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Keywords:

  • China;
  • Tibet;
  • Xinjiang;
  • security;
  • geopolitics

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The aim of this essay is to examine the ways in which Beijing perceives the issues of Tibet and Xinjiang differently in the context of its geostrategic thinking in international politics today. In doing so, this essay will provide a deeper understanding of Beijing's different geostrategic sensibilities of Tibet and Xinjiang in regard to rising China's national security interests in Central and South Asia. This essay argues that, although Beijing publicly sees the Tibet and Xinjiang problems as issues of securing Chinese sovereignty, geostrategically Beijing alludes to a subtle difference in its perception of the two regions: (i) the Tibet problem is a practical, domestic issue to be handled by Beijing's paternalistic engagement of modernization, and is a symbolic issue regarding how to manage rising China's benign image abroad while harshly oppressing any separatist voices in Tibet; and (ii) in Beijing's geostrategic thinking, Xinjiang's security importance seems to be defined in terms of energy security for China's economic growth, which is integral to social stability and the Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy, as well as the transnational Islamic terrorist movement interlinked with Uyghur separatism in Xinjiang.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Since the end of the Cold War in 1991 followed by the reconfiguration of Sino–Russian relations, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has faced a new security reality, which has provided China with both an opportunity and a challenge to reformulate its geopolitical interests in western China – Tibet and Xinjiang – and adjacent South/Central Asia. The traditional framework of Sino–Pakistan cooperation versus Soviet–India cooperation loosened, and relations of interests between the countries in this region have been simultaneously cooperative and conflicting, depending on the nature of the various issues concerning each.1 There has been noticeable progress in rival Sino–India relations in South Asia, particularly in terms of economy and trade. Geographically, Tibet (with Nepal) is a nodal point of these two emerging Asian powers who seek to participate in the making of the world order in the coming years.2 With the birth of five new Central Asian countries after the demise of the Soviet Union, Xinjiang has become a springboard for China's expansion of influence over Central Asia as well as a frontier facing transnational terrorism based on Islamic extremism. In general, international relations in South/Central Asia have recently become complex, fluid and dynamic.

With this changing international environment, China's internal issues of ethnic separatism in Tibet and Xinjiang have been playing out in both international politics and China's domestic politics. Since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, categorization and identification of certain groups within China as minorities and the recognition of the Han as an unchallengeable majority have played a fundamental role in forging a unified Chinese nation.3 As Chinese economic reform started in the 1980s, Chinese minorities actively participated in marketization processes of their own culture and identity while seeking economic benefits. Naturally, Chinese ethnic minorities' political challenges against Beijing's authority have significantly weakened. Nevertheless, Xinjiang and Tibet are two distinct exceptions that continuously thwart Beijing's self-image of harmonious family of 56 ethnicities. Conventionally, China's Tibet and Xinjiang problems are depicted as similar issues of ethnic separatism in China with reference to the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities' revanchist movements and Beijing's carrot-and-stick approach to quelling them. This conventional view aptly shows that Beijing understands these problems not simply in terms of social and cultural assimilation, but also as an issue of territorial sovereign integrity of the PRC. However, this view tends to treat Beijing's security concerns regarding Tibet and Xinjiang as monolithic and domestic, presuming that for Beijing the problems of the two regions are cognate in nature with equal geostrategic importance in its national security thinking and practice.

Against this scholarly backdrop, the aim of this essay is to examine the ways in which Beijing perceives the issues of Tibet and Xinjiang differently in the context of its geostrategic thinking in international politics today. In doing so, this essay attempts to provide a deeper, nuanced understanding of Beijing's different geostrategic sensibilities of Tibet and Xinjiang at home and in South/Central Asia. This essay will argue that, although Beijing publicly sees the Tibet and Xinjiang problems as securing Chinese sovereignty, geostrategically Beijing alludes to a subtle difference in making sense of Tibet and Xinjiang. The essay makes the following two points: (i) Tibet is a practical issue to be handled by Beijing's paternalistic engagement of modernization at home, and is a symbolic issue regarding how to manage the benign image abroad of rising China, that aims to project to the world an image of a harmonious society and peaceful development while harshly oppressing any separatist voices in Tibet; and (ii) in Beijing's geostrategic thinking, Xinjiang's security importance seems to be defined in terms of energy security for China's continued economic development which is integral to social stability and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) legitimacy at home, as well as the transnational Islamic terrorist movement interlinked with Uyghur separatism in Xinjiang.

The structure of this paper is as follows: the next section will explore the background, nature and major actors' (China, the United States, the West, India and Tibet) diverse views of the Tibet problem to reveal Beijing's geostrategic consideration of China's southwestern frontier – Tibet – in its state behavior today. The following section examines the background, geopolitical significance, impending security concern and China's foreign and domestic approaches to Xinjiang in order to capture Beijing's geostrategic sensibility of Xinjiang in China and Central Asia. Recapping the key argument of the essay, the last section provides a policy-relevant implication of Beijing's different geostrategic sensibilities of Tibet and Xinjiang, along with a methodological suggestion for a better understanding of contemporary China's national security thinking and practice.

Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The Tibet Autonomous Region (Tibet) is of great importance to contemporary China in light of its political, military and psychological concerns at home as well as abroad. It is China's second largest region by area with a size of over 1.2 million square km. Fifty-five ethnic minorities in China inhabit half the entire Chinese territory, and 1.2 billion Han Chinese live in the other half. Given this situation, politically the possibility of Tibetan independence poses a critical threat to Beijing's governance of other ethnic minorities in China, since some of the other Chinese minorities may seek to follow suit after Tibet. Related to this, psychologically or from a perspective of Chinese nationalism, Tibet, along with Xinjiang and Taiwan, is a crucial litmus test of China's national unity. This is tied to the issue of Chinese sovereignty, which today is one of China's three cannot-be-compromised national interests, along with security and development.4 From a military perspective, Tibet not only serves as a buffer zone vis-à-vis China's traditional rival, India, but it also enables Beijing to wield strategic influence over South Asia and the Indian Ocean.5 In addition, Tibet, which is the least populated region within China, matters to Beijing due to it being the source of large fresh water resources for people in other regions of China. Tibetan fresh water resources can also act as a strategic option for Beijing in wielding influence over South Asian countries.6

In contrast, still largely dependent on agriculture, Tibet's economic value is relatively insignificant. Although some mineral resources and oil have been mined, the small quantities produced along with transportation difficulties mean that these resources have yielded no significant contribution to the rapidly growing Chinese economy. Chinese geologists presume that a great deal of copper, iron, lead and zinc ore deposits remain in Tibet,7 and yet the economic potential of such deposits has not been confirmed. Tibet's economic value can be found in leather, salt, traditional handcrafts and timber, but it is doubtful – in terms of the minor economic significance of these materials – that Beijing would redirect its existing policy or come up with a new policy toward Tibet. Tourism is also seen as possibly creating substantive financial benefits, but again this reason is unlikely to lead Beijing to make any major concessions in terms of politics and security. It seems clear that in China's thinking, it is Beijing that aids and develops Tibet for Tibetans' own good, rather than Tibet that contributes to China's overall economy.8

