Sheng Shicai (Chinese: 盛世才; pinyin: Shèng Shìcái; Wade–Giles: Sheng Shih-ts'ai; 3 December 1895 – 13 July 1970) was a Chinese warlord who ruled Xinjiang from 1933 to 1944. Sheng's rise to power started with a coup d'état in 1933, when he was appointed the duban or Military Governor of Xinjiang. His rule over Xinjiang is marked by close cooperation with the Soviet Union, allowing the Soviets trade monopoly and exploitation of resources, which made Xinjiang a Soviet puppet. The Soviet era ended in 1942, when Sheng approached the Central government, but still retained much power over the province. He was dismissed from post in 1944 and named Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Growing animosity against him led the government to dismiss him again and appoint to a military post. At the end of the Chinese Civil War, Sheng fled the mainland China to Taiwan with the rest of Kuomintang.

Sheng Shicai was a Manchurian-born Han Chinese, educated in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied political economy and later attended the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Having become a Marxist in his youth, Sheng participated in the anti-imperialist May Fourth Movement in Qing China. He participated in the Northern Expedition, a military campaign of the Kuomintang against the Beiyang government.

In winter of 1929 he was called into service of Governor Xinjiang Jin Shuren, where he served as Chief of Staff of the Frontier Military and Chief Instructor at the Provincial Military College. With Kumul Rebellion ongoing, Jin was owerthrown in a coup on 12 April 1933, and Sheng was appointed duban or Military Governor of Xinjiang. Since then, he led a power struggle against his rivals, of whom Ma Zhongying and Zhang Peiyuan were most notable. The first to be removed were the coup leaders and by them appointed Civil Governor Liu Wenlong by September 1933. Ma and Zhang were defeated militarily by June 1934 with the help from the Soviet Union, whom Sheng invited to intervene, subordinating himself to the Soviet in return.

As ruler of Xinjiang, Sheng implemented his Soviet-inspired policies through his political program of Six Great Policies, adopted in December 1934. His rule was marked by his nationality policy which promoted national and religious equality and identity of various nationalities of Xinjiang. The province saw a process of modernisation, but also the subordination of economic interests in Soviet favour. The Soviets had monopoly over Xinjiang trade and exploited its rare materials and oil. In 1937, in parallel with the Soviet Great Purge, Sheng conducted a purge on his own, eliminating political opponents, of whom majority were the Chinese communists.

With the Soviets distracted by war with Germany, Sheng approached the Chinese Central government in July 1942, and expelled the Soviet military and technical personnel. However, he still maintained effective power over Xinjiang. In the meantime, the Soviets managed to hold of the Germans and the Japanese launched an extensive offensive against the Chinese, which led Sheng to try to change sides again by arresting the Kuomintang officials and invoking Soviet intervention for second time in 1944. The Soviets ignored the request, and the Central government removed him from the post naming him Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in August 1944.

Sheng held the ministerial post by July 1945, and later worked as an adviser to Hu Zongnan and held a military post. He joined the rest of Kuomintang in Taiwan after the defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In Taiwan, Sheng lived in a comfortable retirement and died in Taipei in 1970.

Early life

Sheng, an ethnic Han Chinese,[4] was born in Kaiyuan, Manchuria in a well-to-do peasant family[3] on 3 December 1895.[5] At age of 17,[6] Sheng enrolled at the Wusong Public School in Shanghai, where he studied political science and economy.[7][8] There, he became friendly with students and teachers of "radical inclinations".[6] He graduated in 1915.[7][8] The same year, he enrolled at the Waseda University, Tokyo. During that time, Sheng expressed nationalistic attitudes.[9] In 1917 he was studying political economy at Meiji University in Tokyo, where he was exposed to the "ABC of Communism" (Chinese: 共产主义ABC) and other leftist publications.[8][10] In 1919, Sheng returned to China to participate in the May Fourth Movement as a representative of the Liaoning students. During this period, he developed radical and anti-Japanese sentiments.[11] By his own admission, Sheng became a Marxist the very same year and his political opponents claimed he became a communist during his second stay in Japan in 1920s.[6] During that time, he realised the "futility of book learning", and decided to enter a military career.[12]

