Judd Kinzley's Natural Resources and the New Frontier presents a timely argument about the central role that resource extraction plays in state-building in modern Xinjiang. It is part of a new wave of scholarship that attends to the material dimensions of the region's history, in contrast to the longstanding focus on identity. Kinzley argues that, by historicizing spatial patterns of institutional and economic development, we can understand how persistent inequalities between Han-dominated northern Xinjiang and Uyghur-majority southern Xinjiang emerged (pp. 16–17).

This inequality is to a significant degree the result of a longstanding pattern of state-led development: First, a China-based power or Xinjiang's regional government experiences a financial crisis. State actors plan to exploit Xinjiang's mineral wealth, which they perennially imagine to be a panacea for economic woes. However, these actors lack the capacity to create the infrastructure necessary to harness those resources, so they employ Russian (later Soviet) experts....

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