Xinjiang conflict: Happy ending for the party

Written by Julen Madariaga on August 14th, 2009

Following last week’s posts about Xinjiang conflict, I see this AFP dispatch: China promotes Xinjiang armed police chief. Mr. Dai,  the man at the top of the armed police has been promoted. Which means that the first of the failures I noted in the last post (i.e. failed to protect the citizens on 5th July) has not been recognized as such. This is hardly surprising. Chinese leaders measure success by the yardstick of stability and harmony, and from this perspective Mr. Dai’s performance was remarkable. Suddenly faced by a conflict of unprecedented violence, with the World’s media right at his doorstep, he managed to stabilize the situation in record time. How much articles like this have contributed to his promotion, probably we’ll never know.

In the meantime, my Xinhua RSS is spitting the following headline: Zero refusal for foreign reporters. The State Council has announced this new policy that will ensure better treatment of foreign journalists requests, which will have from now on the right to be denied (as opposed to being ignored). Now, I don’t dream for a second that this is going to change the situation substantially – this blogger might take me to task if I did – but let’s say it is positive that at least somebody in the State Council understands the key issue: the consistently poor image that the Chinese government’s is giving to foreign media, and by extension to the whole World. In any case, this decision is directly connected with the succesful experience of media opening during the Xinjiang conflict.

TLR conclusion

Just have a quick look at what comes from Xinhua these days, with fairs in Urumqi and diplomats (even Turkish ones!) visiting Xinjiang for an oil rubbing session. Meanwhile, Rebiya finds no more countries to host her speeches and the slightest attempt of a comeback from the Western Media is rapidly thwarted by glorious internet friends.

The unmistakable scent of victory is in the air. The party is satisfied with how it all turned out, and prizes are handed to the heroes. Wang Lequan and Hu will probably benefit from this, and with them all the proponents of stability-uber-alles. Congratulations from my little blog.

However, there is  a downside. Singing victory so quickly  means that the problem is seen as a one-time event, an outside attack masterfully controlled by Wang and his men. But all seems to indicate that there are deep contradictions in Xinjiang and in China’s interethnic policy as a whole, and ignoring this reality can only spell trouble in the near future. To make matters worse, by imprisoning China’s best men, the leaders effectively blind themselves to the only reliable way of understanding the problem: independent field research.

Is this really a victory for the long term sustainable development of China? I am afraid not.

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