Historically, Tibet was not a nation until the 7th century when it became the unified Tibetan empire with Lhasa as its capital. Lhasa competed with the Chinese Tang dynasty in the 8th century. The Tibetan empire collapsed under the Mongols, and the fifth Dalai Lama became both the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan country under the auspices of the Mongols. When the waning power of the Mongols gave way to the Qing dynasty over the control of Tibet, the Chinese Emperor, Kang Xi, sent his troops to Lhasa and declared Tibet a protectorate. Chinese control went through ups and downs until 1912 when the Qing dynasty collapsed and Tibet pushed out all Chinese, and the 13th Dalai Lama declared the country's independence the following year in 1913, when a possibility of becoming a modern sovereign state might exist. As China underwent a civil war and World War II, no changes occurred in Tibet until 1949. In 1950, one year after the formation of the PRC, China placed Tibet under its control by force, meeting little resistance. The question of how to understand this somewhat typical historical situation of occupation/independence of Tibet has been a critical bone of contention between Beijing and Tibetan separatists.9 According to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists, Tibet was historically an independent country until it became a protectorate of the Qing dynasty in the 18th century, and even its status as a protectorate indicates that Tibet was just one of many vassal countries within the traditional Chinese tributary system, such as Korea and Vietnam, rather than an inalienable part of China. Thus, the Chinese invasion in 1950 is regarded as the conquest of an independent, sovereign country.10 By contrast, Beijing insists that Britain attempted to secede Tibet from China when Chinese sovereignty was sapped by the Western imperial powers in the early 20th century. This attempt was wrongly used as the foundation of the Tibetan independence movement. The official stance of Beijing is that China has governed Tibet since the 13th century retreat of the Mongols.11

When Mao Tse-tung sent Chinese troops to occupy Tibet in 1950, Tibetan resistance was feeble. In fact, because prior to World War II Tibet had been in a semi-colonial situation under British and Western imperial powers, it is difficult to define the meaning of Chinese troops' advance on or invasion of Tibet. Was this an illegal occupation of the independent country of Tibet by China, or did the Chinese liberate a colonial Tibet historically regarded as an essential part of China from Western imperial powers? Indeed, facts do not speak for themselves,12 and discovering the “truth” in history often becomes a matter of polemics between different actors for the sake of competing interests of the day in politics.13 Despite historical ambiguity, the question of Tibetan sovereignty has become an international concern, as well as the question of regional stability in the face of major riots, which have broken out periodically in Tibet since 1950, and the current Dalai Lama having fled to Dharamsala, India where he established a government in exile in 1959. It is here assumed that India is one of the key actors keeping the Tibet question alive.14 Partly for this reason, China has taken a grim view of India's intentions toward Tibet, despite India having officially declared Tibet as “a region of China” in its 1954 treaty with China.

Ironically, massive Tibetan protests during the era of China's Great Leap Forward (1958–1963) and the 1962 Sino–India border dispute war reduced the geostrategic uncertainty of Tibet. Due to its defeat, Delhi failed to make Tibet a de facto India-friendly buffer zone between itself and China or weaken Beijing's control over Tibet. China also gave up the initiative of constructing the United Front of The Third World after the Bandung conference in 1955, owing to worsening friction with India. A secret US project through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to support the riots in Tibet was abortive, in contrast with the success of similar projects in Latin America.15 Eventually Tibet was deprived of its autonomous status and it came under the direct control of Beijing.

Later, armed groups of Tibetan independence movement fighters (such as Chushi Gangdrug) – supported intermittently by the CIA and India – came to operate in the Sino–India border region and Southeast Tibet,16 but the armed independence movement was disallowed by a decree issued by the Dalai Lama.17 Subsequently, the issue of Tibetan independence has been advanced in a diplomatic fashion on the basis of the Dalai Lama's personal, spiritual charisma and mystic Tibetan Buddhism. Under the circumstances of widely accepting China's sovereignty over Tibet as a fait accompli, the Tibetan issue has at times been politicized by anti-China US politicians and European human rights groups at the international level. Recently this issue has occupied the international spotlight following the upswing in violence between Tibetans and Han Chinese in 2008 and repeated incidents of self-immolation by Tibetans both inside and outside China.18

Despite persistent Tibetan protests against China and international support for these protests, the Tibetan independence movement and human rights activities do not pose an existential threat to the CCP's legitimacy in terms of the economy and security. For instance, although the massive Tibetan riot in 2008 drew serious international attention leading up to the Beijing Summer Olympic Games later that year, it made no difference to Beijing's assertive stance of regarding Tibet as an integral part of China, and the international community merely expressed concern to China over human rights violations rather than the issue of Tibetan sovereignty. Seeing that it has yet to properly address Tibetan needs and desires, Beijing views Tibet as a practical issue at home, and thus attempts to resolve this issue through the further modernization and development of Tibet. On this point, Beijing takes a state-centric view of Tibetan modernization wherein it defines the territory as a place that is lacking and in need of intervention from the outside; “a weak Tibet needed liberating from Western imperialists … Tibetans needed to be liberated from feudal oppression [headed by the Dalai Lama] … China [has] offered social and economic development to free Tibetans from material backwardness.”19 In this perspective, Tibetans appear to be captives of their religious, feudal bondage, and this view is vindicated by recent Tibetan self-immolations, which ordinary, secular Chinese people cannot comprehend. During the 18th Communist Party Congress in 2012, Qiangba Puncog, Legislature Chairman of Tibet, called those who had self-immolated “political victims,” adding that “the Dalai Lama group is [sic] using these people. They have no concern for the advancements we made in living standards, improving facilities and making more and more people content and happy.”20 This reveals that without the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama, the Tibet issue would let up and Tibetans would be better off under Beijing's benevolent patronage. This orientation seems to be reflected in the Sino-centric worldview of “Tianxia” (all under heaven), which is regarded as the premodern ideal of diplomacy and international relations.21 Under Tianxia thinking, China believes that it has adopted a benevolent, noninterventionist, non-exploitative attitude toward peoples outside the Chinese culture. After all, Tibetan barbarians are not outsiders but just uncivilized people awaiting assimilation into Greater China, not through coerced conversion but through cultural awakening. As most Tibetans seek to become Chinese on their own, China should be generous and supportive of them in weeding out the few bad apples.22

In addition to Tibet as a practical issue at home, Tibet is a symbolic issue abroad for Beijing “given that the shadow Tibet has cast over the international image China would like to project, [of] a great power in the international arena undergirded by a harmonious society at home.”23 In other words, the Tibet issue is bound up with rising China's benign image-making in a globalizing world, a state that has internationally projected its indigenous concepts of harmonious society and peaceful development in opposition to historical Western hegemonism and power politics.24 More specifically, this issue concerns image-making regarding human rights. No foreign states formally recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and all acknowledge that Tibet is part of China. China's external sovereignty over Tibet is firm. Even the United States, which has relatively strong influence in China, has never taken issue with Chinese sovereignty over Tibet in return for the provision of substantive Chinese political and economic benefits, with the exception of occasional comments on the condition of Tibetan human rights. In 2011, shortly after US President Obama received the Dalai Lama in Washington and showed “strong support” for human rights in Tibet, Xi Jinping, who is now the Chinese president and was vice-president at the time of speaking, pledged to “smash” Tibetan separatism in a speech commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Chinese communist takeover of Tibet.25 Beijing responds to the international community's concerns over human rights abuses using the Westphalian concepts of sovereignty and non-interference.26 In spite of this, in today's interconnected world Beijing needs to prove that its society always strives for harmony and peace, and thus its rise on a global stage also appears harmonious and peaceful to international audiences. To address this, Beijing has tried to display how truly evil the Dalai Lama and his followers are and how successful China's modernization project in Tibet has been for ordinary Tibetans. This move reveals the interface between Beijing's domestic (practical) and international (symbolic) concerns for Tibet, along with China's ways of presenting contentious domestic issues to international audiences in image-making politics.

Yet, why has the international community been favorable to the Tibetan movement of independence and human rights? Put another way, why has the Tibet issue internationalized, particularly in the West? The main reason is the success of the non-violent, peaceful and negotiated image-making of the Tibetan movement led by the Dalai Lama.27 Just as Mahatma Gandhi gained international authority through his non-violent movement, the Dalai Lama's suspension of the armed independence movement and emphasis on dialogue and friendship has enabled him to have the image of Gandhi's successor, in comparison to Beijing's iron-fisted rule of Tibet. Furthermore, this Gandhi-esque image becomes more powerful in combination with the images in the West of mystic, exotic Tibetan Buddhism and pacific, spiritual Tibetans. The network of the international peace movement, thus, naturally takes a critical stance on Beijing – which is head of statist China – on the Tibetan question. However, the international community's Tibet-friendly image has an epistemological problem, which is followed by a practical limitation. The stereotypical image of Tibet, which is mostly mystic and philanthropic, ignores various political, economic and social realities in Tibet. This Orientalist image tends to simplify Tibetan plural realities in the translation of Tibet for Westerners. Mystic Tibet as a cultural edifice is romanticized, produced and consumed in the West by and for Westerners; it is “more about the West's self-image than about Tibet.”28 Moreover, to gain legitimacy in the West, many diasporic Tibetans accept the Westernized notion of Tibetan-ness in their independence movement against China. China has attempted to break this image abroad of a mystic, pacific and spiritual Tibet that appeals to the West, as in the case of releasing a video clip of Tibetan rioters brutally beating Chinese migrants and plundering local shops in Lhasa during the 2008 Tibetan uprising.29 This is a site where cultural images inform politics at work, and the West has played a key role in the image-making battle shaping politics between Beijing and Tibet. Additionally, in practice this image of Tibet in the West has been accused of preventing Tibetans from seeking a more effective way of carrying out their independence movement, expanding substantive Tibetan autonomy and improving the quality of ordinary Tibetans' lives. In other words, the Orientalist, romanticized image, which weakens Tibetan political subjectivity by ignoring Tibetan modernity, renders Tibet as an object of China and the international community. This construction of reality is unable to generate any political or economic benefits for people in Tibet, save for the Dalai Lama's celebrity-style popularity.30

Another factor of the internationalization of the Tibetan question is the West's (in particular the United States') reactive anti-China sentiment caused by anxiety over China's rapid economic development and military build-up as a country that is believed to be revising the existing Western-based international order. While the CIA's assistance to the Tibetan resistance forces in the 1960s was a part of US global anti-communism policy, Tibet-friendly public opinion in the United States is related to the anti-China feeling spurred in earnest by the image of a strong, dictatorial Chinese state dating from the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.31 This has been interlinked with US domestic discourse of ascribing its economic recession to the trade imbalance between the United States and China. Against this backdrop of anti-China sentiment, the Tibet question has evolved as one of the leverages of US strategy in various negotiation tables with China in the name of promoting human rights and democracy across the world. The US Tibetan policy implicated by anti-China sentiment also remains largely ambiguous and nominal. The issue of human rights in Tibet has constantly been raised by anti-China politicians as well as senior governmental policy-makers in the United States since the Clinton administration. It is nevertheless nothing more than a political gesture. As mentioned earlier, the Tibet problem is not linked with Sino–US cooperation and negotiation in terms of politics and economics. In addition, the United States publicly sees the Tibet problem within the framework of human rights – not sovereignty – and thus there is no US policy for Tibetan independence. Paradoxically, a stable Tibet under Beijing's control rather than unrest in Tibet aiming for independence is in America's interests. If bloodshed happens in Tibet, the US administration will be faced with anti-China opinions and thus US–China policy may lose flexibility and practicality in its implementation. In fact, a number of US foreign policy-makers wish that Beijing and the Dalai Lama would reach a deal regarding the Tibet problem.32

India, China's traditional rival in South Asia, keeps the Tibet issue international to some degree, allowing the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile to be based in India. The Indian reason for internationalizing Tibet today seems to have more to do with tactics of realpolitik than helping Tibetans to realize their dream and human rights. Although most Indians deeply sympathize with Tibetan grievances and hardship, the Indian government affirmed that it will not allow the Tibetan organization to undertake political activities, and they have abstained from unnecessarily stoking Beijing's concerns over Tibet.33 Indeed, the following remark by Rajiv Sikri, a former secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs for India, reveals how Indian elites perceive Tibet in their strategic thinking: “It will be politically suicidal for any Indian government to give China satisfaction on Tibet without getting a quid pro quo from China on India's concerns about China's policy toward Pakistan and its stand on Jammu and Kashmir.”34 In this context, Tibet is an important and effective diplomatic card for India to deal with a China that often unnerves India regarding the border dispute and China's expansion in South Asia. If China caters to India's interests, India can also do the same to China over the Tibet issue.

Last but not least, the Dalai Lama, the most powerful actor in the internationalization of the Tibet issue, has himself repeatedly pronounced that what he and his followers want is nothing more than genuine autonomy for Tibet under Chinese sovereignty,35 and yet Beijing has seriously questioned this claim. Similarly, exiled Tibetan elites have pointed to China's “one country, two systems” principle – if it is possible in Hong Kong and Macau, why not in Tibet?36 Despite criticizing Beijing's policy toward unrest in Xinjiang in 2009, the Dalai Lama said that the Tibetan issue is a Chinese domestic problem.37 Unlike the typical argument on separatism put forward by some security observers, Tibet is not a Palestine in China.38 Compared with other separatist-independence conflicts in the world, Beijing's jurisdictional claims over Tibet are firm, and Chinese sovereignty over Tibet has been defended, secured and reinforced since 1950. Considering its substantive interests in relations with China, there is slim chance of the international community raising the issue of Tibetan sovereignty. Looking at the Tibet problem from a perspective of high politics and traditional security studies, the Tibet problem poses no existential threat to China's national security, although it is a barrier to maintaining a benign national image, pride and prestige in the post-Cold War era of globalization. This is not to say that Beijing no longer regards Tibet as a matter of sovereignty in its state discourse on Chinese entirety, but these days its strategic perspective and method of dealing with the Tibet problem are likely to be internally practical and externally symbolic.

Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (hereafter “Xinjiang”) is a land in western China that occupies one-sixth of Chinese territory and is equal to three times the size of France. Sharing its borders with eight countries, Xinjiang has been China's bridgehead toward Central Asia and the Middle East, and serves as a buffer zone between Central/South Asia and China's heartland, including Tibet. Despite Beijing's contemporary assertion that Xinjiang has been an “inseparable part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation” since the Han Dynasty (206BCE-24CE),39 it is unclear who controlled this nomadic region before the Qing conquest of Xinjiang in the mid-18th century. Most of the grassland (including today's Xinjiang) used as the Silk Road since ancient times in Central Asia was an area without clear territorial demarcations shared by nomadic peoples and merchants.40 In 1844, the Qing dynasty set up the Xinjiang province by formally incorporating it into the empire. After the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, Xinjiang had varying degrees of autonomy and little administrative control from Beijing. In 1933, Turkic rebels in Xinjiang declared independence and established the First East Turkistan Republic (or the Islamic Republic of East Turkistan), which was absorbed by China the following year. In 1944, parts of Xinjiang again declared independence, and the Second East Turkistan Republic was created with the support of the Soviet Union.41 In 1949, the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered Xinjiang whereupon it then became a province of the newly established PRC. Against Beijing's historical claim to Xinjiang as an inseparable territory, the two short-lived East Turkistan republics serve as a historical basis for the Uyghur people's claim of independence and sovereignty in the Xinjiang area today. Xinjiang's political value was relatively underrated during the Cold War, but it has gradually gained geopolitical gravity since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the birth of five new independent Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

