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August 12, 2009 6:28 PM   Subscribe

China’s wild west Considered journalism on the historical and political background to the recent inter-ethnic violence in Xinjiang.
posted by Abiezer (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
There isn't anything "recent" about it. It hasn't hit the western press much, but it's been going on for a hell of a long time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2009


Also, "inter-ethnic violence" is a peculiar way to describe it. In other contexts it might be referred to as "revolutionary activity against foreign occupation".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting: One the one hand, China's government provides a brilliant template on how to oppress, control, and utilise nationalist fervour to ensure its populace and to a large degree the world is ignorant as to the 'real China' - a reality that arguably doesn't exist in any corporeal or known form.

On the other hand, they're such a bunch of simplistic, short-sighted bunglers, that they may as well open a cheap and efficient rod-factory for their own backs.

That article's take is that the (Uighur) extremism is inextricably linked to the govt's actions, and - if said actions were a bit more nuanced/just, the separatism etc would go away.

Whilst I appreciate the argument, I think it's pretty naive. The govt has exacerbated a situation because of its fear of independence. However, to act like the Uighurs et al would be content to become effectively a colony subsidising the progress of greater China - and Han majority and culture they neither identify or empathise with - is I think optimistic in the extreme.

Now, whether China would be able to defuse those feelings is another question. I would argue no, not without a radical reconception of China and the CCP itself. But if - somehow - they were able to do so, it would take a lot more than I think the writer intimates. A sacrifice they may well regard as too high. It's a shame for everybody, especially as China grows in power and stature and the western nations become ever-more reluctant to do more than squeak impotently in the face of gross human rights abuses.

This said, I've no doubt 3/4 of my apartment comes from China, so I'm also culpable. The wages of cheap furniture and electronics is abuse.
posted by smoke at 7:12 PM on August 12, 2009


Whilst I appreciate the argument, I think it's pretty naive.
I don't think it's entirely so, smoke; in my view people by and large focus on issues in day-to-day life and if genuine autonomy removed some of the more pressing grievances (linguistic, cultural and religious) much of the tension could well be ameliorated. Moreover, further to your later point, this wouldn't require a "radical reconception of China and the CCP itself" as it's how minorities policy was originally conceived - though you're quite right it would mean a radical change in actual practice and there's plenty of evidence from elsewhere that nationalist feelings can grow once basic fairness and livelihood questions are resolved. There's also a qualitative difference in the nature of the central state and its capacity to intervene in everyday life compared to the historical empire that Xinjiang was part of for centuries (albeit not uncontested).

Also, "inter-ethnic violence" is a peculiar way to describe it. In other contexts it might be referred to as "revolutionary activity against foreign occupation".
Clown.
posted by Abiezer at 8:03 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


genuine autonomy

Ah, there's the rub, I think. I would argue the minorities policy as it was genuinely conceived was something created purely for show; an excellent spin for the party to hold up as an example of liberality, with no intention of ever following through. Thus following the policy would in effect be more radical than the writer claims.

This said, as you allude to, there are some good examples (cf the special economic zones in the south) where - albeit limited - autonomy has succeeded in keeping the populace relatively happy and stable. But I would say those zones lack both the large minority populations and mineral resources that could complicate things in the west.

Sadly, I think neither your nor I will ever get to see our hypotheses tested, due to a bad administration. We certainly both agree that an adherence to the spirit, if not the words, of the policy would either way result in a far better outcome for both Uighurs and Hans in the region.
posted by smoke at 8:20 PM on August 12, 2009


PS, I would love to hear more of your thoughts about this, as someone who is a lot closer to the action than me, linguistically, geographically, etc!
posted by smoke at 8:23 PM on August 12, 2009


Ah, there's the rub, I think.
Indeed
I would argue the minorities policy as it was genuinely conceived was something created purely for show; an excellent spin for the party to hold up as an example of liberality, with no intention of ever following through.
I'm not so sure it was all show - after all, look at Tibet up until "democratic reform" in 1959 - but certainly it wasn't going to stand in the way of realpolitik in the border regions and other ideological concerns, and what I know of the history of Wang Zhen's "peaceful liberation" of Xinjiang gives a much different picture. I happened to read parts of a long internal missive to Party Centre from a Mongolian cadre arguing that implementing the policy as conceived would go a long way to resolving problems, but it is in essence a Stalinist artefact of a now long-past era and something new needs to be put in its place. Han intellectuals like Wang Lixiong have made some thoughtful contributions.
posted by Abiezer at 9:01 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, Wang Zhen and, in opposition Hu Yaobang, seem to represent two quite different faces with China. When I think of the two, I can't help wondering what would have happened had the party chosen to continue the legacy of the latter rather than the former, and if indeed that would have been (or even still is) possible. Without canonising Yaobang, I can't help but feel his influence could - and I suppose does in some ways - contribute greatly to the welfare of the Chinese.
posted by smoke at 2:03 AM on August 13, 2009


Media blog Danwei interviews two China Newsweek reporters back from Urumchi.
posted by Abiezer at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2009


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