By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
The assessment of China’s “One Belt, One Road Initiative” is at the core of the political debate in the World Uyghur Congress and in the other Islamist networks within Xinjiang. More specifically, the Islamist Uyghurs compare Xi Jinping’s proposal with other previous initiatives, such as “Opening the Northwest” of 1992; “Western Development” of 2000; the forums on the development of Xinjiang held in 2010 and 2014, besides the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001.
All initiatives that the Islamist Uyghurs interpret only as acts to repress the insurgency in East Turkestan and particularly as factors for further controlling the local Muslim radicalism.
Besides slackening the Islamist tension in Xinjiang – often jointly with the Islamic countries – which would be controlled by both China and its new regional allies.
It is also worth noting that the internal or public documents of the World Uyghur Congress hint at a systematic and possibly violent reaction to the integration of the Chinese economy into the world market, which is notoriously the idea underlying the “One Belt, One Road Initiative”.
At geopolitical level, considering the geographical position of Xinjiang, the Uyghur Islamic insurgency could do much harm to the project of a new Silk Road – and we imagine that the platform of the Uyghur Islamism will be used by all the countries which see as a threat China’s competition and its new strategic presence in Central Asia, as well as the new global multipolar approach preached by Xi Jinping.
According to the various Uyghur movements, development is used by the Chinese authorities to further marginalize and control Islam in Xinjiang. It is not true at all – indeed the opposite is true – but the strategic fear of Uyghur Islam is to be encircled by China’s friends and, hence, by enemies of the violent and jihadist Islam.
Therefore, we can foresee a forthcoming sequence of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and psywar actions, targeted in this case to Westerners, who will accuse China of “repression”, but above all will create difficulties and slow down the practical activities associated with the One Belt, One Road Initiative.
If the Chinese project is completed in line with the envisaged time schedule, East Turkestan will become increasingly irrelevant, both economically and strategically. Conversely, if the One Belt, One Road Initiative is significantly slowed down by the Uyghur terrorists and their media policy towards the West, this will be the Uyghurs’ real great success. Hence the Uyghurs will become the key region for China’s economic development in the West, with a blackmail that is easy to imagine.
The same holds true for the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC), which envisages investment to the tune of 46 billion US dollars.
The Gwadar port – already bought by China – will be the starting point of the “Belt”, considering that the Pakistani port allows access to the Arabian Sea and above all avoids China’s having to pass through the Straits of Malacca.
China, in fact, is funding “wellbeing and welfare” – to use the Chinese terminology – in all the buffer zone between its State and the bordering countries – areas which have always recorded tensions with China’s central authorities.
The list includes also Xinjiang that, in the Chinese vision, must reach “moderate wellbeing” that would surely defuse the local Islam, both the permanent jihad and the “sword jihad” operations that, however, have already taken place in Xinjiang.
The traditional friendship between China and Pakistan has already great economic significance, considering that trade between the two countries currently amounts to 16 billion US dollars per year – not to mention the eight modern China-made submarines sold to Pakistan, praised for their technical features also by US experts.
If China creates a network of strong alliances with Islamic countries on its border, there are no longer guaranteed safeguards for the Uyghur militant Islam. In the near future Afghanistan will be stabilized by a joint action between China, India and Pakistan, while India is planning to become the true dominus of Afghanistan.
Even the Taliban will soon be silenced, as they were born of a rib of the Pakistani intelligence services and, without Pakistan, they would currently have neither weapons nor funds.
For the Uyghur radical Islamism, this, too, is a strategic closure of great importance. In fact, until now the Uyghur jihadists who fought in Afghanistan were approximately one hundred and some of them have already returned to Xinjiang.
In addition, China’s venture capital is booming, and shortly – also as a result of a Chinese political decision – it will also be the turn of selected areas in Xinjiang.
As the old Chinese Marxist-Leninists know all too well, if there are no longer poor people, there is no fuel for any religious or social insurgency.
Meanwhile, the WUC-related web networks much publicizes a list of some people who should be freed from the Chinese “repression” thanks to the EU pressures.
It is the case of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaboo; of the Uyghur economist, Ilham Toti and of Wang Quanzhang, a lawyer linked to the Falun Gong movement, a sect that was particularly active at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, as well as of some feminists.
Combining very different offences and behaviours is a classic psywar technique and Europeans always take the bait.
Furthermore, ever more often the Uyghur movement uses the radical-libertarian areas of European politics – which are traditionally more sensitive to Tibetan issues – to defame China and above all to impose a link between China’s economic openings vis-à-vis the rest of the world and the traditional theme of “human rights”, which place purely ideological demonstrations and violent political actions on an equal footing.
The new law on non-governmental organizations, enacted by the Chinese government in 2015, is mainly designed to avoid Western soft power, which historically incites minorities against the political leadership, but also underlines the great usefulness and the great appreciation enjoyed by some NGOs within the Chinese government.
Moreover, as early as its foundation, the “National Endowment for Democracy”, a CIA-linked NGO, has been backing the World Uyghur Congress financially, while the Soros Foundation maintains relations with the Uyghurs through its network in Kyrgyzstan.
It is also worth recalling that Dolkun Isa, the Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress, based in Munich, is registered in the Interpol files as the perpetrator of “assassination by means of explosives” and currently enjoys German citizenship.
The news comes from the request for inspection No. 4-07585, which has been pending in the Italian Senate since May 25, 2017 – a request made by a well-known former judge, namely Felice Casson.
The document clarifies that a request to INTERPOL is still pending in relation to Dolkun Isa, aimed at tracing and subsequently arrest him on charges of “murder perpetrated by using explosives”. By granting him citizenship, Germany clearly wanted to carry out an anti-Chinese political act, possibly to meet demands coming from overseas countries.
It seems now obvious that the inevitable link between WUC and the Uyghur jihadist networks may be Dolkun Isa himself.
If, as it seems now certain, Turkey is eventually accepted in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which currently seems to be a primary strategic goal for Turkey, China will certainly ask the Turkish government to stop any support for the Uyghur movement – a request we anticipate will be quickly accepted by Turkey. Once again the scope for coverage, funding and international legitimacy for WUC and the Uyghur Islamic movements will shrink.
Recently Western sources, extensively reported on the WUC-controlled websites, make reference to the arrest of 22 Uyghur religious at the beginning of Ramadan to protect – as reported by the Chinese government – students’ health and avoid religious propaganda, to which Ramadan is equated.
It should also be noted that on May 22 and in late June 2014 violent demonstrations were staged by the Uyghurs, with 43 victims in the former case and a harsh terrorist action in the latter. The Turkestan Islamic Party has its command centre in Pakistan – and once again the Chinese government will ask Pakistan for a favour that the Pakistani Islam cannot refuse, without risking breaking off the economic negotiations linked to the new Silk Road.
Even the US strategic analysts believe that, in the future, the Uyghur network is bound to be turned into an organization similar to Al Qaeda.
Moreover, it is in Berlin that, on May 29, 2017, Uyghur intellectuals and professionals gathered to reorganize the activities of WUC and of other ethnic or Islamic associations of East Turkestan, considering that the real item on the agenda is to oppose China’s new geopolitical role and support the Western media who speak of “Chinese repression” in Xinjiang, as well as to counter the new Chinese Silk Road currently at information level and later at operational level.
About the author:
*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
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy