East Asia

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 25–42 | Cite as

Xinjiang in China’s Foreign Relations: Part of a New Silk Road or Central Asian Zone of Conflict?

Article

Abstract

This paper analyses how the situation in China’s most northwestern province-level unit Xinjiang has affected China’s overall foreign relations since disturbances in its capital Ürümqi in July 2009. Xinjiang’s most populous ethnic group is the mostly-Muslim Uighurs. The paper assumes a framework that puts a high priority on China’s facing west. Though no more important than the eastward-looking foreign policy that has dominated Western analysis, the paper sees China’s facing west perspective as deserving more attention than it has received. Russia and Central Asian countries have been positive about China’s economic aims in the region. However, friction has increased with China’s rise, Chinese authorities tending to blame Xinjiang’s disturbances on Islamism in Central Asia. China resents the USA for giving asylum to Rebiya Kadeer, president of the anti-China World Uyghur Congress. In 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed the idea of a “New Silk Road” in Central Asia for peaceful economic development. China has long espoused the “Silk Road” idea, developing its own “Silk Road Economic Belt.” Damaged due to the 2009 riots, the China-Turkey relationship has improved because of various visits and agreements since 2010. The paper balances the dominantly economic Silk Road concept against Islamist terrorism. It argues that the aims of the Silk Road and Silk Road Economic Belt are sensible and practical, with positive economic relations the main trend. However, although the Central Asian “zone of conflict” is a lesser trend, tensions are serious and long term, especially those caused by Islamism and Islamist terrorism.

Keywords

Xinjiang Silk road China’s foreign relations USA Central Asia Uighurs 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author acknowledges the origin of this article in a panel at the 8th International Convention of Asia Scholars, held in Macau 24–27 June 2013. His ability to take part in this Conference was due largely to the initiative of Dr Bill K.P. Chou of the University of Macau, who not only invited him but also secured a grant facilitating his attendance. The author also acknowledges the work of Professor Simon Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong) whose initiative helped enable the publication of selected papers relevant to the theme of the panel for a special issue of this journal.

