Jeremy Luedi is the editor of True North Far East, a blog chronicling Sino-Canadian relations.

His writing has been featured in Business Insider, Courrier International, Yahoo Finance, The Japan Times, The Diplomat, Qrius and Seeking Alpha, among others.


China, Uighurs and Central Asia: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization & Beijing's Internationalization of Domestic Security Concerns

Chinese national security policy is heavily influenced by a theme of vulnerability vis-à-vis other states; the result of the PRC's acute awareness of China's historical humiliation at the hands of colonial powers, as well as China's position as a rising power. The memory of the partition of China by foreign powers persists among the Chinese ruling elite. This in turn has resulted in the entrenchment of the dogma that national unity and territorial integrity comprise the first and last goal of China's security policy. The territory of Xinjiang and its Uyghur people have emerged as one of the greatest domestic and international security concerns for the People's Republic. The emergence of a host of new Central Asian states following the dissolution of the USSR led China to shift its gaze westward. The combination of weak states, indeterminate borders, ethnic minorities and religious tension was one which greatly concerned Beijing. In response the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to normalize relations, regulate borders, increase regional engagement and finally establish security relationships.

This paper shall investigate Chinese foreign policy in Central Asia, specifically with regards to its dealings with both domestic and diasporic Uyghur populations. Using the rhetoric of the three evils, separatism, extremism and terrorism, China has sought to characterize the Xinjiang border region as one beset by ethnic nationalism informed by radical Islam, spurring violent separatism. This paper will demonstrate that Beijing's characterization of Uyghurs rest upon shaky foundations, hyperbole and misinformation. Despite this, China has been extremely successful in persuading Central Asian states to adopt its norms and values regarding the Uyghur issue; facilitated in large part by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its associated organs.

Collective Identity, Collective Security

China conceptualizes the Xinjiang issue as a domestic concern which has become internationalized. Xinjiang and the Uyghurs are viewed as international as well as domestic problems, due in part to the geography, politics and ethnography of Central Asia, but also fundamentally in Chinese strategic thought. Chinese security policy is organized along a framework of five concentric “rings” which radiate out from Beijing, encompassing first the rest of the country, and then extending outward to the rest of the world. The issue of Xinjiang can be seen to be incorporated into three of these rings. The first security ring relates to domestic control around Beijing and the rest of the country, the second takes into consideration neighbouring countries, and the third extends security considerations to include regional inter-state organizations.1

The issue of Xinjiang consequently looms large in the collective consciousness of Chinese officialdom, and as such various efforts have been undertaken to secure China's interests in the region. Specifically the “domestically oriented amount of China's national security strategy is intended to promote the quintessential Sinocentric strategy, which is based on the Chinese definition of national identity and which aims to restore the unity of the Chinese nation and motherland.”2

The issue of national identity is an important one, as Chinese considerations of Xinjiang ultimately stem from efforts to bolster the idea of “Chinese-ness” in order to maintain nationalist sentiments throughout the country which support CCP rule. Such efforts are doubly important in border areas and other autonomous administrative regions such as Xinjiang, where national ethnic, cultural and religious minorities are focused. To a large extent much of the unrest in Xinjiang stems from Uyghur3 discontent concerning the pace of economic growth, inequality and the encroachment of mass Han migration into the area. These sources of discontent have over the years led to a series of uprisings and riots in Xinjiang, notably in 19964 and 2009 (when 197 people were killed).5. Such unrest constitutes a direct threat to the CCP's effort to realize Hu Jintao's “harmonious society, harmonious world.”6

Many Uyghurs do not self-identify with many of the key elements of “Chinese-ness” as perpetuated by Beijing.78 Their status as non-Han individuals already in many ways positions them outside of Beijing's vision of itself; namely as the successor of an expanded, Han dominated, Central Kingdom. By not subscribing to these ideals, Uyghurs incur the wrath of the government which sees any renunciation of the state as a renunciation of the regime. This in turn explains the vehemency with which China seeks to counter these threats, as the; “Xinjiang issue highlights that on internal security issues that have become internationalized and that constitute challenges to national unity, the nationalist element of Chinese national security strategy becomes the dominant theme compared with the coexistence element.”9

