Jumping Through Hoops
July 16, 2008 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Is Xinjiang Province The Islamic Jihad Battlefront in China? China detains 82 'terrorists' targeting Olympics and police have shot Uighurs dead. Meanwhile people from the Uighur minority call on the international community to boycott the Beijing Olympic games. What side of the Jihad is China on? Previously there was The Al Qaeda - China Tie. The oil and petrochemical sector account for 60% of Xinjiang's local economy.
posted by adamvasco (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Chinese Turkistan" is a fascinating place, a rmix of people and cultures and fairly backwards in time, and dramatic geography and weather. It's always been a hotbed of civil war not to mention the tensions of the great powers - Russia, China, India, Middle East (see "The Great Game"). Warlords, tribal chiefs, mongols on horses, yurts, etc.. always a battlefront of some sort or another, it's a rough place but barely populated and not much to be worried about.

For a great classic travel book about this region see News from Tartary (1936) written by Ian Flemmings brother.
posted by stbalbach at 7:06 AM on July 16, 2008

There's Uighurs in Guantanamo too.
posted by afu at 7:07 AM on July 16, 2008

Xinjiang is like Tibet but without the cute oppressed monks so hipsters don't give a crap about it.

It's a police state, and in my opinion a huge black mark on a country and people that I love.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:03 AM on July 16, 2008

a huge black mark on a country and people that I love.

So's Sudan. And Zimbabwe.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2008

For, in truth, the Islamic Jihadists of China's Xinjiang are linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. Their terrorist methods and ideology are of a piece with the larger Islamic Jihadist goal to overthrow existing governments and install a religious theocracy. They, in fact, represent the Chinese battlefront of the worldwide Islamic Jihad.

In truth, in fact.

This neocon paranoia is getting more than a little tiresome. These little boys should look under their beds and see that, in truth and in fact, the monster they fear is poverty.

As with many of these disputes throughout Asia, the root causes of the problem are a complex mix of history, ethnicity, and religion, fueled by poverty, unemployment, social disparities, and political grievances. Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China (.doc file).
posted by three blind mice at 8:09 AM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

The notion that "jihad" is like the One Ring that unifies all Muslims is a reductionist, childish view from the folks at American Thinker and Blogging for a free world. China's foreign policy is like that of Nixon and Kissinger-- based on frankly immoral, balance-of-power politics. Therefore it's probably less dangerous than the US's myopic, counterproductive jihad.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, the Uighurs were carrying knives? You mean, like the knives that every single Uighur man carries past puberty? It's probably okay that they shot them, in that case.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2008

The labeling of the Uighurs as "terrorists" has been ongoing for a long time, since way before 2001, and some Han Chinese are, frankly, terribly racist when it comes to this particular minority. It seems to me that equating the Uighur separatist movement with "Al Qaeda in China" is playing straight into the hands of the worst excesses of the PRC government - it offers a great excuse.

The way the Uighurs are treated in China has always been something that bothered me a lot, particularly when I lived in Beijing. We used to go down to eat in a Uighur quarter of the city, which had the most amazing food. Then one day, we went down and found nothing but razed buildings. The whole quarter had been eradicated in the course of about two days, and the people rounded up and shipped away somewhere - I could never find out where the (extremely friendly and moderate practicing Muslim) owner of my favorite restaurant and his family actually ended up.

Before the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the PRC, the same thing happened to pretty much all the little Uighur food stands around the city - one day they were just gone, all rounded up and driven away. The excuse was something about how the little charcoal burners used to make the yang rou chuan (lamb BBQ skewers) was "a key source of air pollution" (totally ridiculous, given the many industrial sources of air pollution in the city). It took ages for them to come back.

But yet, for some reason, Tibet gets all the press...
posted by gemmy at 9:37 AM on July 16, 2008 [6 favorites]

Oh, wow! Thanks stbalbach, "News from Tartary" looks like an awesome book. I'm ordering it right now.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2008

Xinjiang is like Tibet but without the cute oppressed monks so hipsters don't give a crap about it.

When I was studying International Relations as an undergrad, it was generally expected of students to have a few particular topic areas on which they focused. The situation in Xinjiang was one I latched on to (my favorite professor had suggested I look into it as I was casting around for a research topic my sophomore year). I was surprised to find most of my classmates had never even heard of the place, despite being well versed in what was going on in Tibet.

This was during the late 90s, however; central Asia wasn't getting much attention to begin with (this would change in 2001, of course) and criticism of China wasn't all that popular, given the expectation (hope?) that their runaway economic growth would soon rescue the world from the clutches of Western imperialism. Or something like that. I remember a conversation I had on the topic with a classmate who was typically vocal about human rights issues (the treatment of Palestinians, in particular) in which she dismissed the entire thing because, hey, "The Chinese are OK." Talk about eye-opening.

Even to this day, my dim view of the Chinese government's human rights record is colored mostly by their activities in Xinjiang – not Tibet.
posted by jal0021 at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2008

Good post. Thanks, adamvasco.
posted by homunculus at 10:47 AM on July 16, 2008

This neocon paranoia is getting more than a little tiresome.

And it's very well refuted by a 23-year CIA vet here. (I considered posting that article to the front page, but I don't like SLOEs) The more often it can be repeated to more people that 'Al Qaeda's Worldwide Jihad' is a phony boogeyman, the better.

That said, the growing economic power of a Chinese government that has no respect for human (non-economic) rights is a much more real threat. The economic polyannas who believe the US's massive debt to China somehow puts us at an advantage don't know the difference between a Banker and a Dictator (yes, there are some similarities).

Who cares if "may you live in interesting times" is NOT an ancient Chinese curse: the Chinese Regime makes life "interesting" for everyone they can.
posted by wendell at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2008

Photos of East Turkistan via
posted by adamvasco at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2008

Wu'er Kaixi, one of the leaders of the 1989 student democracy movement, is Uighur.
posted by escabeche at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2008

The Xinjiang-region separatists are somewhat different from Tibetan separatists. Call them terrorists or freedom fighters but at least some groups there are more inclined towards violence than the Tibetans. And it's not just a recent phenomenon - see this 1998 NYT article about a bus bombing in Wuhan, which mentions several other bombings in Xinjiang province.

It's certainly feasible that this is something contrived by the Chinese government which is entirely oppressive and tyrannical towards the Uighur, carrying out Han resettlement projects in Xinjiang etc. just like in Tibet, but it seems equally feasible to me that somewhere amongst the people rounded up was a group with an actual plot to carry out another bombing or something similar.
posted by XMLicious at 1:29 PM on July 16, 2008

Interesting topic. Can anyone point me to articles that might discuss relations between the Uighur and Hui* people? A Wikipedia entry about East Turkestan says that the Hui helped the government reestablish control in the region in 1934. Presumably, this meant fighting against the Uighurs.

*The other large Muslim ethnic group in China.
posted by omarr at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2008

Some recent bloggage on the topic:

Islam in China - written by a Chinese muslim.

Anak Alam - A Malaysian's recent travels to a number of muslim regions in China:
Madaris of Yunan
Muslims in the Dust Bowl of China
Zhaotong Prefecture, Part 1 and Part 2
posted by BinGregory at 11:00 PM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sixteen Chinese policemen have been killed in an attack on a border post in the restive Muslim region of Xinjiang.
posted by adamvasco at 4:51 AM on August 4, 2008

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