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East Asia

The strategic issue of the Uyghur political-military movement

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he geopolitical goals of the Uyghur political movement in Europe and in the many areas in which it has established itself (Latin America, Europe, Australia, United States) are basically the following:

1) to “cover up” and distort the intelligence signals of the Chinese anti-jihadist network; 2) to increasingly isolate and separate the People’s Republic of China from the Western world; 3) to raise funds for the Uyghur internal and external terrorism in Xinjiang and, finally, 4) to create the media coverage, in the West, for a future Islamist guerrilla warfare in the Chinese territory, thus creating positive climate and feelings – as freedom fighters – for the Uyghur jihadists operating in China.

The headquarters of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) are located in Munich – at the core of each movement in Europe and outside it – and the organisation is led by Dolkun Isa as Secretary.

At the beginning of October 2016 he organized the demonstrations of local Uyghurs and Western anti-China activists in the United States (in Washington and in California) and later in the Netherlands – and obviously also in Munich.

Dolkun Isa is an organizer and a liaison between the WUC in Munich and Western politicians, journalists and activists.

The world Uyghur network operates more than we may think in the soft power sphere, with a view to countering China and creating a negative climate against it among the European ruling classes.

Interpol has a long negative report on Dolkun Isa in its records; he was imprisoned in South Korea in 2009 and could not obtain the visa to enter India in 2016.

There is even speculation that Dolkun Isa is trying to create a covert association of the World Uyghur Congress for “human rights”, based in Europe, and with non-Islamic members

The WUC President, who mostly guides Dolkun Isa himself, is Rebiya Kader, a wealthy Uyghur businesswoman who has long been living in Washington, USA.

It is worth recalling that in 1999 Rebiya Kader who, at the time, was the eighth richest woman in China and already member of China’s Parliament, was imprisoned on charges of having sold some Chinese military secrets to the United States.

Hence why is the WUC Secretary, Dolkun Isa, so often operating in Europe? First and foremost to organize a stable defamation campaign against the People’s Republic of China, with a view to successfully opposing the Chinese line in Europe.

The WUC first goal is to isolate China. The second one is to pass off China as “a terrorist State”, thus destroying its relations with the West.

This can mainly happen in the liberal-radical world, which is the most connected with US interests and the most capable of influencing both the EU Right and Left.

Hence the aim is to hit – currently and in the future – China’s interests in Europe and in the rest of the West.

In essence, WUC does not absolutely want the European countries to adhere to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

For WUC, confining China in its old terrestrial region is the premonitory sign and harbinger of a possible defeat on the ground of mass armed struggle, which could make the traditional Chinese contradictions increase and break out: urban areas / rural areas, military power / Party, CPC middle managers / executives.

Finally the WUC sections are the cover and the base for fundraising, as well as the strategic headquarters abroad for the future operations of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

ETIM is the overtly jihadist branch of the Uyghur movement, which is already hitting Chinese targets in the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) region, as happened in Kyrgyzstan on August 30, with an attack on the local Chinese Embassy.

The SCO safety belt is another of the primary targets that the Uyghurs plan to hit.

Hence WUC is an important network, in direct contact with the jihadist Uyghur “armed struggle”.

In Hamburg and in the rest of Germany, the Uyghurs are a small community, largely inside the Tibetan one and mainly integrated with the many local Turkish workers. It also welcomes Uyghur exiles who have recently staged demonstrations in Xinjiang and who can be useful in a “covert war” against the diplomatic missions of the People’s Republic of China in Europe.

The fleeing Uyghurs follow the same route as those going to swell the ranks of the “sword jihad”, who are currently over 3,000: Thailand, Indonesia and finally Pakistan. From there they go to work – via Turkey – to Germany or join the jihadist militants.

It is worth noting, however, that all the events we have analyzed show very little presence of emigrated Uyghurs, often “moved” from city to city only for advertising purposes. Conversely we find there a very wide audience of “human rights” Western militants, especially of liberal-radical tradition.

In addition to a considerable number of protesters linked to the multifarious world of the Tibetan diaspora, who are the WUC true and primary cover.

Certainly a world of mirrors which, however, implies a basically pro-US political stance for “free” Tibet and, hence also for the Uyghurs, equally “free” from the Chinese “backlash”.