As for Beijing's response to Uyghur voices of secession from China, and the integration of Xinjiang with “China proper,” it is noteworthy that Han Chinese migration into Xinjiang has been drastically increased to such a degree that it is changing the ethnic composition within the region.42 There were around 220,000 Han Chinese in Xinjiang in 1949, but the Han population reached over 5.6 million in 1990. In 2008, Xinjiang's total population was over 21 million, consisting of the Uyghur (9.8 million), Han (8.3 million), Kazak (1.5 million) and other minor ethnic groups. The Han population had mushroomed from 6.7 percent in 1949 to over 40 percent of Xinjiang's total population in 2008, even without counting the large floating Han population traveling and living in Xinjiang.43 In particular, over 75% of Urumqi's (the capital city of Xinjiang with two million people) population is Han. Han Chinese migration has recently accelerated owing to Xinjiang's ongoing economic growth spurred by Beijing's Great Western Development (Xibu Da Kaifa) project initiated in 1999. Most of all, the Han-composed Production and Construction Corps (bingtuan) has come to dominate the local economy and valuable resources in Xinjiang, producing a sense of frustration, dispossession and marginalization among the indigenous peoples.44 All these economic insecurities and inequalities vis-à-vis the Han migrant population continue to fuel indigenous Uyghurs' growing fears that Xinjiang and the Uyghurs would not just be subjugated but assimilated by the Han Chinese, and thus the Uyghur identity might be doomed to disappear in the not-so-distant future. As can been seen from the recent 2009 unrest in Xinjiang, this economic-cum-cultural fear has been one of the major factors causing ethnic conflict in Xinjiang.45

Against this backdrop of disgruntled Uyghur anxiety, there have been secessionist voices and activities with regard to Xinjiang, both inside and outside China.46 There is no doubt that Beijing and the Han Chinese are seriously concerned about the Uyghur separatist movement.47 As with Tibet and Taiwan, Xinjiang's possible independence is not only unacceptable but also unthinkable in the context of China's territorial integrity and nationalism embracing all minorities currently on Chinese soil. Clearly the Xinjiang problem is detrimental to China's sovereignty and immense national rejuvenation in the 21st century while still recovering from the physical and psychological wounds inflicted by foreign imperial powers during the so-called “century of humiliation.” Indeed, this interpretation is apparently true and widely accepted in both academic and public talks on China's approach to separatism. Yet, this conventional way of reading Chinese perception of Xinjiang is all encompassing and, by itself, makes it difficult to discern the subtle nuance of how Beijing geostrategically understands the Xinjiang problem in the context of international relations today.

Therefore, with the conventional understanding of the Xinjiang problem in mind, it is necessary to delve into the question of why Xinjiang matters to Beijing and how it now perceives the geostrategic value of Xinjiang. In other words, what is Xinjiang's geostrategic importance in China's current security thinking and practice? It is now a well-known fact that the CCP's regime legitimacy and the foundation of China's great power aspirations rely heavily on Beijing's ability to secure high-level economic growth as this is key to social stability at home and national prestige abroad. This is bound up with China's recent state discourses of “peaceful development” and “harmonious society.” In order to achieve these goals, securing energy for China's rapid economic growth is indispensible. Energy security was placed at the center of the country's foreign policy in The 2008 PRC White Paper on Diplomacy,48 and is seen as the linchpin of China's domestic stability and growing international standing.49

Regarding China's energy security, Xinjiang matters in two ways. First, Xinjiang houses a rich repository of energy resources critical to China's overall economic growth. In 2009, Xinjiang ranked third in China for oil production (14% of total national production), generating over 25 million tons of crude oil. Only 33% of China's oil reserves are estimated to have been discovered and Xinjiang is believed to hold great amounts of undiscovered oil reserves, particularly in Tarim Basin, which is estimated to have 10 billion tons of oil and 8 trillion cubic meters of gas.50 The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) also has plans to develop Xinjiang as a major oil production base, and aims to fuel annual production to 50 million tons by 2015, and to 60 million tons by 2020.51 In addition, Xinjiang is the largest natural gas producer in China (30% of total national production), generating 24 billion cubic meters in 2008.52 According to the CNPC, Xinjiang possesses 17.4 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves.53 In China, coal is still a major energy source, consisting of 70% of the country's energy consumption. Xinjiang is expected to rapidly increase its production of coal up to 1 billion tons by 2020, which would account for 20% of the country's coal production, though at present it is not the major coal producer in China.54 Xinjiang also has the Dabancheng wind farm – one of the largest in China – and more wind power expansion is planned.55 Accordingly, considering its immense and growing energy production, Xinjiang must at any cost remain under Beijing's firm control in order for China to achieve sustainable economic growth in the 21st century.

Second, Xinjiang serves as a transit route for energy resources imported from abroad to China's developed east. China's rapid economic growth has dramatically increased the demand for energy to the degree that it has outstripped internal sources of supply. For instance, China's dependence on imported oil has increased from 6.3% in 1993 to 46% in 2004,56 and it was the second largest international importer of oil in 2003.57 For China, Central Asia adjacent to Xinjiang is one of the two major regions in the world from which China can reliably import oil, along with the Middle East, which is culturally linked with Xinjiang. It is estimated that proven petroleum reserves in Central Asia sit between 16.9 billion barrels and 33.4 billion barrels, far beyond those in the United States and the North Sea. There are also massive proven natural gas reserves of between 177 and 182 trillion cubic feet in Central Asia.58 As there are strategic concerns over excessive reliance on maritime oil imports, Beijing has a great interest in securing oil imports through pipelines from Central Asia. Xinjiang is thus a critical part of China's quest to secure as well as diversify its energy resources. The first transnational oil pipeline built with this aim was the Sino–Kazak pipeline, which runs 2,798 km from Atasu in Kazakhstan to China's largest oil refinery plant in Dushanzi, Xinjiang by way of the Alataw. This pipeline was a joint venture of the CNPC and the Kazakh state energy company (Kazmunaigaz), and is designed to send 20 million tons of oil a year to China, accounting for around 15% of China's oil imports.59 The imported oil along with oil extracted in Xinjiang is transported to the rest of China through the Urumqi-Lanzhou oil product pipeline and the Shanshan-Lanzhou crude oil pipeline. Moreover, although China is nearly self-sufficient in terms of natural gas, it has imported Central Asian gas in order to ensure energy security and meet fast-growing energy demands at home while reducing the consumption of coal. In 2009, the gas pipeline from Turkmanistan to Xinjiang via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan entered operation, and had transported 16.88 billion cubic meters of natural gas by late 2011. Its presumed annual capacity stood at 30 billion cubic meters in 2012. By building more pipelines in Central Asian countries, China intends to double the capacity of the gas pipeline system by 2015.60 Imported gas is transported to the rest of China through the West–East Pipeline between Xinjiang and Shanghai (around 4,200 km) and another line (around 4,800 km) linking Xinjiang with Guangzhou.

