Recognition, respect and identity in the discourse of China’s Uyghur problem
in Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition
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The chapter analyses the Chinese government’s practices towards the Uyghurs as a form of mis-recognition. In particular, it argues that, while the government has granted the Uyghurs some forms of economic participation and pursued policies of affirmative action, the dominant strategy remains that of delegitimising the Uyghurs’ identity claims.

The chapter unfolds its argument by engaging different concepts of (mis-)recognition for analysing the Chinese government’s behaviour towards the Uyghurs. First, it introduces the concepts of mis-recognition and labelling, and contextualises those within the broader recognition literature. It demonstrates how the Chinese government made use of the terrorism label in order to delegitimise the Uyghurs’ political grievances. It goes on to discuss the notions of respect and disrespect, and the dichotomy between recognition and redistribution, arguing that the latter cannot replace the former and may even amount to mis-recognition: the framing of the Uyghurs’ problem as economic grievances precisely undermines their quest for recognition as an indigenous Turkic Muslim community in China’s Xinjiang region. The chapter argues that being recognised in terms of one’s own identity is essential to transforming Uyghur armed non-state actor (ANSAs) into non-violent actors. It discusses the question of whether to talk to ANSAs among the Uyghurs or not and, based on this, formulates policy recommendations.

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