XINJIANG AT THE CROSSROADS OF GLOBAL GEOPOLITICS: INTRIGUATION CONTINUES
Xinjiang, the largest Chinese province, with an area of about 1.66 million square meters. km, i.e. one-sixth of the country, over the past few years has become one of the most famous regions of modern China. And not because the poorest province of XUAR is becoming an increasingly prosperous region, the engine of development of the western part of the PRC. A solid scale of economic construction is deployed in the region, focused on a significant expansion of economic ties with neighboring countries. Xinjiang's GDP in 2021 amounted to $251.2 billion, which is more than the entire GDP of neighboring Central Asia, with which Xinjiang is closely connected not only geographically and culturally, but also economically and infrastructurally.
But these aspects of XUAR are of no interest to anyone. The region has become famous thanks to Western media and international human rights structures that pursue other goals than drawing attention to the development of Xinjiang. For several years now, Western countries have been actively using human rights issues in dialogue with China as an instrument of geopolitical rivalry.
This publication is not an excuse for China's policy, Beijing itself is able to defend its position and does it with all available means. Kazakhstan does not interfere in the internal affairs of the PRC. Interest in the study of this issue lies in a different plane - in the plane of the national interests of Kazakhstan. This is due to the fact that, in an attempt to put pressure on China through “violations of the rights of Muslims in the XUAR,” Western countries are drawing Kazakhstan and the entire region of Central Asia into these scandals and rivalry. The Central Asian countries have their own vision of the situation in the region and their own interests in relations with their neighbors. Thus, the purpose of the publication is to help prevent the involvement of Kazakhstan and Central Asia in global geopolitical showdowns.
And such attempts periodically arise, and now at the UN level.
So, on August 31 this year. OHCHR published a report on the situation in XUAR, the key finding of which is as follows: “serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in connection with the government's strategy to combat terrorism and extremism. The implementation of the strategy in Xinjiang has led to interconnected severe and unreasonable restrictions on a wide range of human rights. This pattern of restrictions has a discriminatory component, as the underlying actions often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.”
Obviously, the UNHCHR specialists took into account only a single episode in the history of the XUAR in 1990-2022. It can be seen that they drew their conclusions only on the state policy of the PRC in the period 2016-2022 (when de-radicalization centers were created), but the reasons that led to such a reaction from Beijing lie in 1990-2015 (acts of terrorism). And they are clearly not taken into account.
The question arises why an international structure, which by its nature should be equidistant and objective, has become a participant in someone else's geopolitical game? Let's approach this issue critically and present real arguments.
First. The rise of the PRC has an impact on the balance of power in the world, strengthening the role of Asia in world political and economic affairs. It is clear that as a result of this, a number of Western countries are losing their positions with all the ensuing consequences. In this regard, a classic card is being played around the XUAR and Muslims to destabilize the situation from within - as it was in a number of states of the world. At first it was the warming up of extremist sentiments, support for separatism and then terrorist acts. For example, from 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist groups carried out thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, which resulted in the death of innocent people and hundreds of policemen, causing huge material damage. By the way, Kazakh orientalists wrote about this in detail (https://qmonitor.kz/politics/4393). In this context, UNHCHR has unfortunately become an instrument of political rivalry.
Second. Muslim themes in XUAR became acutely relevant at the turn of 2017-2018, and this is no accident. It is during this period that the practical strengthening and sustainable development of the One Belt, One Road initiative falls. And Xinjiang is China's natural gateway to Eurasia, pressure on which could stop trade flows to Europe. And at that time, ethnic Kazakhs in the XUAR were deliberately hurt, because Kazakhstan became a key state in the modern Silk Road. The logic here is very simple and effective - if China quarrels with Kazakhstan, then there will be no construction of the belt and the road automatically. During that period, there were active information stuffing (publications with distorted information) and manipulation of the national feelings of the Kazakhs regarding their brethren living in China, and so on. However, then no one thought that the process of resettlement of Kazakhs from the XUAR began in the 1990s and there have never been any problems in this matter. They appeared with the advent of the too effectively developing Silk Road, which began to change the direction of world trade.
Third. Muslims in China live not only in the XUAR, they live throughout the country. Therefore, if we suddenly assume that the Chinese authorities are pursuing a discriminatory state policy towards Muslims, then why is all discrimination concentrated in the XUAR? Why are there no reports of Muslims being persecuted in other provinces of the PRC, such as neighboring Gansu or other parts of the country? According to available data, about 30 million Muslims live in China, of which 13 million or 43 percent live in Xinjiang. At the same time, there are no reports of persecution, harassment, and even genocide in other regions of the PRC, but why?
