Tuesday, April 11, 2006

China's Middle East: Xinjiang

Chinanews, Jinan, Apr.6
Shengli Oilfield, China's second largest oilfield, has found in Xinjiang the first successive base of resources, P-2 Well, and discovered high-quality crude oil which is rarely seen in the world.

Of the best quality in the world, oil in the P-2 Well is rarely found in China. It can be directly used to fuel tractors.

Mr. Zhang Shanwen, deputy manager and chief geologist of Sinopec Shengli Oilfield Company Limited, said that the P-2 Well is located in Kuitun City which is 80 kilometers to the north of Karamay Oilfield. It covers an area of about 13.5 square kilometers with the oil reserve amounting to 7 million tons.

"Once a gold bean is found, it should not be the only one." As Zhang expected, they soon drilled another well of similar oil quality, namely the P-8 Well, indicating the good prospect of resources in this area.

This area is estimated to have more than 50 million tons of oil reserves, and it is hopeful to become a 300-kiloton oil production base by the year 2008.


Xinjiang.

Don't talk to the Chinese about Xinjiang. They hate it. They hate the area, the people, the Uighurs, and whatever comes with it.
For several decades Xinjiang has been the weakest link in the country and it continues to be so today.

Xinjiang, like Taiwan and neighboring Tibet, is a neuralgic issue for China, which desperately needs internal stability in that predominantly Muslim, resource-rich and strategically important region. Beijing's strategic and energy objectives are based on stability in Xinjiang and its Central Asian policies grow out of its preoccupation with stability there.

Xinjiang is mostly desert surrounded by high snow capped mountain ranges, rugged mountain passes and verdant oases. All in an area that is the farthest point from any ocean on the planet. In each town, there's a Uighur section and a Chinese section. The Chinese section tends to be more modern, skyscrapers, office buildings, the downtown section. The Uighur neighborhoods tend to be more agricultural. Uighurs are a Turkic, Sunni Muslim people, with close cultural and linguistic ties to other ethnic groups in Central Asia, including Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Turkmen. Numbering some 8 million to 9 million (the total population of the huge, resource-rich region is 19.25 million, including another 8 million to 9 million Han Chinese.) the Uighurs are the most dissimilar to the majority Han Chinese and, along with the Tibetans, have caused the Han the most "heartache" since the communist takeover of China in 1949.

The Uighurs have, to this date and for over 2,000 years, maintained their cultural and ethnic identity in the face of immense military and political powers and pressures. They practice Islam, but it's a more relaxed form. The men drink, the women do not cover up very much. The older women do, but most of the younger women don't. But now the borders are open with Pakistan, so it's not a static situation. The Chinese authorities do fear that ideas will percolate in. And as China puts more pressure on the Uighurs, the Chinese fear that they may join a sort of global movement toward Islam and militant Islam. The unrest displayed by the local Uighurs against Beijing's government represent a classic pattern of resistance to the colonial expropriation of land and to the officially sponsored migration of Han Chinese farmers, soldiers and officials into Xinjiang.

This policy of moving Hans into Xinjiang has also realized a classic colonialist system of economic and social stratification that is visible in many other cases of internal colonialism. In those cases, too, the representatives of the dominant nationality enjoy disproportionate economic and political advantages in education, job placement, and access to public goods.


The United States has accused China of using the war on terrorism as an excuse to suppress political dissent in Xinjiang. In the region, since September 11, China has beefed up military and police units; detained thousands of suspected militants and restricted religious rights, which are protected under China’s constitution.

Experts say that while some Uighurs want full independence, others simply want greater autonomy and better protection from human rights abuses and discrimination. Many Uighurs complain of harassment by Chinese authorities, who have reportedly closed mosques in Xinjiang. Experts say that unrest among Uighurs has grown in recent years, but many do not buy China ’s claims that Xinjiang separatist groups, including the ETIM, really threaten Chinese control of the region; they say that the groups are just too small and dispersed to wage an organized campaign, let alone a violent one.

The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is an organization that includes components in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and the Xinjiang Province of China. The ETIM's aim is the establishment of a fundamentalist Muslim state to be called "East Turkistan."

Human Rights Watch’s 2003 country report for Kyrgyzstan stated that China has
"reportedly encouraged Kyrgyz officials to use a firm hand with the Uighur minority, and to pursue a series of arrests to quash any manifestation of Uighur separatism or ambitions for self-determination in China’s Xinjiang province."


Roughly 50,000 Uighurs are believed to be living in Kyrgyzstan, though unofficial estimates put the number at twice that amount. Many are involved in the so-called shuttle trade with Xinjiang. Such trade occupies an increasingly important role in Kyrgyzstan’s economy.

"There is no extremist Uighur organization in Kyrgyzstan," Tursun Islam, chairman of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, says. "It seems that some politicians and law enforcement bodies in Kyrgyzstan are fulfilling the will and commands of the Chinese security services. It is a favor to the Chinese security services to accuse Uighurs of terrorism and religious extremism."

Kyrgyzstan is not the only Central Asian state to eye Uighurs suspiciously. In Kazakhstan, for example, a recent article in the Kazakhskaya Pravda newspaper characterized Uighurs as separatists and terrorists that pose a "hidden threat" to Kazakhs. The origins of the Kyrgyz crackdown on Uighurs can be traced to 1996, the year that Kyrgyzstan joined what has become known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. One of the group’s top priorities is combating security threats posed by regional terrorism. Besides Kyrgyzstan, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are SCO members.

Several Chinese military and political analysts have asserted, even before September 11, that the next likely theater of a major local war that will threaten, if not involve, China will take place in Central Asia. Certainly China feels itself threatened by terrorists operating out of Central Asia and by elements in Xinjiang.

To eliminate this perceived threat, China has undertaken a massive "go west" program for the better part of a decade, believing that the main spur to ethnic-nationalist and religious unrest is a lack of economic development and opportunity. Thus it has launched massive development projects in energy and transportation infrastructure to more fully tie Xinjiang to China's coastal development and to Central Asian economies. Xinjiang used to be about 90 percent Uighur, with Tajiks, Kazakhs and other minorities comprising the remaining 10 percent. In recent years, the population shift has been enormous. The province is now about 40 percent Uighur and 40 percent Chinese with the remaining 20 percent from other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately for the Uighurs, they have no charismatic leader, no Dalai Lama to present their case. They have been abandoned and forgotten by the international community.

Maybe time has come to listen to their plea!

source
Frontlineworld
ChinaNews
Eurasianet
asiatimes
BBC
BBC
Washington.Edu
asiatimes
Uyghurworld
cfr.org

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