Increasing imports of energy resources from Central Asia are tied to China's inevitable foreign energy reliance in proportion to its fast-growing economy, which is now number two in the world. It is expected that China's oil imports will grow to more than 500 million tons a year by 2020, an almost fourfold increase over 2005, and by 2025 it will surpass that of Europe as a whole.61 China's oil imports have mostly depended on the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran who supply almost 35% of China's imported oil. This means that foreign energy supplies for China's economic growth need to be shipped through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca, where security hinges on rival India, Islam-based Indonesia and, particularly, the US navy. Therefore, strategically it is imperative for Beijing to ensure energy resources from Central Asia, which is relatively free from US influence. Yet, Central Asia is at a crossroads where the different interests of the great powers (China, Russia and the United States) intersect, meaning that no single country can take the hegemonic helm of the region. China's Central Asia policy needs to be negotiated through its relationships with both the great powers and countries in the region.

Overall, Xinjiang is a key strategic area in terms of energy security at a time when China projects its great power status through peaceful development while seeking social stability at home. To put it simply, any crises in Xinjiang (and even in Central Asia) easily pose a critical security threat to Beijing. Xinjiang's political stability is thus more important than ever, and ethnic separatism in Xinjiang has become not just a regional but also a national security concern for Beijing. As briefly mentioned above, in order to cope with separatist voices in Xinjiang, Beijing has expedited massive Han migration into the region under the campaign/project banners of “The Great Western Development,” “Open up the West” and “Go West.”62 In so doing, Beijing has promised to provide indigenous locals in Xinjiang with a “modern and civilized” living environment and better public services. For instance, in 2010 the CCP gathered to discuss the economic development of Xinjiang and outlined a 5-year roadmap that aimed to achieve “leapfrog development and lasting stability.”63 Along with this carrot-style approach, since the 1990s Beijing has employed a hard-line approach called the “Strike Hard” campaign, which is a military crackdown on separatists along with political indoctrination, the aim of which is to “consolidate the fruits of maintaining stability and eliminate security dangers.”64

In spite of these Chinese efforts to eliminate separatism, a particularly worrying affair is the (possible) nexus between Muslim-Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang and transnational Islamic extremism in Central Asia. Xinjiang shares borders with five Muslim nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan – something that appears to be of concern to China. Although these countries oppose any Uyghur separatist movement, people in these countries (and even those in the Middle East) feel for Uyghur hardship and may become critical of China's iron-fisted treatment of their Muslim neighbors in Xinjiang.65 Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism, which are promoted by Central Asian countries and Turkey, also appeal to the Uyghurs and are a cause for concern in Beijing.66 The most prominent separatist force in Xinjiang is the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), labeled as a terrorist organization by China, the United States and the UN Security Council. It is said that the Xinjiang separatist movement is homegrown, but it has received outside materials and ideational support from the international jihadist movement, specifically from Al-Qaeda and the Al-Qaeda-associated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.67 The political commissar of the Xinjiang Armed Police Regiment once mentioned that “those violent [separatist] events [in Xinjiang] are isolated cases, but overseas separatists like to politicize and internationalize them.”68 In 2012, Chinese and Pakistani officials claimed that militants based in western China, such as the ETIM, have links to the Pakistani Taliban and other militants in northwestern Pakistan along the Afghan border.69 This is the juncture at which Beijing juxtaposes ethnic separatism in Xinjiang with religious extremism and global terrorism – what it terms the “three evils.”70 Here, part of the Chinese Self in Xinjiang becomes the threatening Other to be purged.

Given poor material and human resources, the ETIM cannot directly challenge Beijing, except through intermittent terrorist activities. Furthermore, as there seems to have been no systemic coalition between the ETIM and other separatist forces in Xinjinag to date, the effects of the ETIM's activities on China's political stability as a whole have been limited and contained. In general, the Xinjiang separatist groups both at home and abroad are too small, scattered and intangible to form a threat to the Chinese grip on the region and the expansion of Chinese power in Central Asia. Beijing's fear, nevertheless, is that there has been no conclusive solution to Xinjiang's ethnic separatism. The mere possibility that the Xinjiang separatist groups may cause violent disruption creates an impression of social instability in China and dampens aspiring China's national prestige and foreign projects linked to energy security.71 At the same time, this may tarnish China's state discourses of harmonious society and peaceful development abroad while weakening the CCP's legitimacy at home.

From Beijing's perspective, the Xinjiang problem is difficult to resolve as the Uyghur-based ETIM and Uyghur (a majority in Xinjiang) identity takes on the form of transnationalism. Most Chinese Uyghurs continue to “look to a transnational community [based on Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism] outside of China as an alternative to political assimilation.”72 Historically the identity of nomads in the vast Central Asian steppes was fluid and dynamic, unlike that of agrarian peoples, and in the Xinjiang area nomads traditionally saw themselves as loose tribal confederations or scattered trading groups. Accordingly, the vast area from Xinjiang to eastern Turkey was understood as one living space for nomads. Indigenous people in Xinjiang were defined as a unique ethnic group by the PRC's policy of systemic classification of ethnicities after its national birth in 1949, rather than a Uyghur political movement.73 A major example of the Uyghur transnational identity as a source of tension in Xinjiang is that 22 Chinese Uyghurs were once detained in Guantanamo during the US War on Terror. It is also presumed, albeit unofficially, that over 1,000 Chinese Uyghurs have received military training in Afghanistan, and most of them have returned to Xinjiang to form underground, separatist groups.74 This has brought about the prospect that Islamic extremist involvement may make Xinjiang's separatist movement more systemic and sustainable. In 2009, Abu Yahya al-Libi, a prominent Al-Qaeda militant, urged Uyghurs in Xinjiang to “make serious preparations” for a “holy war” against the Chinese government and called on fellow Muslims for support. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb pledged to target the 5,000 Chinese workers in Algeria and Chinese projects and people in North Africa.75

In this respect, the September 11 incident in the United States provided Beijing with both an opportunity and a challenge. Due to the subsequent US War on Terror, Beijing has easily legitimized its “strike-hard” actions in Xinjiang as part of a global effort to combat terrorism, while shrugging off the humanitarian concerns in Xinjiang by international human rights organizations.76 However, the US War on Terror in Afghanistan also posed a complex challenge for China since it allowed the presence of US troops in Central Asian countries next to Xinjiang. For instance, in 2001 and 2002 all Central Asian countries except Turkmenistan inked a series of agreements for military cooperation and base access with the United States, as well as receiving a great deal of economic aid packages.77 Since 2001, the United States had used the Karshi-Khnabad airfield in Uzbekistan as a hub for its war on terror in Afghanistan, although in 2005 Uzbekistan ordered the close of the airfield due to worsening US-Uzbek relations.78 The Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan has a key role in transporting US and NATO troops and resources, and it is also expected to be shut down in 2014 owing to pro-Russian Kyrgyzstan President Atambayev's critical stance toward US power projection in Central Asia.79

Until 2005, China feared US troops stationed in Central Asian countries with shared borders with western China, and Beijing's influence on Central Asia – which it regards as its own backyard – was limited.80 Related to this, Gao81 pointed out Beijing's geopolitical concern that “Central Asia is China's great rear of extreme importance. The penetration of the United States into Central Asia not only prevents China from expanding its influence, but also sandwiches China from East to West, thus ‘effectively containing a rising China.’ ” Nonetheless, there has been growing anti-Americanism in Central Asia, owing to US interference regarding human rights in Central Asian countries that are becoming more authoritarian. It has thus expected that Central Asian countries' willingness to accept the US military presence may continue to dwindle. In particular, the gradual military withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan starting in July 2011 means that the United States has great difficulty in keeping its position of influence in Central Asia. In fact, Central Asian countries – especially Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – have been proactively showing a pro-Russian and pro-Chinese foreign policy stance.

