Xinjiang - Demographics

Demographics

The earliest Tarim mummies, dated to 1800 BC, are of a Caucasoid physical type. East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842.

Muslim Turkic peoples in Xinjiang include Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tatars and the Kazakhs; Muslim Iranian peoples include Pamiris and the Sarikolis/Wakhis (often conflated as Pamiris); and Muslim Sino-Tibetan peoples such as the Hui. Other PRC ethnic groups in the region include Han, Mongols (Oirats, Dagur, Dongxiang), Russians, Xibes, and Manchus. As of 1945, there were up to 70,000 persons of Russian origin living in Xinjiang.

The Han Chinese of Xinjiang arrived at different times, from different directions and social backgrounds: they are descendants of criminals and officials who had been exiled from China proper during the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the 19th centuries; descendants of families of military and civil officers from Hunan, Yunnan, Gansu and Manchuria; descendants of merchants from Shanxi, Tianjin, Hubei and Hunan and descendants of peasants who started immigrating into the region in 1776.

Some Uighur scholars claim descent from both the Turkic Uighurs and the pre-Turkic Tocharians (or Tokharians, whose language was Indo-European), and relatively fair-skin, hair and eyes, as well as other so-called 'Caucasoid' physical traits, are not uncommon among them. In general Uyghurs resemble those peoples who live around them in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. In 2002, there were 9,632,600 males (growth rate of 1.0%) and 9,419,300 females (growth rate of 2.2%). The population overall growth rate was 10.9‰, with 16.3‰ of birth rate and 5.4‰ mortality rate.

At the start of the 19th century, forty years after the Qing reconquest, there were around 155,000 Han and Hui Chinese in northern Xinjiang, and somewhat more than twice that number of Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang. A census of the time tabulated ethnic shares of the population as 60% Turkic and 30% Han. Before 1831 only a few hundred Chinese merchants lived in southern Xinjiang oases (Tarim Basin), and only a few Uyghurs lived in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria). After 1831 the Qing permitted and encouraged Han Chinese migration into the Tarim basin in southern Xinjiang, although with very little success, and stationed permanent troops on the land there as well. Political killings and expulsions of non Uyghur populations in the uprisings of the 1860s and 1930s saw them experience a sharp decline as a percentage of the total population though they rose once again in the periods of stability following 1880 (which saw Xinjiang increase its population from 1.2 million) and 1949. From a low of 7% in 1953, the Han began to return to Xinjiang between then and 1964, where they comprised 33% of the population (54% Uyghur), similarly to Qing times. A decade later, at the beginning of the Chinese economic reform in 1978, the demographic balance was 46% Uyghur and 40% Han; this has not changed drastically until the last census in 2000, with the Uyghur population reduced to 42%. Military personnel are not counted and national minorities are undercounted in the Chinese census, as in most censuses. While some of the shift has be attributed to an increased Han presence, Uyghurs have also emigrated to other parts of China, where their numbers have increased steadily. Uyghur independence activists claim that the Han population will dilute the Uyghur character of the region, but the Han and Hui Chinese mostly live in northern Xinjiang Dzungaria, and are separated from areas of historical Uyghur dominance south of the Tian Shan mountains (southwestern Xinjiang), where Uyghurs account for about 90% of the population.

In general, Uyghurs are the majority in southwestern Xinjiang, including the prefectures of Kashgar, Khotan, Kizilsu, and Aksu (about 80% of Xinjiang's Uyghurs live in those four prefectures), as well as Turpan prefecture in eastern Xinjiang. Han are the majority in eastern and northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria), including the cities of Urumqi, Karamay, Shihezi and the prefectures of Changjyi, Bortala, Bayin'gholin, Ili (especially the cities of Kuitun), and Kumul. Kazakhs are mostly concentrated in Ili prefecture in northern Xinjiang. Kazakhs are the majority in the northernmost part of Xinjiang.

Ethnic groups in Xinjiang, 2012 census.
Nationality Population Percentage
Uyghur 9 million ? 40-45% ?
Han 8,746,148 40.1%
Kazakh 1,245,023 6.74
Hui 839,837 4.55
Kirghiz 158,775 0.86
Mongols, Dongxiangs, Daurs 194,891 1.14
Pamiris 39,493 0.21
Xibe 34,566 0.19
Manchu 19,493 0.11
Tujia 15,787 0.086
Uzbek 12,096 0.066
Russian 8935 0.048
Miao 7006 0.038
Tibetan 6153 0.033
Zhuang 5642 0.031
Tatar 4501 0.024
Salar 3762 0.020
Major ethnic groups in Xinjiang by region, 2000 census.

P = Prefecture; AP = Autonomous prefecture; PLC = Prefecture-level city; DACLC = Directly administered county-level city.

Uyghurs Han Kazakhs others
Xinjiang 45.2% 40.6% 6.7% 7.5%
Ürümqi PLC 12.8% 75.3% 2.3% 9.6%
Karamay PLC 13.8% 78.1% 3.7% 4.5%
Turpan Prefecture 70.0% 23.3% <0.1% 6.6%
Kumul Prefecture 18.4% 68.9% 8.8% 3.9%
Changji AP + Wujiaqu DACLC 3.9% 75.1% 8.0% 13.0%
Bortala AP 12.5% 67.2% 9.1% 11.1%
Bayin'gholin AP 32.7% 57.5% <0.1% 9.7%
Aksu Prefecture + Aral DACLC 71.9% 26.6% <0.1% 1.4%
Kizilsu AP 64.0% 6.4% <0.1% 29.6%
Kashgar Prefecture + Tumushuke DACLC 89.3% 9.2% <0.1% 1.5%
Khotan Prefecture 96.4% 3.3% <0.1% 0.2%
Ili AP 16.1% 44.4% 25.6% 13.9%
Kuitun DACLC 0.5% 94.6% 1.8% 3.1%
former Ili Prefecture 27.2% 32.4% 22.6% 17.8%
Tacheng Prefecture 4.1% 58.6% 24.2% 13.1%
Altay Prefecture 1.8% 40.9% 51.4% 5.9%
Shihezi DACLC 1.2% 94.5% 0.6% 3.7%

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