Posts Tagged ‘imperial ambitions’

Why China Is Brutally Suppressing Muslims

September 18, 2018

The assault on the Uighurs serves Beijing’s imperial ambitions, which require stable land borders.

Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017.
Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE

The repression of the Turkic Uighur Muslim community in western China—including the reported internment of up to a million people in secret camps—is a key part of Beijing’s new imperial policy. Only by understanding the dynamics of Chinese empire can one grasp this brutal campaign.

Xinjiang, a province home to millions of Uighurs, translates to “New Dominion.” The area has been historically and geographically known as East Turkestan. Though the Chinese state has existed for more than 3,500 years, Xinjiang first became part of China’s Qing Dynasty only in the mid-18th century. Since then it has often been in a condition the British explorer Fitzroy Maclean labeled as “sustained turbulence.”



When I first traveled through Xinjiang and interviewed Uighurs in 1994, their hatred of what they considered ethnic Han Chinese occupiers was complete. “This is Turkestan, not China. Chinese don’t learn our language, and many of us don’t learn theirs. Even on a personal level, relations are bad,” one young Uighur man told me.

Relations have worsened since. A deep, unspoken reason why China has never liberalized is its authoritarian leadership fears ethnic rebellion. Uprisings of this sort happened in the outer reaches of the Soviet Union after it liberalized in the 1980s. So China has kept its political system closed, while simultaneously pushing into Central Asia through diplomacy and economic interventions. It is building vast infrastructure projects in the region to ally with the Turkic Muslims of the former Soviet Union and deny China’s own Muslims a friendly rear base for future rebellion. China’s push beyond its borders ultimately has to do with demons within.

Because China historically has never been secure on land, particularly in this western region, it has not had the luxury of going to sea. Except for the Indian Ocean exploits of Adm. Zheng He during the early Ming Dynasty, China has had a demonstrably weak naval tradition. Yet China, mostly secure on land today, aims to posses the world’s largest navy. The intensifying suppression of the Uighur Muslims is the final act in this process. The Belt and Road Initiative—forging transportation corridors by land and sea across Eurasia—requires the complete subjugation of the Uighur population.

The heart of this 21st-century Silk Route is Central Asia. By building roads, railways and energy pipelines across the former Soviet Turkic republics, China will connect with Iran. A Chinese-Iranian economic and infrastructure alliance has the potential to dominate Eurasia, sidelining Russia. But this requires a compliant Uighur population, since all these road and energy pathways between coastal China and the Middle East must pass through Xinjiang.

The Chinese plan is to dilute traditional Uighur culture by forcing people into regimented apartment blocks and modernizing folkloric markets. They also seek to connect towns with new highways and high-speed rail, as I saw on a return visit to Xinjiang in 2015. And they are placing many thousands of Uighurs in internment camps while raising living standards for others—classic carrot-and-stick tactics. All this is designed to end Uighur Muslim culture as it exists today, to complete the Han Chinese domination of its most contentious borderland.

The media have focused on China drowning countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka in debt, so that it is awarded control of the ports and highways it builds there. Undercovered is the ethnic dimension of Chinese grand strategy across Eurasia. It deserves more attention: The desert home of the Uighur is the potential weak link in China’s Silk Route nexus.

Don’t underestimate national pride and resentment in this process. Hong Kong and Macao have been taken back from the European colonialists, formally ending an era of humiliating foreign intrusion in China’s core. Outer Mongolia’s sovereignty has been undermined significantly by Chinese economic interests. Tibet has been subjugated. Xinjiang now looms as the last holdout before Greater China is truly realized on land, allowing China to concentrate fully on dominating the East and South China seas. In turn this will open up the Indian Ocean, where China has been building and helping develop new ports between Myanmar and Djibouti. Who says that the age of empire has passed?

Because the U.S. is located half a world away, it is at a distinct disadvantage in thwarting this new imperial rise. Washington still has a geopolitical interest in making sure no individual state holds sway over the Eastern Hemisphere as the U.S. once influenced the Western Hemisphere. A Chinese Silk Route that runs through Iran and beyond, with a naval presence over the navigable southern rimland of Eurasia, would do that.

