Xinjiang’s Deputy Governor Holds A Somewhat Simplistic Notion Of His Region’s Ethnic Minority

Spirit and the Noble Savage

This would be a rather chuckle-worthy lede from Reuters if it didn’t cause us to sigh so loudly:

Ethnic minority people in China’s Xinjiang are far more fond of dancing, singing and being good hosts than making trouble, a top official said on Tuesday, dismissing the idea that the far western region is a hotbed of unrest.

The official who said it was the autonomous region’s deputy governor, Shi Dagang, who was addressing reporters from Beijing (and not, obviously, thinking his comments would become the laughingstock of the greater media world).

“There is mutual respect by Han cadres and ethnic minorities, and we are friends. When we go into their houses as guests we are treated to meat and wine, with song and dance,” Shi said.

“The ethnic minorities are simple-hearted and honest, very kind and unaffected. They love guests,” he added. “I hope people don’t have misapprehensions and go to Xinjiang and see for themselves.”

While we don’t doubt that many, even most, people in Xinjiang are peace-loving, the idea of them as noble savages who perform “song and dance” and are “simple-hearted and honest, very kind of unaffected,” is only a pinch too colonialist for our liking. It wasn’t long ago that the British were saying that about various peoples around the world, maybe even Han Chinese. Don’t imitate that shit, modern-day officials. It’s reductive and dumb.

“Those minority of people, the violent terrorists, ethnic splittists and religions extremists who want to cause trouble, their organizations are all outside the country, as are their backers behind the scenes,” Shi said.

“How could we let this minority of people split Xinjiang off from the rest of the country and destroy this peaceful and harmonious society? It’s impossible.”

“Beyond parody,” tweeted the Asia editor of Reuters.

China says Xinjiang minorities too busy dancing to make trouble (Reuters) (Image via)

10 Responses to “Xinjiang’s Deputy Governor Holds A Somewhat Simplistic Notion Of His Region’s Ethnic Minority”

  1. bag-o-dicks

    Chinese ethnic minorities can’t get enough of singing and dancing. Must be all the harmony going to their heads.

    Reply
  2. King Baeksu

    “There is mutual respect by Han cadres and ethnic minorities, and we are friends. When we go into their houses as guests we are treated to meat and wine, with song and dance.”

    That’s what most local language-mill owners say about their native English teachers, right?

    “Those minority of people, the violent terrorists, ethnic splittists and religions extremists who want to cause trouble, their organizations are all outside the country, as are their backers behind the scenes,” Shi said.

    As a proud American, the next time people here ask me my nationality, I’m going to tell them, “I’m from the Great Backer Behind the Scenes.”

    And then bust out in song and dance, of course.

    Reply
    • Jess

      Well, if he’s commenting on relations between Han and Uyghur “cadres,” at least, then he’s probably right. Ethnicity, I’ve found, is no divide when it comes to splurging public funds on food and entertainment, especially so far from Beijing.

      On the other hand, yay Reuters for once again referring to one person’s comments as a collective “China.” Good work. Goood work.

      Reply
      • King Baeksu

        “Well, if he’s commenting on relations between Han and Uyghur “cadres,” at least, then he’s probably right.”

        Not too sure how much “fraternization” goes on between Han and Uyghur cadres at local dinner parties and KTVs, as this passage on the Xinjiang
        Production and Construction Corps or “bingtuan” makes clear:

