12/10/2016. Special Report: Who are the Uyghurs and why do they scare China?
by Global Risk Insights , October 3, 2016
Beijing has turned the Uyghurs into the boogeyman of Central Asia, and the focus of its Central Asian security framework, creating the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the process. A special report by GRI Senior Analyst Jeremy Luedi.
Xinjiang and the Uyghur people have emerged as one of the greatest domestic and international security concerns for China. The emergence of a host of new Central Asian states following the dissolution of the USSR led China to shift its gaze westward. The combination of weak states, indeterminate borders, ethnic minorities and religious tension was one which greatly concerned Beijing. In response Beijing sought to normalize relations, regulate borders, increase regional engagement and finally establish security relationships.
Using the rhetoric of the ‘three evils’ – separatism, extremism and terrorism – China has sought to characterize Xinjiang as beset by ethnic nationalism informed by radical Islam spurring violent separatism. Beijing’s characterization of Uyghurs rests upon shaky foundations, hyperbole, and misinformation. Despite this, China has been extremely successful in persuading Central Asian states to adopt its norms and values regarding the Uyghur issue; facilitated in large part by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its associated organs.