Sinophile Khans and Nationalist Turks

Yulbars Khan was born to a princely family, the Khans of Kumul, who were descended from the second son of Genghis, Chaghatai Khan. The Kumul Khanate was a vassal of the Qing which had helped the emperor to defeat and drive out the Dzungar Khanate from the region that would bcome known as Xinjiang. Yulbars Khan served as chancellor to the last two Khans of Kumul.

As vassals of the Qing the Kumul Khans had great autonomy, raised to the rank of Qinwang, “Prince of the Blood”. The only power reserved for the emperor was to issue the death penalty. With this great independence the khans ruled a population of Turkish people. The Turki in the region could claim descent from the Uyghur Khaganate, a polity which existed in the region a thousand years earlier.

The province of Xinjiang (new frontier) was formed in 1884 in the aftermath of the defeat and destruction of the Dzungar Revolt by the Qing in 1879. Always remote from the imperial capital, and with frequent insurrections, the province was governed by a military and a civilian governor. The General of Ili had great autonomy from the capital, and it was customary for the governor’s to patronize their cliques of loyalists with land and offices.

In 1930 the governor, Jin Shuren, took this a step further than the Kumul Khan and his advisors could tolerate: he dissolved the Khanates and divided it’s lands between three chinese-style counties, with parcels of land given over to Han allies of the governor.

Yulbars Khan began to conspire against Jin. He made an alliance with Khoja Niyaz, a Kumulik who had joined in rebellions against the Khans in 1907 and 1912. Khoja Niyaz was based in Nanjiang (South Frontier) where he trained and led an Islamist revolutionary militia.

The conspiracy included Ma Zhongying of the Ma Clique of warlords, commander of the ROC 36th Tungan Division. Ma Zhongying was a Hui muslim general from neighboring Gansu Province. He agreed to help the Kumulik forces in overthrowing Governor Jin, an effort which would serve his own interests as well: he had an agreement with the Republic of China which would recognize him as governor of Xinjiang. The ROC was threatened by Jin Shuren’s dealings with the USSR, which resulted in an arms deal in 1931. This deal was a step too far towards independence and the ROC could not tolerate it.

The Kumul rebellion carried on from 1931 to 1933. Khoja took effective control of Beijiang and compromised with Jin Shuren after a split with Ma Zhongying. Later that year a mutiny among Jin’s forces would overthrow him and place Sheng Shicai in charge. Shicai would strengthen ties with the USSR and adopt a Marxist line in contrast with his predecessor.

In 1933 the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan was declared and Khoja left Ürümqi to become its first and only President. With Soviet aid Shicai would defeat the rebel forces of the south and then form a compromise with Yulbars. Soviet intervention would enable Shicai to drive Ma Zhongying into Siberia, never to return.

In 1937 the 6th Uyghur Division and 36th Dungan Division mutinied against Sheng Shicai, but Soviet intervention defeated the mutineers. Yulbars Khan fled to Nanjiang, the republican capital, and would only return to Xinjiang after the War against the japanese ended, in 1946.

In 1949 the nationalists surrendered in Xinjiang. Yulbars Khan was among the stalwarts and led a force which, in 1950, captured the town of Yiwu. They would be defeated by the PLA and forced to retreat.

Yulbars Khan, from Manifold Scholarship

By 1951 Khan had lost most of his forces to desertion and fled to Taiwan through Tibet and across the sea. There, he would be appointed Governor of Xinjiang by Chiang Kai-Shek and remain in that office until his death in 1971.

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