Accordingly, Sheng entered a military school in the Kwantung Leased Territory and later enrolled at the Northeastern Military Academy. He entered a military service under Guo Songling, Deputy of Zhang Zuolin, a Manchurian warlord. He rapidly rose to became Staff Officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1924 Guo sponsored his admission to the Imperial Japanese Army Academy for advanced military studies.[12] In the mid 1920s, Sheng supported in a campaign against Zhang,[13] briefly returning to the north east. Although he supported the anti-Zhang coup, he was able to return to Japan with the support of Feng Yuxiang and Chiang Kai-Shek,[12] from whom he received financial help and considered him as his patron.[14]

Sheng returned from Japan in 1927 to participate in the Northern Expedition as a Staff Officer of the Chiang's field headquarters.[12] He was a member of the Guominjun, a leftist nationalist faction that supported the Central government in China.[15] However, Sheng didn't join the Kuomintang because of his belief in Marxism.[6] After the Expedition was completed, he was made a chief of the war operations section of the general staff in Nanking, but resigned in 1929 over a disagreement with his superiors. After the apparent setback in his career, Sheng dedicated himself to the question of strengthening China's border defences.[12]

Power struggle

Serving under Jin Shuren

Sheng Shicai in c. 1928

Not long after Sheng's resignation, a delegation from Xinjiang came to Nanking to ask for a financial aid. Governor of Xinjiang Jin Shuren asked one of the members of the delegation, Deputy General Secretary of Xinjiang Guang Lu, to find a competent officer to reorganise the provincial military. After discrete enquiries, Sheng was appointed to Jin's staff and arrived to Xinjiang via Soviet Union in winter 1929–30.[12] Chiang Kai-Shek may have endorsed Sheng's decision to go to Xinjiang. Therefore, the appointment of Ma Zhongying, a Sheng's rival, as a commander of the 36th Division in Xinjiang embarrassed and frustrated Sheng.[14] Sheng's welcome in Xinjiang was cold. Jin considered him a potential threat. Despite the doubts, Jin appointed him Chief of Staff of the Frontier Army and subsequently named him Chief Instructor at the Provincial Military College.[12]

In summer of 1932, the fighting between Ma and Jin had significantly intensified. Ma's Hui forces were able to break the defence lines at Hami and enter Xinjiang through the Hexi Corridor.[16] In December 1932, Ma's forces of started the siege of Ürümqi, but the White Russians and Sheng's troops successfully defended the city. In March 1933, the Manchurian Salvation Army, part of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), came to their aid through the Soviet territory. During these events, Jin's prestige declined and correspondingly Sheng became increasingly popular. The culmination was the coup staged by the White Russians[17] and a group of the provincial bureaucrats led by Chen Zhong, Tao Mingyue and Li Xiaotian on 12 April 1933, who overthrew Jin, who escaped to China proper via Siberia.[16]

Sheng, who was marshaling the provincial forces in eastern Xinjiang, returned to Ürümqi to seize power in the midst of the chaos. Without conferring the Central government, the coup leaders appointed Sheng the Commissioner of the Xinjiang Border Defence,[16] i. e., Military Governor or duban on 14 April 1933,[18] resurrecting the old title.[19] Liu Wenlong, a powerless provincial bureaucrat was installed the Civil Governor.[16]

Rivalry with Ma and Zhang

However, Sheng's appointment as duban did not mean that his position was secured. Installment of Wenlong as governor meant that the bureaucrats had upper hand over Sheng, whom they considered their protege. His position was also challenged by Ma, as well as Zhang Peiyuan, Jin's old ally and a commander of the Yining region. The Central government, having learned that Zhang refused to cooperate with the new regime in Xinjiang, and that the Ma's forces represented the gravest threat to the new regime, tried to take the advantage of the situation and take the control over the province. Without clearly stating whether it recognises the changes in Xinjiang, the government appointed Huang Musong, then a Deputy Chief of General Staff, a "pacification commissioner" in May 1933. He arrived in Ürümqi on 10 June.[20] The appointment of Huang as a pacification commissioner further strained the relations between Shang and the Central government.[14]

Sheng expected that the Central government would recognise him as duban, and that Huang's visit would affect that decision. Huang was ignorant of the frontier problems and his arrogant behavior offended some of the provincial leaders. The rumors spread that Huang was already named a new governor or that Chiang decided to split Xinjiang into several smaller provinces.[21] However, the true Huang's task was to secure the cooperation between the coup leaders and establish a new provincial mechanism with pro-Nanking stance.[22] Sheng exploited the rumors, and charged that Huang, an agent of Wang Jingwei had plotted with Liu, Zhang and Ma to overthrow the provincial government.[21] On 26 June Huang was placed under house arrest, and the three coup leaders were also arrested and immediately executed. After the Central government apologised and promised Sheng the recognition of his position, Huang was allowed to return to Nanking three weeks after the arrest.[22]

