China’s Minority Policies in Xinjiang

Stories, Narratives, and Ideology
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 3

  • Organised by Martin Lavička
  • Martin Lavička, “Narrating Xinjiang through the Lens of Governmental Whitepapers”
  • Vanessa Frangville, “’Xinjiang is Safe and Stable Now’”
  • Rune Steenberg Reyhe, “The Tip of the Iceberg: Connecting Traces to Ideology in XUAR”

The Chinese re-education camps in XUAR have gathered increased media attention within the last year. Stories of abuse from “escaped camp survivors” contrast sharply with those of dancing Uyghur youths in “vocational training centres.” In the Chinese narrative, the centres supposedly save them from Islamic radicalism, while Uyghur diaspora groups see them as part of a “cultural genocide”. Behind each story, there is a meta-story (narratives in our terminology) that connects it to a larger world view and ideology. This panel traces the narratives—between story and ideology—on China’s minority policies across different genres and sides. The interconnections span from government white papers across official newspapers, scholarly writing to advocacy work, novels and TV shows in both Chinese, English, Uyghur, Kazakh and other languages. We identify common themes, motives and, strategies in these texts and contextualise them within the broader eco-political frame.

Martin Lavicka, “Narrating Xinjiang through the Lens of Governmental Whitepapers”

Since 2003, when the first governmental whitepaper baipishu on Xinjiang appeared, another nine have been published by now. Since 2014, every year, there is a whitepaper concerning Xinjiang, signifying increased importance for the central government to address and reflect on various issues related to the region. However, the year 2019 has already brought three whitepapers on Xinjiang, showing the enormous attention Beijing gives to the coverage of the ‘Xinjiang problem’ as an answer to the recent international coverage and criticisms of its policies. Analysis of governmental whitepapers and their narrative can serve as a valuable source of information regarding the official ideology behind the worsening situation in the region. Moreover, it can provide some insight into the ideological backing of Beijing policies towards the region. The main focus of this presentation will be on the most recent whitepapers: The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang published in March, Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang from July, and Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang published in August 2019.

Vanessa Frangville, “’Xinjiang is Safe and Stable Now’”

“Xinjiang is safe and stable now”—these words are those of a young Uyghur based in Beijing, in a series of short films released by CGTN (China Global Television Network) to promote young Uyghurs living in Mainland China who want to “change stereotypes about Uyghurs” because “things are much better now”. This paper focuses primarily on videos and images in relation to texts in articles about the Uyghurs published on CGTN’s website since 2017, in English, in French and in Chinese. The objective is to understand how, through this multimodal discourse, the Uyghurs and their region are represented in a mainstream media whose ambition is to “tell China’s story well”, in the context of a “media warfare” against “fake foreign journalism.”

Rune Steenberg Reyhe, “The Tip of the Iceberg: Connecting Traces to Ideology in XUAR”

“There is a problem with your thinking,” is the reasoning presented to many when they are sent to the so-called re-education camps in XUAR in northwest China. Something they have done or said, to the government, betrays the fact that their thinking is not in line with the party ideology. It is “infected” by “radicalist thought”, like separatism or religious extremism. From this, they must be healed in camps. The crucial issue is not just about the display of loyalty, but about surveilling and controlling ideology. This becomes especially obvious in the campaign to clamp down on “two-faced cadre”. As in Max Black’s interaction theory of metaphors, here, a given action or expression is seen as a “tip of an iceberg” indicating a deeper “sunken model”—the problematic ideology. The ideology and indicators are connected by an often implicit story—a narrative. This paper discusses this connection between ideology and expression through narratives. Narratives are employed by the Chinese government to see prayer or fasting as symptoms of radicalism in order to legitimize the camps in official videos. Activist groups and US government officials similarly take the camps to signify the inhumanity of Chinese people or of communists generally in order to push back against the BRI or Chinese tech-firms taking market shares. I explore the connections drawn by various actors between indicators, ideologies and policies concerning the network of camps and the extensive surveillance apparatus in Xinjiang.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room 3
Stories, Narratives, and Ideology