I use the cumbersome People’s Republic of China (PRC) rather than simply the Chinese government to acknowledge Taiwan’s claim to be the Republic of China and that it represents at least a sizable portion of the Chinese population.
“The West” is not a homogeneous behemoth, in the same way that I argue that the PRC is not: I use this only to refer to a majority of the mainstream media.
I thank an anonymous reviewer for helping me to clarify this point.
Madsen argues that the PRC’s categorization of the five state-sanctioned religions is based on a 19th century Protestant understanding of religion primarily as institutional. His analysis is interesting but space does not allow a discussion here. For details, see Document 19: The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious Question during Our Country’s Socialist Period, published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
For example, Luqiu and Yang
) found that 84% of the western media coverage on Muslims and or Islam “involved conflict, terrorism or extremism.” The authors note that the PRC relies on western new agencies for international news and that there is scant domestic coverage of Islam and the Muslims. Reports tend to focus on the preferential treatment received by racial minorities, including the Uyghurs: such as exemption from the one child policy and affirmative action in the education system.
In light of this, Cao is surely correct in his conclusion that “more collaborative research efforts are needed to help explore and reconcile the gap between official rhetoric and the multiple realities of Chinese religions on the ground … (These efforts will) eventually help transform ‘religion’ from a fetishized ideological object into a multidimensional empirical concept in contemporary Chinese (and I would add ‘global’) public discourse.”
Or what some, like one anonymous reviewer of this article, might describe as situations where religious groups are regulated and subjugated to the state.
Of western origins, the moniker “sick man of the East” was intended as a parallel to the “sick man of the West,” the Ottoman Empire, which was also steadily declining both in power and influence in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For example, interviews with Uyghurs show that the Chinese are considered to be unclean since they do not observe rules of halal
or what is allowed and haram
or what is forbidden (Erkin 2009, p. 425
); dirty and rude as expressed in the parts of Urumchi (the spelling follows the quoted author; also Urumqi) they live in and the way they conduct themselves (Schluessel 2009, p. 385
); and untrustworthy because they are atheists (Finley 2011
). Moreover, the Soviet message to Uyghurs during the mid 20th century was that “China was a colony of imperialism (and) Xinjiang was a colony of a colony” (Han 2011, p. 950
). Contemporary Uyghurs continue to look west, away from the PRC, toward Islam and modern liberal democracies.
The Han Chinese, on the other hand, see the Uyghurs as “lazy, unreasonable and poor—and potential terrorists” who are rightly blamed for “ethnic unrest and violence in Xinjiang.” (Luqiu and Yang 2017
). In Xinjiang, the prejudice, even among “well-educated urban Han Chinese” against Uyghurs can be acute; they are seen as “ungrateful, lazy, violent, knife-carrying, pocket-picking criminals.” (Millard 2009
Tibetans also look south and west away from the Sinosphere: historically to India, the birthplace of Buddhism; then to the U.K. for protection against the Nationalist Chinese in the early to mid 20th century; and now, as with the Uyghurs, to the west especially the U.S. Unfortunately, the full agenda of this article does not allow a more thorough examination of these elements.
For example, Erkin
) notes the irony wherein successful development and a more robust middle class has resulted in a sharper definition and a turn of Uyghur culture towards Central Asia and the Middle East and further away from China.
While I agree with Edward Said
) assessment that Huntington’s theory neglects the pluralistic nature within his set of “civilisations,” a broad generalisation can be made—in varying degrees, for those who accept and aspire to an ideal of globalization and pluralism and those who do not, as expressed in populist movements worldwide. This important difference can be found within Islamic, liberal democracies, communist oligarchies and other forms of civilizational and politico-social cultures. Zhang’s discussion of Huntington’s hypothetical “fault lines” finds itself well illustrated not only with Islam in conflict with “The West” but also populist movements in conflict with “The Establishment” within the west: that is, the fault lines are both within each “civilisation” (Said) as well as across them (Huntington). I agree with John Wang
) when he writes that the clash of civilizations or religions does not replace but rather adds to conflict based on nationalism and secular ideology.
