Yes, America, in Xinjiang We Are Fighting Terrorism
U.S. and Western criticisms of Chinese reeducation policies in Xinjiang are off the mark – and represent a double standard.
July 19, 2019
An old Chinese proverb cautions us to sweep the snow off our doorstep and not worry about the frost on a neighbor’s roof.
I have been thinking a lot about this proverb as I look at the United States, which is busy caging Central American refugees along its border while criticizing China for its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
China isn’t putting anyone in cages. In fact, in opening Vocational Education and Training Centers in Xinjiang, China is attempting to deal with two problems at once: Poverty and extremism.
These problems are serious ones and all societies are facing them, including rich countries in the West.
A vast resource-rich province, Xinjiang remains relatively poor. In 2017, the region’s gross domestic product accounted for just 1.33% of national GDP. Its per capita income was substantially below that of the national average.
Poverty can lead to extremism, so a key goal of the centers is to give the people of Xinjiang skills that they can use to obtain a better life.
A key skill is the ability to speak standard Mandarin Chinese. That is why learning how to speak standard Chinese is a central part of the curriculum of the centers.
Another main goal of the centers is to fight extremism. It is easy for Americans to forget, but after the tragedy of 9-11, the government of the United States, then led by George W. Bush, viewed America’s struggle with terrorism and China’s struggle with terrorism as one fight.
The U.S. State Department even placed on its terrorist watch list an extremist organization that had killed innocent people in China.
Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous terrorist attacks. The July 5, 2009 riot in Urumchi is just an example.
That unrest spread panic across the region. Tensions rose between Uighurs and Han Chinese. The Chinese government had to respond. And for the past 28 months the region has been stable.
Our people’s sense of security and happiness has increased. The Vocational Education and Training Centers constitute an important ingredient in this fight.
Prevention and education
The de-radicalization program at our centers aims at eliminating terrorist activities at their source through humanitarian means, starting from prevention and education.
People bewitched by extremism are pulled back from the brink of committing violent crimes, people exposed to extremism are educated and put back on track and people lacking in knowledge and skills and eager to learn are taught knowledge and skills.
In the West, it is easy to criticize China. But it often seems that Western do-gooders want China to do nothing and passively wait for another bomb to explode or another attack to occur. But we cannot. We must protect our people and ensure stability.
If you think about it, the goals of the work in China are very similar to anti-extremism programs instituted in the West. In June 2018, the British government released a counter-terrorism strategy that emphasizes early intervention on people affected by extremism.
Two years earlier, France announced that it would set up de-radicalization centers in 12 regions of the country.
The United States for its part tries to rehabilitate young people who are affected by extremism via community correction. These moves share a common approach which is to help and educate.
The anti-terrorist programs in Xinjiang have contributed to an improvement in the quality of life. Under difficult conditions, Xinjiang’s economy has grown, especially the tourism sector.
In 2018, tourists from inside and outside China numbered over 150 million, a year-on-year increase of 40%. Foreign tourists increased by almost 11% and tourist spending jumped 41.6%.
At the Kashgar Vocational Education and Training Center, I met Aikda Arslan. She told me that she was once influenced by religious extremism. She had been taught that women were not allowed to sing or dance or show their faces in public and that if a person laughed at a wedding or cried at a funeral, the person would go to hell.
Aikda’s mind was so poisoned that she gave up dancing, which she had once loved. And at her father’s funeral, she did not even shed tears.
Aikda’s mother sent her to the Education and Training Center to study. At first, Aikda felt abandoned. But as time passed, her attitude changed. She understood her mother’s good intentions.
In the training class, she rehearsed for performances and made videos. She rediscovered her love of dancing and singing. When Aikda graduated from the center, she found a job in Kashgar Gourmet Town. And now she hopes to save enough money to open a dance studio.
This brings me back to the Chinese proverb. It has a simple meaning. Get your own house in order first before you squeal about what’s going on next door.
Facing persistent racism and civil rights issues, impoverished Indian reservations and yawning gaps between rich and poor, Americans might do well to clean the snow from its doorstep than go on about the frost on China’s roof.
US and Western criticisms of Chinese reeducation policies in Xinjiang are off the mark – and represent a double standard.
The US is busy caging Central American refugees along its border while criticizing China for its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
In the West, it is easy to criticize China. But it often seems that Western do-gooders want China to do nothing and passively wait for another bomb to explode.
The anti-terrorist programs in Xinjiang have contributed to an improvement in the quality of life. Under difficult circumstances, Xinjiang’s economy has grown.