Luo Wengan (seventh from left) with the newly reformed Xinjiang provincial government
The welcome ceremony held in Yining by Zhang Peiyuan for Luo Wengan in September 1933

Shortly afterwards, in August Chiang sent Foreign Minister Luo Wengan, as a sign of good will, to preside over Sheng's inauguration ceremony as a Commissioner of the Xinjiang Border Defence. However, at the same time, the Central government used Luo's visit to contact the two of Sheng's rivals, Ma in Turpan and Zhang in Yining. They were encouraged to launch an attack against Sheng. As soon as Luo left the province, the war broke out between Sheng on one side, and Ma and Zhang on the other. Sheng accused Luo not only for plotting, but also for an assassination attempt.[22] Luo's left Xinjiang in early October,[23] and his departure marked the beginning of the era of deep alienation between Sheng and the Central government.[24]

In September 1933,[25] Sheng accused Civil Governor Liu Wenlong of plotting with Ma and Zhang through Luo with Nanking in order to overthrow him. He was forced to resign and was replaced by Zhu Ruichi, a more controllable official.[26] Sheng created a new bureaucratic hierarchy, nepotistically appointing new officials and replacing the one of his predecessors.[27]

Confronted by Ma's army outside of Ürümqi, Sheng sent a delegation to the Soviet Central Asia to request assistance. Sheng later claimed that the delegation was sent under the aegis of Jin's request for military equipment. However, Sheng made a more comprehensive deal with the Soviets. His delegation returned in December 1933, together with Garegin Apresov, who will be later appointed as the Soviet General Consul in Ürümqi. The Soviets provided substantive military assistance to Sheng, who in return gave the Soviets wide political, economic and military control over Xinjiang.[28]

Sheng's rival Ma Zhongying

Ma sieged Ürümqi for the second time in January 1934. This time, the Soviets assisted Sheng with air support and two brigades of the Joint State Political Directorate. With their aid, Sheng again defeated Ma's forces, who retreated south from Tien Shan, in a region controlled by the East Turkestan Republic (ETR).[29] The same month, Ma's forces arrived in Kashgar, extinguishing the ETR. Hoja-Niyaz, president of the ETR escaped upon the arrival of Ma's troops to the Xinjiang-Soviet border, and in town Irkeshtam signed an agreement that abolished the East Turkest Republic and supported Sheng's regime.[29] In early 1934, Zhu Ruichi died and was replaced by Li Rong as Civil Governor.[30]

In January, the Central government approved Huang Shaohong's plan for military operation in Xinjiang,[31] in order to put the province under its effective control. Huang had in mind to act pragmatically, offering support either to Sheng or Ma, whoever was willing to cooperate with the Central government.[24] The pretext for the operation was development of Xinjiang and adjacent provinces. For that purpose, the Xinjiang Construction Planning Office was established in Xinjiang with Huang in charge. With enthusiasm from Minister of Finance H. H. Kung, Huang purchased foreign-manufactured armored vehicles. By April, the preparations reached their final stage.[31] However, the whole plan came to a halt in May because the Soviets have already entered Xinjiang and assisted Sheng against Ma.[32]

Under pressure from Sheng's strengthened military forces, Ma's troops retreated from Kashgar in June-July 1934 to the southeast towards Hotan and Yarkand, where they remained until 1937. Ma himself retreated via Irkeshtam to the Soviet Central Asia, accompanied by several officers and a Soviet official. By this move, the Soviets intended to achieve dual benefit. First, by removing Ma from the Xinjiang's political arena, they wanted to increase Sheng's rule, which would give them higher control over the province; and second, they intended to use Ma as a leverage against Sheng in case he did not comply with their interests in the province.[29] The armistice between the Hui forces and the Xinjiang government was agreed upon in September 1934.[33] Zhang, after suffering defeat, committed suicide.[24]

Following the withdrawal of the Hui forces to Hotan in July 1934, Ma Hushan consolidated his power over the remote oases of the Tarim Basin, thus establishing a Hui satrapy, where Hui Muslims ruled as colonial masters over their Turkic Muslim subjects. The region was named Tunganistan by Walther Heissig. Tunganistan was bordering on two, eventually three sides with Xinjiang province, and on the fourth side it bordered with the Tibetan Plateau.[34]


