Since the Xinjiang crisis erupted into violence on July 5*, I had a chance to view this problem from a few unique perspectives:
1. When the violence broke out, I was in China smack in the heart of another stronghold of nationalities, that is, the Korean Autonomous regions and counties on the border with North Korea, checking out the appeals for ethnic harmony. The Koreans didn’t seem to give a damn about the Uighurs and if anything were bothered.
Indeed, everyone in China seems to reference last year’s Tibet unrest in indicating the Uighurs have bad timing and aren’t mindful of China’s needs. In the week after the initial incident in Xinjiang, I had a nice ride with a load of Tibetans from Qinghai on the No. 5 subway in Beijing; it was pretty palpably uncomfortable between the Han and the sprachlos/not really very good with oral Mandarin delegation of about twenty Tibetans. So things are still tense depending on which ethnic group you are talking about, but the Koreans were rock-solid with Beijing. Very little sympathy from any quarter.
2. I spent half a day in Dubai last week and therefore had a chance to delve, old-school, into their press stories on the Xinjiang problem. (The Khaleej Times is a great paper whose articles I hope to excavate here a bit further.) Then I flew over Iraq and Turkey — wow! you might say, that don’t make him an expert, and I would agree, yet my surroundings were certainly encouraging to think about the Xinjiang problem, and the whole notion of borderlands in desert kingdoms, from another perspective. And in sum I got a more visceral idea of how closely the Islamic world, broadly speaking, is watching this Uighur problem.
3. I spent a few days in Berlin, that partially Turkish city, and quite a few fine articles appeared in Germany on the Xinjiang issue and its Turkish ties when I was there; similarly, the French press (since today I’m back in Paris and doing my best to read ye olde Le Figaro, etc.) has fine insights into the Sino-Algierian issues in particular that have arisen as a result of Xinjiang (see below).
Since time is a bit limited, today’s post is going to save these things for later (particularly digests of 2. and 3. above) and promise to talk about the 1950s and 1960s as well. After all, China’s new placement with the West in the “War on Terror” is in many ways a consquence of Beijing having abandoning its sponsorship and support of revolutionary and anti-colonial movements in north Africa and across the world.
[*] I will resist using the favored CCP term for the violence; their “7.5 incident” lies in a kind of conceptually ritualized nationalistic netherworld plotted in between the three disastrous points of 9.11 (signifiers of terror attacks, implications of justice for whatever acts occur in the following undeclared war on an internal population), 7.7 (the just eight year War of Anti-Japanese Resistance not entirely forgotten by the media even in this year) and 6.4 (Tianamen in ’89, the unspoken anniversary that needed most badly to be topped). Finally, in 2009, Communist Party officials seem to have found a date worth commemorating. And they are fetishizing away. [*]
Pierre Rousselin [talking head], “La Chine face à l’islamisme (China faces Islamism),” editorial, Le Figaro, 16 July, 2009, p 23.
Therry Oberle [correspondent in Maghreb], “Al-Qaida cible les Chinois en Afrique du Nord,” Le Figaro, 16 July, 2009, p 5.
China Daily, “‘East Turkestan’ a concept forged by the deceit of separatists, not history”