For anti-US Chinese pundits, the diminishing US presence in Central Asia can be seen as conducive to China's national security as it means that the US strategy of containing China cannot be all encompassing and thorough. Yet, given today's complex geopolitical landscape in Central Asia, this view is only partly correct and perhaps even simplistic. Despite the US worldwide War on Terror, transnational terrorist organizations based on Islamic extremism are still active in Central Asia. The withdrawal of US troops implies that the United States is likely to become less of a primary terrorist target in Central Asia and instead the ethnic separatist movement in Xinjiang will receive more attention in the Islamic world. In other words, Chinese Xinjiang may come to be faced with the direct threat of Islamic extremism and terrorist organizations in Central Asia.82 Additionally, as mentioned above, this outside terrorist threat can be easily fused with internal Uyghur separatism by way of instigating social instability in Xinjiang and damaging China's energy security. Although some scholars argue that China has exaggerated the Islamic terrorist threat in order to maintain its tight control over Xinjiang, it seems clear to Beijing that geopolitically its grip on the region needs to be further tightened at a time when a security vacuum caused by diminishing US influence on Central Asia has appeared and Central Asian terrorist groups have come to focus on Uyghur separatism. For Beijing, the terrorist-cum-separatist threat to Xinjiang is – albeit somewhat constructed and overstated – real in the sense that it has informed China's state policy at home and abroad by shaping Beijing's perception of Xinjiang's (in)security, something that is integral to China's energy security, economic growth and social stability.

As mentioned earlier, Uyghur separatism in Xinjiang is transnational, and thus China has tried to cope with it in an international, multilateral way.83 A major example of this is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). To ease uncertainty and military tensions in Central Asia after the demise of the Soviet Union, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan signed “The Treaty on Deeping Military Trust in Border Regions” in 1996, also called the “Shanghai Five.” In their meeting in Almaty in 1998, the five countries expanded their security concerns to non-state terrorist activities, articulated in Article 5 of the joint statement as follows:

The parties are unanimous that any form of national splittism, ethnic exclusion and religious extremism is unacceptable. The parties will take steps to fight against international terrorism, organized crimes, arms smuggling, the trafficking of drugs and narcotics, and other transnational criminal activities and will not allow their territories to be used for the activities undermining the national sovereignty, security and social order of any of the five countries.84

In 2001, these five countries along with Uzbekistan officially formed the SCO and inked the “Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism.” In 2002, the SCO approved the establishment of a regional anti-terrorist structure capable of speedy intervention in the case of a Central Asian crisis. Accordingly, the “Regional Anti-Terrorism” center was open in Tashkent in 2003. The Chinese Xinjiang Military District and Kyrgyzstan border troops held joint exercises in 2002, which were followed by a number of joint anti-terrorism military exercises in Central Asia. In particular, in 2003 over 1,000 soldiers from five SCO countries (Uzbekistan did not participate) initiated their first-ever joint anti-terrorism exercise, held in Kazakhstan and Yili in Chinese Xinjiang. Therefore, although the SCO has many functions in the changing geopolitical environment of Central Asia, such as maintenance of stable borders, promotion of economic development and countering US hegemony in the region, the foremost and immediate focus for Beijing has been to combat the so-called three evils of separatism, extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang as well as Central Asia through SCO multilateralism.85

To sum up, from Beijing's geostrategic perspective, Xinjiang is seen as the foundation of the long-term energy sustainability critical to China's development, stability and prestige. Related to this, the most vexing problem for Beijing has been the transnational nexus of Islamic terrorism/extremism and Chinese Uyghur separatism, which could destabilize not only Xinjiang but also a rising world (if not already great) power – China – in general.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Since the mid-1990s, China's foreign policy has been based on active participation in multilateral cooperation, the pursuit of peaceful development designed to ease foreign countries' concerns regarding the rise of China, and not confronting but soft balancing the US world order.86 In this context, Tibet and Xinjiang are instrumental in making sense of China's national security and international politics regarding its neighbors in the Asia–Pacific region. In security studies, China's Tibet and Xinjiang problems tend to be seen as analogous in that both are an issue of ethnic separatism in China. The Tibet and Xinjiang problems are thus a matter of Chinese internal sovereignty and national unity. Yet, as this essay has discussed, for Beijing the two regions' geostrategic sensitivities take on different features in international relations today. Beijing sees the Tibet problem is a domestic practical issue to be handled by its paternalistic engagement of modernizing Tibet. At the same time, it is internationally a symbolic issue regarding how to manage the benevolent image abroad of rising China, who promotes its indigenous discourses of harmonious society and peaceful development in the world while harshly oppressing any voices of separatism in Tibet. By contrast, in Beijing's geostrategic thinking, the Xinjiang problem is first viewed in terms of energy security for the persistent economic development that is integral to China's domestic social stability and the CCP's political legitimacy. Second, it is viewed in the context of the transnational Islamic terrorist movement that is interlinked with Uyghur separatism in Xinjiang and threatens China's energy security. China's continued rise can be ensured through the stable energy supply from Xinjiang as a major base of energy resources and a gateway to Central Asian energy resources. The threat of internal Uyghur separatism in league with hostile external terrorists cannot be tolerated as this imperils China's future.

Beijing's different geostrategic sensibilities outlined above enable us to discern in a comparative way policy-relevant implications of the Tibet and Xinjiang problems in Beijing's security thinking. In the case of Tibet, it is clear who Beijing's Other is: the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile in India. In this sense, internationally the issue continues to be largely shaped by Sino–India relations in South Asia, an issue that is thus manageable in a relatively easy give-and-take way between the two emerging Asian powers. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama makes it clear that Tibet is a Chinese domestic issue and his people want not independence but genuine autonomy under Chinese sovereignty. So far the Tibetan method of achieving this goal is diplomatic and peace-oriented. Given all this, a dramatic settlement on the Tibet issue might not be out of the question, though it might be very hard to materialize in practice in the near future.

On the contrary, the Xinjiang issue takes the shape of transnationalism cutting across Chinese Xinjiang, all Central Asian countries and even Turkey. Thus, although the issue is basically a Chinese domestic matter, Beijing is required to engage all the neighboring countries next to Xinjiang in a multilateral way through the SCO in order to handle the issue. Most of all, it is difficult for Beijing to clarify the single, tangible Uyghur Other to be purged or assimilated. There are elusive, plural and intermingled others, dubbed Islamic extremist-cum-terrorist-cum-separatists, inside and outside China, and the ETIM is just one of these. These vague others with a great number of Chinese Uyghurs appear to imagine and seek a Pan-Turkish and Pan-Islamic independent community for their political assimilation, and increasingly they resort to violence against China to realize the goal of Xinjiang independence. This hints at the fact that there is a possibility that Xinjiang may become Asia's Palestine, depending largely on Beijing's way of handling the situation.

In addition, it seems clear that the Tibet issue has been internationalized on the basis of the West's romanticized understanding of Tibet and calls, not for Tibetan sovereignty, but for universal human rights in Tibet. The Tibet issue can thus be understood as a form of image-making politics between China and the West, rather than exclusively looking at the issue in the context of Sino–Tibetan relations. The West is a key actor in the Tibet issue, with China dealing with the West through a charm offensive. Conversely, since the September 11 incident the Xinjiang issue has been transformed into a materialistic, military matter associated with the international effort to combat transnational terrorism. This international framework has given Beijing substantial leeway to use a hard-line approach to quelling the Chinese Uyghur separatism problem at home, helping Beijing to silence human rights concerns from Xinjiang and the international community. If Uyghur separatists use more violence to resist China, Beijing may further persuade the West to stand with China by taking advantage of the discourse of the War on Terror largely accepted in the West.