A policy of zero-sum bilateralism—the current American approach—forfeits the strongest asset the U.S. has in this struggle: a system of alliances undergirded by the American ideals of free markets, civil society and human rights. In this competition, holding China to account for its human-rights violations against the Uighurs is a component in a realist approach that also seeks to limit the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Just as China’s suppression of the Uighurs is part of its grand strategy, America’s commitment to human rights in China should be part of its own approach.

Mr. Kaplan is author of “The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century” (Random House, 2018). He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a senior adviser at Eurasia Group.


Fighting in Syria Intensifies — “There can be no solution in Syria with President Bashar Assad in power” — Pro-opposition strongholds hit by airstrikes

April 19, 2016

By SARAH EL DEEB and JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian opposition coalition negotiating in Geneva said Tuesday there can be no solution in Syria with President Bashar Assad in power, and called for international monitors to observe a cessation of hostilities agreement that has all but collapsed.

The head of the U.S. and Saudi-backed coalition, Riad Hijab, also called on the U.N. Security Council to take firm actions against violators— a day after the opposition said it is suspending its participation talks in Geneva as violence rages at home.

Hijab also said a clear timetable for the political transition in Syria is a must — adding such a transition can’t include Assad.


Riyad Hijab, Coordinator of the High Negotiation Committee, HNC, of Syria speaks to the media during a press conference, in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

“There cannot be a solution in Syria while Bashar Assad is present,” he said.

As the Geneva talks teetered on collapse, Syrian activists said airstrikes targeted two opposition-held towns in northwestern Syria, killing 44 civilians. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three children among the victims and that it expects the death toll to rise further.

The group said the towns of Maarat al-Numan and Kafranbel in Idlib province were hit, both known as pro-opposition strongholds. Observatory’s chief Rami Abdurrahman said the strikes were among the deadliest since the cease-fire took effect in Syria at the end of February. He did not say who was behind the strikes.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said extremists took control of the Syrian opposition group, effectively hijacking the Syrian peace talks. Moscow is a major ally of Assad.

Alexei Borodavkin told the Russian Tass news agency on Tuesday that “the suspension of the Syrian opposition delegation’s participation in peace talks is proof that, unfortunately, extremists took control within the delegation.”

Borodavkin said the talks will continue without the groups who pulled out, implying that the extremists were backed by Saudi Arabia, and saying that opposition groups “other than the ‘Riyadh’ groups, would still participate in the peace talks.

Fighting, meanwhile, intensified in Syria as government forces sought to repel a rebel offensive on a government stronghold. The rebels had said they launched the offensive in rural Latakia in response to government violations of the truce, and to “redress injustices.” Government warplanes also bombed areas in the central Homs and Hama provinces and in northern Idlib province, activists said.

In Geneva, Hijab said during a lengthy press conference that the opposition coalition can’t take part in talks while the Syrian regime carries on with its military campaign and denies humanitarian access to besieged areas or ones held by the rebels. His comments come despite earlier remarks by the U.N. envoy who said the opposition will remain in Geneva to engage in technical discussions until he can “take stock” of the situation on Friday.

“The United Nations Security Council must meet and reconsider this (cessation of hostilities) agreement and there must be international monitors on the ground … (to) decide who violates this truce,” Hijab said. “We are not waiting for reevaluation on Thursday or Friday. For us, as of yesterday, we are out of the political process.”

Hijab said he will be leaving Geneva with other members of the delegation. But he said a technical team will remain in the city, although its members will not go to the United Nations headquarters.

While the indirect talks were to focus on political transition, the warring sides became bogged down on Assad’s role in it. Aided by Russian air power which entered Syrian skies in late September, the Syrian army and allied militiamen have reversed the tide of the war in recent months, making rapid advances against its opponents.

Hijab said the government had benefited from the cease-fire to advance on rebel positions while its allies continued to supply it with weapons and fighters to change the balance of power on the ground.


Obama, Putin in “intense” conversation on Syria, Ukraine, U.S. ‘imperial ambitions’

April 19, 2016


USA Today

WASHINGTON — President Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday morning for what the White House said was an “intense” conversation about the breakdown of the cease-fire in Syria.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the purpose of the call was to “make the case to President Putin that he should use his influence with the Assad regime to live up to the commitments that they’ve made in the context of the cessation of hostilities.”

