Sunday, March 28, 2021


Warning: controversial ideas to make one think.

All sorts of people are up in arms (metaphorically, at least for now) about the treatment of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government.

Of course there is a lot of history, several thousand years’ worth, and if you want an introduction Wikipedia is as good place to start at as any. It’s complicated. But what is clear today is that the Peoples Republic of China regards the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as very much part of China and anybody who calls for independence, such as The Turkistan Islamic Party, is regarded as a ‘terrorist’ and ‘separatist’. (The UN Security Council has also listed them as a terrorist organisation.)

A great deal has been written, by Western commentators and politicians, about the wrongs that the Chinese government has been doing to the Uyghurs. Some have used the word ‘genocide’ to describe the actions. We should be cautious in that respect. It would be unfortunate if the G-word were to become devalued. Genocide is what some German Christians did to many German Jews and events in Cambodia and Ruanda may also fit the bill. The current situation is not so clear and certainly nobody is alleging that thousands of people have been killed. The UN definition does include some features that might, arguably, apply.

But let’s look from another viewpoint. The Chinese government like to stress their desire for a harmonious society, with everybody working for the common good. This, of course, is an attitude deeply embedded in Chinese culture going back millennia to Confucius and before, not an invention of the communists. Troublesome Islamists exploding bombs to further their cause of setting up an Islamic state does not fit easily with the notion of harmony in the Peoples Republic.

Importantly, and this is really my main point, the Chinese have seen how Islamists have been dealt with in other places. The Chechen Wars of the 1990s and early 2000s were disastrous for all concerned, Russians and indigenous people alike, and the resulting Islamic state must be an outcome the Chinese government are keen to avoid. The Western approach in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere must make any admonition by European and American politicians ring hollow. The tragedy of sub-Saharan Africa, from Somalia to Nigeria and now south to Mozambique, is a series of object lessons in how not to deal with the rise of Islamism. The seemingly never ending conflict between Jews and Muslims, with sporadic interventions of Christians down the centuries, is another reminder that allowing religion to get involved with governance does not always make for a harmonious society. 

Is it any wonder then, that the Chinese are attempting a different approach, which while it may involve dealing harshly with the more recalcitrant people, stops a long way short of dropping bombs from great heights, a tactic that has been used all too often by the UK and the USA?






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