While the Pentagon’s current strategic line is to encircle the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, two powers growing fast both at economic and geopolitical levels – two “anti-hegemonic” policies compared to the unipolar world wanted by the United States – it is easy to imagine how the Tibetans and the Uyghurs are perfect, for the United States, for propaganda purposes.

In fact the only officially-known funding to WUC is that of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). However, there is also the Turkish intelligence service (MIT) which directly supports – through emigration – the insurgency within Xinjiang and possibly there will also be funds from Saudi Arabia, which operates in the jihad area mainly through the Al Nusra Front in Afghanistan.

Incidentally, it is the same militant area where the ETIM jihadists end up in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Turkey, however, wants Xinjiang because it wants to implement its crazy project of Panturanic unification of all Turkmen ethnic groups under its new Sultanate.

Furthermore, the North American NED backed – with funds and trainers – the “Crimson Revolution” in Lhasa in March 2008, the “saffron revolution” in Burma in August, September and October 2007, in addition to all the other “colour revolutions” in Serbia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Iran.

Hence the National Endowment for Democracy is clearly the soft war instrument and the tool for “covert” operations most often used by the United States and its intelligence services.

It will certainly continue to operate in ”East Turkestan”, as the local Islamist militants call Xinjiang.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t – just to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Hence the enigma is solved: WUC and the other networks supporting the Uyghur movement in the world are targeted to the North American strategy designed to contain China and strategically weaken and defuse it in its near abroad.

For obvious territorial and tactical reasons, they are also designed to cause problems for the unity of purpose between China and Russia.

Hence ETIM, which is massively present in the Pakistani tribal area, raises funds for itself, but also for the local jihad in China, with the cover propaganda according to which every jihad is local.

This means that the global jihad has nothing to do with the insurgency in Xinjiang, which is very useful for “cleansing” and making the image of the Islamic revolt in China nationalistic and peaceful.

Part of the funds, however, also comes from WUC, which raises money in Europe and in Australia to back not so much the guerrilla warfare, but the Uyghur population within Xinjiang.

Nevertheless, how are these funds flowing? Through NGOs.

The foreign NGOs operating before the new Chinese law are the following: the Bai Yang Public Welfare, led by Li Le, based at the School of Pharmacy of Xinjiang, funded by the One Foundation of www.sina.com which works mainly in the field of education and training.

Another one is the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), which is the NGO of Canadian cooperatives and private credit institutions, which has funded a microcredit facility in Xinjiang to the tune of 4.8 billion dollars.

Another NGO is the Fred Hollows Foundation, an Australian organization working in the health sector – ophthalmology, in particular.

Again in Xinjiang there is also the Good Rock Foundation, a NGO based in Hong Kong taking care of Chinese orphans.

In the “Turkmen” region of the People’s Republic of China Medecins Sans Frontières Belgium operates particularly in the treatment of infectious diseases, such as AIDS and SARS.

There is also the Ninth World Foundation, which provides medical and education support to the poorest people.

The other NGOs are the Our Free Sky, OFS Volunteer Organization, which provides aid to the most vulnerable social groups; the Sunshine Voluntary Teaching, obviously dealing with education and finally the Yale-China Association for Sino-US cultural exchanges.

According to our calculations, the total amount of funds employed by the NGOs in Xinjiang between 2015 and the first half of 2016 is equal to 4.25 million US dollars.

Finally, if we consider that, in the Autonomous Region, the distribution of money – including both voluntary transfers and contributions and “bribes and kickbacks” – implies a 13.4% to the public and “covert” organisations of local Islam, the cash available to the Uyghur movement is approximately 5.2 millions.

Hence, on the one hand, WUC and its armed wing, ETIM, are functions of the global jihad, in the visible and in the invisible areas; on the other, they are primary factors of the US strategy of slow destabilization and containment of China.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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East Asia

China’s soft power and its Lunar New Year’s Culture

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Authors: Liu Hui & Humprey A. Russell*

As a common practice, China has celebrated its annual Lunar new year since 1984 when the leaders of the day decided to open mysterious country in a more confident and transparent way. So far, the lunar new year gala has become a part of Chinese cultural life and beyond. The question then arises why China or its people have been so thrilled to exhibit themselves to the world, as its economy has already impressed the world by its rapid pace and tremendous capacity.

