The evolution and implications of the ‘Xinjiang mode’ of counterterrorism
This chapter examines the intersection of counterterrorism and surveillance in the current repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). It begins by noting that Xinjiang has been subjected to a dense network of hi-tech surveillance systems, checkpoints, and interpersonal monitoring which severely limit all forms of personal freedom penetrating society to the granular level. The objective, as XUAR Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deputy leader Zhu Hailun asserted in 2017, is to ensure that there are ‘no cracks, no blind spots, no gaps’ in the state’s surveillance of the region. The chapter argues that the CCP has sought this ambitious and dystopian objective through the imposition of the ‘Xinjiang mode’ of counterterrorism which combines the counter-insurgency (COIN) models adopted by the West (primarily the United States) in its ‘War on Terrorism’ with China’s own ‘public security’ and ‘governance’ models to create a counterterrorism strategy defined by militarization, surveillance, and ideological ‘remoulding’. The central objective of the ‘Xinjiang mode’, the chapter concludes, is to not only prevent ‘terrorism’ before it occurs but rather to pre-empt its very possibility by identifying and ‘remoulding’ individuals who display ‘abnormal’ behaviours.
This chapter demonstrates that the roots of cultural genocide in Xinjiang can be found in the colonial relationship between modern China and the indigenous people of the region that has marked Uyghurs and other native non-Hans since the nineteenth century as ‘inferior’ and ‘backwards’ vis-à-vis the ideal of Chinese civilization. While the People’s Republic of China (PRC) could work to decolonize this relationship, Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to be establishing a model for modern China, which does not recognize the strategies of decolonization or multiculturalism as options, but rather seeks the assimilation of non-Han peoples into a Han-centric state culture. In the post-9/11 era this dynamic has been accentuated by the Chinese state’s framing of its approach to the region’s Turkic Muslim populations as motivated by ‘counterterrorism’. The chapter demonstrates that the deployment of the discourse of ‘counterterrorism’ has served to dehumanize entire groups of people, precluding those to whom it is applied from having any legitimate grievances. Instead the actions of the targeted populations are characterized as being reflections of ‘irrational’ and ‘extremist’ Islamic beliefs. The chapter concludes that while ‘counterterrorism’ is more a justification for cultural genocide in Xinjiang than it is a motivation for state actions, it has also facilitated cultural genocide by internalizing amongst many state officials and citizens the belief that Uyghurs and related peoples are an existential threat to society and deserving of the violent policies that target them.
Turkic Muslim camp workers, subjection, and active witnessing
This chapter, drawing on interviews with former detainees and their relatives, with a special focus on in-depth interviews with a former police contractor and camp instructor, demonstrates how the re-education system has turned Uyghurs and Kazakhs against themselves, making them the human intelligence janitors and interpreters of a colonial system. The chapter finds that because of the ethno-racial devaluation of the social position of Uyghur and Kazakh police contractors, such actors are compelled to work in service of a system of enclosure even as it forecloses other life-paths for them. This outsourced task, the chapter suggests, both normalizes the dehumanization of other Turkic Muslims and confronts Turkic Muslim contractors with a dehumanized mirroring of their own Turkic Muslim identifications. The chapter concludes that as a system of subjectification, the re-education process pushes deep forms of trauma onto those who are forced to ‘collaborate’ with the processes they enact and observe, resulting in an ‘active witnessing’ of the suffering of Turkic Muslim detainees.
