This book explores the reasons and justifications for the Chinese state’s campaign to erase Uyghur identity, focusing, in particular, on how China’s manipulation of the US-led Global War on Terror (GWOT) has facilitated this cultural genocide. It is the first book to address this issue in depth, and serves as an important rebuttal to Chinese state claims that this campaign is a benign effort to combat an existential extremist threat. While the book suggests that the motivation for this state-led campaign is primarily China’s gradual settler colonization of the Uyghur homeland, the text focuses on the narrative of the Uyghur terrorist threat that has provided international cover and justification for the campaign and has shaped its ‘biopolitical’ nature. It describes how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was able to successfully implicate Uyghurs in GWOT and, despite a lack of evidence, brand them internationally as a serious terrorist threat within the first year of the war. In recounting these developments, the book offers a critique of existing literature on the Uyghur terrorist threat and questions the extent of this threat to the PRC. Finding no evidence for the existence of such a threat when the Chinese state first declared its existence in 2001, the book argues that a nominal Uyghur militant threat only emerged after over a decade of PRC suppression of Uyghur dissent in the name of counterterrorism, facilitating a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ that has served to justify further state repression and ultimately cultural genocide.
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.