What is culture? Who wins, and who loses, as culture globalises in China?
The vast effects of globalisation though international economic trade, law, technology and intervention have heightened suppression on vulnerable minority groups and cultures around the world. This is explicitly evident in regions where fundamentalism is widespread and cultural ideals are strong. The implication caused to and by China but more specifically the Uighur-Han conflict in the North-western Provence of Xinjiang. China is fast becoming the new world superpower, illustrating a globalised phenomena though an economically driven socialist society which has caused fundamental changes to cultural and social tradition. Dating back with a collection of five thousand years of history distorted and varying from one ethnic minority group to the next, China’s obsession post Mao’s cultural revolution in the 1960’s lead the way for traditional cultural and ethnic breakdowns largely for economic gain. The loss of languages, dying out with the remaining members of minority groups to the vast industrialisation of urban dwellings, China has potentially created a new wave of globalisation. The Muslim Uighur people of the Xinjiang are overpowered and restrained by the mass migration of Han Chinese for economic and energy purposes. The CCP’s fear of separatism in the Xinjiang has allowed China to enforce their presence and authoritative control on the region and utilise the flow of oil and other natural recourses particularly abundant in the area. It is very easy for the Chinese government to overshadow their fears of Uighur autonomy by framing the current political unrest as terrorism, suggesting separatist groups are strongly involved in al Qaeda activities. By branding the political activist groups as radicals they generate a means of justification for the Han Chinese migration, activating a purge of Islam through the closure of mosques and schools of religious orientation, not to mention the removal of historical scripture due to its supposed nationalistic intent. Culture is what defines a region, what distinguishes one group of people from the next and is a signature identity of pride and tradition thought manifestations of art, language, social behaviours and intellect. Under a Communist reign, the Han Chinese population have successfully infiltrated the minority Uighur traditions and now must undergo inevitable backlash as a result of their initial victory.
The control over the North West region of Xinjiang has caused uprise for centuries between the native Uighur people and China’s leading Dynasties. From the conclusion of the Second World War, China’s Communist Party has exemplified their fear of an ethno-nationalist separatist threat from the region on the national security of China. In an attempt to overcome the prestige and civilised power of Central Asia of past centuries, the government has invested into infrastructural and capital construction for economic gains from highways and railways to open borders access to Han Chinese migration. This was a lucrative attempt by the government to prevent the region advocating for independence from Mainland China. By creating this façade the CCP enforced control on local governments thought corporations or ‘corps’ that favoured Han employment and by expanding the control of landowners where profits are paid to and by the government. The migration of Han people resulted in second-rate citizen treatment and demographic suppression of the Uighur people attempting to curb the radicalisation of legitimate concern of connections to terrorist networks specifically after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. China believed overshadowing the region would not only provide them with greater economic advantages in central Asia but also prevent any outreach of the Middle East which may cause a loss of control to their rich agriculture. The takeover of the northwest was China’s attempt to create a homogenous mixer of cultures under Communist ideals and therefore control a minority uprising. The elimination of Uighur society and livelihood has heightened Chinese securities to new overpowering means. The lifestyles of the Xinjiang region through pressure on the environment and agricultural wealth of resources have importantly broken the cultural understandings of ancient scripture and practices banned and destroyed for their apparent separatist reference, thus generating greater Chinese rule.
In order to prevent an uprising for independence among the native people of the region, the Chinese have infiltrated the region with Han settlers and taken measures to obliterate the language, religion, and traditions of the Uighurs. The Chinese manifested Xinjiang as a place of inhabited by barbarians and intervened, ignoring all historical and cultural practices. Over past centuries that Han culture has invaded into countless ethnic minorities, migrating to prevent autonomy from Mainland China. The effects caused on the ethnic Urighur’s have forced natives to unpaid labour and prevention of forming local political positions. During the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, presented a strong hatred for ethnic minority. This resulted in the continued closure of Islamic mosques, Koran teaching schools and the eradication of Muslim clothing, language and scriptures in order to save Chinese heritage, causing many people to seek exile over the Soviet border after claims of advocating for independence in their homeland failed. Many returned years later in an attempt to create organisations to save Uighur identity but bringing infectious diseases and drug addictions with them, significantly damaging the overall health and development of the local population.
The Uighurs had possessed a highly developed literary language for many years, yet the ethnic Chinese have tried to eliminate the literary language of the Uighurs because of their belief that “language must serve the unification of the motherland”. In order to do so, the Latin alphabet replaced the Arabic script used by the Uighurs and many Chinese words and expressions have been forced into the language. With a lack of academic resources of books and advanced technology, the Chinese successfully ensured Uighur people are uneducated, hence blocking the possibility of an uprising. Banning schools and manipulating the history of the region for future generations has allowed the Chinese to take full control of and falsify Uighur civilisation. The inability for the Uighur people to defend themselves has impacted economically on their society too. The area is rich in natural resources, which China has taken complete advantage over, showing no benefits to or for the Uighur population.
