China's 'Tibet recipe' in Xinjiang should put India on alert

The stability of the Muslim region is vital for Beijing and its gigantic BRI project.

 |  5-minute read |   23-06-2017
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At the end of August 2016, Wu Yingjie takes over as party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from Chen Quanguo who is sent to "pacify" the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party has taken this crucial decision during the annual closed-door meeting in the summer resort of Beidahe.

Chen replaces Zhang Chunxian as XUAR party secretary. It is indeed a promotion for Chen, given the fact that Xinjiang's party secretaries often serve in the politburo.

Infrastructure

His selection is linked to the "Tibet Recipe", the way Chen managed to "pacify" the TAR. Once in Urumqi, Chen immediately started applying the formula that he used in Tibet to Xinjiang. But what is this recipe?

First, Chen transformed the Roof of the World into a vast Disneyland. In 2006, the arrival of the train on the plateau changed everything for Beijing and unfortunately for the Tibetans. Wave after wave of Chinese tourists could be poured into Tibet to experience the "Paradise on Earth" with its blue sky, pristine lakes and rivers, its luxuriant forests and deep canyons (the latter in Southern Tibet).

In 2016, 25 million tourists, mainly from the Mainland, are said to have visited the Land of Snows. For this, infrastructure needed to be developed, airports opened, four-way highways constructed, hotels and entertainment parks built; this was done in Tibet on a war-footing.

tibetbd1_062317102708.jpgWave after wave of Chinese tourists poured into Tibet.

In passing, the Tibetan intangible heritage had to be preserved, often with Chinese characteristics. The same formula has now to be replicated in Xinjiang.

Second, in order to "stabilise" the plateau, Chen imposed restrictions on the local population like never before. Similar policies will be used in Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organisation based in the US, just released a "glossary" of special slogans or "formulations" (tifa) used by the Chinese officials and the media when referring to party policies on the plateau.

HRW explains: “China’s authorities place extraordinary emphasis on the importance of ‘propaganda’ in sustaining their rule. This phenomenon is particularly evident in Tibet, where there has been a long history of human rights violations, extreme hostility towards political rights, and heavy restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

"Poetic" tifas such as Social Management, Comprehensive Rectification, Preventive Control, Eliminate-Unseen-Threats, Nets-in-the-Sky-Traps-on-the-Ground or Copper-Ramparts-Iron Walls, are recurrently used. The latter one for example, translates into “an impenetrable public security defense network consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police checkposts, surveillance systems, internet controls, identity card monitoring, travel restrictions, informant networks, and other mechanisms.”

The implementation of these tifas, which originated during Chen’s tenure in Tibet, is often dreadful... but efficient for Beijing.

Rights

Chen has taken these tifas with him to Xinjiang and started making good use of them. The "stability" of the Western province is vital for China, as it is the geographical hub for the Belt and Road Initiative: it will connect the New Silk Road (Central Asia) to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Chen now plans to bring millions of tourists to Xinjiang in order to "dilute" the Uyghur characteristics. In a "White Paper on Xinjiang" recently published by Beijing, the Communist Party hides its failure by saying: “Legitimate rights of religious organisations have been effectively safeguarded. Xinjiang has published translations of the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity in multiple languages,” adding 1.76 million copies of the Quran have been printed and distributed.

But on the ground the situation is different. To take just one example, Beijing has decided to collect DNA samples from all Xinjiang’s residents. This week, Xinhua reported China's decision to dispatch 10,000 teachers to the restive XUAR and TAR “to support local education could help solve the educational problems.”

Stability

Beijing says that the main problem is the lack of eligible bilingual teachers in the regions, but will the teachers from the mainland teach the Turkish language of the Uyghurs or Mandarin? Not difficult to guess. Language, in Tibet or Xinjiang, is an instrument of assimilation.

Chen is also working hard to improve the infrastructure. Last week, Xinhua announced the construction of 10 new airports to be built in Xinjiang by 2020; further, six older airports will be renovated and expanded. It has implications for India. One of these airports will be built in Yutian (also known as Keriya), a county of Hotan Prefecture not far from the disputed Aksai Chin.

Located south of the Taklimakan desert and north of the Kunlun range, Keriya has always been a major stopover on the ancient Silk Road. In view of the proximity of the Indian border, it makes sense for China to have a new "civil" airport at Keriya, considering that there is no such thing as a "civil" airport in China, especially so close to the Indian border.

Keriya airport is designed to annually handle 1,80,000 passengers and 400 tons of cargo; it will have a 3,200-meter runway, a 3,000-square-meter terminal building and cost 104 million US dollars, says Xinhua. There is no doubt that Chen has been mandated to apply the "Tibet Recipe" in Xinjiang. Will he succeed is another question.

It is however certain that the stability of the Muslim region is vital for the Middle Kingdom and its gigantic BRI "linking" project; India needs to watch and be prepared.

(Courtesy: Mail Today)

Also read: Why is China hurting its ties with India over the Dalai Lama's Tawang visit?

Writer

Claude Arpi Claude Arpi

He is a French-born author, journalist, historian and Tibetologist.

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