As Secretary General of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), one of the main pillars of my work – since organizing student protests against discrimination in Urumqi in the 1980s until today – has been laying bare the conditions the Uyghur population contend with in modern China.
It is for this reason that I must put to rest many of the accusations and personal attacks against my character here. As an activist, it is hard enough advocating on behalf of a group largely ignored by the international community, and harder still when I must counter patently false claims that nearly always originate from the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
With this in mind, Mr. Giancarlo Elia Valori, an Italian economist and businessman, recently published two articles on this online news platform. The article published November 4th, “The strategic issue of the Uyghur political-military movement”, and an additional article published December 2nd, “Additional considerations on the Uyghur issue”, especially drew our concerns. These two articles not only partially and unrealistically depict the China-Uyghur relationship and Uyghur human rights activities, but has also provided false information about me, my personality and other members of the WUC.
The WUC first responded on Modern Diplomacy to Mr. Valori’s first article and acknowledged the misinformation, but Valori did not take into account our response and conversely, he continued to emphasize his false claims. Had Mr. Valori reached out personally for my own comment on these claims, it would have been appreciated, but no such communication took place. I regrettably, then, find it necessary to compose a response to these claims once again, many of which are directed squarely at my person.
Valori begins by contending that, “Xinjiang is the leverage for China’s future strategic destabilization”, which immediately points to his intention of unfairly defaming the Uyghur cause. From my perspective, an academic should deliver facts, rely on evidence, maintain professional discipline, and make conclusions that depend on reliable, accurate information within a meaningful context – something Valori fails to do throughout.
Although I find it most useful to directly confront many of the claims made in the article about myself and the Uyghur cause, I believe it necessary to provide some background on Valori to begin with.
Valori has some academic background in Peking University, Hebrew University and Yeshiva University. He is now an honorary president of Huawei Italy and economic adviser of the Chinese giant HNA Group. These two companies act in close cooperation with the Chinese government on projects and have a direct relationship with the current Chinese administration. It is no small leap to suggest that Valori may be attempting to speak for the government to which he has worked in indirect cooperation with and has vested economic interests.
For many years, academics that have worked at well know universities in China, once regarded as honored guests, are now forbidden from entering the country. For example, Dr. Dru Glandey from the University of Hawaii, Dr. Sean Roberts of Georgetown, Dr. Yitzhak Schicor from the University of Haifa and Dr. Elliot Sperling from Indiana University cannot enter the country of which they have studied for decades because of their sincere attempts at understanding the situation there.
If we analyse details of the article, many tend to follow a similar pattern that closely follow what has been put forward solely by the Chinese government and never verified by any third party. It is therefore necessary to personally address these claims since they have been floated elsewhere in the past.
Valori first states in his article that, “We cannot understand why the Federal Republic of Germany hosts [the WUC].” The author, then, seems to expect that the German government has not done its due diligence in ensuring that our organization should be able to function within its borders. This, of course, could be nothing further from the truth considering the WUC has worked closely with Germany for more than a decade – a relationship that functions on the basis of transparency and mutual respect. It is worth noting that the Chinese government has gone to great lengths in order to discredit our organization throughout the same decade.
Since our founding in 2004, we have worked within the German political and legal system for the purpose of promoting democracy, human rights and self-determination for the Uyghur people through peaceful and democratic means. All activities of the WUC are made known to the public and as a registered association in Germany, is subject to government oversight.
Valori then writes that, “The WUC is now led by a German citizen, Dolkun Isa, a Uyghur resident in Aksu, in the Keping district of Xinjiang, even though we do not know whether this is still the case”. To suggest that the public is unaware of my current residence is nonsensical considering that I have permanently lived in Germany since 1996 and am a German citizen.
He then continues by claiming that, “[…] He is also vice-President and the founder of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), founded in Istanbul in 1996.” This false claim has been repeated ad nauseam by the Chinese government alone, and like many others, not a shred of evidence has ever been uncovered to support it over the years.
Regarding the ETLO, the first time I heard the name was through Chinese state-controlled media in 2003. The author may have confused this piece of information with the fact that I was elected as president of the World Uyghur Youth Congress in 1996 instead.
The author then goes on stating that I had financed the travel of two militants to participate in training camps in Nepal – a further claim also made by the Chinese government. Once again, no evidence is offered in support. In fact, in the years that the author insists I made financial contributions to militants, I was studying and working part time in Germany simply to support my young family. It may be worth reminding the author that delivering pizza until midnight is not exactly sufficient to open a training camp or purchase one-way tickets to Nepal.
Moreover, the author takes those unsubstantiated claims a step further and argues that I have personally pressured European governments, including Germany, to “accept as refugees ETLO militants or Uyghurs who are probably jihadist militants undercover.” Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about immigration policy would recognize the ridiculousness of this claim – an explanation which warrants no attention here.
The author makes additional claims that I attended meetings in Paris and Milan at the beginning of November. I was, however, not in either city at the time, but working in Geneva to attend a meeting at the UN. Further, I have not travelled to Milan yet in my life, but would be willing should the author extend an invitation to his home country. These latter mistruths are even more difficult to comprehend considering their recentness.
Notwithstanding the author’s claims, ethnic discrimination, a dearth of economic opportunities, and constant pressures on cultural expression including religious practice and language have all contributed to strong resentment and unfortunate violence in some cases in East Turkestan. The author, regrettably, does not dare mention this throughout his purported exposé on myself and the WUC.
For many years, the international community has published countless reports from diverse sources about some of these policies, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among them. Valori fails to mention any of this information in his article, which surprised me, considering his clear, but perhaps misplaced, interest in the issue.
To sum up, we can plainly see that Mr. Valori’s purpose here has not been sincere. His own economic interests may have been put ahead of truth and objectivity. It is for this reason that he has forgotten that as an intellectual, he has sacrificed his own credibility.
Since Xi Jinping took power in 2013, not only have the human rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans been on the decline, but pressure on the Chinese people has also steeply increased. Some are arguing that under Xi, they are experiencing a “Second Cultural Revolution.”
Hundreds of human rights activists, lawyers and journalists have been shut down and imprisoned by the state. Anyone interested in the genuine rights claims of millions should first speak and write honestly about the situation, rather than spending time reinforcing falsehoods.
Finally, I urge the international community, including Mr. Valori, to pay closer attention to the human rights situation facing the Uyghur population in East Turkestan today. Besides the WUC, there are many other reputable organizations doing their part to uncover persistent and intolerable abuses that will only be addressed through the pursuit of greater transparency.
Taiwan: The First and Oldest ‘Thorn’ between China and the West
Over three hundred and fifty years ago, when the West lost its first war with China over Taiwan, the technological level between the two sides was fairly even. But the Dutch, then the most dynamic colonial power, paid a heavy price for misbelieving “China might have invented gunpowder but we possess superior guns.” Today, the world is witnessing China’s rapid rise and the US is in decline. The question is, will Taiwan once again bust the Western (aka US) superiority myth?
In 1662, the West fought its first war with China and lost. The Sino-Dutch War, as it is called now, was fought when a Chinese admiral dared the Dutch East India Company to give up its little under half century ‘rule’ over Taiwan. The defeat resulted in the island falling under Chinese rule for the first time in history. It is not so important to know it was China’s first great victory over Europe’s most dynamic colonial power. In the words of the Dutch historian, Tonio Andrade, what is more significant is the first Chinese victory over the West broke the myth of Western superiority as it had been achieved on the basis of “Chinese advantage in strategic and tactical culture.” (Emphasis added) The Chinese victory also broke another myth which the Western historians held on to until as recently as in 1970s, i.e., the Chinese might have invented the gunpowder but didn’t know how to use it as weapon, Andrade, the author went on to add.
Fast forward to the present-day tensions in the Taiwan Strait. As China embarked on the path of Reform and Opening-up, relations between Beijing and Taipei too started improving in the early 1980s. Seen as a remarkable political development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in 45 years, the KMT government in Taipei declared in 1991 “an end to the war with the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.” However, since the election of Chen Shui-bian as president in 2000, political headwinds in Taiwan have been moving in the opposite direction to Beijing. Alarmed by Chen’s backing of demands for Taiwan’s independence, Beijing was quick to pass anti-secession law a year after Chen was reelected in 2004.