During the 1990s and into the new millennium10, Chinese authorities undertook various policies and actions in order to pacify and contain unrest in Xinjiang. The 1996 Strike Hard Campaign targeted what the Chinese government saw as ethnic separatism driven in part by anti-governmental political Islam. The heavy-handed nature of this response was in large part due to the rapidly changing internal and international atmosphere during which these riots occurred. Internally, the Deng era reforms combined with “increased travel to and from Central Asia, waves of Han in-migration, rapid economic growth, the shaping of Xinjiang cities [and] limited religious revival” all created sources of tension but also opportunities to engage with the wider world.11

Emergence of Central Asian States Proves Worrying

Externally, the collapse of the Soviet Union provided a new set of security challenges for China along its Western flank. However, in the eyes of Chinese elites, a greater security challenge was the creation of a number of politically unstable and economically weak states on the border of Xinjiang province, "whose native Uyghur population have long sought independence from Beijing.”12 Xinjiang had, during the Chinese Civil War been independent from 1944-1949, styling itself the East Turkestan Republic.13 This historical legacy in turn combined with the “emergence of states named after other Central Asian peoples...did resound symbolically in Xinjiang, where by the early 1990s many Uyghurs were saying that there should be an independent 'Uyghurstan' to match.”14 15

For Beijing, the emergence of these new states was a worrying sign, and the CCP sought to prevent any secessionist movements in Xinjiang by undertaking initiatives to promote regional security.16 Fearing another Tibet, China in turn sought to be proactive by seeking to systematically undermine any real or imagined separatist movements in the region by focusing on the so called three evils: separatism, terrorism and extremism.17 On March 19th 1996 Jiang Zemin, stated that illegal religious organizations and ethnic separatism constituted the two greatest threats to the area. In 1996, during the same time as the Strike Hard Campaign, China began encouraging security cooperation with Central Asian with the formation of the Shanghai Five and later Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with its focus these three themes.18 Similarly, Hu Jintao presiding over the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in 2004, stated that “we have to fight against the three evils of separatism, extremism and terrorism.”19 These three tenets have been honed and exploited by the Chinese leadership for the last fifteen years in order to conflate the Xinjiang issue with the greater instability and uncertainty in Central Asia.20

Beijing Touts Spectre of Islamism, Terrorism

China sees the issue of Islamic terrorism as directly related to and informing Uyghur dissidence in Xinjiang.21 Beijing holds Muslim Uyghurs collectively responsible for the refusal of a section of their community to conform to Chinese assimilationist aspirations,22 23 with the central government viewing resistance to this as extremism and/or tarring all concerned as separatists.24 Furthermore, “Beijing's obdurate insistence that all Uyghur independence organizations abroad (and even some that do not advocate independence) are “terrorist” is the outward face of its strategy of refusing all compromise. This stance neatly complements the demonization25 26 of domestic Uyghur critics of Xinjiang's policies as splittists, terrorists and religious extremists.”27

This tendency towards over-generalization and hyperbole is further demonstrated by the claim by the 2002 State Council Information Office report entitled “East Turkestan Terrorist Forces Cannot Get Away With Impunity,” that all 200 attacks during the 1990s were the product of a single coordinated group. This claim was patently false, due to the use of the ill-defined term “East Turkestan forces” as well as the fact that no Uyghur group claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.28 Similarly, China over-estimated the influence of Al-Qaeda in Xinjiang, after erroneously claiming that all attacks in Xinjiang were linked to said organization.29 Beijing sought to capitalize on the U.S. led global War on Terror to link all East Turkestan organizations to Al-Qaeda, despite “being mostly inspired by secular or moderate Muslim ideologies.”30 It is important to note that;

for Uyghur [nationalists] Islamism, is of secondary importance, being subordinate to the separatist movement in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The main goal of the National Front for the Liberation of Eastern Turkestan and of the Organization for the Liberation of Uyghurstan is the establishment of an independent Uyghur state. Uyghur separatism is akin to Chechen separatism in that both movements aim to form a national, not an Islamic state. At the same time, both separatist movements feature an Islamic element, which helps them obtain outside assistance and turn ethnic separatism into a component of the world Islamic movement.31 

Ironically, it was only after the 2009 riots32 and in response to their harsh repression by the Chinese government that Al-Qaeda for the first time identified China as an enemy, with Abu Yahia Al Libi “calling on Uyghurs to prepare for holy war against the Chinese government in Xinjiang.”33

