China’s Struggle to Contain Ethnic Unrest Continues

Stratfor Global Intelligence, July 2, 2013

Violence has been escalating in China’s restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region once again, highlighting the country’s struggle to maintain stability in its ethnically diverse border regions. In past weeks, several deadly clashes have erupted in the province, many of them directly targeting local police and security forces. In response, and ahead of the fourth anniversary of similar bloody riots that left nearly 200 people dead in Xinjiang on July 5, 2009, the military and other authorities have ramped up security in the far-western region.

Unrest is common in Xinjiang, where ethnic and religious minority groups resent Beijing’s heavy-handed attempts to establish central control as well as the influxes of Han Chinese settlers into the region as part of Beijing’s effort to dilute the ethnic concentration. As a result, Beijing has been experimenting with more conciliatory policies toward the minorities. However, with Beijing struggling to balance its desire for improved minority relations with the imperative to maintain stability along the Chinese periphery, the escalating violence in Xinjiang may make such policies more difficult to implement.

On June 26, 35 people were reportedly killed after authorities opened fire on what state media called a knife-wielding mob that had attacked police stations and other sites in the Lukqun township of Turpan prefecture, a wealthy and culturally diverse part of northeastern Xinjiang that has been largely immune to ethnic tensions. Two days later, state-owned media reported a violent confrontation with authorities outside a mosque in the southern prefecture of Hotan that purportedly left two ethnic Uighurs dead. This was followed by another incident June 29 in a nearby county in Hotan, during which more than 100 people on motorbikes reportedly attacked a police station, according to state media, while another group attempted to “incite trouble” at a local shopping area.

While details about the violence in Hotan remain unclear, Chinese officials said a 17-member terrorist group provoked the riots in Turpan in a premeditated attack. In recent years, the term “terrorist” has no longer been reserved only for specific groups, such as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, but has been applied more generally to any organization behind clashes. However, state media this time specifically said Syrian rebels had trained the local Muslim extremists who incited the violence. {snip}

In response to the attacks, Beijing vowed to “crack down on terrorist groups” in the region. The government increased security patrols in the area and staged a large-scale military exercise June 29, when the army used tanks and other vehicles to shut down access to several streets in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.


Meanwhile, the central government is also facing ethnic issues elsewhere in China. In neighboring Tibet, for example, self-immolations and protests have continued sporadically in recent months. Similarly, to the east, ethnic distrust between Mongolians and Han workers was on the upswing following a series of protests since 2011, reflecting deep-seated tensions over the region’s rapid economic development and influx of ethnic Han.

Ethnic unrest in China differs in cause and scope from one restive region to another. And taken individually, each incident may not pose a serious threat to central government control. Combined, however, the recent clashes highlight the persistent and complicated nature of the stabilization challenges facing Beijing in ethnic regions around the country.


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  • Puggg

    Wrong day to do a Uighur story: Those are supposed to be on Wednesdays.

  • The__Bobster

    The excess Asians can always come here. I understand it takes only 200 egg rolls.

  • Romulus

    I had a little Chinese the other night. I always get hungry about 20 minutes later.
    Just dormant fill you up like a good rib-eye.

    • One of my best Australian friends was Chinese, and he told the most amazing jokes about Chinese. His father – a doctor – rented a house out to some “nice” young Chinese women. They were prostitutes. Everett said the down-side to a visit to a Chinese hooker is that you’re horny again 20 minutes later.

      It isn’t true; It takes me almost an hour, though I’ve never had to pay – not with money.

      • Romulus

        Hahaha. No really, I meant Chinese food. Gotcha!

      • Ted

        So I guess this is what it has come to. Amren is now the place to tell sick jokes. Nice, very nice.

        • Try doing something other than complaining, Ted. You’ve done pretty much jack here or anywhere else.

        • Romulus

          Take it easy, Ted. It’s quite obvious from the overall content of the regular posters, that they are well informed. It is also true that keeping up such a high degree of mental activity and information processing can burn us out. Just like the moderators say,”encourage polite debate”. What with jobs,kids,mortgages, and non stop running around, if we use this forum for a little venting and/or light humor, don’t have a sissy fit!

        • The__Bobster

          Now I know where one of my down arrows came from.

          You lickety split. That extla, Joe.

  • Rhialto

    If China is weakened by internal conflicts, this will reduce the Chinese geopolitical and economic threats to the US. On the other hand, it may greatly increase the flow of Chinese immigrants (i.e. colonists) into the US.

    Bear in mind that China is a huge country with a 4+ millennium history; it has been down the rebellion road many times.

    • I would rather a peaceful China with an elected government.

      • MawellAxel

        Democracy? You would wish that on them? Do you hate them?

        • Democracy seems to work in Taiwan. Enough of my wife’s anti-Chinese sentiment seems to have rubbed off on me that I don’t exactly like Chinese, but I don’t hate them.

  • Dirk

    No love is lost for those ethnic minorities. They are barbarians, most notably the muslims. They highly profit from the Chinese influence in terms of roads, hospitals, schools and opportunities to move to anywhere in China. They are also allowed more children and benefit from affirmative action.

    • AllSeeingEyeSpy

      was about to say something like, at least the chinese are able to do something we couldn’t do, move into a country and displace the natives, however, we did pretty good at displacing the natives in north america. . .

  • AllSeeingEyeSpy

    well, at least they have a ‘one couple, one birth’ policy. for visiting leftists, you can translate that into what you can understand by calling it a ‘one woman, one birth’, policy

  • hastings88

    The Han will eventually subdue all their minorities. They are patient, ruthless and have no moral conscience about it. Also, they face no outside pressure, economic or otherwise, not that that would do any good. It amazes me how unlike whites they are. No innate empathy to cripple them.

    • If they’d leave Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam alone, I’d be less hostile to China. The Han can do what they like with Muslims.

    • MawellAxel

      The Han have had this territory before. In past dynasties. Chinese history is cyclical. My guess is that this area will once again be outside of China’s control , and the Chinese settlers that are there will be driven out.

  • FalkoBaumgartner

    The thing is China is the last colonial empire. The unrest is a direct consequence of Beijing’s colonialism and Han ethnocentrism towards the “ethnic minorities” which are in fact subjected indigenous peoples. Therefore one cannot compare the situation in China with the rift in Western immigrant societies and AmRen would do best to drop the news from Tibet and East Turkestan altogether.