• April 1st, 2020

Opinion: Significance of comprehensive governance in Xinjiang

Sun Peisong

The State Council Information Office published a white paper on Anti-terrorism, De-radicalization and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang on March 18th 2019. Recent ‘Xinjiang Criticism’ prevails the Western social media. Against this background, the author would like to share his field research results of 10 days in Xinjiang. 

As the white paper says, in face of the real threat of terrorism and radicalism, Xinjiang has taken decisive measures to fight against them in accordance with law, which has effectively curbed the frequent occurrence of terrorist activities and maximized protection of the rights to life and development of all ethnic groups. 

In this survey, one of the core issues is whether the government’s policy of building houses for nomads to settle down would make them feel regretful for losing the nomadic life. 

A Kazakh young woman I interviewed pointed to the Tianshan and said if you were a herdsman on the mountain, you would also want to settle down. It might be good for people living in cities to ride a horse to herd sheep, but not us. Nobody wants to move their house four times a year. Actually, the measures taken by the government is welcome by the majority of people in ethnic areas in Xinjiang. ‘Xinjiang Criticisms’ such as violations of human rights, forced change of religious beliefs and living habits of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are simply not true to the realitites according to my research.

As known, Xinjiang is far left behind in China’s social-economical and cultural process of modernization. The national progress is not complete if without modernization in the backward areas of the western part of China. Upholding national order is consdiered a primary step to change the backward state of the poor areas, promoting and safeguarding its development. No country will achieve its socia-economical and cultural development if its national order is not secured. 

Xinjiang has 47 ethnic groups bordering Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, India and Afghanistan. The culture, ethnicity, and religion thereof are extremely diverse, and the internal and external environment is extremely complicated.

Historically, Uyghur, the major ethnic minority and other minorities lived a nomadic life in Xinjinag. The residential areas for some ethnic minorities are extremely backward in terms of transportation, economy and education. Many people do not communicate well in ethnic languages and national language, knowing little about the outside world and having a little sense of national identity. 

Some people only know the ‘world’ of God but do not understand the ‘world’ of human. Worse still, some people are only aware of religion groups and its rules, but not of national laws and order. Some people donate a large part of their income to the religious clerics because they have no other choice in their minds. Religious belief and orders dominated their life so much so that a chance was created for religious extremists, resulting in a living penetration of terrerists.

It is a common view that a government should provide her state service to the public and shoulder her political and security responsibility to stabilize the national order. Measures taken in Xinjiang is to avoid a disruption and destruction of the national/social order caused by lack of national unity and effective governing leadership as Iraq tragedy has exposed to the world.

On par with maintaining social order, Xinjiang has taken measures to substantially improve people’s livelihood, including the peasants and herdsmen housing project and nomadic settlement project.

Furthermore, instead of “labour camp” as Western crticism fabricated, Xinjiang local government provides correctional facility for those who have accepted radical and terrorist ideas but did not constitute a crime to accept training in the vocational education center, and motivate them to put down their hatred agaisnt society and live a normal and law-respect life. In so doing, the social-economical and cultural development are progressed in a peaceful and stabilized enviroment, a signifant step to Xinjiang modernazation.  

The government has also adopted a number of preferential policies for the underdeveloped minority areas. For instance, admission scores of univesity for minority students are much lower than Han students.

Family planning policy does not apply in ethnic minorities, constituting a rapid increase of ethnic minority population. However, minority backward education makes few students to meet the entry requirements of well-known Chinese universities. And due to the underdeveloped economy, the more the minority people are born, the poorer they remain. It is hence necessary to develop the economy and uplift their education to a new level to improve their life. Besides ethnic languages minority people have to learn, national and foreign languages are also in their curriculum in order to equip themselves with knowledge on modern industry, securing a basic survival skill and also enabling them to judge the right outlook on life and values.

Regarding human rights, the West emphasizes on political rights with freedom, but China believes that the people’s happiness is a fundamental human right. Making people happy entails improvement of housing, water and electricity, medical care, transportation, education and culture. It is indeed a new mode of governance to improve basic living conditions, to provide basic development opportunities, capabilities and legal protection of people’s rights and interests. The West should instead closely attend to the real problems and challenges Xinjiang government faces and its resolution thereof.

Western values are derived from their experience, habits and mindsets, but facts prevail that those values cannot be applied in China. The approach with Chinese characteristics has been adopted in Xinjiang to improve people’s livelihood. Chinese down-to-earth approach has lifted 800 million people out of poverty in last 40 years, contributing to 70 percent the world’s poverty reduction. Xinjiang poverty alleviation will be realized in 2020. Evidently, ‘Xinjiang criticism’ is hypocritical because they criticize Xinjiang’s governance with their biased religious freedom and human rights standards. 

‘Xinjiang criticism’also reflects an inherent notion that right political mode cannot come from China. After the Cold War, the West claimed that there is no other way of development except the liberal western-democracy. However, the countries that subsequently copied the Western mode have experienced too many governance failures as evident in Europe and Africa. In terms of governance, China believes that socio-economic and cultural development is the last word and China always treats and resolves problems in the process of development.

A narrow perspective cannot explain the nature of justice and cannot distinguish between legitimate political authority and tyranny. 

Some people in the West always predict that Chinese political and economic policies will fail, but China’s development wonder has demonstrated time and again that they are wrong. The governance of Xinjiang will become another significant demonstration. 

* Sun Peisong, Research Fellow at Chongyang Finance Research 
Institute, Renmin University of China

Staff Reporter
2019-12-03 07:20:25 | 3 months ago

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