On anniversary of the April 12 coup in 1934, the Xinjiang provincial government published an administrative plan called the "Great Eight-Point Manfiesto"[35] or "Eight Great Proclamations".[36] These included: establishment of racial equality, guaranty of religious freedom, equitable distribution of agricultural and rural relief, reform of government finance, the cleaning up of government administration, the expansion of education, the promotion of self-government and the improvement of the judiciary. The program was practicable since each point represented a grievance that one nationality had against the previous government, which enabled Sheng to enact the reforms.[37] The first two points which dealt with "the realisation of equality for all nationalities" and "the protection of the rights of believers" advanced the national and religious rights of the Xinjiang nationalities.[35]

Sheng sent a letter to Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov and Kliment Voroshilov in June 1934. In the letter, Sheng expressed his belief in victory of Communism and referred to himself as "convinced supporter of Communism". He called for the "fastest possible implementation of Communism in Xinjiang". Sheng also not only denounced the Central government, but expressed his aim in overthrowing it, suggesting support for the Chinese Soviet Republic and joint offensive against the Central government. Sheng also expressed his wish to join the Communist Party of Soviet Union.[38] In a letter sent to the Soviet General Consul Garegin Apresov in Ürümqi, Stalin commented that the Sheng's letter made a "depressing impression on our comrades". The content of Sheng's letter led Stalin to refer him as "a provocateur or an hopeless "leftist" having no idea about Marxism".[39] In a reply to Sheng, Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov refused all of his proposals.[40]

In August 1934, Sheng affirmed that the nine duties of his government are to eradicate corruption, to develop economy and culture, to maintain peace by avoiding war, to mobilise all manpower for the cultivation of land, to improve communication facilities, to keep Xinjiang permanently a Chinese province, to fight against imperialism and Fascism and to sustain a close relationship with Soviet Russia, to reconstruct a "New Xinjiang", and to protect the positions and privileges of religious leaders.[41]

Flag of Xinjiang, based on the flag of the Soviet Union, adopted in 1934

The dependency of the Sheng regime on the Soviet Union was further highlighted with the publication of the "Six Great Policies" in December 1934.[42] The Policies guaranteed his previously enacted "Great Eight-Point Manifesto"[37] and included "anti-imperialism, friendship with the Soviet Union, racial and national equality, clean government, peace and reconstruction".[37][42] Sheng referred to them as "a skillful, vital application of Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism in the conditions of the feudal society of economically and culturally backward Xinjiang".[43] They served as the ideological basis of Sheng's rule.[44] With proclamation of the Six Great Policies, Sheng adopted a new flag with a six-pointed star to represent these policies.[45]

In an agreement from 16 May 1935, ratified without consent from the Central government, the Soviet government provided substantial financial and material aid, including a five-year loan of five million "gold rubles" (Sheng actually received silver bullion). At about the same time, again without the consent from the Central government, Soviet geologists started a survey for Xinjiang's mineral resources. The result was Soviet oil drilling at Dushanbe.[46] During Sheng's rule, Xinjiang's trade came under the Soviet control.[47] The Soviet General Consul in Ürümqi was effectively in control of governing,[48][49] with Sheng required to consult them for any decision he made.[48] Alexander Barmine, the Soviet official responsible for supplying arms to Sheng, wrote that Xinjiang was "a Soviet colony in all but name".[46]

Sheng Shicai (fourth from right) with Garegin Apresov (fifth from right) and Chinese Minister of Education Chen Lifu (fifth from left) in Ürümqi

On 1 August 1935, Sheng founded the People's Anti-Imperialist Association in Ürümqi. The propaganda of the League was the Anti-Imperialist War Front. The Xinjiang's Youth and the Xinjiang's Women served as the Association's youth and women's wing respectively. In 1935, the Association had 2,489 members, and in 1939, the Association's membership rose to 10,000.[50] The membership was nationally diverse, and indluded Han, Hui and various Turkic peoples.[51]

The Soviet stranglehold around Xinjiang was further enhanced through a secret agreement signed on 1 January 1936. The agreement included Soviet guarantee to come to the aid of Xinjiang "politically, economically and by armed force... in case of some external attack upon the province". By mid 1936, significant number of Soviet specialists were active in Xinjiang involved in construction, education, health and military training. The Russian language replaced English as the foreign language taught in schools. A number of Muslim youths, including Muslim girls, were sent to the Soviet Central Asia for education. Sheng's government implemented atheistic propaganda, and Muslim women were encouraged to appear in public without a veil.[52]