In 2016, following Donald Trump’s victory in US and the victory of Ms. Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president respectively, Beijing’s fear of Taiwan declaring itself an independent country has reached unprecedented levels. In fact, Beijing is feeling seriously threatened by the US role in creating conditions for Taiwan to declare independence. Immediately upon assuming office, President Trump held telephone conversation with the Taiwan president – something which no other US had done in the preceding forty years. This was the beginning of a new trend in US-China relations and which grossly undermined the “One China” policy.
During the past decade (between 2007 and 2019), the US warships made over one hundred trips through the Taiwan Strait. No wonder Beijing has been describing Taiwan as “the most important sensitive issue in Sino-US relations.” According to New Strait Times, in 2020, the year of Coronavirus pandemic, the cross-strait faced its worst crisis in the past two decades. Without denying that the PLA fighter planes crossed maritime border with Taiwan, China however dismissed Taipei’s claims of “incursions” by the mainland. Beijing even maintained its warplanes, bombers and anti-submarine aircrafts “conducted normal exercises on September 18 and 19 respectively and that the median line never existed.”
However, according to experts, the median line is the unofficial airspace boundary between Taiwan and China, and was demarcated by US Air Force General Benjamin Davis Jr. in 1955, before the US pressured both sides to enter into a tacit agreement not to cross it. Media reports originating from Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore claimed the forty or more PLA incursions last October, were prompted by two US top officials visiting Taipei during August-September period last year. “U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for the second visit by a high-level American official in two months. The first visit was by the US Health Secretary Alex Azar in August 2020.” The visits by Krach and Azar respectively were first highest-level US Cabinet visits to Taiwan – in gross violation of the US commitments to China – since the US switched formal relations from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979.
This year, especially within hours following President entered the White House, the new US administration lost no time in announcing “our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid.” Two days earlier, the State Department invited and officially received Taiwan’s unofficial ambassador in Washington to Biden’s inauguration – the first envoy from the island present at a presidential swearing-in since 1979. Both the statement of commitment to Taiwan and the presence of Taiwanese envoy at the presidential inauguration respectively were interpreted by strategic affairs experts in Washington and Beijing as moves to provoke China towards making a strategic mistake leading to military conflict.
Further, Taiwan has returned as “thorniest” issue in US-China relations under President Biden – since perhaps it is easier to violate “One China” policy than to either rally European allies against China or to announce a decisive Washington position toward Beijing. As President Biden gears up to embark on his maiden in-person visit to shake hands or bump elbows with his European allies, the US administration has further escalated tensions over Taiwan. Last Sunday, a bipartisan contingent of three US Senators – Tammy Duckworth and Christopher Coons, both Democrats, and Dan Sullivan, a Republican – briefly visited Taiwan on a US military aircraft. According to media reports, the Chinese Defense Ministry described the visit as “extremely vile provocation.” Reuters citing Chinese sources said China believes that “Biden administration is challenging one-China principle and trying to achieve the so-called goal of ‘using Taiwan to control’ China.”
Experts in Beijing point out, Biden is accelerating the pitch of what started under Obama and was intensified by Trump, i.e., to use “the US economic and military might to pressure Beijing and force it to accept US hegemony in the region.” Elsewhere, first the joint statement following Biden-Suga summit in April and then in late May the statement released after the summit meeting between European leaders and Japan’s Prime Minister Suga, are being interpreted as “belligerent stances towards Beijing initiated and encouraged by President Biden.” The EU-Japan post-summit statement called for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Similar to several moves initiated by Trump and Biden challenging one-China policy, the EU-Suga joint statement too is the first time that Taiwan has been included in such a statement.
A scholar in Tianjin, who writes a column for ftchinese.com, the daily online Mandarin version of the Financial Times, thinks Biden has intensified the so-called Thucydides trap. In a recent article, he has actually put forward a solution for Beijing to not only avoid falling into the trap, but also steer clear of having to choose between using force to reunify with Taiwan and being forced into military conflict with the US by striking first. To sum up Li Yongning’s rather long thesis, he prescribes that China fight out Thucydides trap with economic growth and people’s prosperity. To prove his point, Li flashes the example of de-escalation of hostility between China and Japan. Remember until a few years ago, heightened tensions between the two over Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands. Of late, especially since the middle of Xi Jinping’s first five year tenure, belligerent provocations between Beijing and Tokyo have almost ceased.
