Islam, Local Elites, and China’s Missteps in Integrating the Uyghur Nation

Stephen, E., Çarmikli, E. Ö., & Kader, M. U. (2009). Islam, Local Elites, and China’s Missteps in Integrating the Uyghur Nation. Journal of Central Asian & Caucasian Studies4(7). Link



The following paper examines China’s religious and nationality policies aimed at establishing and maintaining political and social control over the Uyghur population of Xinjiang and finds China’s policies to be contradictory and self-defeating. The author suggests that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has historically embraced a nationality policy towards Xinjiang aimed at promoting the development of a Uyghur sense of national identity, in which Islam and the Uyghur language have become central unifying characteristics, and fostered class of Uyghur elites loyal to the Chinese state to develop and control a unified Uyghur nation. These attempts, however, have been undermined by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) historical aversion to religion and its refusal to allow Uyghur cadres to openly practice Islam, which has isolated them from the wider Uyghur community and contributed to the erosion of their perceived Uyghur identity. This situation has limited the ability of Uyghur cadres to act as intermediaries between the Chinese state and the Uyghur population, undermining the Chinese government’s attempts to integrate Uyghurs into the PRC and challenge the opular appeal of Uyghur separatism.


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