1937–38 purges

During the Xinjiang War (1937), Sheng launched his own purge in Xinjiang to coincide with Stalin's Great Purge.[53] Sheng started the elimination of "traitors", "pan-Turkists", "enemies of the people", "nationalists" and "imperialist spies". His purges swept the entire Uyghur and Hui political elite.[54] The NKVD provided the support during the purges.[53] In the later stages of the purge, Sheng turned against the "Trotskyites", mostly a group of Han Chinese sent to him by Moscow.[55] In the group were Soviet General Consul Garegin Apresov, General Ma Hushan, Ma Shaowu, Mahmud Sijan, the official leader of the Xinjiang province Huang Han-chang, and Hoja-Niyaz. Xinjiang came under virtual Soviet control.[53] It is estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 people perished during the purge.[55]

In 1937, Sheng initiated a three-year plan for reconstruction, for which he received a Soviet loan of 15 million rubles.[56] At Joseph Stalin's request, Sheng joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in August 1938 and received Party Card No.1859118 directly from Molotov during his secret visit to Moscow. However, Sheng didn't set up provincial branch of the CPSU in Xinjiang.[51]

Having eliminated many of his opponents, Sheng's administration found it self in staff shortage. For this reason, he turned to the Chinese Communists in Ya'an for help. In the circumstances of the united front against the Japanese, the Communists sent dozens of its cadres to Xinjiang. The Communists were mostly employed in high-level administrative, financial, educational and cultural ministerial posts in Urumqi, Kashgar, Khotan and elsewhere, helping to implement Sheng's policies. They also maintained the only open communication line between Ya'an and the Soviet Union. Among those sent by the Communist Party was Mao Zemin, a younger brother of Mao Zedong, who served as Deputy Finance Minister.[55]

Nationality policy

Sheng Shicai (second row, third from left) at founding of the Association for Promotion of the Han Chinese Culture

During Sheng's rule, the Han Chinese represented only a small minority in Xinjiang. F. Gilbert Chan claimed that they made only 6% of the population at the time,[5] while Sheng himself during his visit in Moscow in 1938, told Kliment Voroshilov that the Han make around 10% (roughly 400,000 people) of the population of Xinjiang.[57] In his relationship with the Xinjiang's non-Han populace, Sheng adopted the Soviet nationality policy.[58][42] The non-Han nationalities were for the first time included in the provincial government.[42][59] The first principle of his Declaration of Ten Guiding Principles stated that "all nationalities enjoy equal rights in politics, economy and education". He also reorganized Xinjiang Daily, the only regional newspaper at the time, to be issued in Mandarin, Uyghur and Kazakh language. The educational programme encouraged the Han to learn Uyghur and Uyghurs to learn Mandarin.[59] Sheng's nationality policy also entailed the establishment of the Turkic languages schools, the revival of madrassas (Islamic schools), publication of the Turkic languages newspapers and the formation of the Uyghur Progress Union.[42]

Sheng initiated the idea of 14 separate nationalities in Xinjiang,[60] and these where Han Chinese, Uyghurs, Mongols, Kazakhs, Muslims or Dungan, Sibe, Solon, Manchu, Kyrgyz, White Russian, Taranchi, Tajiks, and Uzbeks.[61] To foster this idea, he encouraged the establishment of cultural societies for each nationality. The description of Xinjiang as a home of 14 nationalities, both in Xinjiang, as well as in proper China, brought Sheng popularity.[60] However, Sheng's policy was criticized by the Pan-Turkic Jadidists and East Turkestan Independence activists Muhammad Amin Bughra and Masud Sabri, who rejected the Sheng's imposition of the name "Uyghur people" upon the Turkic people of Xinjiang. They wanted instead the name "Turkic nationality" (Tujue zu in Chinese) to be applied to their people. Sabri also viewed the Hui people as Muslim Han Chinese and separate from his own people.[62] Bughra accused Sheng for trying to sow disunion among the Turkic peoples.[36] However, Sheng argued that such separation was necessary in order to guarantee success of the future union.[63]

Another agenda from the Soviet Union Sheng implemented in Xinjiang was secularization with purpose of undermining the religious influence. Moreover, many Uyghurs and non-Han people were sent for education abroad, most notably in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR to the Central Asia University or Central Asia Military Academy. With their return, these students would find employment as teachers or within the Xinjiang administration.[64]

