Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region’s new military appointment highlights security vulnerabilities in Central Asia

News analysis

According to experts, the appointment of the new Supreme Military Commander of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could create further anxiety along the country’s westernmost border.

The Chinese Communist Party has appointed Lieutenant Wang Haijiang as the new military commander of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which borders the unstable regions of Afghanistan, Kyrgyztan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Importantly, the appointment of the king takes place during heightened tensions and instability as the Chinese Communist Party seeks to navigate its revived Taliban-led relationship with Afghanistan.

Dru Gladney, a professor and dean of the anthropology department at Pomona College, said the King’s appointment to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region was a minority of Muslims in the region, given his previous experience of helping party leader Chen Quanguo in the suppression of Tibet. He expressed concern that it could cause problems.

Chen, the current party secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was formerly the regional director of the CCP in Tibet. He is notoriousDouble link householdTibetan management system and so-called Uighur “re-education” camp, Gladney said.

The CCP has detained more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where they are tortured, forced labored and politically indoctrinated. Chen was sanctioned by the United States last year for human rights abuses in the region. This is the highest member of the CCP so far punished.

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
On September 3, 2018, security guards are standing at the gate of what is officially known as the Vocational Skills Education Center in Huocheng County, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (Thomas Peter / Reuters)

History of oppression

For the past 40 years, Gladney, who spent the last 40 years exploring the Islamic minority community in China and traveled extensively to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Central Asia before being blacklisted by the Chinese Communist Party as a pro-Uighur scholar in the early 2000s, was a king. I believe the appointment will ensure Chen’s continuation. Strict anti-Uighur measures and further strengthening of the Western Borderlands of China.

“Chen Quanguo was successful from the Chinese [CCP] The perspective of truly integrating power and authority, “said Gladney. “Until we arrived in 2011, Tibet was very calm. When he came to Xinjiang in 2016, he brought a lot of these similar ideas.”

“I think bringing it into Wang Haijiang really reflects China’s concerns about the peaceful areas around Xinjiang,” said Gladney. “Especially now Afghanistan is accompanied by the withdrawal of the United States, which they telegramed and China has always been worried about its borders.”

The westernmost region of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region shares a vast and desolate border with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Mountainous areas make it very easy for the Chinese Communist Party to control the main entrance to the country, but the difficult terrain always means that there is some porosity, making China the home of rebels, especially Uighurs. It means that there is a risk of invasion by jihad trying to free the Communist Party. In addition, the presence of Russia’s military elements in Tajikistan and the radical Taliban elements in northeastern Afghanistan add to the constant cause of potential friction with China’s neighbors.

Frank Leberger, a senior researcher at the Usanas Foundation, which focuses on India-based security, also said that the history of the king in Tibet has been a CCP strategy in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, especially with respect to the mountain border with Afghanistan. He told the Epoch Times that it could provide information.

“In the military arena, the king learned some valuable lessons in his position as Deputy Commander of the Tibetan Military District,” said Lieberger. “He was stationed on the conflicting Chinese border between India and Bhutan between 2016 and 2019. The lessons he learned will now certainly apply to XUAR on the Chinese-Afghanistan border. . “

Lieberger said the king had published several papers on training and combat in mountainous areas, and the types of defense structures used in such combat since his time in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. In addition, the king said he was commended for successfully coordinating the construction of highway roads in the border settlements of Dokulam, a remote Himalayan area claimed by both China and Bhutan. first time.

To effectively establish the lasting existence of the CCP in the region, the King was promoted to Lieutenant and represented in 2017 at the administration’s Rubber Stamp Parliament, the 13th National People’s Congress.

Lieberger also emphasized that it is unusual among the Chinese Communist Party elite due to the fact that the king had a fighting experience back in the 1979 China war with Vietnam.

Epoch Times Photo
Taken on January 4, 2021, this photo shows PLA soldiers participating in military training in the Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwestern China. (STR / AFP via Getty Images)

However, despite the king’s military expertise, Gladney and Leberger said that long-term human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region continued to drive Uighurs with anti-Islamic policies and the rise of nearly complete surveillance nations in the region. Emphasizing that this could ultimately undermine the security efforts of the CCP and other minority groups are moving away from the acceptance of state power and towards the acceptance of radicalism.

Mr. Lieberger talked about how the Chinese Communist Party has helped increase the growing opposition from the Islamic population in recent years.

“In the last few years, the Chinese administration has completed a catalog of oppressive devices and countermeasures tailored to XUAR’s ethnic minorities and Muslims,” ​​said Lieberger. Daytime pork on the holy moon of Ramadan. “

For Gladney, the biggest change in security practices in the region, and the most profound way the CCP alienated indigenous Uighurs, was how the CCP implemented a huge number of surveillance techniques in densely populated areas of Xinjiang. Is related to.