A refreshing change in the Meng Wanzhou case includes the recognition that the Huawei executive has a strong case against extradition and the voicing of complaints about the American disregard for Canadians. Vanderklippe
) reports that John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, claimed that President Trump’s remarks about using Meng in trade talks, extraterritoriality and Canada’s different position on sanctions against Iran are all reasons why Meng may not be extradited. The Globe and Mail reported also that McCallum was not the only one who spoke to the belief that politics was involved in the taking of Meng. David McNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. had earlier complained about Washington, who he said “are the ones seeking to have the full force of American law brought against [Ms. Meng] and yet we (Canadians) are the ones who are paying the price … We don’t like that it is our citizens who are being punished.” On the same day, McCallum apologized and said that he “misspoke” and that Canada honours its international legal commitments; he was fired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 26 January 2019.
The West has mostly dropped the “theistic” from their foreign policies and thus are no longer overtly “monotheistic” in their approach to international affairs but there is still a tendency toward the “mono”—hence “mono-ism.”
Here is an unmistakable illustration of the Judeo-Christian mentality of tikkun, fixing the world and standing as a beacon to the poor and suffering, fulfilling the injunction to “be ye a light unto nations” and perform its divine duty as the shining exemplar of “the city on the hill.” That there are in the U.S. deep income disparities, social inequities and continuing violence against marginal populations appear to have escaped attention.
After 9/11, on 14 March 2002 at the Inter-American Development Bank, President Bush called for “a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations.” This Millennium Challenge Account was to receive an annual increase in fund that would amount to $
5 billion by 2005. In 2007, George W. Bush requested for the next fiscal year $
1.5 billion dollars specifically dedicated to the promotion of democracy to be disbursed through groups like the Millennium Challenge Account (Epstein et al. 2007
In Canada, 2013, then Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an evangelical Christian, established the Office of Religious Freedom to monitor and act as an advocate for persecuted communities internationally. A year after the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister in 2015, the mandate of the office was expanded to the Office of Human Rights. (Religious Freedom Office Replaced with New ‘Office of Human Rights’ 2016
Perhaps Americans are projecting the experiences of their earliest settlers who were religiously persecuted in Europe.
Included in the first category that offers a general policy framework is the 1997 Freedom of Religious Belief in China, a White Paper. The memorandum Opinions on Encouraging and Regulating Religious Circles’ Participation in Public Welfare Charitable Activities (Opinions) was added in 2012 and sent to government officials to foster a focus of charitable work. Then in 2018, a new White Paper, China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief, was issued and it included the focus on charitable activities described in the 2012 Opinions. Second, there is for foreigners, the 1994 Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens within the Territory of Republic of China (Provisions); it was revised in 2010. Third, developed for PRC citizens is the 2005 Regulation on Religious Affairs; it was revised in 2017.
In Asia, they include Islamic states in Central Asia like the “stans” (places), Buddhist states in Southeast and South Asia like Myanmar and Sri Lanka and the officially Hindu-secular India. Leaving Asia, there are majority Christian-secular states like Spain in Europe and majority Christian-secular states like Kenya and mixed-beliefs-secular (Christian-Muslim-Indigenous) states like Tanzania in Africa.
Kenderdine talks about some of the problems the Chinese face and have encountered such as the lack of experience in dealing with international projects for officials on the provincial level; the fear of Chinese economic dominance; and ideological differences in government systems across the Central Asian countries where China intends to realise their intention for One Belt, One Road connectivity.
Many scholars take this complex phenomenon of socio-political inequity and unequal sharing of the many rewards of development as a main reason for unrest. The disparity is in part expressed by extreme wealth for some—Han, Uyghur and Tibetan alike but economic reliance on the state for many others. Most pernicious is perhaps the unequal distribution (perceived and real) of wealth along ethnic lines, especially in the Tibetan and Uyghur communities but also in the larger society. See Cao et al, Clarke, Crowe, Finley, Han, Lyons, Millard and Roberts for individual accounts. For an alternative understanding of politics rather than economics as a primary cause of unrest, see Andres Velasco, “Populism Is Rooted in Politics, not Economics.”
The transfer of Han Chinese is not unique to Tibet. This same strategy is applied to Xinjiang and Hong Kong. For the latter, a daily quota of 150 mainland Chinese are allowed to enter the previous British Crown Colony. See for example https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1088378/hongkongers-want-fewer-mainland-immigrants
. This movement of people is not unlike the historical migration of the Han population from northern China to the south during periods of instability from Central and North Asian invasions.