Worries over foreign Islamist influences, has prompted China to increase ties with Central Asian states, playing on regional concerns about Islamic terrorism. The conflation of terrorism and separatism is a common thread, because China views the two as one and the same. Uyghur efforts to bring about the independence of Xinjiang34 are seen by the Chinese government as in part stemming from international conspiracies determined to undermine the Chinese state. Foreign Muslim groups and nations are viewed with suspicion: yet another reason why the largely Muslim nations which arose west of Xinjiang after the dissolution of the Soviet Union were and are of concern for Beijing. China claims that in 1994 there were secret training camps in Xinjiang, which in the late 1990s allegedly moved into Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.35 It is of interest to note that the SCO was also established to “counter the radicalization of Islam in a region wracked by poverty.”36

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, China sought to characterize itself as a fellow victim of terrorism, in part to gain support from the U.S. to list various Uyghur organizations as terrorist groups.37 China therefore expected the world to accept its post-9/11 crackdown in Xinjiang, an expectation which was accommodated by many Central Asian states. Consequently China's declaration that “its fight against Uyghur separatism was part of the global war on terror, Central Asian government's policies toward Uyghur separatism turned nearly as hostile as those of China itself.”38

Fears over Pan-Turkism and Cross-border Uighur Sympathies

While concerns about foreign religious and political meddling in the Uyghur issue exist, the main area of concern for Beijing are the Uyghurs themselves, and the potential safe-haven role which neighbouring countries could, either intentionally or inadvertently play. It was these various diasporic and exile groups that internationalized the Xinjiang/Uyghur issue in the 1990s.39 Moreover, cross-border trade and connections concern the Chinese,40 as does the significant Uyghur diaspora both in Central Asia and the wider world, who have “organized, lobbied politicians and employed the Internet to publicize effectively their grievances to a global audience. As a result in the twenty-first century the Xinjiang regions...looms larger in Chinese regional and international affairs than it has for centuries.”41 As a result of the actions of the Uyghur diaspora both in the West as well the approximately 500,000 Uyghurs in Central Asia,42 the dominant narrative in Chinese Central Asian security relations has become the “cutting of international links between Muslim Uyghur separatists in the province of Xinjiang and their ethnic and religious kin across Central Asia.”43

China is concerned that ethnic Uyghurs in neighbouring states will sympathize with those in Xinjiang and offer assistance and refuge. The Chinese government sees the sizable Uyghur population in Central Asia as a grave threat to its own stability and security, and as such has sought to establish security agreements with said neighbouring states. China's concerns are understandable, given the fact that Uyghurs are the seventh largest minority in Kazakhstan44 where they enjoy genuine political and cultural autonomy; an independent community which could provide shelter to Xinjiang pro-independence activists.45 Furthermore, twenty-five percent of Uzbekistan's 27 million citizens see themselves as enjoying close blood ties with the Uyghurs: they cannot ignore the actions of China in Xinjiang.46 These numbers appear to show a strong base of support for Uyghurs in Xinjiang; and while this is certainly how Beijing views the situation, the reality is more complex.

Uyghurs in Central Asia can be divided into two groups; the mainly secular and russified long-term residents of Central Asia, who are Europe-orientated and in many cases not pre-occupied with the Xinjiang issue (yerliklar); and the recent arrivals from China (keganlar).47 The latter group fled, mainly to Kazakhstan in the 1970s due to repression in China, and it is this group, many still with family ties to Xinjiang that are primarily concerned with issues of Xinjiang independence and Uyghur nationalism. There does not exist an cohesive pan-Uyghur nationalist identity which resonates among the population. Instead there exists many competing and contradictory local identities based on geography, religion and clan membership.

In both Xinjiang and in Central Asia, the opening of borders and increased contact has eroded a sense of collective identity, as local loyalties once again become know. In Central Asia it was “not until the 1991 declarations of independence and the resumption of relations with China did the idea that [the Uyghurs] were not only a Soviet people like any other but also a diaspora with links to Xinjiang become widespread and serve to fracture the community”48 Similarly “the opening of Xinjiang's borders to neighbouring countries [led] to radical changes in Uyghur worldviews and notions of ethnic-identity [and] to a breakdown in the modern, united Uyghur identity.”49