No one denies that the security and counter-terrorism policy in the XUAR has led to the creation of a specific infrastructure there, which is aimed at deradicalizing the local population. There was terrorism in the XUAR, and this is a fact, but today this phenomenon as a whole has been taken under the control of the state. However, if China really pursued a deliberate discriminatory policy, then the entire Global Umma of Muslims would take up arms against it. How it can be, well reflects the situation with the scandalous cartoons in France, which led not only to large-scale protests around the world, but also to tragic consequences. And there are many such examples. In the event of real discrimination against Muslims, China would have faced a similar reaction from the Ummah.
One example of deliberately fabricated misinformation is links such as https://central.asia-news.com/ru/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2020/09/25/feature-02 , which allegedly provide “true information” , which is being investigated by an Australian think tank (!). In particular, it is interesting that an article on a little-known resource provides an allegedly satellite image that is easy to draw in Photoshop, does not provide details and realistic facts regarding the destruction of shrines, etc. And then, I wonder since when Australia, which does not have in our not one of its embassies in the region (its head of the diplomatic mission responsible for Central Asia is based in Moscow), suddenly raises issues of Muslims? What interests does the official Canberra pursue in the geographically distant region of Central Asia, with which it actually does not have any significant relations? And does Australia, which is known for its truly discriminatory policies against local Aborigines, have the moral right to raise such issues?
Fourth. Assuming that anyone in the West (other than the real charitable organizations in the US and Europe who do a really great job in the world) really cares about the problems of Muslims, then a reasonable question arises. Why are acute crisis and dramatic situations that happen to Muslims in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Nigeria not attracting increased attention of Western countries. In addition, why do many countries in the Middle East that oppress the rights of women or migrant workers from Asian Muslim countries never get into human rights reports? But these problems are much deeper and affect much larger groups of Muslims. But no one needs the Muslims of these countries, since there are no longer geopolitical interests, there is no global rivalry, there is no goal.
Fifth. The subject of XUAR will most likely now be in the focus of heightened political attention - against the backdrop of a new round of US-Chinese confrontation. In this context, it is necessary to consider the situation with the controversial resignation of Michelle Bachelet (she held the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights until August 31 this year) and the publication of a controversial report on the assessment of the human rights situation in Xinjiang in 2022.
This report ends with the thesis: “OHCHR recommends that the international community support efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the XUAR in response to these recommendations. States should also refrain from returning to China members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities who are at risk of expulsion, and provide humanitarian assistance, including medical and psychosocial support, to victims in the states in which they are located.” Interestingly, where are the similar recommendations of the OHCHR on supporting real refugees (whose number is tens of millions of people) from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, where Muslims really experience great difficulties?
At the same time, at the 46th session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a "Resolution on Muslim communities and minorities in states that are not members of the OIC" was adopted. The document praises China's efforts to protect Muslims. In particular, the resolution states that “…having considered the report of the Secretary General on the situation of Muslim communities and minorities (document No. OIC/CFM-46/2018/MM/SG.REP), the OIC welcomes the outcome of the visit carried out by the delegation of the General Secretariat at the invitation of the PRC ; commends the PRC's efforts to help its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the PRC.” (https://www.oic-oci.org/docdown/?docID=4447&refID=1250). Similar assessments are also enshrined in the documents of the 47th and 48th sessions of the OIC Ministerial Council.
Thus, an international organization authorized to deal with Muslim issues around the world recognizes that the PRC's policy towards Muslims is not aimed at deliberate discrimination against Muslims, but pursues security issues. And the reports of the UN OHCHR do not see the results of the anti-terrorist struggle, but only its indirect traces. Well, many experts, including American and European ones, say that the UN system is going through a deep crisis (https://www.passblue.com/2022/08/22/the-un-in-crisis-big-powers -and-bad-influence/). Therefore, the clearly selective approach of the UNHCHR in assessing the situation in different regions confirms many of the conclusions that the UN system is going through difficult days. The system has ceased to be a balanced international platform that takes into account the specifics of each situation, its causes and consequences. And Xinjiang is just one small episode, which is deliberately overestimated and exaggerated, based on someone's interests.
China Studies Center,
Astana, Kazakhstan, 2022
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