Beijing is definitely struggling to impose unity over the territories it claimed last century (see "Tibet, Ouïgours... l'Empire éclaté ?").
What strikes me in the spectacular Urumqi riots is the way the "show" is being orchestrated by the official propaganda :
- a selection of images exposing over and over the opposition of order (authorities) and chaos (violent anarchists)
- a convenient scapegoat : Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, promoted by Beijing as another Dalai Lama, to wit "a terrorist leader planning crimes from his/her foreign lair".
Of course, the regime keeps banning all "unhealthy" contents, but Beijing chose not to put the crisis under the censorship extinguisher. Iranian-style denial did prove unefficient but here, the idea is to legitimate from the start a new wave of repression, to kill any empathy for rioters before it's even born. The Hu Jintao way.
This is not strategy but tactics. It may work in the short term but will prove disastrous in the medium to long term :
- First, the central regime is advertising on the failure of "Pax Sinica"* on Uighur territory (sorry, in "Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region") : the forced "Hanification" of Urumqi (a capital city now 70% populated by ethnic Han) didn't lead to the eradication of the Uighur identity, and the "province" seems a colony under the control of an army of occupation. Han "colons" will think twice before joining the party.
- Second, nationalism is a dead end. The more the regime exposes its own weaknesses, the further it is tempted to go in basic ultranationalism and hatemongering rumors. You never build anything sustainable with this kind of ideologies. I even see this as the main risk for the unity of the Empire : the failure of strategic vision, the triumph of primal hatred and racism.
- Third, as it fuels radicalism in order to artificially create an enemy from the outside, Beijing is bound to come face to face with an even more dangerous ideology : international jihadists. A minority, Islamist fundamentalists are very happy that the central regime fans the fires of religious and ethnic hatred. That was precisely their objective : reaching centerstage, embodying the resistance... and silencing the actual cause of the Uighur people.
* or is it "bellum cynica" ?
Initially published on blogules in French.