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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Cultural Genocide, Global Discourses of Terrorism and China’s Bid to Remake the World Order
1: Cultural Genocide as the Logical Conclusion to the Bio-politics of China’s War on Terror
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
George Washington University, United States
Much has been said about how China has relied on global discourses about the threat of terrorism since 11 September 2001 to justify its present policies of cultural genocide in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). However, far less has been mentioned about how these global discourses have informed the focus of, and the extent of brutality in, the PRC’s present policies towards Uyghurs. This paper argues that global discourses about the threat of terrorism since 2001 have provided a precedent for the Chinese state’s policies towards its Uyghur population over the last several years. While what is happening in the PRC to Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims is an extreme manifestation of the bio-political nature of this discourse, it follows the same logic that has developed in western approaches to countering terrorism since 2001. This includes the dehumanization of terrorists as being a force for chaos without legitimate grievances, the treatment of terrorism as a sickness that must be eradicated, quarantined, or rehabilitated, and the identification of the sickness of terrorism in the Muslim religion and, thus, in the cultural identity of specific peoples. As a result, the paper concludes that the on-going global war on terror has long been pregnant with the biopolitical and genocidal strategies being adopted by the PRC today. As such, the case of the Uyghurs in China should serve as a cautionary tale about where the global obsession with combatting terrorism is headed as well as a rallying call for re-evaluating that obsession.