) writes from 1999–2000 the Taliban consolidated power in Afghanistan and there was “intensification of the insurgency of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Ferghana Valley” to the extent that the PRC was able to persuade the Central Asian countries to act against terrorism.
A PRC government organization represented by the five state-sanctioned religions at an international conference of religions is unlikely, at least to my mind, to garner much trust or support. The informal relationships between the various religions and the CCRP would be fascinating to study.
Han writes that there were two bus bombings in Urumqi on 5 February 1992; several explosions in 1993 from February to September in Yining (Ghulja in Uyghur), Urumqi, Kashgar and several other cities. After the 1996 S5 agreement to interstate cooperation against terrorism and separatism, violence continued. On 27 February 1997 bombs exploded on three buses in Urumqi, coinciding with a huge protest in Yining during which “rioters torched vehicles and attacked police and (Han) Chinese residents; their banners and slogans included calls for Uighur equality and independence as well as religious sentiments.” Han attributes this violence to “strident repression” allowing “Uighur grievances and discontent” to simmer and grow.
This claim is patently false and offers a good reason for western readers to dismiss offhand PRC publications as propaganda without taking more seriously the stated aspirations and ideals. Though there may not have been religious wars on the scale witnessed in Europe and the Middle East, there have certainly been disagreements, “disputes,” conflicts and even persecution of Buddhism, Daoism, individual Confucians and foreign enclaves of Muslim traders or Christian missionaries. See endnote 48 for a somewhat more nuanced or “reasonable” reading of this claim of “harmony.” The 2018 White Paper on China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief on 3 April changes the wording to “have rarely been seen,” signalling a new sensitivity to issues around religion.
Here are the stated goals of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: “The SCO’s main goals are as follows: strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.” See http://eng.sectsco.org/about_sco/
. India and Pakistan became members in 2017 bringing to eight the member states alongside Russia, the PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
Clarke writes that in 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that Uyghurs would not be repatriated to China from Guantanamo. Further, a Washington DC circuit judge ruled that the remaining men should be freed and resettled in the U.S. However, this did not happen; instead the men were settled in various countries like Albania and Bermuda and at least one remained stateless. See Henriquez
) on the Guantanamo 22: a story of how a group of non-combatant Uyghur men were “captured” then sold as terrorists by the Pakistanis to the Americans, imprisoned in Guantanamo and eventually proven innocent.
John Wang, writing about the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) on the other hand, states that 500 Chinese Uyghurs were captured in Afghanistan and no mention is made about the non-combatants. According to Wang, ETIM was intent on creating an Islamic state and was responsible for more than 200 terrorist incidents in Xinjiang from 1992 to 2003. The organization is described as being a part of an international network including the East Liberation Organization, East Turkistan International Committee, United Committee of Uyghurs’ Organizations (Central Asia and Xinjiang) Central Asian Uyghur Hezbollah in Kazakhstan, Turkistan Party (Pakistan), Eastern Turkistan Islamic Resistance Movement (Turkey) and Eastern Turkistan Youth Leagues and other smaller groups like the Shock Brigade of the Islamic Reformist Party.
See the report for a brief comparison of the 1994 and 2005 regulations.
This principle is based on a western historical understanding of religion defined in monotheistic terms. Political power has more often than not managed or controlled religion through dynastic China; and secularism, in the form of the government of the Ru or Confucians, has a long history. The quagmire of what constitutes religion and the place it should occupy in society is too complex to handle here. Suffice it to say that American interests often fail to consider the history of both Islam and Christianity in Chinese history and the rather unattractive model of western religious institutions and history as witnessed in the numerous intra- and inter-religious wars and the persistent persecution of the Jews.
If the PRC were to examine any one of the following in the U.S.—the inequity in wealth distribution and tax laws, relentless quotidian violence and gun laws or the persistent prejudice against religious and ethnic minorities and equity laws in the U.S.—and then try to lecture the Americans about these issues and further try to influence outcomes in the same way that Chinese religious affairs are targeted in the U.S., I wager there would be a huge outcry in the West against such incursions.
American policies and consequent actions do little to assuage a deep sense of insecurity in the PRC and consequently its perceived need to protect itself. The urgent charge to defend the country comes from a long history of being conquered and dominated by intruders: the most recent and obvious include the Manchus, Japanese, Europeans and Americans. This profound sense of anxiety is perhaps most evident in the lyrics of the national anthem translated below:
Arise, we who refuse to be slaves;
Let us with our flesh and blood
Build our new Great Wall!