China Heads West, Buys Friends

Xinjiang borders seven countries, many with significant Uyghur populations, yet despite this vast and potentially sympathetic area, “it is outstanding that Uyghur rebels seem to have been unable to take advantage of [this] fantastically long border.”50 This inability is the direct result of a concerted Chinese effort to engage Central Asian countries in order to root out and deny any safe-havens for potential Uyghur dissidents.51 Beginning in the early 1990s China sought to normalize relations with the nascent Central Asian states by settling border disputes. China's ability during the 1990s to convince these states “through different confidence and security building measures to sign treaties demarcating their joint border has been specifically linked to the issue of Uyghur separatism.”52

Beijing operated in a highly pragmatic way when dealing with these new Central Asian states. Despite having the means to dominate the demarcation discussions as well as the hard power to back up any land claims; in many cases China gave up on most of its claims as “Beijing's reduced territorial claims seem to have been directly linked to the settling of the Uyghur question in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.”53 China has sought to use its economic clout and hard power to entice the Central Asian leaders. Specifically the

political pressure that Beijing has exerted on the Central Asian authorities in regard to the Uyghur issue [is according to] most of the Central Asian experts [such that] China coerces the governments by directly applying pressure at the highest levels of state and has the capacity to buy-off the political elites, including the presidential families, especially given the high level of corruption in the region.54

In 1994 Li Peng toured the region promising economic aid to the struggling republics in return for assurances that they would not harbour anti-Chinese Uyghur activists. The following year Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev and Jiang Zemin signed an agreement under which Kazakh security services would monitor Uyghur activities55 and share their findings with Beijing.56 Almaty made similar assurances in 1998 and the following year signed a $9.5 billion investment package with China.57 In 1996 the same year as its Strike Hard campaign, China organized the creation of the Shanghai Five (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan) which sought to target the three evils of separatism, fundamentalism and terrorism, common scourges for all member nations, and according to China in large part perpetuated by the Uyghurs. Uyghurs minorities in the Central Asian states had had uneasy relations with the larger ethnic groups, and;

in addition to pleasing China by clamping down on Uyghurs, Central Asian leaders found it quite convenient to blame “outsiders” [i.e. non-Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, etc.] for domestic political problems...Beginning in 1996, Bishkek, Almaty, Tashkent all stepped up the pressure on Uyghur organizations. In April 1996, a week before the inaugural meeting of the SCO, the foreign minister of Kazakhstan warned the Uyghurs of that country, that Almaty would tolerate no agitation for self-determination, condemning separatism as the “political-AIDS” of the late 20th century.58

The SCO and Spirited RATS

For China the first and last objective of the SCO was to secure Xinjiang province from any Uyghur insurgency emanating from neighbouring countries.59 The Chinese government has expertly perpetuated concerns about the Uyghurs amongst Central Asian countries, to the point that “the whole region [is] concerned about growing Uyghur violence. Central Asian countries, especially those with sizable Uyghur minorities, already worry about Uyghur violence and agitation.”60 The SCO owes its existence overwhelmingly to the internationalization of Chinese domestic issues and Beijing's corresponding concerns;61 “which [were] a very strong motivating factor behind China's promotion of the SCO mechanism...indeed [the] SCO can be seen to have its origins in China's Xinjiang problem.”62

Consequently one can see how the establishment of the SCO and Chinese efforts against Uyghur unrest did not both simply coincide in 1996. Similarly after the 9/11 attacks, the issue of terrorism reached even higher levels of importance for China. Soon thereafter “then Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji made two suggestions at the [SCO] conference: open the proposed SCO anti-terrorist centre as soon as possible, and speed up the drafting of the Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”63

China and various Central Asian states spurred by Zhu Rongji's call moved quickly to create the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in 2002. RATS is a multilateral security agreement that creates detailed security commitments between SCO member states.64 Specifically, the primary goal of RATS is the “coordination of non-military actions relevant to addressing the sub-state security threats of terrorism, separatism, [and] extremism.”65 While RATS engages in non-military actions, this does not mean that the forces involved are civilian ones. Security responsibilities are increasingly being militarized, as demonstrated by a post-9/11 article by Jiefang ribao66 which advocated expanding the roles of the PLA to include “non-war activities to counter terrorism, separatism [and] extremism.”67 Furthermore the RATS framework oversaw China conduct its first ever military manoeuvres with another country;

Notably these were joint border security exercises with Kyrgyzstan, exercises that could only have been targeted at stopping the illicit movement of Uyghur rebels... in 2003 and 2006 China conducted further military exercises with SCO members, emphasizing border security and attacks on mock terrorist training camps, in an apparent bid to build political support for cracking down on Uyghur rebels.68

Reference to the three evils is explicitly made in the SCO Charter and it therefore confirms the subscription of the Central Asian states “to what China perceives to be the three evil forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism.”69 By subscribing to the Chinese view of the three evils, Sino-Central Asian relations were able to reach new heights. Central Asia benefited both politically and economically from friendly relations with China, and for Beijing “the SCO has paid dividends,”70 because China “needed a lever of influence in Central Asia, and to answer the threat of Uyghur separatism.”71 As SCO members have adopted the so called Shanghai Spirit, this in turn has fostered consensus and allowed Chinese-molded norms to take hold.

The Shanghai Spirit is described by the SCO as “the spirit of mutual trust, mutual advantage, equality, mutual consultations, respect for cultural variety, and aspiration to joint development.”72 The first Secretary-General of the SCO, Zhang Deguang, elaborated further, stating that “the principle of consensus works because members show an extremely high solidarity.[Zhang] also insists that is the subscription to the principles of the Shanghai Spirit that has created common interests and common positions on important issues.”73 By fostering these common positions, China has been able to garner international approval of and cooperation with its efforts vis-à-vis Uyghurs/Xinjiang to the extent that:

within the SCO China can be secure in the assurance that its fellow members will not only accept each others' characterizations of their various dissidents, but engage in practical national and multinational efforts to suppress such elements and keep all border closed against them...74 [Specifically the SCO] member states [have] concluded a series of intelligence sharing, denial of asylum, and guaranteed extradition of one-another's wanted individuals.75

United in Spirit and Suppression

The Shanghai Spirit is important because it gives name to the process of norm-building and consensus which has occurred at the SCO since its founding. As previously mentioned, the SCO has served as vehicle for Central Asia to adopt the Chinese position regarding the Uyghur/Xinjiang issue. Subsequently, the realignment of Central Asian countries policies regarding Uyghurs can be seen over the years, for several incidents between 1997-2000 involving Uyghurs in Central Asian nations adjacent to Xinjiang were ruthlessly put down by regional governments; following friendlier security relations with China.76

China has made significant efforts to step up policy coordination with many countries in the region, notably Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.77 Consequently, Central Asian nations, notably Kyrgyzstan have made several attempts to crack down on Uyghurs on their own soil,78 and the struggle against “Uyghur Islamic separatists forms the strategic basis of military and political cooperation between Kazakhstan and China.”79 In addition, various Central Asian governments have also curtailed the rights of “political assembly, and fair legal process for both their long-term Uyghur minority citizens and recent immigrants and sojourners.”80

The Uighur Card

By introducing policies which crack down on supposed Uyghur subversives, Central Asian nations utilize the so called “Uighur Card” - namely engaging in anti-Uyghur efforts in order to curry favour with China.81 This trend is reinforced by the lack of any condemnation or objection emanating from Beijing regarding the treatment of Uyghurs outside of Xinjiang. Unhampered by human rights concerns, China and Central Asian states engage in activities vis-à-vis the Uyghur population which face strong opposition from European states and the UN Commissioner for Refugees. Issues of particular international concern are “the return extradition to China, of known Uyghur separatists from states such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan to face death penalties.”82

An important tool in China's arsenal against Uyghurs are its many extradition treaties, which allow the Chinese justice system and therefore Chinese security mechanisms access across foreign borders, in ways otherwise impossible. The mid-1990s saw Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan cooperate with extraditing Uyghur suspects to China on Beijing's behest, and since then China has also signed extradition treaties with Tajikistan, Pakistan and Nepal, in efforts to “target alleged Uyghur terrorists residing in those states.”83

Extradition treaties are one of China's most effective means to influence Central Asian policies and to apply pressure on governments to continue to tow-the-line by subscribing to Beijing's conceptualization of the three evils.84 China exerts this pressure via the SCO, as seen in 2005, when the director of the SCO regional anti-terrorist unit, Vyacheslav Kasymov accused Kazakhstan of harbouring terrorist organizations within its territory...[consequently] Kazakhstan has tightened up its security with regards to such extremist groups, largely in response to pressure from China about the activity of Uyghur separatists on the Kazakh side of the Sino-Kazakh border.85

