Sunday, October 9, 2011

Xinjiang violence reflects broader global context

Global Times, a Chinese state run newspaper, has published an interview with Dr Elizabeth Van Wie Davis relating to Xinjiang and Uyghur unrest in the region.

Dr Davis is described as a US based scholar previously at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies and now a director of Liberal Arts and International Studies at the Colorado School of Mines.

Whilst I have heard of her as the author of the book
Islam, Oil, and Geopolitics: Central Asia after September 11 and of a paper Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China   (PDF) I am not totally familiar with her work. One would believe, however, that with her credentials and published body of work that she would have a fair understanding of the issues relating to the Uyghur people in Xinjiang and as such offer a balanced and reasoned perspective. This, however, does not seem to be the case in the linked to article.

Now the Global Times is the 'bad cop' in China's stable of CCP controlled media having taken over, to a great degree, that role previously played by the People's Daily. It is the 'knock em down, take no prisoners' type and is used to deliver the hard line on the Chinese governments thoughts on international relations.

This fact is pretty much universally known. To be interviewed by Global Times invites being used as part of the Chinese government propaganda machine. You just don't get covered if you take anything more than a mild  critical tone, which will be lost, of course, in greater verbiage in support of CCP contentions. They do it reasonably often especially concerning Tibet and the Uyghur.

Dr Davis was posed a series of questions which I list below.

GT: How should we view the violent incidents in Xinjiang?

Her response essentially is that it is either terrorism or separatism. Simple as that.

GT: The Turkistan Islamic Party recently claimed that it was responsible for the terrorist attacks in July in Hotan and Kashgar. But the World Uyghur Congress stated the offenders are not terrorists at all. Why the contradiction?

With little ado Dr Davis replies that this is a stock standard response from the WUC. No ifs or buts, no call for case by case analysis, just that a stock standard knee jerk response by the WUC.

GT: Are the roots of conflict in Xinjiang ethnic, religious, or economic? Is the “rule of law” rather than an ethnic approach a better solution? 

Whilst conceding that 'rule of law" is a better approach than ethnic based solutions she blames international forces as the root of Xinjiang's troubles, " a new religious and ethnic revivalism that is spanning the world" Well, for the life of me, I can not see some semi literate, poverty stricken farmer in an arid field miles from Hotan or Kashgar just itching to get on the bandwagon of this new 'revivalism'.

Then again for no reason relating to the context of the question she launches another criticism of the WUC.

Finally a doozie of a question from GT and, for a change, a reasonable response.

GT: How much can economic prosperity help heal Xinjiang’s wounds? 

Well, if I was from  the Government propaganda and media departments I would be having the reporter and editor posting their next pieces from the newly opened GT office in the middle of the Taklamakan Desert!

Look at the question and it's inclusion of  "heal Xinjiang's wounds" ? Does Xinjiang have wounds? Who inflicted these so called "wounds"? Unlike a malaise a wound is not caught it is inflicted, does the reporter unknowingly allow his true beliefs to subconsciously emerge through the stock standard Party line?

As I said, Dr Davis' response is reasonable. She calls for greater participation of the ethnic groups in government and a greater role for women. She also advises that economic benefits need to be shared more equally. On both points I have no argument.

Now, Dr Davis may well be sitting somewhere with head in hands if this interview has been misreported or skewed by GT editors, if not, she can still keep that pose for other reasons.

Xinjiang violence reflects broader global context