References

  1. 1.
    Rose, Caroline (2013). Sino-Japanese relations since 1945, in Tim Wright, ed., Oxford bibliographies, Chinese studies. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lattimore, O. (1950).Pivot of Asia: Sinkiang and the Inner Asian frontiers of China andRussia. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mackerras, C. (2013). Ethnicity and minority nationalities since 1949, in Tim Wright, ed., Oxford bibliographies, Chinese studies. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Clarke, Michael E. (2011). Xinjiang and China’s rise in Central Asia: A history. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Wiemer, C. (2004). The economy of Xinjiang. In S.F. Starr (Ed.), Xinjiang, China’s Muslim borderland (pp. 163–189). Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Millward, J.A. (2009). Positioning Xinjiang in Eurasian and Chinese history, differing visions of the “Silk Road”. In C. Mackerras & M. Clarke (Eds), China, Xinjiang and Central Asia, history, transition and crossborder interaction into the 21 st century (pp. 55–74). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Swami, P. (2011). India backs “New Silk Road” in Central Asia. The Hindu, 24 September, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2480058.ece. Accessed 8 November 2012.
  8. 8.
    Xinhua (2013). Xi suggests China, C. Asia build Silk Road economic belt. Xinhuanet, 7 September, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-09/07/c_132700695.htm. Accessed 11 December 2014.
  9. 9.
    Brown, K. (2014). The New Silk Road: China reclaims its crown. The Diplomat, 18 November, web version http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/the-new-silk-road-china-reclaims-its-crown/. Accessed 11 December 2014.
  10. 10.
    Bovingdon, G. (2010). The Uyghurs, strangers in their own land. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Amnesty International (2010). “Justice, Justice”: The July 2009 protests in Xinjiang, China. London: Amnesty International Publications.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Roberts, S. (2012). Imaginary terrorism? The global war on terror and the narrative of the Uyghur terrorist threat. Washington, D.C.: The Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies [IERES], Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mackerras, C. (2012). Causes and ramifications of the Xinjiang July 2009 disturbances, Sociology Study, 2(7), 496–510.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Patience, M. (2012). Will development bring stability to restive Xinjiang city of Kashgar?.BBC News, China, 15 August, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-19264601. Accessed 8 November 2012.
  15. 15.
    Hou, Shi-ren (2009). “King of Xinjiang” faces blame for riots. Asia Times Online, 16 July, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KG16Ad02.html. Accessed 12 December 2014.
  16. 16.
    Ponnudurai, P., based on reports by ShohretHoshur (2013). Imam stabbed to death after supporting crackdown against Uyghurs. Radio Free Asia, 16 August, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/shootout-08252013134303.html. Accessed 16 October 2013.
  17. 17.
    Mackerras, C. (2014). Xinjiang in 2013: problems and prospects, Asian Ethnicity, 15(2), 247–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Elmer, B. (2014). Xi walks tightrope on Xinjiang policy. Asian Currents. The Asian Studies Association of Australia, October, pp. 26–28.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Olesen, A. (2014). China sees Islamic State inching closer to home,Chinese media lights up after a Hong Kong weekly says IS aims to expand into Xinjiang, Foreign Policy, 11 August, web version at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/11/the_islamic_state_chinese_media_hong_kong_phoenix_xinjiang?utm_content=bufferaebda&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer. Accessed 13 December 2014.
  20. 20.
    Toops, S.W. (2004). The demography of Xinjiang. In S.F. Starr (Ed.). Xinjiang, China Muslim borderland (pp. 241–263). Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    World Bank Loan Yining Urban Transport Project Management Office (2012). World Bank loan Xinjiang Yining urban transport project, Ethnic Minority Development Action Plan.Yining: World Bank Office. Unofficial translation into English available at http://www.wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2012/01/20/000356161_20120120002509/Rendered/INDEX/IPP5450v20IPP00ansport0EMDP0English.txt. Accessed 26 October 2012.
  22. 22.
    Kasymalieva, A. & Marat, E. (2012). Atambayev invites Turkey to decide on US Transit Center’s future. European Dialogue, 30 January, http://www.eurodialogue.eu/Atambayev-Invites-Turkey-to-Decide-on-US-Transit-Center-Future. Accessed 13 December 2014.
  23. 23.
    Muzalevsky, R. (2012). US Silk Road plans spin fragile thread. Asian TimesOnline, 1 November, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/NK01Ag01.html. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  24. 24.
    Savage, C. (2013). U.S. frees last of the Chinese Uighur detainees from Guantánamo Bay. New York Times, 31 December, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/us/us-frees-last-of-uighur-detainees-from-guantanamo.html?_r=0. Accessed 7 July 2014.
  25. 25.
    World Uyghur Congress (no date). Introducing the World Uyghur Congress, http://www.wiser.org/organization/view/13fcc/a8f3d6ea2502e828ca14f37a66. Accessed 30 April 2012.
  26. 26.
    Millward, J.A. (2007). Eurasian crossroads: a history of Xinjiang. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Editor (2009). Australia’s choice. China Daily, 19 August, p. 8.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kadeer, R. (2012). The world holds its breath for China. The Wall Street Journal, 8 November, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323894704578106280566035950.html. Accessed 11 November 2012.
  29. 29.
