Xinjiang – the spreading arc of instability

July 9, 2009

China’s troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.

Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China, as this piece for the Council on Foreign Relations points out, has long been concerned that these states on its periphery both in central and south Asia may be tempted to back a separatist movement in Xinjiang because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to its neighbours.

To that extent it has cultivated close ties with some of these neighbours, even trying to promote direct trade between Xinjiang and the provinces of neighbouring countries just over the border.

In April this year, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region signed an agreement to establish friendly provincial relations with Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, according to this report in the state-run China Daily.

The two sides agreed to explore partnership in oil and gas resources, bilateral trade and agriculture besides vowing to accelerate work on a long-planned direct rail link.

More importantly, Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khan, who signed the agreement, said the two sides must deepen their partnership to oppose “terrorism, extremism and separatism.”

Beijing’s concerns over the instability in Pakistan especially in the NWFP spilling over into Xinjiang have frequently surfaced, although in perhaps characteristic style, they have gone about it in low-key manner, quite different from the Western approach.

In March this year, Xinjiang governor Nuer Baikeli, speaking on the margins of China’s annual parliament meeting said his region faced threats from violence rippling across south and central Asia. Militant attacks in Pakistan and even the one in Mumbai and the violence in Afghanistan showed Xinjiang had reason to fear, he said.

The links go back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. As the piece for the Council of Foreign Relations noted, many Uighurs travelled into Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s, where they were exposed to Islamic extremism.

China has worried ever since about the militants slipping in and out Xinjiang.

Pakistan’s Daily Times noted the Chinese concerns, but said Islamabad could only play a limited role given that it was itself fighting to regain control of its territory in the northwest from the militants.

[PHOTO: A boy runs past an overturned car just outside the Uighurs neighbourhood in Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region July 8, 2009. REUTERS/Nir Elias]


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Pakistan is standing with China and against the muslim Uiger brothers. Pakistan is so much isolated and morally bankrupt in today that it has no option but to support China no matter what it does. Commis have killed 1000 Uiger muslims and and are going to execute another 1000. Commis even made all Uiger men naked before their families and looked for any bruises on their body and then arrested them.

Glad for Turkey, which has shown some support and leadership to the Muslim world. With countries like Pakistan, Muslim world is going to doom.

Posted by Irfan, Iran | Report as abusive

Where are UBL and Zawahari? Don’t they have satelite TV in their bunker? Time to move to Xinjiang.

Posted by Irfan, Iran | Report as abusive

The Pakistanis will start blaming you saying that you are speaking ill of it because you are from Iran, a shiite country whereas Pakistan is a sunni majority country.
Pakistan was a puppet and will remain a puppet. Only the masters(initially it was West and now China) keep changing.
There is a very miniscule number of Pakistanis who can think rationally. The rest remain in the clutches of military which has no other work except keeping the hatred towards India growing and thereby taking up billions in the name of defense and the elite leading a laving lifestyle in Islamabad.
Even now, when lakhs of people are displaced due to the Taliban menace, people think that their military is their saviour by sacrificing their lives for the sake of the country. They happily forget that they are in this pitiful situation because of the military that created Taliban.

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive

Ethnic harmony is a paradox in China with verbal slogan enchanted in daily media while no substantive actions taken to achieve that. Proclaiming what they call big-leap development in China’s northwest, many Han Chinese pioneered their biz in Xinjiang with no knowledge of potential cultural and religious conflicts. It’s only a matter of time for such confrontation to occur.

The issue with Uighurs is even more complex than that with Tibetans. The government should learn a lesson.

Posted by Ernie | Report as abusive

I agree with what Sunny said above.
The earlier the people of Pakistan (and the whole world) realise that Terrorism is not the answer to any problem, so much the better.

Posted by Joe Zach | Report as abusive

Don’t just swallow what the mainstream media is throwing out there:  /2009-07/444870.html

Posted by concernd | Report as abusive

ernie: since when do juggernauts care about “potential cultural and religious conflicts” in xinjiang, as they manifest no such concern in the rest of china – eg persecution of house church movement, black gaols, etc. so what if people are crushed and cultures annihilated? gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette; in a land of a billion eggs, what are a few million?

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

China can only survive as one nation by oppressing all indepent thinking, a massive country like China needs strict and uniform rules like the social hierarchie of a beehive. Sooner or later this will backfire and lead to uprisings like recently in Tibet and now in Xinjiang. Violence has always been Beijing’s answer, but there comes a time that the Chinese encounter an opponent not afraid of dying for their cause, that time may have come now.

Posted by Nikkei 225 | Report as abusive

ISI’s double game

US death toll at 647, NATO at 1450 …

“Pakistan’s military has declared that not only is it in contact with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar but that it can bring him and other commanders to the negotiating table with the United States” f/07/10/pakistan.taliban.omar/#cnnSTCTex t

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Xinjiang Effect!

Official: Pakistan can help broker U.S.-Taliban talks  /10/pakistan.taliban.omar/index.html

Two days back, when Hu got back to China from G8, he immediately got in touch with Kiyani and asked him to get rid of all talibans and alikes. China is now scared about Taliban trained Uigers. So under Chinese pressure, ISI invented this new game to keep all strategic assets alive for tomorrow.

Second, with recent intense drone attacks, Pakistan is realizing this is the only way to keep taliban alive. and ISI can kill so many birds with one stone:
1. Taliban stays alive to fight tomorrow if needed
2. Pakistan gets US billions
3. China can be convinced that Taliban disappeared or moved to Afghanistan and no longer Pakistan’s problem
4. Pakistan extort more US weapons and may be a nuclear deal from USA
5. Pakistan gets to keep anti-India terrorists
6. And Pakistan gets accolades and more aid as a peace maker

But the most important thing is:
1. Pakistan was playing double game with US/NATO since 2001.
2. Now we all know that ISI knows where is Mulla Omar.
3. If Pakistan had made this statement in 2001, 647 US lives and 1500 NATO lives could have been saved.

It is really tragic when you get allies like this!

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Pakistan might not be entirely against Uighurs. It is well known fact that it milked billions from US in the name of fighting terror but diverted that money for something else. It’s words do not match its deeds and known for betrayal.
It might not openly support Uighurs to avoid antagonizing China. But it could well be encouraging Uighurs to fight by providing support behind the scenes.
It’s only a matter of time before China realises the role of Pakistan.

Posted by FS | Report as abusive


The Uighurs (and the Tibetians) most likely will suffer the same fate that of native Americans in the US. In the name of progress, the Han Chinese are spreading all over the south-west region trampling over the local culture. It’s known that any resistance from the natives is mowed down by the Chinese juggernaut. No pan-islamic movement can stand up to an authoritarian state like China.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

You are fair, objective evaluation of the problem in Xinjiang

Posted by JUSTICE | Report as abusive



This is an example that you cannot supress a will by force forever!


Posted by Ian | Report as abusive

This is how China treats minority muslims and Pakistan supports and encourages China. Muslims will never get anything better than Pakistan. Should be proud be proud Pakistan. At least Turkey got some morality. tent/article/2009/07/11/AR2009071100464. html?hpid=topnews

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Pakistan will support China whole-heartedly and ackowledge ‘UNREST’ in Xinjiang province:

Ethnic violence flares in China’s Xinjiang (Dawn)

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

A Kashmir moment for Pakistan ..

Pakistan will boycott 2011 Cricket world cup ewspaper-daily-english-online/Sports/16- Jul-2009/Pakistan-may-boycott-2011-World -Cup


Pakistan will teach cricket to Chinese women on=com_content&task=view&id=81545&Itemid =2

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive