China’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


uighurs.jpg Christina Larson, a new fellow at the New America Foundation, has written two great pieces this week (here and here) on the bloody clash between the Chinese government and the Uighur population in Xinjiang province.
In The New Republic, Larson, who has traveled extensively in China – specifically among the Muslim villages of Xinjiang, offers an acute observation of the underlying problem between China and its Muslim minority. “Fundamentally, the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded on materialist principles and encourages atheism among its members, doesn’t understand religion. Its leaders see every non-state-supervised religious gathering, or attempt to impart values to children, as a potential threat to their political authority.”
This immense lack of understanding has led the Chinese government to create a threat where one previously did not exist and an enemy out of a traditionally peaceful people. Larson’s article in Foreign Policy points out that the “global war on terror” allowed the Chinese government to step up oppressive surveillance and restrictions for the Uighurs with little to no objection from the United States and allies.

Although Islam is not officially outlawed, Uighurs are subject to a litany of intrusions on daily religious life, which leads them to see the government as an antagonistic force. As one man in Kashgar told me, “Because I am born a Uighur, I am a terrorist — that is what the government thinks?”
The authorities’ overreach is also clear in the way security policies target children. During certain religious holidays, anyone under 18 is barred from entering a mosque. In Kashgar, communal meals are imposed at school during the fast period of Ramadan, and attendance is required at special assemblies timed to coincide with Friday prayers. There’s no reason to treat every Uighur child like an aspiring terrorist or separatist, unless the aim is truly to stamp out religion from next generation. But this tactic would seem a high-stakes gamble for the CCP.

Larson also points out that last week’s crackdown represented one of the Chinese government’s weak spots in domestic policy, “Ultimately, China is more adept at creating fearsome impressions in the moment — grand like the Olympic Opening Ceremony, or cruel like the crackdown on protestors — than at maintenance. When you look close, it’s apparent how much muddle there is beneath the surface, especially when authorities attempt to formulate policy around something they don’t truly understand.”
I recommend the full articles to anyone interested in great commentary, not only on the recent clashes in Xinjiang, but on China’s greater domestic policy issues.
— Faith Smith


14 comments on “China’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  1. sagesource says:

    First, it is not surprising that the Chinese government is paranoid about religion. This is a feature of Communist governments, to be sure, but it also fits in perfectly with Chinese tradition. In the Indo-European tradition, spiritual and mundane power maintain a certain degree of legitimate separation — there is priest AND king, and neither can entirely eliminate the other. “Render unto Caesar…” and so on. However, things are quite different in the traditional Chinese world order. The leader of the Chinese state, in traditional times the emperor or Son of Heaven, is the supreme power in BOTH the spiritual and the earthly realms. (He is also by definition the ruler of all humankind, though modern China has thankfully backed off on that claim.) Thus, in the traditional Chinese world order, any worship of a deity whose powers go beyond that of the Emperor was by definition treason. The Emperor ruled and rewarded, promoted and punished, the gods of his realm just as freely as he did his human subjects, heavily favoring worship of deities such as Guan Gong, a paragon of loyalty, and ruthlessly eliminating any cult that seemed to waver in loyalty, or even failed to show due deference (what happened to Falun Gong is only the latest chapter in a VERY old story). Thus, to the traditional mindset (still very powerful in China), one cannot believe in a transcendent deity and be a loyal citizen. Everything is Caesar’s, and God is no more than one of Caesar’s subordinates who must know his place or else.
    And let’s hear no more of that drivel about America’s debt to China giving the latter any special advantage. As the saying goes, if you owe a million to the bank it’s your problem, but if you owe a billion, it’s the bank’s problem. The situation can as easily be conceptualized as American robbery of China as Chinese enslavement of America. China has an enormous amount of American paper, and the US is still a vital export market. It’s a codependent relationship, and while the American government would probably survive a currency crash (as in 1920s Germany) and a depression, the Chinese government almost certainly would not. They know that. They’re not stupid.


  2. David says:

    Excuse me, Zathras, but condemning misguided US policies, especially those that result in terrible human suffering and death, as well as destruction of the planet, is not even remotely synonymous with your wrongheaded comment. God damn the mindsets that have brought about these things, yes. And if you think you are somehow more patriotic or love America more than do those of us who see US policy very differently than do you, you are no better than the pro-apartheid “patriotic” southerners I knew as a young adult, including the “America, love it or leave it” pro-war, kill-a-Commie-for-Christ, nuke-’em-till-they-glow crowd.
    I also grew up around the “Put-your-heart-in-Dixie-or-Get-Your-Ass-Out” crowd. They too could go piss up a rope.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well Zathras, there quite a few people that comment here, myself included, that would put YOU into the “God Damn America” faction, due to your insane support for this fuckin’ scam known as the GWOT, and your far RW natterings.
    Of course China is an important topic for discussion. But we don’t have a coupla hundred thousand troops in harms way on Chinese soil, or have Chinese lobby organizations bribing our Congressmen to undermine Obama’s stated policies and blow the bugle of war against a nation that poses no threat to us.
    Besides, been to a home depot lately? The Chginese own us, and pose no threat to us militarily. They are obviously bringing us to our knees by selling us cheap useless shit, so they needn’t pursue other means of hostility. Have you had your ration of melamine yet today? And you might wanna get back to us after the chinese sheetrock has corroded all the pipes in your new home, and poisoned your lungs. I’d suggest you move into your RV, but the levels of toxicity the Chinese plywoods are emmitting may well be more poisonous than the deadly sheetrock in your new home.
    Its the chinese version of WMDs, just as deadly, and far more insidious, than a direct attack.
    And if that doesn’t do it, they can always simply cash in their chits.