This essay concludes with a methodological suggestion that Tibet and Xinjiang are two important, useful empirical cases, which allow us to understand not only China's domestic politics but also its international relations in the 21st century. To examine contemporary China's strategic future in the world, policy-makers and security pundits often focus on what Beijing says to the world externally, such as the discourses of peaceful development and harmonious society. However, this only captures half of the broad picture of China's national security and state behavior today. As this paper has shown, it is necessary to examine how Beijing perceives and handles critical internal issues coming from China's peripheries or outer China in areas that are conterminous with foreign states – such as Tibet and Xinjiang – in order to gain a deeper, nuanced understanding of Beijing's plural geostrategic sensibilities and the implications for China's security practice at home and abroad. This implies that the Chinese boundaries between domestic and international politics are increasingly becoming less clear-cut. Rather, they are always intermingled, and thus understanding the interplay between the domestic and the international levels is required in order to read China's security thinking and practice, as China's rise has had a significant global impact in the 21st century. Finally, note that Tibet and Xinjiang are both essential sites for us to explore how China's theoretical state discourses of peaceful development and harmonious society are performed, reproduced, adapted, tested and dismantled in practice.

Footnotes
  1. 1

    Robert G. Sutter, China's Rise in Asia: Promises and Perils (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).

  2. 2

    Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011).

  3. 3

    Dru Gladney, Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities and Other Subaltern Subjects (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 13.

  4. 4

    Yang Fang, “Profile: Xi Jinping: Pursuing a Dream for 1.3billion Chinese,” Xinhua (17 March 2013).

  5. 5

    Allen Carlson, Beijing's Tibet Policy: Securing Sovereignty and Legitimacy (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2004).

  6. 6

    Simon Denyer, “Chinese Dams in Tibet Raise Hackles in India,” Washington Post (7 February 2013); “South Asia's Water: Unquenchable Thirst,” Economist (19 November 2011).

  7. 7

    “Huge Mineral Resources Found on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,” Xinhua (13 February 2007).

  8. 8

    Mingxu Xu and Feng Yuan, “The Tibet Question: A New Cold War,” in Barry Sautman and June Teufel Dreyer, eds., Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008), pp. 305–318.

  9. 9

    Elliot Sperling, The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2004).

  10. 10

    Sergius L. Kuzmin, Hidden Tibet: History of Independence and Occupation (New Delhi: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2011).

  11. 11

    Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Republic of Botswana, “The History of Tibet of China,” at <http://bw.china-embassy.org/eng/xwdt/t541816.htm> (searched date: 25 March 2013).

  12. 12

    E.H. Carr, What is History? (London: Penguin, 1961).

  13. 13

    Duncan Bell, ed., Memory, Trauma and World Politics: Reflections on the Relationship between Past and Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

  14. 14

    Rajiv Sikri, “The Tibet Factor in India-China Relations,” Journal of International Affairs, 64-2 (2011), pp. 55–71.

  15. 15

    A. Tom Grunfeld, “Tibet and the United States,” in Barry Sautman and June Teufel Dreyer, eds., Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008), pp. 319–349.

  16. 16

    Carole McGranahan, Arrested Histories: Tibet, The CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War (Durham: Duke University press, 2010).

  17. 17

    Richard M. Bennett, “Tibet, the ‘Great Game’ and the CIA,” Asia Times Online (25 March 2007).

  18. 18

    “Official Death Toll Rises in Tibet Riots,” CBC News (21 March 2008); Human Rights Watch, “ ‘I Saw It with My Own Eyes’: Abuse by Chinese Security Forces in Tibet, 2008–2010” (21 July 2010), at <http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/07/22/i-saw-it-my-own-eyes-0> (searched date: 26 March 2013); Banyan, “Self-immolation in Tibet: The Burning Issue,” Economist (9 December 2012); Edward Wong and Jim Yardley, “100th Self-immolation Reported inside Tibet,” New York Times (14 February 2013).

  19. 19

    Robert Barnett, “Two Realities of Tibet,” New York Times (21 March 2008).

  20. 20

    Martin Patience, “Will China's New Leaders Change Tibet Policy?” BBC News (24 November 2012).

  21. 21

    Tingyang Zhao, “Rethinking Empire from a Chinese Concept: ‘All-under-Heaven’ (Tian-xia),” Social Identities, 12-1 (2006), pp. 29–41.

  22. 22

    Jin Linbo, “China's National Identity and Foreign Policy: Continuity amid Transformation,” in Gilbert Rozman, ed., East Asian National Identities: Common Roots and Chinese Exceptionalism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), pp. 239–255.

  23. 23

    Carole McGranahan and Elliot Sperling, “Introduction: Tibet, India, and China,” Indian Review, 7-3 (2008), p. 161.

  24. 24

    China's State Council, “China's Peaceful Development Road,” Xinhua (22 December 2005); Hu Jintao, “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects: Report to the Seventeenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China” (15 October 2007), at <http://www.china.org.cn/english/congress/229611.htm> (searched date: 23 March 2013).

  25. 25

    “Xi Jinping: China Will ‘Smash’ Tibet Separatism,” BBC News (19 July 2011).

  26. 26

    In a similar vein, Carlson argues that, in fact, external forces aimed to change China's Tibet policy “have tended to prolong Chinese intransigence over the ‘Tibet issue’ … and, arguably, have forestalled the implementation of a more flexible policy line toward the region,” Allen Carlson, op. cit., p. ix. Regarding the PRC's principle of non-interference in international affairs, see Wan (2012).

  27. 27

    Pico Iyer, “The Dalai Lama's Realism,” New York Times (14 April 2008).

  28. 28

    Dibyesh Anand, “The Tibet Question and the West: Issues of Sovereignty, Identity, and Representation,” in Barry Sautman and June Teufel Dreyer, eds., Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region (Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008), p. 297.

  29. 29

    As usual, it is not so clear whether the Chinese government directly circulated the video clip, but it was shown repeatedly on CNN and other networks, as well as YouTube.

  30. 30

    Dibyesh Anand, Geopolitical Exotica: Tibet in Western Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

  31. 31

    Carole McGranahan, “Tibet's Cold War and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956–1974,” Journal of Cold War Studies, 8-3 (2006), pp. 102–130.

  32. 32

    Melvyn C. Goldstein, “The Dalai Lama's Dilemma,” Foreign Affairs, 77-1 (1998), pp. 83–97.

  33. 33

    Srinath Raghavan, “The Case for Restraint on Tibet,” Economic & Political Weekly, 43-14 (2008), pp. 11–12.

  34. 34

    Rajiv Sikri, op. cit., p. 66.

  35. 35

    “Tibet Profile,” BBC News (24 November 2012).

  36. 36

    A university faculty discussion with Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, and his government team at Jindal Global University in India on 12 January 2012.

  37. 37

    Shirong Chen, “Tibet ‘Chinese Issue’ Says Dalai,” BBC News (10 August 2009).

  38. 38

    Emily T. Yeh, “Tibet and the Problem of Radical Reductionism,” Antipode, 41-5 (2009), pp. 983–1010.

