The Xinjiang Panel held by Brandeis is “Nothing more than a Laughingstock”

On November 13th, Brandeis University held a panel regarding the Xinjiang issue, namely “Cultural Genocide: An Overview of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China”. The panel invited many famous anti-China scholars, including Professor James Millward, who is famous for his comments on the “Uyghurs Crisis”, and Professor Gardner Bovingdon, who I believe has many intriguing thoughts on the Uyghurs of China.

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From top left, clockwise: Lauren Hansen Restrepo, James Millward, Darren Byler, and Gardner Bovingdon speaking at a panel at APARC.

Those panelists went across all over the U.S. to distribute their critiques of how the Chinese government deals with the Uyghur-Han tension, from Georgetown to Stanford, and finally here, Brandeis.

To be honest, I felt nothing more than disappointed, after watching two hours of preposterous statements, logical fallacies, and eurocentrism. Throughout the panel, I didn’t learn anything new, I didn’t find anything that is worth one minute of discussion, and I was amused by their farcical show. I mean, really, it was like watching a Netflix show.

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Like watching a Netflix show…

Before going deeper to how amazing their show was, let’s be a little more straightforward here. After years of trying to convey my ideas to my American fellows, I realized that it’s often meaningless to say anything that they don’t want to hear. People will always choose things they want to hear and be opposed to things they don’t like. It’s really hard to let them understand China’s ideologies. Until today, I can at least conclude: it’s a waste of time to try to change a stubborn adult’s opinion.

So, I only intend to write this article for those who are still open-minded, think things differently, and appreciate cultural relativism.

For clarification, due to the time limitation and the fact that the final is approaching, I have no intention to make this article academic-oriented, which requires tons of research and evidence. Evidence, research, and statistics may be added in later articles. For this article, I want to add more personal anecdotes and some common facts.

Now, let’s begin our journey.

Professor James Millward is very smart, but smart people can be stupid sometimes. In his slides, he proposed “In southern Xinjiang, there was no free public education until 2014.”

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Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China

Unfortunately, the Compulsory Education Law, published first in 1986 then revised in 2006, 2018, has long defined the nine-year compulsory education system. I didn’t know what sources Professor Millward has used. As a person born in Xinjiang, I have never heard of any places in China that don’t offer compulsory education. If there was, please refer me to the source.

What Professor Millward condemned the Chinese government is that “CCP neglected poor south with little human capital investment.” I can see that Professor Millward is not a Professor of Economics, nor a Professor of Geography.

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The Map of Xinjiang

Solving poverty is a long process. None of the modern countries can say that they’ve successfully solved poverty. Due to the fact that it is a process, some places need to be considered first, and others will come in a sequence.

In northern Xinjiang, it’s mostly a pasturing area with very good weather conditions and precipitation. On the southern part, however, it’s an enclosed area with very little rainfall. Agricultural and industrial development is very limited here, and transportation is very costly. In addition, the population is very dense in the southern part, resulting in harder and poorer conditions.

Now, Professor Millward, if you were the government official, would you first develop the northern part and make it feedback the southern part, or are you going to first develop the southern part? Remember, transportation in the southern part was very limited years ago. You might want to build a functional railway first.

As I said, the poor condition of the South was the consequence of many reasons. Professor Millward seems to attribute the poor condition only to the indifference of the Chinese government. This is wrong.

Other critiques to Professor Millward will be brought up later.

Professor Lauren H. Restrepo’s points were very vague and were not making a lot of sense. It’s not worth your time to see the critique of that. Let’s jump to the next part.

Professor Gardner Bovingdon made many great points. I felt really sorry for him that the Zoombombing happened during his lecture. Among all the panelists, he is the most objective one.

However, apparently, Professor Bovingdon ignored another part of the story. In his argument, the Chinese government had issued several pluralism orders. Then, it raised unhappiness among the Uyghurs population because the orders weren’t really effective. Then, the government suddenly reversed its orders and turned aggressively and made the camp.

Is there something here that really doesn’t make sense?

Let’s ask three things.

First, what are the issues for people to solve poverty?

Second, what did Uyghurs react after they realized the orders weren’t really effective?

Third, did the government just suddenly start the camp when Uyghurs were unhappy?

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Credit: AFP/Getty Images

I believe Professor Bovingdon isn’t an expert on the issue of poverty. In order to solve poverty, there are so many things to consider.

Resources are definitely the biggest problem. Does the country have enough resources to provide people with the basic standards of living? Productivity is another problem. For poor areas, productivity is often very low due to environmental conditions.

