Saturday 25 July 2009

China's Great Game: Showdown in Xinjiang draws comments from across the Muslim world

Although usually the USA is bearing the brunt of present-day anti-imperialist rhetoric, it is actually China which has the dubious honour of resembling the classical empires in world history even more closely than America's noisy interventions in world affairs.

This time it is not in Buddhist Tibet, but in its more northern Central Asian possession of Xinjiang that the last remaining empire is putting its foot down. Predominantly inhabited by Turkic-speaking Muslims, most of them Uighurs, the region used to be called 'Chinese' or 'East Turkestan'. Consequently this latest chapter in China's 'Great Game', has drawn attention throughout the Muslim world.

On the Malaysian opposition website Malaysiakini, one of its columnists dedicated an op-ed piece to the recent turbulence. Egyptian-born but US-based writer Mona Eltahawy plugged the issue on her blog.

Not surprising, the issue is of particular interests to other Turkic nations. Whereas the Central Asian 'stans' have remained conspiciously silent (for which some have already been handsomely rewarded by Beijing in financial terms), the AK-led government of Turkey and its associated media have taken a much more defiant and critical stance -- notwithstanding recent efforts to establish more cordial ties with China. A good barometer for Turkish sentiments on international affairs is Zaman newspaper. Its recent issues contained coverage of China's angry response to Prime Minister Erdogan's comments on the recent fatalities and an essay by Konstanty Gebert.

For an analysis of the varied reactions across the Turkic-speaking world, see the 16 July. entry in The Economist.

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