As it is well-known, in international relations, peoples from different cultural and ethnical backgrounds need to enhance their understanding which eventually leads to mutual respect and tolerance as the key to the world peace and stability. China is well-aware of this norm. As a rising power with 1.3 billion people, it is necessary for China to introduce its culture and notion of the peaceful rise to the audiences globally. Joseph Nye, Jr., the founder of the concept of the soft power, has argued: “The currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies. During the information age, credibility is the scarcest resource.”In light of this, China has been steadily involved in cultural promotions abroad.

China is an ancient civilization but diplomatically it is a new global player in terms of its modern involvement into the world affairs, particularly in terms of reform and openness. Yet, since China has aspired to rejuvenate itself as one of the leading powers globally, it is natural for the world en bloc to assume Beijing’s intention and approach to the power transition between the rising power like itself and the ruling powers such as the United States and the G-7 club. Consider this, China has exerted all efforts to project but not propagate its image to the world. Here culture is bound to play the vital role in convincing the countries concerned that “culturally China has no the gene of being a threat to other peoples,” as Chinese President Xi has assured. The annual lunar gala is evidently a useful instrument to demonstrate Chinese people, culture and policies as well.

Culturally speaking, the Chinese New Year celebrations can be seen as follows. In a general sense, similar themes run through all the galas with the local cultural and ethnical ingredients, for instance, Chinese opera, crosstalk and acrobatics, as well as the lion-dancing or the dragon-dancing from time to time. Yes, the galas play the role of promoting the Chinese communities over the world to identify themselves with the Chinese culture which surely strengthen the cultural bonds among the Chinese, in particular the younger generations. Moreover, the dimension of the Chinese culture can be found beyond the country since its neighbors like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Malaysia, as well as Chinese communities in many other areas also perform those arts at the holiday seasons. The message here is clear that China, although it is a rising great power, has never abandoned its cultural tradition which has emphasized the harmony among the different races and ethnics.

Recently, the lunar new year celebrations across China have invited professional and amateur artists from all over the world. Those foreign guest artists and many overseas students studying in China have been able to offer their talents in either Chinese or their mother tongues. No doubt, this is a two-way to learn from each other because Chinese performers are benefited from the contacts with their counterparts globally. In terms of public diplomacy, Beijing aims to send a powerful and sincere message to the world: China can’t be in isolation from the world because it has aspired to be a great and inclusive country as well. To that end, the rise of China is not going to challenge the status quo, but will act as one of the stakeholders.

As usual, realists have difficulties and even cultural bias to accept the rhetoric from a country like China since it has been regarded by the ruling powers of the world as an ambitious, assertive and communist-ruled country with its unique culture. To that challenge, the Chinese government and the people have done a great deal of works to successfully illustrate Chinese practice of harmony at the societal level idealized by Confucius’ doctrines. This social harmony is made possible only by the realization of the Taoist ideal of harmony with nature – in this case, harmony between humans and nature. This explains why panda and many other rare animals are now viewed as new national symbol of China. Although they are unnecessarily an indispensable part of the lunar new year gala, the viewpoint is that the rise of China would not be completed at the cost of the ecological environment like many other countries did in history.

Practically speaking, the lunar new year celebrations are being conducted in a rich variety of ways such as concerts, cuisines, folk entertainments and even forums and receptions around the world. Major global commercial centers have also served to create a Chinese holiday atmosphere, adapt to the needs of Chinese tourists, attract active participation from local residents, and provide such diversities of cultural and social events. What is worth mentioning is that some Chinese-North American non-profit, non-partisan organizations are beginning to celebrate Chinese lunar gala in partnership with other local counterparts. For instance, the Chinese Inter-cultural Association based in California, recently hosted a Chinese New Year party in a Persian restaurant in partnership with a local non-profit, non-partisan organization called the Orange County Toastmaster Club, part of Toastmaster International. Also, in another Chinese New Year celebration that was open to people of all races in Pasadena, two Americans played the guitar and sang songs in fluent Chinese! Both galas were attended by people of all racial backgrounds around the world. Given this, it is fair to say that China’s soft power supported by its annual lunar new year festival is on the rise globally with a view to promoting mutual respect and friendship among the peoples of various cultural, ethnical and racial origins.

