Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Political socialization

Many countries have to deal with the problems of politically socializing minority ethnic and national groups. The problem in northwest China is significant.

Which policies are effective and which ones counterproductive?

Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown
Families sundered by a wave of detentions. Mosques barred from broadcasting the call to prayer. Restrictions on the movements of laborers that have wreaked havoc on local agriculture…
A recent 10-day journey across the Xinjiang region in the far west of China revealed a society seething with anger and trepidation as the government, alarmed by a slow-boil insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives, has introduced unprecedented measures aimed at shaping the behavior and beliefs of China’s 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority that considers this region its homeland.

Driving these policies is the government’s view that tougher security and tighter restraints on the practice of Islam are the best way to stem a wave of violence…

Southeast of Kashgar, shopkeepers in the city of Hotan seethed over a government decision to outlaw two dozen names considered too Muslim, forcing parents to rename their children or be unable to register them for school, according to local residents and the police.

To the north in Turpan, a fertile oasis famed for its grapes, a vineyard owner complained about new restrictions that bar Uighur migrant laborers from traveling there for the harvest, leaving tons of fruit to wither on the vines.

Other measures contribute to the widespread perception that Uighur identity is under siege. Schools have largely switched to Mandarin as the main language of instruction instead of Uighur, and the government has begun offering cash and housing subsidies to encourage intermarriage between Uighurs and Hans, the country’s ethnic majority, who have migrated to the region in large numbers…

“The state’s ability to penetrate Uighur society has become increasingly sophisticated and intrusive,” said James Leibold, an expert on China’s ethnic politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. “But while these new measures allow the party to nip a lot of problems in the bud, they also foster new forms of alienation and violence that ultimately weaken the party’s legitimacy and rule.”…

It remains a matter of dispute whether radical Islam has taken hold among many Uighurs, the majority of whom subscribe to a moderate form of Sunni Islam. But the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the Islamic State’s killing in November of a Chinese hostage in Syria have prompted Beijing to step up efforts to position its battle to pacify Xinjiang as part of the global war on violent religious extremism.

Experts outside China, however, say much of the bloodshed here is fueled by local grievances, among them job discrimination against Uighurs, endemic poverty and a widespread belief that the flood of Han migrants to the region is part of a government plan to dilute Uighur identity…

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