The call came as fighting escalated along Syria’s border with Turkey, with Syrian government forces and the U.S.-backed opposition renewing their fighting after a seven-week cease fire.

In its account of the presidential phone call, the Kremlin news service said the two leaders agreed on the importance of upholding the cease-fire and giving the peace talks a chance. But Putin also suggested to Obama that the U.S.-supported moderate opposition has close ties to terrorist groups in Syria.

The Russians also made a point of noting that the phone call was made at Obama’s initiative.

Obama and Putin also discussed Ukraine. The White House said Obama “urged President Putin to take steps to end the significant uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine.” But the Kremlin said it’s up to the new Ukrainian government to live up to its end of the 2015 Minsk agreements.

One topic that did not come up: The recent incidents of Russian planes “buzzing” U.S. ships in the Baltic Sea.

“These kinds of incidents, while provocative and concerning, are not particularly unusual,” Earnest said. He said the United States had protested the flight tactics through the military attache at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

President Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe Calls For ‘Frank’ Talks with China, South Korea After Weeks Of “War of Words” in Media

January 19, 2014


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Photo: REUTERS

AFP — January 19, 2014

Tokyo — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Sunday for “frank” summit talks with China and South Korea to help solve historical and territorial disputes that have soured ties between the neighbours.

A year of heated arguments have prevented the three from holding any top-level meetings, with Beijing and Seoul accusing Abe of showing a lack of remorse for World War II wrongs.

“We should hold a summit meeting and have a frank discussion,” Abe said in an interview on public broadcaster NHK, two days after Japan’s foreign minister called for similar talks.

Abe, China’s President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye all came to power around a year ago, but entrenched positions and growing nationalism in the three countries have prevented them from getting together.

Seoul and Beijing were angered by Abe’s visit last month to a shrine in Tokyo that counts 14 senior war criminals among the 2.5 million souls it commemorates.

China and South Korea see the Yasukuni shrine as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia.

On Sunday, Abe reiterated he had visited to make a pledge against war, and like other leaders around the world to pray for those who lost their lives for their countries.

“I want people to think about whether this is wrong. If they think about it, I think the misunderstanding will go away,” he said.

Two separate territorial disputes over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing and Seoul say have their roots in Japan’s early imperial ambitions, have also roiled relations.

Abe said a summit should be held “all the more because there are these issues” but added that Tokyo would not agree to any concessions over disputed issues as a precursor to discussions.

“It would be unreasonable if Japan must clear hurdles for summit talks,” he said.

On Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the respective leaders should “make efforts to solve” their disputes.

The call came after Japan brushed off comments by China’s envoy to the African Union in which he branded Abe a “troublemaker”.

shinzo abe Yasukuni shrine

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, December 26, 2013.China expressed shock and displeasure at the visit — and continuously since. Photo:  REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo  Photo: REUTERS

This is the most important area in the East China Sea where disputes over islands involve China, Japan and South Korea.


This chart shows the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ declared by China on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

The governments of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam are generally in agreement that China wants to slowly take ownership of the East China Sea and the South China Sea — no matter what international law and the neighbors say. Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and others also have claims in these waters.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning is not yet fully operational and has no aircraft assigned. This ship was first designed and built in the Soviet Union and then sold to China and converted.

A handout photo shows two Chinese surveillance ships which sailed between a Philippines warship and eight Chinese fishing boats to prevent the arrest of any fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of rocky formations whose sovereignty is contested by the Philippines and China, in the South China Sea, about 124 nautical miles off the main island of Luzon April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Philippine Army Handout

Photo: Chinese marine surveillance officers stop and search fishermen in international waters in the South China sea  — a clear violation of international law.

At sea oil drilling rigs

More than about fish: China’s sea disputes are not purely about rightful, historic ownership as China claims. Vast undersea wealth in oil and gas is below the seas, geologists say, in both the South China Sea and East China Sea.




Paramilitary policemen hoist a Chinese national flag during a memorial ceremony on the 82nd anniversary of Japan's invasion of China at the September 18 Museum in Shenyang, Liaoning province, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer 

Paramilitary policemen hoist a Chinese national flag during a memorial ceremony on the 82nd anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China at the September 18 Museum in Shenyang, Liaoning province, September 18, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Stringer