How did China under Xi achieve this? According to Li, Xi’s strategy to strike peace and tranquility with Japan was simple and practical. “China’s GDP exceeded Japan’s in 2010 and by 2019 it became 2.8 times more than Japan’s, which put an end to Sino-Japan competitiveness. Likewise, once China achieves one and a half times or twice bigger GDP of the USA, the China-US competitiveness will be rendered as joke,” Li contended. In 2017, in PPP terms China had already exceeded the US economy. Li cited a Brookings Institution report which predicted China’s GDP will cross America’s in 2028. “Once China reaches there, higher GDP will act as shock absorber for all Sino-US conflicts,” Li wrote.
China’s know-how on becoming the oldest society in the world
For decades, China had a “one-child policy” that permitted families to have only one child. A few years ago, this restriction was changed to a “two-child policy”, and now the Chinese government has allowed the Chinese people to give birth to three children.
The main reason for this is the concerningly low birth rate and the impending demographic crisis. China is still the country with the largest population (1.41 billion), but UN forecasts indicate that India will soon surpass it, since India has a much higher birth rate.
Statistics show that last year approximately 12 million babies were born in China, which is the lowest birth rate China has had in many years. For instance, in 2016 when the “two-child policy” was implemented, the number of newborns reached 18 million.
Chinese demographers argue that it will be difficult for China to boost birth rate in the near future because the number of women in the reproductive age is decreasing. This was caused by China’s “one-child policy” that was in force from 1979 to 2015.
Chinese families could give birth only to one child, and many families chose to “spend” this quota on a boy, since in China boys have traditionally been valued more than girls. If a family were told they were expecting a girl, the mother would often decide to have an abortion.
This caused an unexpected outcome – the number of men exceeded the number of women. Although it was not allowed to find out the sex of the baby during pregnancy, there were several ways to do so which lead to numerous late abortions. That is why currently there is a disproportion between the number of men and women in the Chinese society.
As a result, modern China is overproducing men and is in a grave lack of women. Statistics indicate that there are 35 million more men than women – leaving many men with no chances of finding a spouse.
Moreover, the beliefs and values of the Chinese people have also changed over the years, i.e. many women wish to pursue a career first and only then to establish a family. The recent years have seen a rapid decline in marriages in China.
These trends are particularly prevalent in Chinese cities, leading demographers to predict that the gap between the situation in cities and the situation in the countryside will only widen in the future – people in the countryside still prefer larger families, while city dwellers have a hard time giving birth to a single child.
“Now, we are allowed to have three children. The problem, however, is that I don’t even want one child,” a user of the Chinese social media network Weibo wrote in his account.
Many are asking the question – will the “three-child policy” change anything if the “two-child policy” wasn’t able to do so? That’s why people are happy about the government’s decision to provide other incentives and motivations in this regard.
For example, education costs – which were twice as high in two-children families – will be cut, people will see additional support on tax and housing issues and working women will be granted more rights. In addition, the government also has plans to educate young Chinese people on the issues of marriage and love – now, state propaganda will not only deal with shaming the West, but also teach people how to love correctly and “make children”.
This leads to believe that the Chinese government has taken quite a peculiar approach to identifying mistakes in their previous policies, but it isn’t truly admitting these mistakes – as is the case in all authoritarian regimes. If the previous plan fails, simply improve it a bit and relaunch it anew.
The “one-child policy” has led to one-and-a-half generation where there are six people from the non-working population for each person in the working population, i.e. the person’s parents and two sets of grandparents. This is the Chinese Communist Party’s know-how.
Global Health & Health Silk Road: The Other Side Of Picture
The new world order is a twisted maze of political, economic and cultural ambitions. China’s obscure political economy presents an unparalleled challenge to those unfamiliar with the cultural and historical undercurrents driving Beijing’s global movements. Following the onset of the CoVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the global society observed one of the hasty economic convulsion since World War II. Nearly all nation states sealed their borders and placed global supply chain and trade in limbo as the spread of the virus continued unabated. As Beijing’s flagship investment project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was similarly disrupted. The BRI initiative has formed the cornerstone of President Xi’s approach to strategic diplomacy and challenged the traditional concept of development. Key rhetoric underlying the initiative, such as “the community of common destiny for mankind”.
