China’s Achilles Heel
Not that China is in danger or anything, but the ethnic riots in Urumqi might be a lot more serious than last year’s Tibetan uprising. The Uighurs don’t seem to have that same look-inward, turn-the-other-cheek mindset that Tibetans are famous for.
These ethnic tensions have been building for a long time. Night Train to Turkistan (1986) was a first-hand account of four Americans who traveled all over western China. They had fascinating adventures, but there were long-simmering ethnic feuds even then. I think the book mentioned the Uighurs in particular (I read it a long time ago). In any case, everywhere these travelers went, there was resentment against the Chinese. Millions of Chinese citizens have moved (or more likely, they got “moved” by the government) into these remote western regions, causing the indigenous tribes to become minorities on their own turf.
Same with Tibet — in Lhasa, Chinese citizens outnumber Tibetans.
Mongolia offers more perspectives on China — past and present. The two countries had centuries of warfare, and Inner Mongolia is now a Chinese province. Everything is relative, and Mongolians think of Russia as the lesser of two evils.
Somehow, it’s hard to picture these Urumqi riots as something that will flare up and then die down and everyone will live happily ever after.
This isn’t wishful thinking or anything. After all, China is our landlord. And if you’re a renter and your landlord is in trouble, YOU might not have a place to live.
So let’s hope China can find a workable solution.
cross-posted at Bring It On!