“Kashgar is a key location for the land and sea interface of the Belt and Road, connecting not only westward to West Asia, Europe, the Red Sea and Africa, but also southward to the Indian Ocean through the port of Gwadar,” said Professor Li Bo of the China Research Institute, Fudan University. It is, he told us, “a core area of the Belt and Road strategy.” Kashgar, one of the westernmost cities in China, is the main urban area of southern Xinjiang. Traders from across Asia have assembled at its Sunday bazaar for 2,000 years. More than 1,000 kilometers north of Kashgar is the town of Nur-Sultan, previously known as Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Here, in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the need for a “Silk Road Economic Belt.
Dan Cohen speaks with Gordon Gao, Director of Strategic Research at Tsinghua University Endowment Fund in Beijing and a native of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Gao discusses growing up as a Mongolian ethnic minority in XUAR, and how the propaganda war against China hurts Uyghur interests, but will ultimately backfire on the United States. Gao and Coden also discuss the U.S.-China artificial intelligence arms race as well as the comparative strengths of the two countries.
On March 22, 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized sanctions against Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB). These sanctions, Blinken said, have been put in place against Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo because they are accused of being party to “genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” The US Treasury Department followed suit with its own sanctions. Both Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo responded by condemning these sanctions that were not only imposed by the US but also by Canada, the UK and the EU.
In the mid-2010s, China launched far-reaching de-radicalization and economic development programs in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Before then, few casual Western observers were even aware of the province’s existence, which makes up 17% of China’s land and whose population consists of 65% ethnic minority peoples. Fewer still could speak to the autonomous region's complex political, cultural, and religious history as well as to its complex legacies as a crossroads between diverse peoples over many centuries.