Has China’s Counter-Terrorism Policy in Xinjiang Evolved into State Terror?

Jo Smith Finley will provide an overview of China’s programme of ‘de-extremification’ and mass internment of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang since early 2017. She will then situate this development against the ‘ideological turn’ in Chinese Communist Party policy under President Xi Jinping, highlighting the new emphasis on stability maintenance and ideational governance. Finally, she will explore experiences of (in)security in Uyghur communities in- and outside of Xinjiang in the era of internment to consider how far PRC counter-terrorism initiatives have now evolved into state terror. In doing so, she applies Ruth Blakeley’s (2012) definition of state terror as a deliberate act of violence against civilians, or threat of violence where a climate of fear is already established by earlier acts of violence; as perpetrated by actors on behalf of or in conjunction with the state; as intended to induce extreme fear in target observers who identify with the victim; and as forcing the target audience to consider changing its behaviour.

Jo Smith Finley is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies in the School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University, UK. Her research interests include securitization, state violence and trauma in contemporary Xinjiang, China; the evolution of Uyghur identities in Xinjiang; strategies of symbolic resistance in Xinjiang; the gendering of ethno-politics in Xinjiang; and gendered identities in the Uyghur diaspora in the context of Islamic revival, Chinese state repression of religion, and political exile. Her monograph The Art of Symbolic Resistance: Uyghur Identities and Uyghur-Han Relations in Contemporary Xinjiang (Brill Academic Publishing) was published in 2013. This is an ethnographic study of evolving Uyghur identities and ethnic relations over a period of 20 years (from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union through the 1997 Ghulja disturbances and the 2009 Ürümchi riots to 2011). Dr Smith Finley is co-editor of two volumes: Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia (Ashgate, 2007) and Language, Education and Uyghur Identity in Urban Xinjiang (Routledge, 2015), and Guest Editor of a Special Issue (2019) for Central Asian Survey, titled: ‘Securitization, Insecurity and Conflict in Contemporary Xinjiang’.