China's Reach Becomes International

Kazakhstan's reaction and quick change in behaviour is important to note, because while China has to convince Central Asian states that the three evils concern them all, Kazakhstan, unlike some other states in the region is not threatened by large scale violence, terrorism or separatism.86 Kazakhstan's policy reversal is therefore doubly important because it demonstrates the clout China holds in the region via the SCO, corralling states to support policies which while espoused as international, remain largely Chinese domestic issues. Similarly in August 2009, under pressure from China, the Kyrgyz government arrested Dilmurat Akbarov, the chairman of the Kyrgyz Peoples’ Uyghur Friendship Society Ittipak and his deputy Jamaldin Nasirov.87 Akbarov's group was protesting Chinese actions in Xinjiang during the 2009 unrest, and his arrest coincided with the Chinese crackdown during the same period. The reach of China in Central Asia is impressive and its treaties with its neighbours have resulted in Chinese law enforcement widening its net across the entire region.

The case of Huseiyn Celil offers a stark example of exactly how far this reach is and “how effective China has been in developing security and counter-terrorism cooperation with neighbouring states, particularly those in Central Asia.”88 Celil, a Canadian citizen and Uyghur political activist, was arrested in and extradited from Uzbekistan to China while visiting his family in March 2006. Celil's arrest was made at the request of the Chinese government, and Uzbekistan extradited (with the knowledge of Celil having a pre-existing death sentence in place in China) to China where he was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2006. According to Chinese authorities, Celil was alleged to belong to the East Turkestan Liberation Organization. China ignored efforts by the Canadian government to secure his release, arguing that they did not acknowledge his Canadian citizenship, claiming that he left Xinjiang illegally (as a refugee) in the early 1990s.89

Chinese concerns regarding Xinjiang and its Uyghur population have resulted in the region and its people becoming one of Beijing chief domestic and international concerns; and the primary leitmotif in its dealings with Central Asia. Worries over the potential destabilizing influences of political Islam, radicalism, ethnic nationalism and separatism, have seen the CCP make a series of concerted efforts to fight back, against what it sees as the three evils. By pursuing border demarcation negotiations with the newly established Central Asian states following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China was able to normalize relations and begin the process of collaboration. Specifically, by linking political and economic cooperation with acquiescence to Chinese security norms, the region saw a rapid growth in multilateral agreements and understandings in which the sinister trinity of separatism, extremism and terrorism came to be viewed as a common threat.

China successfully managed to institutionalize its own norms within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and utilize said organization's various mechanisms to internationalize its anti-Uyghur efforts. The creation of security cooperation and extradition treaties have allowed the People's Republic to defuse the danger posed by weak states and the hard law of national sovereignty. By co-opting its neighbouring countries, Chinese “justice” has been able to seamlessly traverse borders to apprehend those it views as dangerous. Yet in the process of doing, the rights of all Uyghurs, not just those in Xinjiang have been eroded as part of China's hyperbolic reaction to a questionable threat.

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Notes: 1Andrew J. Nathan & Andrew Scobell, China’s Search for Security (New York: Colombia University Press, 2012), 56.

2Liselotte Odgaard, China and Coexistence: Beijing’s National Security Strategy for the Twenty-First Century (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2012), 164.

3This paper shall be using the “Uyghur” spelling as opposed to “Uighur”; for the sake of consistency, given that the former is the version used by most sources consulted. The spelling of some quotations has been subsequently modified.

4Sergei Troush, “China and Russia in Central Asia: Interests and Tendencies,” in Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11. eds. Van Wie Davis, Elizabeth & Rouben Azizian, (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 225.

5Nathan & Scobell, 207.

6Gilbert Rozman, Chinese Strategic Thought Toward Asia (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 33.

7Justin Jon Rudelson, Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China’s Silk Road. (New York: Colombia University Press, 1997), 168. - “Uyghur intellectuals define themselves in opposition to the Hans and identify strongly with the larger Turkic world of western Central Asia and Turkey that lies to the west of Xinjiang.”

