Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 09, 2018

The Strategic Aspect Of Bashing China's Re-education of Uyghurs

The New York Times reports on China's re-education program for Uygurs in Xinjiang, who are in danger for falling to Islamist extremism. The report is part of a larger U.S. campaign to instrumentalize the issue as a pressure point against China. It is a strategic issue for both sides.

The lede:

HOTAN, China — On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.

Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination program, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released.

The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam.

There are rumors that up to a million people are moved through such programs. That estimate is based on only 8 vague interviews with locals. The real number is likely in the lower thousands. There is no evidence that any serious harm is done to them.

The NYT report includes this gem of Orientalism:

One official directive warns people to look for 75 signs of “religious extremism,” including behavior that would be considered unremarkable in other countries: growing a beard as a young man, praying in public places outside mosques or even abruptly trying to give up smoking or drinking.

The writers of the New York Times seem to have little knowledge of their own city. In 2007 the New York Police Department published a study on Islamist radicalization that remarked on exactly those points:

As these individuals adopt Salafism, typical signatures include:
  • Becoming alienated from one’s former life; affiliating with like-minded individuals
  • Joining or forming a group of like-minded individuals in a quest to strengthen one’s dedication to Salafi Islam
  • Giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster clothes.
  • Wearing traditional Islamic clothing, growing a beard
  • Becoming involved in social activism and community issues

The Chinese government probably copied its list of signs of religious radicalization from the NYPD and other 'western' sources. A French law prohibits public praying in the street. Other European states enacted laws against the wearing of certain religious attire. The Chinese do not lead in such analysis, they follow 'western' examples.

The re-education program became necessary after religious and even ethnic radicalization in Xinjiang became a real problem for the local population and the government. Deep down the NYT acknowledges this:

[Hotan, a] city of 390,000 underwent a Muslim revival about a decade ago. Most Uighurs have adhered to relatively relaxed forms of Sunni Islam, and a significant number are secular. But budding prosperity and growing interaction with the Middle East fueled interest in stricter Islamic traditions. Men grew long beards, while women wore hijabs that were not a part of traditional Uighur dress.

Now the beards and hijabs are gone, and posters warn against them. Mosques appear poorly attended; ...

The real wake up came only after and riots and acts of terrorism:

The government shifted to harsher policies in 2009 after protests in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, spiraled into rioting and left nearly 200 people dead.

But there is more behind this than the extinction of a local insurgency. The NYT report misses the geopolitical point of the endeavor.

China is developing new rail and road connection throughout Eurasia as part of its strategic One Belt One Road initiative.


Xinjiang province is larger than Great Britain, France, Spain, and Germany combined. It is a mostly uninhabitable landscape of mountainous and desert terrain with a tiny population of some 24 million of which only 45% are Muslim Uyghurs of Turkic ethnicity. It would be rather unimportant outer province for China were it not at the core of the new Silk road connections.


It is a vulnerable point. An established insurgency in the area could seriously interrupt the new strategic communication lines.

Chinese strategists believe that the U.S., with the help of its Turkish, Saudi and Pakistani friends, was and is behind the Islamic and ethnic  radicalization of the Turkic population in the province. It is not by chance that Turkey transferred Uyghur Jihadis from Xinjiang via Thailand to Syria to hone their fighting abilities. That the New York Times publishes about the Xinjiang re-education project, and also offers the report in Mandarin, will only confirm that suspicion. China is determined to end such interference.

The re-education or indoctrination program for people suspected of following an Islamist or national-ethnic trend is only one long term part of a security initiative that comes with intense surveillance and police control. The other part is economic development. Large infrastructure investments in Xinjiang create new options for a formerly rural or nomadic population.

But people do not live by bread alone. It is doubtful that Turkic and Muslim identity of Uyghurs can be exterminated by re-education. It will be necessary to adopt it in some pacified form that can integrate itself into the larger ideological construct of the Chinese state.

Posted by b on September 9, 2018 at 16:49 UTC | Permalink

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As to why China desires to oppress the Uyghurs (of course, the same reason it severely oppresses the Tibetans), is deftly explained by Pat Buchanan in a wonderfully succinct and insightful column released today:

"Xi fears that the 10 million Uighurs of Xinjiang, as an ethnic and religious minority, predominantly Muslim, wish to break away and establish an East Turkestan, a nation of their own, out of China. And he is correct."

Yes, the Uyghurs DO NOT WANT TO BE FUCKING COMMUNISTS! That is how they are being re-educated - to be Communist stooges.

In totalitarian Communist China, to oppose the State, to oppose Communism, IS to be an extremist. It is a one-party, totalitarian state. Period.

Posted by: CalDre | Sep 14 2018 5:38 utc | 101

@CalDre 101

I should expand: the Uyghurs want to be neither Communist, nor be ruled by the Han.

