Historically, Xinjiang, as the eastern extension of the Muslim world in China, was closer to the center of the Muslim world rather than the Confucian civilization in China proper. The driving force behind the sporadic riots in Xinjiang is the East Turkestan independence movement.
The background of pan-Turkism and pan-Islamism has promoted the East Turkestan movement. Behind this movement there is the Islamic-Turkish faith’s influence which is still very active in West and Central Asia. Since the early 1950s Xinjiang has been strongly integrated into China more than ever before. Under this circumstances it becomes more difficult for the East Turkestan movement elite to realize their goal of independence.
The opening of Xinjiang to the outside world since the 1980s has facilitated the movement. While pan-Turkism and pan-Islamism are playing their parts in bringing social unrest in Xinjiang, the movement is contained by the developments of the economic relations between Xinjiang, and Central and West Asian countries. Only the weakness of the center of China could enable the separatists to split Xinjiang from China.
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