The point I want to bring up here, is the laziness of people. Guess what, people are lazy. For many poverty-relief workers in China now, the biggest headache is people are not willing to work and are not willing to pay any efforts to jump out of poverty.

Many of my friends are international students. The criticism toward international students these days is mainly we take their jobs.

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Yes, international students take over many jobs in the U.S. Many people who are not benefited from globalization hate us, the Chinese student, very much. Many of them later elected President Trump four years before.

The Uyghur-Han tension is very similar to this. The question is, are Chinese international students the ones to be blamed for taking people’s jobs?

The fact that international students can take over jobs is because the costs of hiring an International student are lower than hiring an American. Simple economics. You can’t really blame someone because of this.

I don’t want to count how many discrimination incidents were toward Asians.

Uyghur-Han, the same. This point will be brought up again later in this article.

The rest of the panelists aren’t worth debating. There are more loopholes in their speech than the creatures in the sea. I admit, they are very emotional-appealing. However, after a little research and investigation will find why they are wrong.

Especially for Professor Sean Roberts, the leaks in his speech are uncountable.

Now, let’s begin our main discussion today. What is really happening in Xinjiang?

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Two-Door Phenomena

Professor Bovingdon mentions the two-door phenomena, in which Han people go through one door, and the rest of the Min Zu go through another door because they think they are different.

Oops, let’s see why it’s wrong.

First, about me. I was born in Xinjiang. I have lived there until the beginning of elementary school and I then moved to Beijing. During my elementary and middle school, I regularly traveled back to Xinjiang and talked with my friends there. All my relatives, except for my parents, currently live in Xinjiang.

Prior to 1990, as Professor Bovingdon said, it was a honeymoon for Uyghurs and Han. Since the reform and opening up, China had experienced many great changes. Many inland cities started to rise up, like Shen Zhen, Shang Hai, and Beijing.

Not everyone ate the crabs.

Xinjiang, due to its special location and difficult transportation (there wasn’t a high-speed railway yet), didn’t get as many opportunities as the inland cities.

Chinese people are usually considered one of the most industrious nations in the world. It seems that it isn’t really applicable to the Uyghurs case. Han people in Xinjiang ate the crab and rose up a lot economically. More and more Han people move to Xinjiang (See how similar it is to the Chinese International students case), more and more jobs are taken, resulting in many Uyghurs families poorer and poorer.

It’s not to say that no Uyghurs families rose up economically, just not as many as the Han people.

However, the Uyghurs population exceeds Han population in Xinjiang (again, how similar). The hatred was developed gradually.

Starting from the 21st century, there were many bombing cases in Xinjiang, directly targeted at the Han people. To be honest, the government didn’t handle that part well. Most of the government’s attention was on the development of the inland cities.

However, the law didn’t change much, and Uyghurs and Han people can still live comfortably with each other.

The peace remained until July 5th, 2008.

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On the day of July 5th, in the morning, many people just started to go to work. Many Uyghurs people gathered in Wulumuqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and began the massacre.

It was an indiscriminate attack directly toward the Han people. Women and children were needled; men were killed. Hundreds of people died in the incident, and thousands were injured.

Professor Sean Roberts said it wasn’t terrorism. Then, what is?

Someone hit the World Trade Center, and the U.S. started a war with their country and classified it as terrorism. Tens of thousands were killed in the Afghanistan war. That’s how the U.S. responded to terrorism. And now the same thing happened in Xinjiang and you guys are saying that it wasn’t a terrorist act. Why?

Fortunately, I didn’t get the chance to witness the incident myself, since I was in Beijing. But, as I said, all my relatives and friends were in Xinjiang. They have not only witnessed but also experienced terrorism. I believe my first-hand information can better tell you what is terrorism and what is not.

July 5th Massacre is not a one-day incident. It is a series of attacks.

For many years, terrorists in Xinjiang attacked the army, ran away, and came back again.

Now, who starts the genocide?

I asked three questions, and the third was, “did the government just suddenly start the camp when Uyghurs were unhappy?”

Well, the answer is no.

The government in Xinjiang had been replaced twice.

The first government came, with the thought that the incident can be solved quickly, and Xinjiang is able to hold economical growth and stability at the same time.

The government, then, didn’t take many further actions but only send the army to solve terrorism. The economical activities were still happening. The discomfort might be Xinjiang’s Internet was shut down for two years.

The first government was apparently wrong.

