Tuesday, July 14, 2009

China, meet Uighur ethnonationalism

The Uighur plot thickens. After Turkish President Erdogan described the events in Xinjiang as "like a genocide" (perhaps a touch extreme, given that at most a few hundred people have died, as opposed to 800,000 in Rwanda), the Chinese fired back with a nasty editorial. Xinhua is getting downright North Korea-ish with their headlines over the matter, as in today's "Distorted reports on Xinjiang riot denounced."

Meanwhile, an interesting tidbit from the BBC:

In a report, a UK-based global security intelligence firm said that events in Xinjiang had triggered a call from an Algerian-based al-Qaeda affiliate for reprisals against Chinese workers.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQM) had promised to target Chinese workers in Algeria and north-west Africa, Stirling Assynt said.

AQM appeared to be the first al-Qaeda affiliate to officially state that it would target Chinese interests, the group said, warning that others could follow suit.

Until now, al Qaeda and its ilk have largely left the Chinese alone, presumably because they don't see China as a threat given China's strongly pro-sovereignty political stance. But no longer. Muslim solidarity with the Uighurs might mean that China may soon face the kind of extremist threats that Western nations are already used to.

On the NYTimes op-ed page, Philip Bowring explores Muslim solidarity with the Uighurs, and to what extent this will cause big problems for China's relations with its Asian neighbors. The answer... probably not much, but it's a tricky issue that affects China's standing with governments from Indonesia to Kazakhstan to Turkey to the Magreb.

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