“I think what changed in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was technological progress,” said Gladney. “In particular, many of the digital surveillance technologies that Chen Quanguo managed to import were imported from all over the United States and Silicon Valley, and were expanded to a level no one could have imagined.”

Epoch Times Photo
Jieleixi No.13 Village Mosque with the slogan “I love you” [Chinese Communist] “Party, Love China” was held on June 4, 2019 in Yangisar, southern Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of western China. (GregBaker / AFP via Getty Images)

Guraddoni Mr. Xi Jinping General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party is, at the same time as the visit to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in 2014, he explained that adopted the authoritative approach for suppressing the minority of Chinese Muslims.

After the incident, the Chinese Communist Party has significantly concentrated its authority and oversight on the daily lives of Uighurs and others in the region.

“Terrorism made him [Xi] It’s like supporting a radical crackdown, “Gladney said. “At that time, he brought in Chen Quanguo, and now Chen Quanguo brought in Wang Haijiang.”

But Gradney believes it is important to note that Xi is not the only one responsible for the growing authoritarianism in China and the persecution of the Uighurs, which many countries now call genocide. I am. To that end, he noted the king’s popularity within the highest and innermost circles of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Not all of these decisions are made on their own,” Gladney added. “They were created with the full support of the party’s central committee, and recently Wang Haigang attended the party planning committee meeting in Beijing.”

Central Asia “Pressure Cooker”

For now, Wang and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are likely to be central to CCP’s efforts to expand its influence and secure China’s interior. A feat that will be more at risk than before after Afghanistan fell into the Taliban.

Sam Kessler, a geopolitical adviser to the Northstar Support Group, outlined the vulnerabilities in the relationship between the CCP and the Taliban and how those vulnerabilities could lead to conflicts in the region.

“The ceasefire between the CCP and the Taliban is very tricky for Beijing,” Kessler said. “There are signs that they are trying to recognize them as more legitimate national actors, but at the same time, the Taliban are still associated with many jihadist groups.”

Kessler said the Chinese Communist Party-Taliban relationship could collapse or collapse if current US ties change, and such a collapse would eventually be even greater for Muslims in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He explained that it could lead to crackdowns or inherent conflicts in Central Asia. The Chinese administration was recently guaranteed by the Taliban not to contain Islamic extremists who could launch an attack on Xinjiang. If this fails, Beijing could double its oppressive policies in the region.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese State Council member and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Mura Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political head of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Tianjin, China, on July 28, 2021. (Li Lan / Xinhua via Reuters)

Gradney also said the reactionary movement towards Islamic extremists, which did not exist before, was exacerbated by the continued infringement of CCP’s rights against Uighurs. This is especially true among Uighur diasporas, according to Gladney, who is increasingly paying attention to radical Islam as a means of freeing Uighurs who believe they are trapped in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

“China, as saying Xi Jinping, a more” wants to China “the Uighurs,” said Guraddoni with. “This probably keeps them stronger from Chinese rule, building great resentment and anger, especially in the diaspora.”

“Most of the violence and resentment was not inspired by radical Islam, or even independence, mainly by the desire for greater human rights and greater freedom of expression,” Gladney added. .. “It drives these Uighurs, who were not originally motivated by radical Islam or jihad, into the arms of those who do,” Gradney said.

Overall, Gladney, Kessler, and Raberger said that the growing threat of extremism and unfolding events in Afghanistan means that the potential for catastrophic violence in the region is increasing, and the Xinjiang Uygur accordingly. I agreed with the importance of appointing a king in the autonomous region.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Gradney said. “Especially in the diaspora, there have been a lot of calls for violence and independence among Uighurs these days. Funding is flowing towards some of the more radical groups in Central Asia, Turkey and South Asia.”

“This is like a pressure cooker situation. More and more they [the CCP] If tightened, the reaction will be explosive. Gladney has been added.

“The imminent fall of Kabul has worsened the overall security situation and is of concern to everyone involved,” said Lieberger.

“In the situation of the United States and China, and Russia and Pakistan, it seems very difficult to navigate from a diplomatic point of view without bloodshed,” Kessler said. “It runs the risk of great conflict.”

Andrew Thornbrook

Andrew Thornbrook

Freelance reporter

Andrew Thornebrooke is a freelance reporter on China-related issues with a focus on defense and security. He holds a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University and writes the newsletter Quixote Hyperdrive.