And why should they? They are a separate people. It is natural for them to want independence, particularly the Chinafication of everything Uyghur.

Naturally, China sees this as a threat. As a nice convenience, it can blame "radical Islam" as its excuse for the re-education centers. Well, actually, it is true, for Communists all religion is radical and extremist, the filthy "opiate of the masses", the elimination of which is a corner stone of Communism. On top of the ethno-nationalist component of the Han Communist Party, which does not afford Uyghurs the independence they seek.

Posted by: CalDre | Sep 14 2018 5:41 utc | 102

CalDre @ 91 - just for the record, I am a real person: the sole link on my previous comment (which I thought had disappeared altogether) goes to photos I took on my Xinjiang trip, posted on my Facebook page. I went there on a private tour following an academic conference and while one might argue that the Chinese communist party controls the tour-operators, I don't have sufficient knowlegde to dispute that. However, I will state that free time is allotted for tourists in such structured tours. Hence, I was able to go wherever I pleased unsupervised without restriction. I visited remote villages along the Karakoram Highway (a route, by the way, which wasn't part of the original package tour but that I requested and the company obliged). My tour-guide, by the way, was a Uyghur fellow.

Posted by: Maracatu | Sep 14 2018 19:48 utc | 103

Maracatu @103

Thanks for the clarification, Dale.

Were you able to discuss with many locals what were their impressions, in a free and relaxed atmosphere? You said you had a Uyghur tour-guide/translator, was he selected "randomly" by you or is his position supervised by the government? (For example I have traveled extensively in countries where I don't speak the local language and I usually pick some student I find in the streets or bars to be my tour guide - they often like to earn extra cash and it provides some assurance they are not working for someone else). Did many Uyghurs speak English, or was your communication limited to what this tour guide offered you as "translations"? (Of course Uyghurs are heavily monitored, as is all of China but that particularly Uyghurs, with massive surveillance, so a registered tour guide, expecting to be under surveillance, would presumably not want to annoy the totalitarian regime.)

My impression, of having traveled in totalitarian/authoritarian countries, is that locals do not often open up to foreigners, afraid that either the foreigner is in fact a government informant (testing them) or that they are being observed. I find you get the best information when you befriend someone, and then ask some by-the-way "probing questions" while they are relaxed, perhaps after some drinks. I certainly would not expect Uyghurs to be walking around with protest signs, esp. if it is true, as is alleged based on alleged interviews, that millions of them are being "re-educated". Doesn't that stand to reason?

Posted by: CalDre | Sep 15 2018 0:46 utc | 104

*NED is definitely not a CIA frontman,*

You dont seem to know anything about anything.

From the horse mouth,.....

' Allen Weinstein, NED'S founding father
“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” The NED, like the CIA before it, calls what it does supporting democracy. The governments and movements whom the NED targets call it destabilisation.”

That spells frontman in any language,

*Yes, the Uyghurs DO NOT WANT TO BE FUCKING COMMUNISTS! That is how they are being re-educated - to be Communist stooges.*

No worry, the 'commies' [sic] can stew in their own juice....they dont bother the rest of us.

But gawd help us when 'democrazies' wanna force their toxic brew down our throats !


Posted by: denk | Sep 15 2018 13:34 utc | 105

CalDre @104 I was in Kashgar for two days and sort of stood out (attracted attention) whenever I spoke English in public areas. One or two people addressed me informally in English (in a friendly manner, almost as if they were trying to say "hey I can speak English, too!"), but I couldn't help feeling that it was anomalous for an English speaker to be among the public. I have been in heavily policed areas before (after all I teach and study Latin America), and Xinjiang didn't seem didn't seem particularly noteworthy or exceptional. Except perhaps for Kashgar - the latter had check points just about everywhere and if you were riding in an automobile, you had to get out and submit your credentials to authorities and be 'interviewed' (of course, it was my tour guide that had to speak for me). I know Kashgar is heavily monitored but while eating lunch with my tour-guide, I ventured to ask him if he believed in independence. As I expected, he said no and didn't seem to want to pursue the matter much further. While he did opine that Xinjiang couldn't survive separately from China, he did express concern about the economic situation.

Posted by: Maracatu | Sep 15 2018 14:08 utc | 106

@105 denk... thanks..

Posted by: james | Sep 15 2018 17:56 utc | 107

james 107

I've seen lots of ignorant, bigoted, arrogant loud mouth
!@#$%^& in my time, but this caldre character really takes the cake !