Sheng's nationality policy served as a basis for the later Communist regime's nationality policy in Xinjiang, with few exceptions.[36]

Approachment to the Central government

Between 1934 and 1942, there were no significant relations between the Sheng's government and the Central government.[65] However, with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Sheng saw an opportunity to strike down Soviet proxies, the Chinese communists[66] and to mend his relationship with the Central government now seated in Chongqing.[67]

Mao Zemin, Mao Zedong's brother, executed by Sheng Shicai in 1943

Sheng had long prepared to purge the Chinese communists in Xinjiang. In 1939, his agents filled reports on clandestine meetings, the constant exchange of letters, and the unauthorized content of some of their propaganda. A month after the German invasion, in July 1941, the communist cadre had been demoted or cashiered. Chen Tanqiu, the chief liaison of the Communist Party of China (CCP) reported in Yan'an that his relations with Sheng became "extremely cold".[68]

In the same month, the first sign of a thaw in the relationship between Xinjiang and the Central government occurred, a month after the German invasion, when Sheng allowed the Chinese diplomat in Moscow to visit Xinjiang for an official tour.[67]

Fearing that he might switch sides, the Soviets tried to overthrow him. The coup started with murder of his younger brother, a brigade commander Sheng Shiqi on 29 March 1942.[69][70] He was murdered by his wife, convinced to do so by the Soviet agents.[71] After his brother's death, Sheng continued crackdown on the Chinese communists. On 1 July 1942 he ordered their relocation in the Ürümqi outskirts for "protection".[72]

On 3 July 1942,[73] a major delegation of the Central government's officials arrived to Ürümqi upon Sheng's invitation.[74] Chiang Kai-Shek designated Zhu Shaoliang as a leader of the mission. The mission was initiated by Sheng's younger brother Sheng Shiji few months earlier. The reaction of the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov followed soon after, as he presented Chiang the Sheng's ideas about the implementation of Communism in Xinjiang, his support for Chiang's arrest in Xi'an Incident and the offer to make Xinjiang a Soviet republic. However, the Central government disregarded Molotov's presentation. On 9 July, Chiang informed the Soviet ambassador that the Soviet authorities "must now deal with the central government of China" and are not permitted to "discuss anything with Sheng duban [i. e. military governor]". Chiang designated Zhu Shaoliang as a contact person for the Soviets.[73]

The later publication of Sheng's correspondence with the Soviet authorities, allowed the Central government to set up a special office in Ürümqi, from where they handled Xinjiang's foreign affairs, and to set up the Kuomintang roots throughout the province, replacing the People's Anti-Imperialist Association,[75] which he disbanded in April 1942.[76] Sheng was appointed head of the provincial Kuomintang. Both dubanship and civil governorship remained in Sheng's hands. The National Revolutionary Army troops weren't allowed to enter Xinjiang.[75]

As Wu Shaoliang shuttled between Ürümqi and Chongqing, Sheng requested a permanent liaison to be appointed to handle his foreign affairs. The Central government appointed Wu Zexiang Minister of Foreign Affairs of Xinjiang. Ministerial position for a domestic post was unusual, but approved by Chiang due to "special conditions and circumstances" in Xinjiang. Minister Wu's post was of consultative nature, and the Central government acted as an arbiter in the case of a dispute between him and the provincial authorities. Sheng demanded that Wu assumes more responsibility in dealings with the Soviets.[77]

Kuomintang in Xinjiang in 1942

The final months of 1942 saw the most turbulent period in the Xinjiang-Soviet relations. In October 1942 Sheng demanded from the Soviet General Consul that all Soviet technical and military personnel be withdrawn from Xinjiang within three months.[78][79] To the Soviets, who were engaged in the Battle of Stalingrad and desperate to retain the oil reserves at Dushanzi, this demand represented numerous logistical difficulties. On 3 November 1942 Sheng issued a directive prohibiting "organizations, groups, and private persons" to engage in "any trade activity involving foreign imports and exports." The aim of the directive was to end the Soviet trade monopoly in Xinjiang.[78] The Soviets withdrew their military and civilian personnel in March 1943.[80] Despite the Sheng's ultimatum, only in March-April 1943 did the Soviets notify Sheng and the Central government of their withdrawal.[79]

With the Soviet gradual withdrawal, the Kuomintang representatives and personnel filled the void. In June 1943, four divisions of the NRA New 2nd Army commanded by Zhu Shaoliang were transferred to Xinjiang from Gansu. In October 1943, the Kuomintang effectively removed Soviet influence from Xinjiang.[79] With the Soviets gone, in September Sheng ordered the arrest and execution of the Chinese communists. Among them was Mao Zemin, Mao Zedong's younger brother,[72] who was among eighty-eight conspirators involved in the Soviet plot to overthrow Sheng.[69]

Later tenures and retirement

To be able to return such a large territory back to the central government without firing a single shot is the greatest accomplishment a border official can accrue to his name.

