The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, colloquially known as the Bingtuan, is a quasi-colonial enterprise under the dual leadership of the central government and the government of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. With over 2.7 million members, the Bingtuan is “a vast farming militia” that operates many of the region’s largest agricultural and resource-extraction industries that can also be called upon to support the military or police in an emergency.
In theory subordinate to the local government, in practice the Bingtuan, originally founded under the auspices of the Chinese military, maintains completely independent administrative and judicial institutions. As part of its mission, the Bingtuan is tasked with increasing the regional population of China’s national ethnic majority Han in relation to local ethnicities like the Uighurs. It also works to “cultivate and guard [China’s] border areas.”