I owe many thanks to my friend Barbara A. for the heads-up on this excellent piece from The Economist about the recent explosion of racial/ethnic tensions in Xinjiang. Some of the reporting on the rioting, and specific acts of violence, is graphic and extremely disturbing, both for the extreme actions taken by some (on both sides) and for the virulence of what seems to be mostly ethnicity-based hatred and resentment.
But there are other dimensions here as well. Mindful of the events after Iran's election fiasco, the Chinese authorities moved quickly to shut down electronic social-networking media like text-message and cell-phone service, as well as the internet. The Economist also spotlights the "war on terror" dimension here. The Uighurs are largely Muslim, many of them very traditionally so. Some Uighur Islamists were rounded up in Afghanistan after 9/11, and some experts see ties between Uighur Islamist groups and al-Qaeda. That in turn has allowed the Chinese government to pitch their crackdown on Uighurs to the US as part of the crack-down on "terrorists" - which gives the Chinese a freer hand to impose order and prevent any movement toward ethnic-nationalist-based secession from building in Xinjiang.
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