Yet, though the impressive feats are achieved, it has noted that China still has a long way to go in terms of its twin-centennial dreams. First, as a developing country with its unique culture, it is necessary for China to promote its great ancient culture abroad, but it is also imperative to avoid “introducing” China rashly into the globe. Essentially, soft power is more the ability to attract and co-opt than to use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Thereby, it is the very ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. As cross-cultural communication is a long process, Nye admitted a few years ago, in public affairs, “the best propaganda is not propaganda.”

This is the key to all the countries. In 2014,President Xi formally stated, “China should increase its soft power, give a good Chinese narrative, and better communicate its messages to the world.” In light of this, Chinese lunar new year gala surely acts as soft power to project the image of China internationally.

* Humprey A. Russell (Indonesia), PhD candidate in international affairs, SIPA, Jilin University.

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East Asia

China’s step into the maelstrom of the Middle East

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

China’s abandonment of non-interference is manifested by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and Palestine and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in China’s trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility.

This contradiction between China’s policy on the ground and its long-standing non-interventionist foreign policy principles means that Beijing often struggles to meet the expectations of Middle Eastern states. It also means that China risks tying itself up in political knots in countries such as Pakistan, which is home to the crown jewel of its Belt and Road Initiative — the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Middle Eastern autocrats have tried to embrace the Chinese model of economic liberalism coupled with tight political control. They see China’s declared principle of non-interference in the affairs of others for what it is: support for authoritarian rule. The principle of this policy is in effect the same as the decades-old US policy of opting for stability over democracy in the Middle East.

It is now a risky policy for the United States and China to engage in given the region’s post-Arab Spring history with brutal and often violent transitions. If anything, instead of having been ‘stabilised’ by US and Chinese policies, the region is still at the beginning of a transition process that could take up to a quarter of a century to resolve. There is no guarantee that autocrats will emerge as the winners.

China currently appears to have the upper hand against the United States for influence across the greater Middle East, but Chinese policies threaten to make that advantage short-term at best.

Belt and Road Initiative-related projects funded by China have proven to be a double-edged sword. Concerns are mounting in countries like Pakistan that massive Chinese investment could prove to be a debt trap similar to Sri Lanka’s experience.

Chinese back-peddling on several Pakistani infrastructure projects suggests that China is tweaking its approach to the US$50 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese rethink was sparked by political volatility caused by Pakistan’s self-serving politics and continued political violence — particularly in the Balochistan province, which is at the heart of CPEC.

China decided to redevelop its criteria for the funding of CPEC’s infrastructure projects in November 2017. This move seemingly amounted to an effort to enhance the Pakistani military’s stake in the country’s economy at a time when they were flexing their muscles in response to political volatility. The decision suggests that China is not averse to shaping the political environment of key countries in its own authoritarian mould.

Similarly, China has been willing to manipulate Pakistan against its adversaries for its own gain. China continues to shield Masoud Azhar (who is believed to have close ties to Pakistani intelligence agencies and military forces) from UN designation as a global terrorist. China does so while Pakistan cracks down on militants in response to a US suspension of aid and a UN Security Council monitoring visit.

Pakistan’s use of militants in its dispute with India over Kashmir serves China’s interest in keeping India off balance — a goal which Beijing sees as worthy despite the fact that Chinese personnel and assets have been the targets of a low-level insurgency in Balochistan. Saudi Arabia is also considering the use of Balochistan as a launching pad to destabilise Iran. By stirring ethnic unrest in Iran, Saudi Arabia will inevitably suck China into the Saudi–Iranian rivalry and sharpen its competition with the United States. Washington backs the Indian-supported port of Chabahar in Iran — a mere 70 kilometres from Gwadar.

China is discovering that it will prove impossible to avoid the pitfalls of the greater Middle East. This is despite the fact that US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seem singularly focussed on countering Iran and Islamic militants.

As it navigates the region’s numerous landmines, China is likely to find itself at odds with both the United States and Saudi Arabia. It will at least have a common interest in pursuing political stability at the expense of political change — however much this may violate its stated commitment to non-interference.

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Chinese extradition request puts crackdown on Uyghurs in the spotlight

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A Chinese demand for the extradition of 11 Uyghurs from Malaysia puts the spotlight on China’s roll-out of one of the world’s most intrusive surveillance systems, military moves to prevent Uyghur foreign fighters from returning to Xinjiang, and initial steps to export its security approach to countries like Pakistan.