The Xinjiang emergency in China’s ‘new type of international relations’
This chapter examines the interconnections between China’s world order politics – encapsulated under the official narrative of China’s ‘Great Revival’ – and its policies towards ethnic minorities. It notes that following the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress in November 2017, President Xi Jinping declared that while China would preserve sovereignty as the underlying principle of international relations it remained ‘dissatisfied’ with a system built by European colonialism and would seek to forge new norms of ‘mutual respect, fairness, and justice’. The chapter argues here that while Chinese foreign policy narratives explicitly highlight Western ‘hegemon anxiety’ as an opportunity to remake world order, Xi’s emphasis on global ‘justice’ reflects intertwined cultural anxieties about Western colonial desires to convert China and non-Han peoples’ desires for identity recognition. Thus while China’s bold pronouncements speak from new global confidence, they also have emerged alongside heightened domestic anxieties, which imagine alternative identities on China’s frontiers as threats to the unification and ‘Great Revival’ (weida fuxing) of the Chinese race (Zhonghua minzu). Such racialized anxieties, the chapter suggests, have contributed to shifts in ethnic policy to promote racial ‘fusion’ (jiaorong) with mass education and intensifying extra-legal security measures in Xinjiang; mass internment camps and ‘orphanages’ to eliminate and transform Uyghur identities. The chapter concludes that the CCP’s ‘window of opportunity’ to transform colonial world order and its ‘mission’ to unify the ‘Chinese race’ are mutually constitutive goals in China’s ‘Great Revival’ narrative of inevitable trajectory towards global power and domestic racial unification.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is the site of the largest mass repression of an ethnic and/or religious minority in the world today. Researchers estimate that since 2016 one million people have been detained there without trial. In the detention centres individuals are exposed to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress, while outside them more than ten million Turkic Muslim minorities are subjected to a network of hi-tech surveillance systems, checkpoints, and interpersonal monitoring. Existing reportage and commentary on the crisis tends to address these issues in isolation, but this groundbreaking volume brings them together, exploring the interconnections between the core strands of the Xinjiang emergency in order to generate a more accurate understanding of the mass detentions’ significance for the future of President Xi Jinping’s China.
The conclusion draws the book to an end by reminding the reader of the context of upheaval that sees 100 years of Northern Ireland marked in 2021, not least due to Brexit. The centenary of the coming into existence of two states on the island of Ireland will not be celebrated by Sinn Féin given its opposition to such a thing at the time. Yet it marks an optimistic era for the party in that it sees a United Ireland as closer than at any other point in the last century. It is a time when it seeks to further establish itself as the party of a new generation – who no longer ascribe to a Sinn Féin vote the value that their parents might have, and no longer really care to make the connection with the IRA a priority. A major challenge will be holding on to the gains in this generation made in 2020 by keeping its voice distinctive to others in the policy sphere.
This chapter looks at the manner in which Sinn Féin has managed its past and its close ties with the former Provisional Irish Republican Army. While suspicion remains high amongst political circles that the Army Council, the ruling body of the IRA, is still in existence and somehow controls, at least in part, the decision making process within Sinn Féin, the party itself denies such allegations and claims that it has successfully turned the page. This is a fraught exercise as the shadow of the IRA lingers on. Furthermore, while distancing itself from its former ally, the party has no intention of disavowing the IRA and continues to justify its actions and methods within the context of the Troubles. This can be potentially damaging as the party’s democratic credentials continue to be questioned in some quarters, although paradoxically it does not necessarily translate into a drop in support. Sinn Féin has had to navigate a hostile landscape on both sides of the border but has also managed to retain, and even increase, a level of support in spite of its past connection with the IRA. The manner in which it has managed its past is exemplified by its discourse on the issue of reconciliation, which is at the heart of any future, long lasting stability in Northern Ireland.
In order to achieve its ultimate objective – the reunification of Ireland – Sinn Féin opted, as early as the 1980s to win the hearts and minds, and the votes, of the Irish electorate on both sides of the border. In order to develop a more elaborate political profile, it operated a markedly left-wing turn, both in its discourse and in its policy content. As a result, Sinn Féin has successfully become the main left-wing contender within the Irish political world. The party is now closely identified with issues such as housing and the strengthening of public services, and it has embraced a liberal agenda on issues such as LGBT rights and abortion. This has enabled Sinn Féin to gain the support of a sizeable section of the youth, and it hopes to be able to attract voters in Northern Ireland who do not necessarily identify with the binary identities of nationalism and unionism. While the two main parties in the Republic have yet to accept to share power with Sinn Féin, Republicans have shown that they are serious contenders and that they are determined to be in a position where they have ministerial representation on both sides of the Irish border.
The February 2020 general election in the Republic of Ireland sent shockwaves through the country’s political system. Sinn Féin, ahead of all other parties in terms of first preference votes, secured its place as a potential coalition partner, a role it has been playing in Northern Ireland since the start of the century. This result not only disrupted the two-party system, it also questioned a narrative that had cast Sinn Féin as an outlier in the political mainstream. However, the prospect of this all-Ireland, radical left and former Provisional IRA associate being in government raises many questions. What does the success of this all-Ireland party say about the prospect of reunification? Can a party over which the shadow of paramilitaries still lingers be fully trusted? And are the radical changes that the party advocates in areas such as housing, public health and taxation a compelling alternative? These are the questions that this book sets out to address.