Following this selection yesterday of pictures of Uighur students in Xinjiang.
- On why this eruption, violent as it and its suppression have been, is unlikely to shake the government's control of or support in China, my friend Russell Leigh Moses of Beijing, in this op-ed in the NYT today, makes the right points and presents a convincing argument. Gist:
"The state apparatus has become dizzy with success in dealing with unrest. This gives little hope that further mass outbreaks will not be violently crushed. It also demonstrates that social upheaval will not pave the way to democracy. The party is too strong and confident to allow change from below."
The contrast between the Chinese state's continued ineptness in appealing to international opinion and its very effective control of opinion and knowledge within China is worth remembering at all times, and especially during crises like this. From the outside, these may look like challenges to the survival of the regime. From the inside, to most people in China, they're new occasions for national fortitude and solidarity.
- On the roots of the conflict, Glenn Mott of the Hearst Corporation (also a friend), who has been in Beijing as a Fulbright lecturer at Tsinghua University, sends this report:
"What we saw this week should be familiar to us as Americans. This was a race riot, not a political insurrection. It is what a young Chinese engineer I had lunch with today called an ethnic "brawl" with Uighurs and Hans throwing rocks over the heads of police in between. We should notice there is progress at the central government level--foreign journalists are in fact being given some access to Urumqi--though social networks have been cut, and Xinhua is carefully editing for fullest grim effect on the Eastern Chinese psyche.
"But with no public space in the media to cultivate a civil society, to debate and discuss grievances, and none on the horizon, the Han and Uighur of Xinjiang are caught in a hopeless deficit for information about each other's grievances. This is the same all over China (between developers and farmers, and between local government and petitioners, for instance) lacking a public space for civil discourse, lacking rule of law, lacking release and resolution except in private conversations and ultimately, into the streets they go."
- On fiction-list suggestions, I have mentioned many times this past year a spy-thriller novel by the British writer Charles Cumming, called Typhoon. It is about a Uighur uprising in Xinjiang -- in the novel's case, abetted by outside agents. I will have serious/non-fiction reading tips later, but this is the most relevant thriller.
- On general introduction to the Uighurs and their situation, this brief video by the Stanley Foundation has a lot of useful information, including an interview with Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur emigree blamed by the Chinese government for much of the upheaval. It also includes an interview with a very tired-looking me after a trip to Xinjiang.
- On America's stake in Xinjiang, it is a lasting error and embarrassment that after 9/11 the U.S. won Chinese government support by agreeing that Uighur separatists -- formally, the East Turkestan Liberation Organization -- should be seen as part of the world terrorist threat. After all, they are Muslims.