Is the president of China responsible for riot control?

Xinjiang, stability and saving face

Why does the president of the People’s Republic of China have to leave the G-8 summit in Italy and rush back home? So there are unprecedented riots across Xinjiang’s towns and cities, but surely, controlling them doesn’t require the president’s personal presence. Therefore the official explanation, that he returned to China “due to the situation” in Xinjiang, is both vague and unconvincing.

In fact, taken at face value, the official explanation suggests that the Chinese government is not too confident of its ability to maintain social stability in the face of public unrest. This supports the view that “authoritarian states”, as the Wall Street Journal writes today, “are typically less stable than they appear, and China is no exception.” Therefore the triumphalism surrounding China’s arrival as a global power should tone itself down a little.

On the other hand, panicky as the Communist party leadership might be, the Chinese government has shown time and again that it is capable of suppressing mass unrests—even if its methods make you queasy. Going by this line of reasoning, it could well be the queasiness factor that caused Hu Jintao to fly back to Beijing in a hurry. He would have found it rather embarrassing to have to face questions from the international media assembled in the Italian town of L’Aquila on the Xinjiang situation, or indeed on the China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities.

It’s probably both. The international leaders attending the G-8 summit will certainly miss Mr Hu. They should contemplate on the implications arising from the reasons of his absence.

10 thoughts on “Is the president of China responsible for riot control?”

  1. This uprising is different.
    The protestors are principally uighur mohammedans.
    Versus the han chinese.

    The M angle is a hugely different ballgame — a single dead M is worth a thousand dead H’s or B’s.

  2. Well, Hu Jintao and the Communist Party are as much responsible as Narendra Modi & the BJP were for the Gujarat clashes between the Muslims and the Hindus, a bit more perhaps with all that government sanctioned Han settlement in Xinjiang! “Pogrom” or “Genocide” anyone, say, Chomsky, Karat, & Roy Co.?

  3. @TRF I agree..
    How I dearly wish especially for Ms. Roy to expound on the situation here?

  4. Point taken about dictatorial regimes being more unstable than they really seem. But its worth pointing out that about 90% of China’s population consists of Hans. So not much the ethnic minorities can do if the government decides to get ruthless. And I do not think anyone doubts that the regime would be extremely ruthless – they would bump off a few thousand people if need be without batting an eyelid and the world would not even be aware of it. Long term, with a 1.3 billion population, it appears a nobrainer to me that these sparsely populated minority regions would become majority ones through the ongoing process of migration. Its outrageous that China is able to get away with all this with impunity while India gets lots of negative publcity despite handling Kashmir in a much more humane way.
    And yea, its kind of amusing why the likes of Chomsky or Roy have nothing at all to say about China.

  5. Yes, the Tibetans and Uighurs represent about 7% of the population of PRC, but the territory of Tibet and xinjiang represent a huge tract of Chinese real estate. PRC minus Tibet and Xinjiang would be India’s wet dream. If we had held on to Gilgit we could actually… ahem, give ‘diplomatic and moral support’ to the Uighurs. We just have to wait 20 years for the demographic and perhaps economic collapse of China for a Soviet style implosion. Besides the mohammedans always make better ‘splitists’ and have much better tactics then the buddhists as we of all people should know.

  6. Working with a Chinese dude these days. He was explaining how Uighurs are allowed to have more than one kid. Eventually, they will increase in number and take over China (where have I heard that before?!).

    He also thought that India has settled large number of people from hindi heartland to Tawang to alter its demographic composition. Ahem…

  7. I read in the rediff website that the Han population in Xinjiang has increased from 6% to 40% over the last 60 years – if true, thats really shocking.

  8. Sai,

    That’s probably from the Wikipedia entry on Xinjiang:

    “The percentage of ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang has grown from 6% in 1949 to an official tally of over 40% at present.”

    There is an unreliable source note on this statement.

    Here is some data on Uighur population in China [Source]:

    “In 1908, the Uighur population reached 1.57 million and then by 1949 had reached 3.29 million.”

    “According to the 1990 census, the ethnic Uighur population of 7.19 million comprised 47.45 percent of the total population of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. ”

    And on family planning, from the same source:

    “Family planning for the ethnic Uighur minority was merely voluntary until the family planning regulations of 1988 were promulgated by the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These regulations called for a maximum of two (three under certain conditions) children for urban Uighurs and a maximum of three (four under certain conditions) children for rural Uighurs. The practice of family planning doubled to over half of the Uighur population between 1988 and 1992.”

  9. Communist newspaper “The Hindu” has been keeping a conspicuous silence on this issue. Not Buddhist Tibet, you see, but Muslim Xinjiang.

  10. Oldtimer, “the hindu” is waiting for orders! Soon N. Ram can write a column that will be distributed in Xinjiang to show they have no outside support!

    Nitin, I am not sure why Hu would not go back to take control over the situation. Would we be happy if Manmohan drank tea with Obama in an Italian villa when suddenly a state blows up? Apparently city based Chinese are very vocal with their opinions these day that the commie leaders pay attention….

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