    Yang, J & Yang J. (2012). At least 12 killed in Kashi attacks. Global Times, 29 February, http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/697916/At-least-12-killed-in-Kashi-attacks.aspx. Accessed 11 November 2012.
  30. 30.
    White House Office of the Press Secretary, The (2014). Statement by Press Secretary Jay Carney on terrorist attack in China. 22 May, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/22/statement-press-secretary-jay-carney-terrorist-attack-china. Accessed 24 May 2014.
  31. 31.
    Weitz, R. (2014a). The Russia-China gas deal: implications and ramifications. World Affairs, September/October, web version at http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/russia-china-gas-deal-implications-and-ramifications. Accessed 14 December 2014.
  32. 32.
    National Statistical Office of Mongolia. Mongolia national census 2010 provisional results, cited Wikipedia, Demographics of Mongolia, http://en.widipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Mongolia. Accessed 7 November 2012.
  33. 33.
    Siddique, Q. (2014). Deeper than the Indian Ocean? An analysis of Pakistan-China relations. SISA Report no. 16, Oslo: SISA Centre for International and Strategic Analysis.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Kabraji, R. (2012). The China-Pakistan alliance, rhetoric and limitations, Asia Programme Paper ASP pp 2012/01.London: Chatham House.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Mu, C. (2014). China’s choice: India or Pakistan? Which South Asian country is more important for China’s future? The Diplomat, 27 September, web version at http://thediplomat.com/2014/09/chinas-choice-india-or-pakistan/. Accessed 14 December 2014.
  36. 36.
    Wines, M. (2011). China blames foreign-trained separatists for attacks in Xinjiang. The New York Times, 1 August, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/world/asia/02china.html. Accessed 11 November 2012.
  37. 37.
    Pantucci, R. (2014). China in Pakistan: An awkward relationship beneath the surface. RUSI Newsbrief, 15 January, https://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A52D6767C1ECA7/#.VIzZjiuUfZg. Accessed 14 December 2014. RUSI is Royal United Services Institute.
  38. 38.
    Laruelle, M. & Peyrouse, S. (2012).The Chinese question in Central Asia: Domestic order, social change, and the Chinese factor. New York: Columbia University Press, London: Hurst.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pantucci, R. & Petersen, A. (2012). China's inadvertent empire. The National Interest, 24 October, http://nationalinterest.org/article/chinas-inadvertent-empire-7615. Accessed 8 November 2012.
  40. 40.
    Song, W. (2011). Peaceful rise from the border: Chinese practice of diplomatic leadership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. In Hao, Y. & Chou, B.K.P (Eds). China’s policies on its borderlands and the international implications (pp. 47–67). Singapore: World Scientific.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Horta, L. (2013). Central Asia: China opens a New Silk Road. RSIS Commentaries 189, 9 October. Singapore: RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, National University of Singapore.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Weitz, R. (2014b). The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: a fading star?, The Asan Forum, An Online Journal, 2(6), November-December, http://www.theasanforum.org/the-shanghai-cooperation-organization-a-fading-star/#41. Accessed 16 December 2014.
  43. 43.
    AFP (2009). Turkish PM Erdogan likens Xinjiang violence to “genocide”, France 24 International News 24/7, 10 July, web version http://www.france24.com/en/20090710-turkish-pm-erdogan-xinjiang-violence-genocide-turkey-uighurs-han-trade-beijing-china. Accessed 9 November 2012.
  44. 44.
    Colakoglu, S. (2012). Turkey-China relations: seeking a strategic partnership. The Journal of Turkish Weekly, 17 April, http://www.turkishweekly.net/columnist/3612/turkey-china-relations-seeking-a-strategic-partnership.html. Accessed 9 November 2012.
  45. 45.
    Xinhua (2010). China, Turkey to establish strategic cooperative relationship. China Daily, 8 October http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-10/08/content_11386689.htm. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  46. 46.
    Ghosh, P.R. (2012). Turkey and China: ancient connections, modern allies. International Business Times, 28 February, web version http://www.ibtimes.com/turkey-china-ancient-connections-modern-allies-214156. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  47. 47.
    Turkel, N.A. (2012). A Turkish primer on engaging Beijing, Ankara's concern for the Uighurs has set an example for other democracies. The Wall Street Journal, 19 April, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303513404577353272107433282.html. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  48. 48.
    Lee, P. (2012). Turkey: the odd man in. Asia Timesonline, 20 April, part 2, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/ND21Ad03.html. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  49. 49.
    Famularo, J. (2012). Erdogan visits Xinjiang | China power. The Diplomat, 14 April, http://the-diplomat.com/china-power/2012/04/14/erdogan-visits-xinjiang/. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  50. 50.
    Lee, P. (2012). Turkey: the odd man in. Asia Timesonline, 20 April, part 1, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/ND21Ad02.html. Accessed 10 November 2012.
  51. 51.
    Tao, Z. (2013). An alternative partner to the West? China’s growing relation with Turkey. Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, http://www.mei.edu/content/alternative-partner-west-turkey%E2%80%99s-growing-relations-china. Accessed 19 June 2014.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International Business and Asian StudiesGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

Personalised recommendations