By: Rukiye Turdush
The Chinese government released a New Silk Road project action plan in 2015 to facilitate the achievement of its global ambition. The project aimed to materialize China’s dream of expansion through Central Asia to Europe.
China colonized East Turkistan (which the Chinese government also calls the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) in 1949. The region is located at the major gateway to this “New Silk Road” project and is mainly populated by Turkic-speaking ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs.
To promote the success of the “New Silk Road” project and make it easier to gain access to Muslim countries, China should respect the religious identity of Uyghurs and implement fair policy in the colonized land. Uyghurs and Kazakhs share the religion of the Central Asian nation, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and many other countries that play integral roles in the project. However, China has harshly implemented a destruction policy in the region, locking up several million Muslims in so-called re-education camps that are no different from Nazi-style concentration camps.
According to eye witnesses and countless of media reports, belief in Islam, praying to God, eating halal food, practicing Islamic funeral ceremonies and refusing to marry Han Chinese have all been banned. Moreover, Chinese officials have called Islam a mental disease. The Han-centric nation-building manifestation of China has aggressively moved to abolish Islam in the region. This should offend all Islamic nations. Surprisingly, it does not offend them at all.
Why doesn’t China have to worry about offending its Muslim allies? The reasons could vary. For one, China has mastered its cheating and bullying strategy. For example, through economic war, China’s cheating has cost the United States alone two million jobs since it became a member of the World Trade Organization. In addition, the bullying of Taiwan and building of an artificial island in the South China Sea have manifested the Thick Black Theory (Hou Hei Xue) of China.
After getting away with all of this, China believed that it could also get away with offending its Muslim allies. Alternatively, it may have believed that such a risk was worth taking since East Turkistan has significant strategic importance to China.
The purpose of the “New Silk Road” or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) is to use China’s economic power and capital export as leverage to shape its main interest in geostrategic targets and to export the dominance of Han Chinese nationalism. China believes that it cannot fulfill these imperialistic goals without achieving total Han nationalist dominance in East Turkistan. Based on this belief, China has banned religion and Uyghur ethnic identity in East Turkistan to eliminate spaces that would allow the influence of other worlds.
Secondly, China has effectively manipulated the conflict between the West and Muslim countries, took the position of guardian over the Muslim countries in exchange for their silence regarding the issue. For example, the Turkish government was previously very supportive of East Turkistan. Back in 2009, President Erdogan criticized China and depicted the Urumqi massacre as a “genocide”. China demanded an official apology for that but never received one. In recent years, however, the adversary relationship between Turkey and the US has pushed Turkey further into the strategic circle of China. On numerous occasions, Turkish President Erdogan was quoted as saying, “Only atheist Satan can be silent in the face injustices”. Yet he now chooses to remain silent in the face of the tremendous injustices the Uyghurs are experiencing.
Furthermore, the financial crisis, the weakening of Western democratic ideology and rise of illiberal democracy in the West have given the green light to China’s genocidal policy against the Uyghurs. In fact, China tested the water before implementing the destruction of the religion and identity of Muslims in the region. Chinese state media produced vast amounts of propaganda material in several languages and circulated them around the world to further their agenda. They tried to illustrate that state oppression was a consequence of separatism and religious extremism or terrorism despite the fact that there was little evidence of organized terrorism, separatism or religious extremism.
China’s multistage and political strategy based on Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” states: “befriend them to get their guard down, then attack their weakest point.” Chinese political strategies have never been based on transparency and honesty. If China is buying these Muslim countries trust to open their door for OBOR project and making them ignore religious and moral obligations, then soon, there will be a day that China can attack their weakest point.
“Rukiye Turdush is an independent human rights activist and writer based in Toronto.”