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The terrorist attack was still ongoing, and even intensified. The terrorists were scattered in the village and killed the army as soon as they entered the town.

The bombing case at the railway station in Kunming, Yunnan was a glance at how the terrorists reacted to the Han people.

So, they were fired.

The second group of government officials came.

Now the slogan was, “stability is the first and foremost; economical development will come after the stability is ensured.”

That’s how the camp started.

Before talking about the camp, let’s ask one question: Were only Uyghurs people put into the camp, or Han people, too?

This goes back to the function of the camp: ensuring stability.

I went back to Xinjiang two years ago. (Didn’t go back this year due to the COVID) As far as I know, Han people will be put into the camp too if they disobey the law and order.

That confuses us, right?

The fact that the camp didn’t depend on your ethnicities is not like what those anti-China scholars tell us.

Before making my other points, let’s first go over an anthropological term: cultural relativism.

Cultural relativism refers to that the standards of one culture shouldn’t be assumed to be the standard of another culture. During the Age of Exploration and Colonialization, many Europeans viewed indigenous people as inferior cultures to the European culture. After centuries of reflection, they finally changed.

Culture is closely tied to history. In the U.S., race is a big issue, and racial discrimination is a red line. This is because racial discrimination has been a huge part of U.S. history. People care so much about not crossing the red line is because this was a big problem in history.

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Everyone who comes to the United States should respect this part of the culture.

You will never see any universities inviting a racial-discriminating person to do lectures, right?

Yeah, now can we talk about China?

In the history of China, stability is the highest priority at all times. Chinese people's concern about safety is the same as the Americans’ concern about racial problems.

Well, cultural relativism tells us. The standard of your culture is not the standard of other cultures. I respect the concerns of racial problems in the U.S.. Why Americans always violate other cultures’ red lines and assume their culture is better?

Yes, Americans care about personal freedom, freedom of speech, cultural diversity, and racial equality, and are willing to sacrifice anything for these.

We, too, care about our personal safety and the stability of the society, and are willing to sacrifice anything for these as well.

Okay, the camps.

Now, let’s ask another question: is it cultural genocide or cultural integration?

Did any of the panelists return to Xinjiang in the past three years?

During the terrorism-attacking time, people only feel safe when there is a soldier per ten meters.

As of 2019, Xinjiang hasn’t happened any terrorist incidents for two years. The last time when I was back in Xinjiang, I can see the happy faces all over the place. Uyghurs people and Han people all return to work and the economy starts to grow again in Wulumuqi.

Last but not least, let’s get deeper into the Uyghur-Han tension.

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Is the Uyghur-Han tension a racial problem or a class problem? Is it because of the racial difference or because of the class difference?

I understand my American fellows view anything as racial difference, but I’m afraid it’s not the case. What’s deeply rooted in the tension is the class difference, namely economical difference.

Because of the unsolved poverty, hatred was developed in people’s minds. Because people see others are getting richer and occupying jobs, they start to attack them. This is a common problem in the world, just like how Chinese international students are treated in America.

Because the quantity, or the population, of the economically-lower group (Uyghurs in this case) exceeds the population of the economically-higher group (Han in this case) so much, people will mistakenly think it’s a race problem.

Defining the problem as a class problem, things become much easier. The government’s prominent goal should be solving the class problem between people.

You guys are professors. I believe you’ve already thought of these things. The moderator, Professor Elanah Uretsky, is even an Anthropology professor. And you even don’t understand what an entry-level anthropology term means? However, you guys are still claiming again and again about the racial oppression in China, I will start to question you guys’ intentions…

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Anti-China is a business, you know.

So many people are earning so much thru anti-China. As long as there are people in the world loving reading anti-China articles, movies, books, there will be a market.

What I’m ashamed of you guys is you guys are at least professors. I believe you guys have earned a lot thru writing anti-China books and articles. But you ARE professors. You should talk about the facts with your intelligence, instead of mixing up random evidence to attack a country…

I’m very disappointed.

Overall, I did enjoy you guys’ Netflix show. You guys have disabled the chat, muted participants who want to speak, and made fun of Chinese students at the beginning of your speech… You guys are the ones who violate the freedom of speech, you know.

To Brandeis, please stop doing these things that will hurt so many students’ feelings. As a person born in Xinjiang, it’s very hard for me to bring these bloody things over and over again.

This will do no good to you in the long-term, Brandeis. Period.

Written by

Brandeis University, Class of 2022. Computer Science B.S., Anthropology B.A.

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