  4. MNPundit says:

    Traditionally peaceful? Not always.
    That said anything that drives Uygherstan and Tibet closer to political succession from China is okay by me.


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    I can assure you, Tony, that the universe in general, and human
    beings in particular, will NEVER win any sympathy from me either,
    until the universe in general, and human beings in particular,
    stop being so nasty.
    (And sorry, Zathras, for being off topic, but I couldn`t resist it!)


  6. TonyForesta says:

    Islam in general and Muslim in particular will NEVER win any sympathy from any western nation, or Russia, or China, or any latin nation, – until and unless Islam in general and Muslims in particular renounce, reject, recant, and repudiate the freakish psychopathic perverion and malignancy of jihadist islam. Fair or not, right or wrong, – Islam in general and muslims’ in particular are lumped into a single jihadist slurry because, NO ONE IN ISLAM in GENERAL and MUSLIMS in particular have the courage to renounce, reject, recant, and repudiate the freakish psychopathic perversion and malignancy of jihadist islam. Since Islam in general, and muslims in particular lack this courage, and by their silence and apathy, condone and support the freakish psychopathic perversion and malignancy of jihadist islam, – whenever any Islamic or muslim society is persecuted, – most of the civilized world will support this action, even if quietly or silently.
    It is unfortunate that “…if you visit Xinjiang, you’ll hear little about jihad or fatwas, and few diatribes against contemporary lifestyles, women’s rights, or capitalism. The Uighurs, like the Turks with whom they share ethnic and linguistic roots, embrace a blending of devotion and modernity. While Islam is a central aspect of their identity, Uighurs don’t view the world, or their relationship to Beijing, as an ecclesiastical clash of civilizations. They have plenty of complaints about Chinese government policy, but those grievances aren’t formulated or expressed in the name of Allah. Nor do Uighur clerics enforce a culturally conservative outlook. Women in Kashgar wear headscarves, but they also zip themselves about town on motorbikes.” Islam in general and muslims in particular will NEVER win any sympathy or support unless and until the freakish perverts and malignant massmurderers of jihadist islam are divorced from, rejected, renounced, and repudiated by the rest of civilized Islam. Until that, day Islam in general and Muslims in particular are at war with the rest of the world, and so from the rest of the worlds standpoint, – better off controlled or preferrably dead.


  7. Paul in NC says:

    “Fundamentally, the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded on materialist principles and encourages atheism among its members, doesn’t understand religion. Its leaders see every non-state-supervised religious gathering, or attempt to impart values to children, as a potential threat to their political authority.”
    Sounds to me like they understand religion perfectly.


  8. Zathras says:

    Is that all? 6 comments, of which 2 are on topic, two are spam, 1 is an off-topic post appearing on every thread on the site and one comment from the “God damn America” faction among TWN’s readership.
    It’s not as if I think there are a lot of Xinjiang experts out there withholding comment, but China is a fairly important subject about which some people ought to have thought. Perhaps not.


  9. JohnH says:

    More commentary about oppression by US enemies, which could be part of the US program to discredit and possibly destabilize the Chinese regime.
    With the advent of a few more troubles, China could begin to seriously resent US intervention in its internal affairs, at which point it has some impressive tools to deploy. China could begin targeting the US’ own soft underbelly of repression (Honduras, Haiti, Palestine, Afghanistan) and start funding its own “democracy” movements. Or it could simply remind the US of who is lending the money to keep the lights lit on Pennsylvania Avenue.
    The US is increasingly treading on quicksand when it moves to replace democratically elected governments with repressive ones and continuing to support other ones. Instead of demonizing US’ enemies, TWN needs to start running opinion pieces on the repressive aspects of US allies and how to bring democracy to them. Legitimacy should matter, particularly when the US chooses which countries to befriend. Illegitimate friends of the US are easy targets.


  10. nicky says:

    Rothmans cigarettes
    Epique Cigarettes


  11. easy e says:

    [Not to be redundant]
    Hey Steve, how about the latest TWN perspective on the CIA assassination program. Appears to be quite a bit here………..
    Make sure to also read the “comments” section in following links, especially the one by “DLD” in the first article (tpmmuckraker) and the few by “Kurt” in the second article (rawstory).
    Quite chilling. Would be interested in TWN/NAF positions on this.
    Report: CIA Assassin Program Could Operate Anywhere — Even Inside U.S.
    Report: ‘No geographical limitations’ on CIA assassination program


  12. brigid says:

    Strange how such an anti-Islamic state has such warm relations with countries like Iran, Pakistan, and the Sudan.
    And here we are, nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the right wing ideological dream that embrace of capitalism would bring democracy and human rights to China and any other country who follow suit is revealed as such a falsehood.


  13. Zathras says:

    It’s curious that neither commentary by Ms. Larson mentions either the similarity of Chinese policy toward dissent in Xinjiang to Chinese policy toward dissent in Tibet or the impact of Han Chinese migration into traditionally Uighur cities.
    Curious also is Larson’s ascription to Chinese Communists of incomprehension with respect to religion. The Party has always been hostile to religion, not just to Islam. It sees religion as a threat to the authority of the officially atheist state because, as long as the state remains officially atheist, religion is at least a potential threat to its authority.
    Does the Chinese Communist Party make problems for itself in the short run through its ham-handed suppression of Uighur Muslims — also Tibetans, Han Christians and adherents of Falun Gong? No doubt. A policy of tolerance and accomodation would appease grievances before religious and ethnic minorities could act on them. The question that matters to Beijing is what such accomodations would mean, cumulatively, for the authority and nature of the Chinese state.


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