  39. 39

    The Chinese Government's White Paper on Xinjiang (May 2003), at <http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/20030526/index.htm> (searched date: 16 April 2013).

  40. 40

    Michael Clarke, Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia – A History (London: Routledge, 2011).

  41. 41

    Preeti Bhattacharji, “Uighurs and China's Xinjiang Region,” Council on Foreign Relations (29 May 2012), at <http://www.cfr.org/china/uighurs-chinas-xinjiang-region/p16870> (searched date: 1 February 2013).

  42. 42

    Joshua Kurlantzick, “The Unsettled West: China's Long War on Xinjiang,” Foreign Affairs, 83-4 (2004), pp. 136–143.

  43. 43

    Yufan Hao and Weihua Liu, “Xinjiang: Increasing pain in the Heart of China's Borderland,” Journal of Contemporary China, 21-74 (2012), p. 206.

  44. 44

    Donald H. McMillen, “China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: ‘Glocality’ in the Year 2008,” in Colin Mackerras and Michael Clarke, eds., China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: History, Transition and Crossborder Interaction into the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2009), pp. 10–13.

  45. 45

    “Timeline: Xinjiang Unrest,” BBC News (10 July 2009); Michael Clarke, “China's Internal Security Dilemma and the ‘Great Western Development’: The Dynamics of Integration, Ethnic Nationalism and Terrorism in Xinjiang,” Asian Studies Review, 31-3 (2007a), pp. 323–342.

  46. 46

    As for various Xinjiang separatist incidents, see: Michael Clarke, China's “War on Terror” in Xinjiang: Human Security and the Causes of Violent Uighur Separatism (Brisbane: The Griffith Asia Institute, 2007); and James Millward, Violent Separatism in Xinjiang: A Critical Assessment (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2004).

  47. 47

    Gardner Bovingdon, Autonomy in Xinjiang: Han Nationalist Imperatives and Uyghur Discontent (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2004); Michael Dillon, Xinjiang – China's Muslim Far Northwest (London: Routledge, 2004).

  48. 48

    Russell Hsiao, “Energy Security as a Centerpiece of China's Foreign Policy,” The Jamestown Foundation (5 August 2008), at <http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=5095&tx_ttnews[backPid]=168&no_cache=1> (searched date: 20 April 2013).

  49. 49

    Suisheng Zhao, ed., China's Search for Energy Security: Domestic Sources and International Implications (London: Routledge, 2012).

  50. 50

    “Tarim Basin Becomes China's Major Oil, Gas Supplier,” Xinhua (25 May 2005).

  51. 51

    Altay Atli, “The Role of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the Economic Security of China,” The International Strategic Research Organization (2011), at <http://www.usak.org.tr/dosyalar/dergi/pJtyaKQqGXj378DTsCNLZZbpRVLHfn.pdf> (searched date: 31 March 2013).

  52. 52

    Yufan Hao and Weihua Liu, op. cit., p. 211.

  53. 53

    Robert M. Cutler, “Xinjiang – China's Energy Gateway,” Asia Times (10 July 2009).

  54. 54

    Altay Atli, op. cit., “Red-hot Future for Xinjiang Coal Sector,” Asia Times (7 May 2007).

  55. 55

    Jonathan Watts, “Energy in China: ‘We Call It the Three Gorges of the Sky. The Dam There Taps Water, We Tap Wind’,” Guardian (25 July 2008).

  56. 56

    Yi-Chong Xu, “China's Energy Security,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 60-2 (2006), pp. 265–286.

  57. 57

    Peter Wonacott, Janne Whalen, and Bhushan Bahree, “China's Growing Thirst for Oil Remakes the World Market,” Wall Street Journal (3 December 2003).

  58. 58

    Yufan Hao and Weihua Liu, op. cit., p. 212.

  59. 59

    “Sino-Kazak Pipeline Transports 20 m Tons of Oil to China,” China Daily (25 January 2010).

  60. 60

    Jim Bai, Ken Wills, and Chris Lewis, “China Pipes Home 16.9 bcm of Central Asian Gas-CNPC,” Reuters (2 November 2011).

  61. 61

    Joseph Y.S. Cheng, “A Chinese View of China's Energy Security,” Journal of Contemporary China, 17-55 (2008), pp. 297–298.

  62. 62

    Preeti Bhattacharji, op. cit.

  63. 63

    Xiang Zhang, “Chinese Central Authorities Outline Roadmap for Xinjiang's Leapfrog Development, Lasting Stability,” Xinhua (20 May 2010).

  64. 64

    Tania Branigan, “China Launches ‘Strike Hard’ Crackdown in Xinjiang,” Guardian (3 November 2009); Sharon LaFraniere, “China Starts Two-month Security Crackdown in Western Region,” New York Times (16 August 2011).

  65. 65

    S. Frederick Starr, ed., Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2004).

  66. 66

    Yufan Hao and Weihua Liu, op. cit., p. 211.

  67. 67

    Martin I. Wayne, “Inside China's War on Terrorism,” Journal of Contemporary China, 18-59 (2009), p. 251.

  68. 68

    Jia Cui, “Xinjiang Security Based on Ethnic Unity,” China Daily (13 March 2012).

  69. 69

    Ben Blanchard and Sanjeev Miglani, “China Official Sees Militant Links in Pakistan,” Reuters (7 March 2012); “FM Spokesman: ETIM a Wholly Terrorist Organization,” People's Daily (13 September 2002).

  70. 70

    “Xinjiang to Crack Down on ‘Three Evil Forces’,” China Daily (6 March 2012).

  71. 71

    Chien-peng Chung, “China's ‘War on Terror’: September 11 and Uighur Separatism,” Foreign Affairs, 81-4 (2002), pp. 8–12.

  72. 72

    David Kerr and Laura C. Swinton, “China, Xinjiang, and The Transnational Security of Central Asia,” Critical Asian Studies, 40-1 (2008), p. 113.

  73. 73

    Dru Gladney, op. cit., p. 208.

  74. 74

    Martin I. Wayne, op. cit., pp. 249–261.

  75. 75

    “Al-Qaida Threatens to Attack China,” China Daily (8 October 2009).

  76. 76

    Gardner Bovingdon, op. cit.

  77. 77

    Michael Clarke, Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia, op. cit., p. 159.

  78. 78

    “Last US Plane Leaves Uzbek Base,” BBC News (21 November 2005).

  79. 79

    “Kyrgyzstan Profile,” BBC News (14 December 2011).

  80. 80

    Chien-peng Chung, “The Shanghai Co-operation Organization: China's Changing Influence in Central Asia,” The China Quarterly, 180 (2004); Robert G. Sutter, op. cit.

  81. 81

    Quoted in Michael Clarke, Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia, op. cit., p. 176.

  82. 82

    Raffaello Pantucci, “China's Afghan Dilemma,” Survival, 52-4 (2010), pp. 21–27.

  83. 83

    David Kerr and Laura C. Swinton, op. cit.; Jing-Dong Yuan, “China's Role in Establishing and Building the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” Journal of Contemporary China, 19-67 (2010), pp. 855–869.

  84. 84

    Quoted in Colin Mackerras and Michael Clarke, eds., China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: History, Transition and Crossborder Interaction into the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 136.

  85. 85

    Jing-Dong Yuan, op. cit., pp. 855–869.

  86. 86

    Gill Bates, Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy (Washington, D.C.: Brooking Institution Press, 2010).

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Internationalization of Tibet–Beijing Relations: Reality and Image
  5. Xinjiang, Central Asia and China's Critical Security Problems
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
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