As early as the conclusion of WWII China weakened the region of wealth in order to maintain demand of resource production and to prevent losing the borders of the region. The Xinjiang obtains countryside with vast resources from water to minerals such as “coal, petroleum, iron, chromium, lead, beryllium, lithium, asbestos, and rock crystal”. The Chinese specifically focused on the production of oil in the Tarim Basin and Cotton cultivation. The Uighurs had extensive understanding of their resources and for centuries had intricate local machinery to nurture the land. Although the Chinese had been occupants for several decades, the collapse of the Soviet Union allowed greater resource demand on China. As a result, the 1990’s saw an extreme economic boom to the area. Despite this wealth, the Xinjiang received little more than one sixth of the profits. In 1995, China installed oil pipelines through the region along the similar route of the Silk Road in order to increase movement to Middle Eastern and Russian cities. With extensive goods being exported from the area daily, the CCP enforced inhumane labour practices on locals, with little or no pay. Although, this did provide a portion of work for the suffering and poor, many poorer Han Chinese migrated due to labour promises and were employed first, further frustrating Uighurs. With Central Asia fast becoming an intricate energy producer, China not only increased their foreign trade but tightened their sanctions on the area whereby groups of Xinjiang activists in Germany, the UK and Middle Eastern regions held back from interfering in order to prevent resource shortages ensuring Chinese control. This is a very successful triumph for China. The government rented the land to migrant Han’s but fragile environment was subject to desertification and water scarcity resulted in lakes drying up and an increase of desert and inhabitable areas. This prompted the decision by the Chinese Central government to cultivate cotton adding further discourse between Uighur and Han persons. The viral diffusion of this conflict suggests that global communications not only foster greater awareness of this region, but also may even exacerbate its underlying problems. The pre-conditions for this epidemic include severe unemployment, unequal opportunities, and uneven distribution of wealth and ethnic discrimination. This supported greater goals for autonomy for Uighurs and Chinese aims for resolution of conflict, and rejection of violence and radical Islam has only encouraged it.
The Uighurs embraced Islam in 934AD and do not have a tradition of strict orthodoxy or Islamic radicalism. Islam, for the Uighurs however, has become one of the best means to resist the Chinese control. Chinese claim Uighurs have ties with al Qaeda, giving cause for fighting terror overshadowing autonomy and China’s energy and economic reliance. The environmental and social destruction caused by mass migration of Han Chinese and controlling anti Uighur propaganda has too been surpassed. The growing separatism after the Soviet collapse worried the Chinese causing a greater emphasis of control on the Xinjiang region resulting in severe uprise from both sides, illustrated futher by increased protests and political deaths. Decades of civil war have been enclosed by the CCP and branded as preventing terrorism of the Islamic faith, not an autonomy conflict. China’s media suggest they have successfully suppressed the religious activity though Mosque closures and leader arrests. Xinjiang mosques have been closed because the Chinese have said that they were built without permission. Freedom of religion is unknown, as growing restrictions on religious freedom have surfaced as they are considered attacks against the government. This prompted thirty Muslim nationalists accused of “openly agitating against government officials” to be executed on January 30, 1997. China forced a crackdown on “illegal” religious activities to which such occurrences sparked a period of unrest in the region. Although there is evidence to suggest that Islam has always been prominent in the Xinjiang region, it is difficult to overlook the influence of China’s control over the area leading the people to fundamentalist views as a source of possible freedom from the reign.
By eroding the legitimacy of the Uighur people through school and other educational closures the CCP have further alienated the Xinjiang population decreasing their ability to defend minority interests and distinct propaganda from reality in conjunction with the absence of real power. Liberal cultural expression and religious practices have fostered separatist ideas according to the Central Party in China. This may suggest that the increased fear of the CCP resulted in increased security and segregated measures on the Xinjiang region, provoking little else but encouraging extremists and fundamental groups in the Provence. In many ways Uighur suppression has united different cultural groups together despite having little else in common but the hatred for the Han Chinese presence in the west of the continent. This may therefore be an indication that if separatist groups were to succeed over the Han Chinese, we many see an expression much like the Iranian revolution whereby different religious, social and cultural beliefs create a further divide of its people when an external control is absent. Islam in Xinjiang has become little else but a tool and expression of frustration to the Uighur people to use in their fight for land and economic rights, an autonomic government and freedom from Mainland China who are the sole benefiter in the battle for the Xinjiang land rights. The Chinese conquest and effects of oppression caused to the Xinjiang province for political and economical gain has greatly shown the damage rapid advancements in globalizing a nation have caused too many locations around the world. The needs to increase cash flow and meet daily recourse requirements to keep up with lavish, global lifestyles have resulted in a vast and easy degradation of minority groups from majority enhancements largely because they lack structure and stability. China has successfully and clearly overpowered the impoverished Xinjiang region for nation gain however we must question despite this whether or not the fierce flight for a historical culture in the process is in fact worth more.