8Anwar Rahman, Sinicization Beyond The Great Wall: China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. (Leicester: Troubador Publishing, 2005), 47. - “A question persists when defining the Uyghurs as a nation and Xinjiang as their native land, as there is a general point of view among Han historians which does not recognize the Uyghurs as a nation distinguished from the Han nor as natives of Xinjiang...Some Chinese historians even maintain that the forefathers of Uyghur were related to the Han. This argument offers grounds to the Chinese for justifying that he Uyghurs are originally a part of the Han nation on the one hand, and that Uyghurs are not the native people of Xinjiang on the other. However, other historians, including the Uyghurs, consider this Chinese argument as political manipulation, so as to justify Chinese reclamation of its sovereignty over Xinjiang. What the Chinese are interested in is the territory of Xinjiang, not its inhabitants.”

9Odgaard, 168-169.

10James A. Millward, Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (London: Hurst & Company, 2007), 324. - “We know relatively little about ethnic relation or incidents of unrest before then, so the sense of a gathering crisis in the 1990s and 2000s may have been partly a function of the greater availability of information.”

11Millward, 322.

12Stephen Aris, Eurasian Regionalism: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (New York: Palgrave
MacMillan, 2011), 55.

13Rudelson, 159.

14Millward, 289.

15Clifton, W. Pannell, “China Gazes West: Xinjiang's Growing Rendezvous with Central Asia.” Eurasian Geography and Economics, 52, no.1 (2011): 115-116. - “The emergence of the independent states in Inner Asia is a model that is now visible and apparent to those non-Han residents of Xinjiang...who may find inspiration for their own ideas of nationhood in the newly independent states.”

16 Laruelle, Marlene, Jean-François Huchet, Sébastien Peyrouse, and Bayram Balci, “Why Central Asia? The Strategic Rationale of Indian and Chinese Involvement in the Region,” in China and India in Central Asia: A New ‘Great Game’?” ed. Laruelle et al. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 4. “For China, primary objective of its relations with independent Central Asia was to secure its borders...which it did by obtaining treaties demarcating borders...and to prevent the region from becoming a rear base for Uyghur independence movements.”

17 Elizabeth Van Wie Davis, “Uighur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China.” Asian Affairs: An American Review 35, no.1 (2008): 18.

18Justin V. Hastings, “Charting the Course of Uyghur Unrest.” China Quarterly (December 2011): 903-905. - Jiang Zemin heading Politburo meeting - “Minutes of the Central Politburo Committee Meeting concerning safeguarding Xinjiang's stability”

19 Van Wie Davis, 18.

20The following pages will be dealing with the themes of Islamic terrorism and separatism and how they influence Chinese foreign policy security considerations. The theme of extremism is subsumed within the other two and as will not be touched upon in a separate section.

21Pannell, 114. & Van Wie Davis, 18.

22Gaye Christoffersen, “Islam and Ethnic Minorities in Central Asia: The Uyghurs.” in Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11. eds. Van Wie Davis, Elizabeth & Rouben Azizian. (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 224 - “The softening of the government religious policy in the 1980s was accompanied by the politicization of Islam among Uyghurs. Islam was used as a tool by both sides of Uyghur anti-colonial opposition. While Uyghur nationalists were protesting that their Turko-Islamic identity was threatened by the socio-cultural values promoted by the Chinese nation-state, Islamist fringes of the Uyghur opposition were promoting the setting up of an Islamic state.”

23 Shi, Yinhong, “Great Power Politics in Central Asia Today: A Chinese Assessment.” in Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11. eds. Elizabeth Van Wie Davis & Rouben Azizian. (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 165.

24Odgaard, 166.

25Odgaard, 166 - “Links between Turkish-speaking peoples in Xinjiang and Central Asia are seen as constituting a type of barbarian threat to Chinese civilization that call for the use of force to maintain control over territory and citizens...according to the Chinese concept, barbarians are not foreigners in a strict sense; rather they are uncivilized.” - Rudelson, 47 - “Although the Chinese government plays up the Islamic threat in Xinjiang, Kashgar is the only volatile Islamic center that historically incited many rebellions against Chinese rule.”

26Blaine Kaltman, Under the Heal of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime and the Uighur in China. Global and Comparative Studies Series, (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2007), 73. - “Among Han, Xinjiang has a reputation for being dangerous and primitive because of its Uyghur population...I heard Han of all backgrounds refer to the Uyghur problem. [Han]...usually quick to say that Uyghur are criminals and uninterested in in assimilating into Han society. They generally view Uyghur with distrust and think they are...fierce, recalcitrant, unreasonable.”

27Gardner Bovington, The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land, (New York: Colombia University Press, 2010), 154.

