Huan Zhang

Ph.D. Student

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Politics. My broad research interest lies at studying the relationships between social conflicts and institutional change, with a regional focus on China. I am currently finishing up my dissertation titled “Structuring the Dynamics of Muslim Rebellions in Xinjiang, 1755-1949.” My dissertation answers the following question: Why did indigenous rebellions emerge in Xinjiang under China’s colonial rule between 1755 and 1949 (i.e., a period beginning with Qing conquest of Xinjiang and ending with the Communist takeover of Xinjiang)? Social sciences literature provides two models to explain the origins of large-scale conflicts in general. The structural model attributes the outbreak of conflicts to pre-conflict structural conditions while the eventful model gives causal weight to contingent events that unfold during the course of conflicts. My dissertation moves beyond the existing literature by examining the dialectic of colonial rule (i.e., structure) and indigenous rebellions (i.e., events).

Based on analyzing primary sources (e.g., government communications, records by contemporaries, local gazetteers) with multiple methods (e.g., process-tracing, content analysis, counterfactual analysis), my dissertation makes a central theoretical contention: that indigenous rebellions, under some conditions, can catalyze the emergence and the transformation of China’s colonial rule in Xinjiang. In the empirical analysis, I focus on two critical periods in which the Qing China massively reshuffled its colonial rule in Xinjiang as a response to two consequential indigenous rebellions. A military regime was installed in Xinjiang in the wake of a rebellion led by khoja brothers (1757-1759), and the suppression of a Muslim rebellion (1864-1877) led to the establishment of a civilian regime in Xinjiang. Other indigenous rebellions occurred but they did not trigger such profound institutional changes. The timing and the severity of Xinjiang’s indigenous rebellions to a large extent determines their varied impacts on China’s colonial rule.

At SGPP, I have taught two undergraduate courses: “SGPP 301: The Politics of Policy of Globalization” (Spring 2019) and “POL 454: Theories of International Relations” (Summer 2018).