The 11 were among 25 Uyghurs who escaped from a Thai detention centre in November through a hole in the wall, using blankets to climb to the ground.

The extradition request follows similar deportations of Uyghurs from Thailand and Egypt often with no due process and no immediate evidence that they were militants.

The escapees were among more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014. The Uyghurs claimed they were Turkish nationals and demanded that they be returned to Turkey. Thailand, despite international condemnation, forcibly extradited to China some 100 of the group in July 2015.

Tens of Uyghurs, who were unable to flee to Turkey in time, were detained in Egypt in July and are believed to have also been returned to China. Many of the Uyghurs were students at Al Azhar, one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning.

China, increasingly concerned that Uyghurs fighters in Syria and Iraq will seek to return to Xinjiang or establish bases across the border in Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the wake of the territorial demise of the Islamic State, has brutally cracked down on the ethnic minority in its strategic north-western province, extended its long arm to the Uyghur Diaspora, and is mulling the establishment of its first land rather than naval foreign military base.

The crackdown appears, at least for now, to put a lid on intermittent attacks in Xinjiang itself. Chinese nationals have instead been targeted in Pakistan, the $50 billion plus crown jewel in China’s Belt and Road initiative that seeks to link Eurasia to the People’s Republic through infrastructure.

The attacks are believed to have been carried out by either Baloch nationalists or militants of the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), a Uighur separatist group that has aligned itself with the Islamic State.

Various other groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have threatened to attack Chinese nationals in response to the alleged repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

ETIM militants were believed to have been responsible for the bombing in August 2015 of Bangkok’s Erawan shrine that killed 20 people as retaliation for the forced repatriation of Uighurs a month earlier.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad warned in December of possible attacks targeting “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens” in Pakistan

China’s ambassador, Yao Jing, advised the Pakistani interior ministry two months earlier that Abdul Wali, an alleged ETIM assassin, had entered the country and was likely to attack Chinese targets

China has refused to recognize ethnic aspirations of Uyghurs, a Turkic group, and approached it as a problem of Islamic militancy. Thousands of Uyghurs are believed to have joined militants in Syria, while hundreds or thousands more have sought to make their way through Southeast Asia to Turkey.

To counter ethnic and religious aspirations, China has introduced what must be the world’s most intrusive surveillance system using algorithms. Streets in Xinjiang’s cities and villages are pockmarked by cameras; police stations every 500 metres dot roads in major cities; public buildings resemble fortresses; and authorities use facial recognition and body scanners at highway checkpoints.

The government, in what has the makings of a re-education program, has opened boarding schools “for local children to spend their entire week in a Chinese-speaking environment, and then only going home to parents on the weekends,” according to China scholar David Brophy. Adult Uyghurs, who have stuck to their Turkic language, have been ordered to study Chinese at night schools.

Nightly television programs feature oath-swearing ceremonies,” in which participants pledge to root out “two-faced people,” the term used for Uyghur Communist Party members who are believed to be not fully devoted to Chinese policy.

The measures in Xinjiang go beyond an Orwellian citizen scoring system that is being introduced that scores a person’s political trustworthiness. The system would determine what benefits a citizen is entitled to, including access to credit, high speed internet service and fast-tracked visas for travel based on data garnered from social media and online shopping data as well as scanning of irises and content on mobile phones at random police checks.

Elements of the system are poised for export. A long-term Chinese plan for China’s investment in Pakistan, dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), envisioned creating a system of monitoring and surveillance in Pakistani cities to ensure law and order.

The system envisions deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”

A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media. Pakistani media would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.”

The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

The measures were designed to address the risks to CPEC that the plan identified as “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.

At the same time, China, despite official denials, is building, according to Afghan security officials, a military base for the Afghan military that would give the People’s Republic a presence in Badakhshan, the remote panhandle of Afghanistan that borders China and Tajikistan.

Chinese military personnel have reportedly been in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in north-eastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan since March last year.

The importance China attributes to protecting itself against Uyghur militancy and extending its protective shield beyond its borders was reflected in the recent appointment as its ambassador to Afghanistan, Liu Jinsong, who was raised in Xinjiang and served as a director of the Belt and Road initiative’s $15 billion Silk Road Fund.

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