28Millward, 339-341.

29Christoffersen, 47.

30Marlene Laurelle & Sebastien Peyrouse, The Chinese Question in Central Asia: Domestic Order, Social Change and the Chinese Factor, (London: Hurst&Company, 2012), 31.

31Aleksei Malashenko, “Islam, Politics, and Security in Central Asia.” in Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11. eds. Van Wie Davis, Elizabeth & Rouben Azizian, (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 99. - emphasis added

32Odgaard, 165. - Beijing was already on high alert with regards to Uyghur unrest in 2009, following the March 2008 hijacking of a Urumqi-Beijing plane by Muslim separatists from Xinjiang. The incident resulted in two deaths and fifteen arrests.

33Laurelle & Peyrouse, 37.

34Gilbert Rozman, Chinese Strategic Thought Toward Asia. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 16. - The Xinjiang issue does not enjoy the same prominence in the Western psyche as Tibet, yet China feels that efforts by countries such as the U.S. “would agitate in Central Asia in support of democracy and human rights in a manner that would arose independence forces in Xinjiang.”  -  Nathan & Scobell, 208. - Chinese fears that Western sympathy with the Uyghur cause would result in foreign interference in Chinese domestic affairs, are in part substantiated by the fact that the “U.S. government funded Radio Free Asia makes Uyghur-language broadcasts to Xinjiang, repeating information that is censored in China, [with] the Chinese government normally jamming the broadcasts.”

35Millward, 335.

36Odgaard, 196.

37Hastings, 894.

38Hastings, 908.

39Millward, 335.

40Laurelle & Peyrouse, 120. - “Fostered by international trade, the trans-nationalization of the Uyghur communities and the development of links with the diaspora were quickly seen to be a dangerous phenomenon by Beijing and [Central Asia]”

41Millward, 288.

42Rahman, 33-34.

43Emilian Kavalski, Central Asia and the Rise of Normative Powers: Contextualizing the Security Governance of the European Union, China and India, (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), 114.

44Laurelle & Peyrouse, 21-22.

45Jean-Pierre Cabestan, “Central Asia-China Relations and Their Relative Weight in Chinese Foreign Policy.” in China and India in Central Asia: A New ‘Great Game’?” ed. Laruelle et al. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 27.

46Cabestan, 36.

47Laurelle & Peyrouse, 21-22.

48Laurelle & Peyrouse, 22.

49Rudelson, 40.

50Hastings, 905.

51Hastings, 894. - “the political and economic landscape of the border areas between China and the countries of Central Asia...this geography when combined with repression channels and constraints to [movement of] legitimate and illicit people and goods across the borders [makes] both the command and control, and logistical functions of Uyghur-related violence difficult.”

52Kavalski, 114.

53Laurelle & Peyrouse, 20-22. - “Anxious about the political radicalization of sections of Uyghur society, about the structuring of an autonomous narrative with Islamic connotations and about the ambiguous role of the Central Asian diaspora, China bluntly demanded that the Central Asian states prevent any anti-Chinese movement from emerging on their territories.”
54Laurelle & Peyrouse, 178.

55Millward, 337-338.

56Bovingdon, 145.

57Cabestan, 28.

58Bovingdon, 145-146.

59Millward, 337

60Van Wie Davis, 25.

61Aris, 44.

62Aris, 55.

63Pan Guang, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Challenges, Opportunities, and Prospects.” in Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11. eds. Van Wie Davis, Elizabeth & Rouben Azizian, (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 234.

64Kavalski, 117.

65Aris, 120.

66The official daily newspaper of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Party

67Christoffersen, 49.

68Hastings, 908.

69Kavalski, 117.

70Nathan & Scobell, 165.

71Aris, 44.

72Aris, 38.

73Kavalski, 119.

74Aris, 56. - emphasis added

75Nathan & Scobell, 165. -emphasis added

76Hastings, 893. -emphasis added

77Odgaard, 197.

78Van Wie Davis, 24.

79Malashenko, 99.

80Millward, 337-338.


82Pannell, 114.

83Michael Clarke, “Widening the Net: China's Anti-Terror Laws and Human Rights in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” The International Journal of Human Rights 14, no. 4 (2010): 547.

84Bovingdon, 145.

85Aris, 65.

86Aris, 65.

87Cabestan, 36.

88Clarke, 554.

89Clarke, 554.

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