of Xinjiang.

Perhaps most unusually for an (ex) -Maoist state, the XPCC does not (unlike the communes) promote a “more” (simple growth) policy, even (as per above) for subsistence staple crops, not to mention for cotton, which, even though not exported, even to Central Asia, is an income-supplementing market crop, less than 5% of which is consumed [by mills?] in Xinjiang proper. In quick response to the post-2007 decline in global demand, and probably to the dismay of smaller planters in “Tarimstan”, plans have developed for reversing the one-track expansion of acreage sown.

The most intractable of the external (Macro) forces that compel such a cutback is the falling demand for (re-export as well as domestically consumed) 100% cotton textiles (thus [long-staple] cotton yarn) that is in process of developing as cheaper synthetic yarns (polyesters) supplant harder-to-maintain “pure” cotton garments. The shift is creating a shrinking market for China-produced raw cotton, which in this context is tagged as over-expensive for Chinese mills in “the East”, something that keeps come up most notably in the trade and stockpile numbers published by the (US) National Cotton Council (see esp. for the 2013-4 outlook.)

Allchina cotton in and out

The policy response has been profoundly market- and cost driven, the front line being the acceleration of mechanical harvesting and inexorable step-down in the size of the pool of contract (local) labor hired for the Sept-Dec. harvest. The corporations managers allow quite unembarrassedly that they found the migrant worker pay schedule contributed to an “excessively high unit production cost” (chengben), at least in this new post-2010 environment; perhaps inevitably, they have turned up the pace of agro-mechanization by rapid expansion of the fleet of state-farm deployed harvesters/combines. (see C:\Users\User\Desktop\Downloads\P020100603520641518465.doc), and have implemented a program reducing the number of cotton-harvest seasonal workers by 20% a year, near to zero by 2016, the start of the next 5YP. The immediate (accelerating) stimulus was the 2008-9 global downturn, which expelled unnumbered (=many) subcontracted workers from East Chinese textile and other industries, and precipitated what was feared as a rush to the bottom as these workers fled West, willing to take ever lower unit wages. (This was an entirely different temporary labor pool than has been initially constructed, which imported extra-provincial laborers mainly from adjacent Gansu, and Sichuan, to which their post-seasonal retro-transfer was easily manageable; and one which thus also allowed a privileged place esp. for Uighur women harvest field workers.


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