Nevertheless, there is a “Digital Silk Road”, and “Space Silk Road”, so it should come as no bombshell that China is also building a “Health Silk Road”. China’s HSR first appeared in a speech given by President Xi in 2016. At the first BRI Forum 2017, a Beijing Communique of Belt and Road Health Cooperation and Health Silk Road was signed by China, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, OECD, GAVI and other participating countries. Since then, China made a significant move towards the consolidation of its role as a major player in global health. Similarly, it is no secret that China is making a boost for global health leadership during CoVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic spread across the world, China sought to provide aid packages and medical assistance to partner states within the BRI under the name of “Health Silk Road”. The ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic is not only going to fundamentally transform the global politics, but also the foreign policy priorities of many countries. Since the outbreak, the CoVID-19 pandemic has exposed the significant weakness of public health infrastructure of developed and developing countries alike.
There is widespread understanding among scientists, heritage and history writers that one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, black death, originated in China and spread along the old silk road to central Asia, northern India and Europe. It exhibited a blueprint that is as old as human history, – when people and goods travel, so do viruses and bacteria. Today, there is some speculation about whether CoVID-19 circulated along the “new silk road”, and it has been criticized that the BRI contributed to the spread of the virus. These kinds of debates are pointless because, even without modern means of transport like trains, cargo-ships, and planes, the plague can reach the most remote places in the world and kill a large portion of the global population. Highly criticized for covering up and not preventing the virus from turning into a global pandemic, China is making an efforts to reinstate its persona as a symbol of support, strength and leadership. Opponents have also alleged that Beijing rationalized itself as a global health champion at a time when Washington had abdicated its responsibilities.
Regardless of misgivings, China has been promoting the institutionalization of health cooperation within HSR framework by organizing and sponsoring a number of health-themed forums. For example, the Silk Road Health Forum, China-Central and Eastern European Countries Health Ministers Forum, China-ASEAN Health Forum, and the China-Arab States Health Forum. Beijing also initiated a series of supportive programs on disease control and prevention in alliance with its neighbors in Central Asia. All these efforts were made as part of China’s broader global health diplomacy and leadership before the CoVID-19 pandemic hit the world. With the spread of CoVID-19 across the world, the Chinese government extended support to countries from East Asia to Europe. It has given 20 million dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) for assisting developing countries in coping with the pandemic, build up their epidemic-prevention abilities, and building a stronger public health system. China also handed out concessionary loans and played a coordinating role in multilaterals like G-20, ASEAN, the SCO and the African Union, established itself in a leadership position by promptly responding to the crises and catering to the needs of the countries all over.
In contrast with the advance economics, what China has contributed to the global pandemic combat becomes even more admirable. Statistics show that China has provided considerable amount of medical assistance to the rest of world, including approximately 70.6 billion face masks, 225 million test kits, 115 million pairs of goggles, 340 million protective suits, 96,700 ventilators, and 40.29 million infrared thermometers to 200 countries and regions in 2020. China’s medical professionals have also played a vital role in the global pandemic battle by contributing their knowledge and experience on the frontlines in many virus-impacted countries. China has shared medical best practices with a multitude of international organizations, including the ASEAN, EU, African Union, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Caribbean, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as well as some of the hardest-hit countries such as South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States, and Germany.
Concisely, with all these notable endeavors and substantial contributions, is it still premature to presume that China has taken over the leadership role in terms of global health? China’s engagement in global health, especially during CoVID-19, has positioned itself as a johnny on the spot in global health leadership. The HSR undoubtedly will allow China to re-establish its national repute on the international stage, in particular by contrasting it with the inelegant responses of the United States and other European nations. China’s global aspirations, efforts to present itself as a global health leader should not be considered as surprise. It is still too early to tell the magnitude to which China’s global health sprint will transform its international profile, but there is no reason to be cynical that it will be revolutionary. As an old Chinese saying goes, it takes a good blacksmith to make good steel.
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