—Chiang's statement in defence of Sheng at the Sixth Party Congress, May 1945[81]

As the Germans lost the Battle for Stalingrad, Sheng tried to return to the pro-Soviet policy. He ordered the arrest of the Kuomintang personnel, telling Stalin that they were Japanese spies, and telling Chiang that they were communists. Stalin, however, refused to intervene, and left Sheng at the mercy of the Central government, which engineered his removal from office.[82] Zhu Shaoliang convinced him to resign and to accept the post of Minister of Agriculture.[83] Sheng officially resigned from his post and was appointment as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry on 29 August 1944. He left Xinjiang on 11 September 1944 to join the Central government in Chongqing.[84] The post of Minister of Agriculture under Kuomintang was reserved for men out of power, since the post was insignificant with the increasing power of the landlords.[83] Chiang signed an order allowing Sheng to recoup the wealth beneath the governor's building. The storehouse contained fifty thousand taels of gold, chests full of valuable antelope horns, and endless blocks of opium. In total, Sheng removed 135 truckloads of wealth.[84]

Sheng's stay in Chongqing was troublesome. In April 1945, his former Finance Minister Peng Jiyuan was beaten in Ürümqi, and sought refugee with Sheng after his recovery.[84] Wu Zhongxin, his successor in Xinjiang, wrote that Sheng "started to lose his mind in Chongqing" and that in accordance with the tenets of Buddhism and as recompense for his past crimes, he has descended to the lowest depths of hell". At the Sixth Party Congress held in May 1945, a figurehead Uyghur leader Masud Sabri called for Sheng's head, however, Sheng was defended by Chiang.[81] Sheng held the ministerial post until 30 July 1945.[85] Sheng later worked as an adviser to Hu Zongnan in Xi'an.[81]

In 1949, Sheng accompanied the Kuomintang in Taiwan where he lived in a comfortable retirement with his wife and four children.[86] Sheng was interviewed by Allen S. Whiting and wrote his own accounts under the title Red failure in Sinkiang in Sinkiang: pawn or pivot?, published in 1958.[87]


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  53. ^ a b c Forbes 1986, p. 151.
  54. ^ Millward 2007, pp. 209–210.
  55. ^ a b c Millward 2007, p. 210.
  56. ^ Lattimore 1950, p. 75.
  57. ^ Yulina 1938.
  58. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 347.
  59. ^ a b Rahman 2005, p. 38-39.
  60. ^ a b Rahman 2005, p. 39.
  61. ^ Chan 1983, p. 370.
  62. ^ Wei & Liu 2002, p. 181.
  63. ^ Chan 1983, p. 376.
  64. ^ Clarke 2011, p. 33-34.
  65. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 345.
  66. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 334.
  67. ^ a b Jacobs 2011, p. 346.
  68. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 334-35.
  69. ^ a b Heinzig 2015, p. 37.
  70. ^ Whiting & Sheng 1958, p. 237.
  71. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 335.
  72. ^ a b Jacobs 2011, p. 336.
  73. ^ a b Jacobs 2011, p. 349.
  74. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 348.
  75. ^ a b Jacobs 2011, p. 350.
  76. ^ Dallin 1948, p. 362.
  77. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 352.
  78. ^ a b Jacobs 2011, p. 352-353.
  79. ^ a b c Clarke 2011, p. 36.
  80. ^ Jacobs 2011, p. 355.
  81. ^ a b c Jacobs 2011, p. 381.
  82. ^ Clarke 2011, p. 36-37.
  83. ^ a b Lattimore 1950, p. 81.
  84. ^ a b c Jacobs 2011, p. 380.
  85. ^ Mansfield 1945, p. 3738.
  86. ^ Chan 1983, p. 537.
  87. ^ Whiting & Sheng 1958, p. vi.



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