Posted by: denk | Sep 16 2018 2:02 utc | 108

@denk 105

"That spells frontman in any language," Obviously your grasp of English is lacking. Frontman means "a person serving as a front or figurehead". NED does not act as a figurehead to CIA at all. They are very different organizations. CIA engages in intelligence gathering and covert operations, whereas NED engages in propaganda and street action. No doubt they are complementary and, as both are organs of the US government, both advance its policies.

BTW there are not the only two organizations that advance US foreign policy. There is also the Pentagon, the various branches of the military, the State Department, etc., etc. You might as well write that the State Department is the "frontman" of the CIA. Maybe you can even find some blog even less informed than you to state that.

Posted by: CalDre | Sep 16 2018 10:09 utc | 109

US economy is not capitalist in the classic sense, it is oligarchic/monopolistic, crony capitalism. And the wars don't come from the capitalists as much as the Bolshevik/Trotskyite (and of course Zionist) neo-cons who have invaded and infested the US government after they fled USSR during perestroika; they also largely control the US media, including NY Times and WashingtonPost, ABC/CBS/NBC/PBS/etc., etc., etc. Virtually all of the US wars I attribute to Bolshevism/Communism, and not capitalism.

You sound like Alex Jones or some braindead Libertarian.

America is not capitalist but rather Bolshevik/Communist/Trotskyite influenced?!?

And America's wars are not really America's fault because... the Zionist Jews and Bolsheviks made the poor innocent American Empire wages its criminal wars. LOL. You forgot to mention the Illuminati in your Two Minutes of Hate list.

You are seriously residing in a Donald Trump-style "alternative facts" unreality.

Apparently, you know even less about America than you do about China, which is quite remarkable.

As Edward Said once said, America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance.

You are this living embodiment of this reality.

Posted by: AK74 | Sep 18 2018 8:26 utc | 110

As former State Department official William Blum has suggested, America's Orwellian "National Endowment for Democracy" (or NED) is a Trojan Horse that "would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities."

Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy

NED, the Legal Window of the CIA

The NED has nothing to do with democracy, any more than America as a nation in general represents democracy, freedom, or other lies that brainwashed American propagandists spout like well-trained parrots.

Like the US regime in general, the NED serves to *manipulate* democracy, freedom, or human rights as a geopolitical weapon against any nation that stands in the way of the American Empire's lust to dominate the world.

Indeed, this is what America really means when it runs its mouth about "promoting freedom and democracy": promoting the American Empire and its rapacious free market capitalist system.

Freeing the World to Death

One American tactic towards this end is to shed crocodile tears about ethnic or religious minorities in a targeted nation (like the Uighur in China or the Chechens in Russia or the Sunnis in Syria).

It is truly a Machiavellian stratagem that the American Empire has inherited from the British Empire.

It is also highly hypocritical given that America as an entity was founded as a White European colonizer nation premised on the colonial occupation of Native Indian, Hawaiian, and Mexican lands.

When America sheds its copious crocodile tears about Uighurs in China, it's a transparent attempt to psychologically project America's colonialist and repressive character onto a geopolitical opponent.

Indeed, perhaps China would do well to direct media attention and human rights concerns towards America's occupation of the unacknowledged ethnic nations within the USA or to American repression of groups like Blacks, Latinos, or undocumented immigrants in the Land of the Free.

Given Donald Trump's attempts to Make American White Again, it shouldn't be too hard to find many examples of such moral atrocities.

It also would be very amusing if only to see the spittle-flecked outrage spewing from the mouths of all the indignant, self-righteous American bastards. ;-)

Posted by: AK74 | Sep 18 2018 9:14 utc | 111

@AK74 110

"And America's wars are not really America's fault because..." Never claimed that, someone blamed them on capitalism, but capitalism has no inherent need for those wars. I was merely providing the ideological basis for the wars.

"the Zionist Jews and Bolsheviks made the poor innocent American Empire wages its criminal wars." Never said the American Empire was "poor and innocent", but, like a typical charlatan, you set up a straw man to knock him down. Congratulations!

Nonetheless, yes, Jews have a whole lot to do with it (you might check the geography of where all the latest wars are being fought and who benefits, if that's not too much trouble).

"You forgot to mention the Illuminati in your Two Minutes of Hate list." The hate is coming from you, because you know I write the truth and you Bolsheviks hate nothing more than the truth. But yeah, the Illuminati play a role.

"Apparently, you know even less about America than you do about China, which is quite remarkable." I wouldn't judge my knowledge by your standards of disinformation.

"As Edward Said once said, America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance." Sure, generalizations like that are so fine. But really if you want ignorance and arrogance, the mirror is where you should look.

"You are this living embodiment of this reality." Of course you have not made a single meritorious point. Just a number of paragraphs of smears. This of course is the modus operandi of Bolsheviks, who are liars. As Jesus said of you:

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies

Posted by: CalDre | Oct 2 2018 8:21 utc | 112

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