        “The bingtuan are characteristic of what Wang calls the colonial economy of Xinjiang. Entirely controlled by Han officials, they exert severe pressure on cotton prices, forcing impoverished farmers to sell cotton below market price for the benefit of the bingtuan system. Wang concludes that the system has no economic efficiency, and its continued existence
        is only justified to keep paying the pensions of its
        430,000 retired workers, and more particularly as a rampart against “instability.” Thus, most of the interviewees he speaks to clearly believe that the subsidies Xinjiang receives from the Centre do not make up for the cheap “exports” Xinjiang delivers to Eastern China. A friend called Z in Urumchi points out that Xinjiang’s natural gas is sold for the same price in Shanghai as in Xinjiang: the government thus
        appropriates Xinjiang’s natural resources without offering any form of reparation for the pollution and environmental impact of resource exploitation (p. 246). Similarly, a farmer near Yengisar points out that electricity costs 0.85 RMB/KWh, which is double the price in Beijing (p. 136). This feeling of exploitation and disenfranchisement is compounded by the monopoly of positions of responsibility exercised
        by Han officials, who manipulate village elections,
        use their positions to extend advantages to their family and friends, and devise projects that are incomprehensible to local farmers (p. 139). Mokhtar underlines that in a situation in which all local officials are Han, their distribution of land leases always gives preferential treatment to their family, friends and people from Eastern China, while the local population feels progressively excluded from their land (p. 380). By way of contrast, Wang has pointed out in his
        research on Tibet that the key point of Zhao Ziyang’s goodwill policy of the early 1980s was forcing Han cadres to step aside and hand over their positions to Tibetan cadres. Mokhtar emphasises that officials sent to Xinjiang have always promoted their own interests. Huge building projects are all carried out by companies from inner China who bring their own migrant workers, preventing any trickle-down for
        the local population from the “Great development of the West” (Xibu dakaifa) policy (p. 278). China has the largest highways in the world, he concludes: are they meant to develop Southern Xinjiang or simply to allow the army better control? (p. 278)”

        Source: http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/4243?file=1

        Reply
      • narsfweasels

        “On the other hand, yay Reuters for once again referring to one person’s comments as a collective “China.” Good work. Goood work.”

        That’s the thing though, isn’t it? When the CCP says “China’s feelings are hurt” they are pretending to speak for everyone, but they don’t. When the government says “Japan needs to repent for its war crimes” they invariably mean every Japanese person in the world needs to kneel down and beg for forgiveness even though it was only one mayopr of one minor prefecture that made the remark.

        Reuters is wrong for committing the same fallacy of equivocation, but it’s a bit hard not to when “China bashing” is basically levelled at everyone who criticises the Chinese Comedy Party.

        Reply
        • King Baeksu

          “When the CCP says “China’s feelings are hurt” they are pretending to speak for everyone, but they don’t.”

          True enough, since nation-states don’t have “feelings,” they only have “interests.”

          The problem, in the case of China and perhaps other nation-states in East Asia, is that the notions of nation as ethnos and nation as state are often confused and commingled. On top of that, the mainland Chinese state and government are essentially same, rendering nation or ethnos, state and government one huge, undifferentiated mass.

          More simply put, the CCP exists in the world as a kind of open wound that reacts violently to even the slightest touch or prodding by others. The very definition of a reactionary disposition, in other words.

          Mainland China will never emerge as a fully mature modern nation-state until its government and state are more clearly distinguished and separated, as are its ethnic nation and state apparatus. Moreover, the Chinese ethnic nation should not merely be code for Han domination of all other minorities, despite whatever pretty words or “song and dance” routines officials like Shi Dagang may offer up for public consumption.

          Reply
  3. P.

    This would make a good screenplay:

    Bumbling PR rep gets more than he bargained for when sent to China’s restive Xinjiang Province for the job of a lifetime!

    ** Starring Ken Jeong as Bumbling PR Rep, Feng Gong as Deputy Guv’na Shi Dagang, Andy Lau as the Central Committee Party Figure and Fan Bingbing as the Reporter with a Conscience, with Comic Book Guy as the voice of the faceless online hordes. **

    Reply
    • RhZ

      The funniest scene is when the officials go to the locals’ homes on ramadan and make the locals eat some food in the daytime through various threats or offered enticements. Hilarity ensues!

      Reply
  4. P.

    Days of Meat & Wine hits theaters on Friday. Rated R for scenes of pervasive offered enticements, graphic song and dance and other disharmonious behavior.

    Reply

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