When the Chinese people arrive at the most perilous time,
Each and every one will be compelled to make a final roar.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Millions of us with one heart,
Braving the enemy’s gunfire, advance!
Braving the enemy’s gunfire, advance!
Advance! Advance! Advance! Forward.
This would include groups like Falungong (Discipline of the Dharma Wheel) that blend different religious beliefs and practices together and small ecumenical Christian groups.
See especially Human Rights in China: “China’s New Regulations on Religious Affairs: A Paradigm Shift?” available through a link at the end of the transcript (Rubio and Smith 2005a
See comment for endnote xxix. The report offers a statistical list of believers based on outdated PRC data: 100 million Buddhist, 20 million Muslims, 5 million Catholics (or closer to 10 million according to the Vatican), 16 million Protestants (or 20 million by the count of church officials or academics place the number between 30 to 100 million). While there are no official estimates of Daoists (Taoists) and practitioners of traditional folk religions, academics estimate several hundred thousand for Daoists and hundreds of millions of practitioners of traditional folk religions (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2005
). These numbers have been updated to 200 million believers in the 2018 White Paper on China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief: 20 million remains constant for Muslims, an increase from 5 to 6 million for Catholics and more than double from 16 to 38 million Protestants. Acknowledging syncretic practices, no numbers are given for Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism) because “it is difficult to accurately estimate their numbers as there are no set registration procedures which ordinary believers must follow as part of their religion” (IOSC 2018
See also (Cao et al. 2018
). The authors believe that Xinjiang “currently poses the most imminent threat to the internal security … as the conflict becomes linked with jihadist groups in other security hotspots, like Pakistan and Syria.” Their summary of possible causal factors in the continuing ethnic violence include: “economic inequality,” “legacy of suppression of local cultural and religious life,” “political repression and underrepresentation of ethnic minority groups in provincial affairs and political life,” “excessive use of force by government agents,” “growing Islamist sentiment … fuelled by radical Muslim movements in the neighboring Central Asian republics and in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
First, Han writes that political repression was used against both groups in the initial 1996 “Strike Hard” campaign; and after 9/11, a home-grown anti-terrorism program targeted and linked indiscriminately Uyghur pro-independence movements and organizations with the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Second, he notes that economic grievances were an unintended byproduct of the implementation of the West Development Strategy, whose goal is ironically to bring prosperity to the western border region. The culprits are the lack of broad local indigenous participation and control over the two region’s resources. For example, the control of oil development in Xinjiang by the central government, Han managers and workers with limited Uyghur involvement and the same unequal sharing of responsibilities and wealth in infrastructure projects like the Tibet-Qinghai Railway in the TAR, have been and continue to be interpreted both as favouritism for the Han and disregard for local interests and the displacement of traditional nomadic cultures.
Third, Han points out, cultural grievances abound. In the Tibetan case, the state tried to displace the Dalai Lama, regulate the selection of the Panchen Lama and mandate the monks to study four textbooks from the series Explanations and Proclamations for the Propagation of Patriotic Education in Monasteries Throughout the TAR (Crowe 2013
). In Xinjiang, there has been a chipping away at Uyghur-language education and since March 2004: the state declared that “all science subjects should gradually be taught in Mandarin-Chinese,” as with all other subjects; and because of this, Uyghur school teachers must pass a Chinese proficiency test. Similar pressure against indigenous spoken languages apply to Han “dialects” too. Shanghainese, for instance, is now taught in private schools because Putonghua has displaced it even in most home. The Han “advantage” is that a common written Chinese language though continually evolving, has been more or less standardized for over 2000 years.
Here is the thorny issue of Han “prejudice” against minorities. In practice, Chinese informants tell me that Han students from rural areas with inadequate number of middle and high schools and the strongest students from all elementary schools are routinely sent away to board at schools that are respectively too far for a daily commute or the highest performing schools in the country. More pointedly, even in charges of genocide both by Kadeer and the Dalai Lama (Crowe 2013
), it is unfortunately true too that the Han can level the same charges against the state for the horrendous decade of the Cultural Revolution, as the 1997 White Paper admits. Also important is a recognition that the Han have themselves departed radically from their multiple traditional cultures in a bid to both “catch up” to and to protect the nation from the West. When the element of comparable treatment—however terrible and the logic of material advance and strategic defence are considered, the actions of the state might be interpreted within an instrumental logic as stated by the CPC itself: the goals of a broad prosperity and peace for the majority, if not all. That the country has not been seized by protests may be a testament to the majority’s acceptance of the government’s policies and actions.
The Jasmine Revolution was ignited in December 2010 when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire in protest against the arbitrary seizing of his vegetable stand and the revolution he started unseated the country’s president. As the anti-government protests spread across much of the North African and Middle Eastern Islamic countries in west Asia, it was given the moniker “Arab Spring.”
Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate an English translation of the Opinions on Encouraging and Regulating Religious Circles’ Participation in Public Welfare Charitable Activities. The translation here is mine.
This area is bounded by Siberia to the north; Tibet, India, Afghanistan and Iran to the south; the Gobi Desert to the east; and the Caspian Sea to the west. Xinjiang as East Turkestan denotes both its geographic location—that is, “east” of West Turkestan (including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) and its ethnic kinship with Central Asia. The network of organizations that share common purpose include the East Liberation Organization, East Turkistan International Committee, United Committee of Uyghurs’ Organizations (for Central Asia and Xinjiang), Central Asian Uyghur Hezbollah in Kazakhstan, Turkistan Party in Pakistan, Eastern Turkistan Islamic Resistance Movement in Turkey, the Eastern Turkistan Youth League based in Switzerland and smaller groups like East Turkistan Islamic Party, East Turkistan Opposition Party, Shock Brigade of the Islamic Reformist Party, East Turkistan Party of Allah and the Uyghur Liberation Organization.
The National People’s Congress Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) website for the China Committee on Religion and Peace, 1994, uses the term “Aliens” showing American influence but “Foreigners” is used in the 2010 amendment.
It is impossible to say what was in the minds of the authors of the White Paper but such egregious historical inaccuracies may originate from an uncritical reading of documents such as Carsun Chang’s “A Manifesto for a Re-appraisal of Sinology and Reconstruction of Chinese Culture.” (Chang et al. 2000
) Under the section “What the West Can Learn from Eastern Thought,” Chang writes that for the East (here the PRC) “‘the whole world is like one family.’ Though there are many nations now, mankind will eventually become one and undivided. Chinese thought has emphasized this attitude.” Then under “What We Expect from World Thought,” Chang writes: “The expansion of Western civilization has brought the peoples into close contact and unfortunately has also produced much friction…In order to achieve coexistence of the various cultures and world peace, one must first, through a transcendental feeling that goes beyond philosophical and scientific research, attain an attitude of respect and sympathy toward other cultures and thereby acquire genuine compassion and commiseration toward mankind in adversity …”
Whether such articles are an attempt to balance and or counter western analyses and commentary is impossible to determine. The English edition of the Global Times was launched in 2009, sixteen years after the Chinese edition, Huanqiu. It is owned by the People’s Daily and covers international issues primarily from the government’s perspective. While this poses the question of credibility, Yang’s article does offer an official explanation for the need for a revision.
It is unclear what Liu means by “attack.” Drawing from personal experience, I would guess that Liu is referring less to physical abuse and more to verbal attacks, likely including charges of superstition against Buddhists and Daoists, overzealous attempts at conversion and highly animated discussions about Christian doctrine.
One wonders if South Korea is a proxy for the U.S.
In January 2014, Buddhists gathered and were counselled to teach “the correct outlook on life and (oppose) extremist behaviours such as self-immolation or the incitement of others to do so.” In May of the same year, Muslims convened and were steered towards condemnation of “violent terrorist activities” along with the release of a proposal “Keep to the Middle Path and Steer Clear of Extremism.” Then in July 2016, the China Religious Culture Communication Association and the China Islamic Association held an International Seminar on the Islamic Middle Path in Urumqi, “advocating the role of the Middle Path in opposing extremism.” These efforts recall both the Buddhist notion of emptiness and the Confucian ideal of zhongyong
or the “mean,” evidence of sinicization or the implementation of “Chinese characteristics.” (See also Tibetans: Communist China’s Unlikely Catholic Connection 2015
This website for China National Radio (Yang Guang Wang) is in Chinese and the translation here is mine.