In a China-US war over Taiwan, paradoxically the greatest loss of life could be inflicted on the Muslim Uighurs. Uighurs constitute 45 percent of the Xinjiang population of 25 million people, with over 1 million incarcerated in internment camps in accordance with a policy initiated under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Another half-million children have been placed in state-run boarding schools. Forced sterilization has led to a 24 to 60 percent drop in the birthrate, leading officials from many countries to describe the mass detention as genocide.
Estimated annual death rates in the camps of between 5 and 10 percent could soon lead to the Uighurs being outnumbered by Han immigrants, who constitute almost 44 percent of the population.
Countries frequently take advantage of the militarization and securitization of society during wars to effect mass killings. China might take the opportunity of a conflict over Taiwan to inflict a permanent demographic reduction of its restive minority in the Xinjiang region.
Turkish nationalists used the cover of World War I to engage in mass killings against its Armenian minority in 1915. German leaders applied the industrial instruments of state war mobilization during World War II to kill millions of Jews, Poles, Russians and Romani. In the same conflict, wartime Croatian leaders targeted hundreds of thousands of Serbs.
The most compelling explanation of the incidence of mass killing is from Dartmouth University professor Benjamin Valentino, who argues that such phenomena, including genocide, are not caused by hatred, but by small ideological groups that take control of governments and their coercive agencies. Such groups use mass killing under three circumstances: as part of a communist social engineering project, as counterinsurgency terror and as genocide when exiling a minority fails.
While there is considerable evidence of discrimination by Han Chinese against Uighurs, there is no evidence of widespread hatred of the Uighurs by the Han.
George Washington University professor Alexander Downes has also found that regimes, frustrated by defeat or an elusive victory, target minorities in desperation. To this extent, China’s strategy of wartime genocide against the Uighurs could be triggered by a calculation similar to that of the Turkish nationalist fear of the alignment of its Armenian minority with hostile Christian powers, such as Russia and France. China’s inclination might be further intensified if it is losing, or is defeated, in a campaign to capture Taiwan.
Brown University professor Omar Bartov in his seminal account of the German violence against civilians during the World War II invasion of the Soviet Union, highlights mass killing as a result of the wartime brutalization of soldiers. Bartov suggests that totalitarian propaganda can quickly and effectively predispose people to extremes of violence. The relative popularity of Xi and the Chinese Communist Party in bringing prosperity to China renders the population susceptible to its nationalist propaganda, especially if it targets the Uighurs during wartime hysteria.
Few good policy options are obvious, which includes bombing the detention sites. There remains a significant historical controversy over why the Anglo-American bombing campaign of World War II was not redirected against German extermination camps. Some attribute this to Western disregard for the plight of the Jews, and others to resistance against a diversion of scarce air force resources. It is also not clear whether destroying fixed internment camps would significantly delay alternative methods of mass killing. Furthermore, which buildings should be targeted? Would a strike on police barracks trigger an acceleration of a mass killing?
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security and its paramilitary People’s Armed Police Force have been effective instruments of repression in violent crackdowns in Tibet as recently as 2015, when the latter organization killed 100 protesters in one incident.
There are an estimated 380 internment camps in Xinjiang. The largest single facility is the 89 hectare Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng, housing a minimum of 10,000 detainees deep within China’s interior. It is 1,900km north of India’s Hindon Air Force Station outside New Delhi, the closest major air base not requiring an overflight of Russia.
While China’s air defenses and interceptors in the region are not dense, legacy US bombers would need to rely on vulnerable tanker aircraft to reach their targets if deployed from outside of India.
An alternate solution is using conventionally armed cruise missiles, assuming that they can navigate the Himalayan mountains. Although the AGM-158B JASSM-ER has the required range, only about 220 have or will be manufactured by the end of this year. A war over Taiwan would likely consume the entire valuable inventory within a week.
An alternative is the deployment of US Army Special Forces from the 1st Battalion of the 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa, trained in organizing and leading irregular indigenous resistance against hostile occupiers — termed “unconventional warfare.”
Aside from inheriting Pakistan’s war of resistance against the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan in 1980, and CIA support to the Miskito Indians fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, there is scant evidence of a Special Forces intervention to stop a genocide. Ironically, the CIA provided support to the Khmer Rouge once it had been deposed by the Vietnamese Army in 1979. Field agents of the CIA predicted the 1994 Rwandan genocide. CIA operative Geza Katona briefly considered providing arms to the Hungarian rebels in their 1956 uprising, but such a move would have been seen as exceptionally provocative by Moscow. CIA support to the 1959 Khampa uprising against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, with Indian intelligence complicity and training provided in Colorado, was one of the triggers of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
US assistance to the Uighurs would require Washington to cooperate with the East Turkestan Independence Movement, some of whose members have sympathized with Takfiri militants such as al-Qaeda.
However, operating far from any sanctuary inside the well-policed territory of a nuclear-armed peer competitor eliminates any prospect of success. In the Turkish genocide of Armenians, the civilian prisoners were led into the desert and starved. Most of the Uighur centers are on the rim of the arid Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert.
The remaining solution, albeit a poor deterrent, is to put Beijing on notice and to make a strong effort to identify those state individuals likely to be implicated in a genocide against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. This effort by official and non-governmental organizations has been underway for years. The public reaction to alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine might add impetus to this imperative, but China is unlikely to face collapse in a defeat over Taiwan, so there is little likelihood of justice being meted out. Indeed, alleged acts of organ harvesting and vivisections of Falun Gong members have never been prosecuted.
At a minimum, the potential for a wartime genocide needs to be recognized by Western decisionmakers.
Julian Spencer-Churchill is a consultant and associate professor of international relations at Concordia University. He has published extensively on Pakistan, where he conducted fieldwork for more than 10 years, as well as in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Egypt.
China has started to call Tibet “Xizang” instead of Tibet for several reasons. First, China wants to assert its sovereignty and legitimacy over Tibet, which it claims as an integral part of its territory and history. China argues that the term Xizang, which means “western Tsang” in Chinese, reflects the historical and administrative reality of the region, which was divided into U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham by the Tibetans themselves. China also contends that the term Tibet, which derives from the Mongolian word Tubet, is a foreign imposition that does not represent the diversity and complexity of the region. Second, China wants to
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) might be accused of twice breaking his promises and betraying the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), then launching a signature drive for himself to stand as a candidate in January’s presidential election, only to turn around and quit the race. It clearly shows that rich people are free to do as they like. If that is so, then Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is the perfect example of a political hack who changes his position as easily as turning the pages of a book. Taiwanese independence supporters
On Nov. 15, US President Joe Biden reiterated the US’ commitment to maintaining cross-strait peace and the “status quo” during a meeting with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping (習近平) on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California. However, Biden refrained from making clear to Xi what Taiwan’s “status quo” exactly is (as the US defines it). It is not the first time Taiwan’s legal status has become an issue of contention. In September, Tesla CEO Elon Musk caused a media storm after he referred to Taiwan as “an integral part of China” during an interview. This ignorance about
Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said recently at a tourism forum that the government’s target of 6 million foreign tourists this year would be reached by the middle of next month. Through the cooperation between the central and local governments and between the public and private sectors, the government’s goal for next year is to bring 12 million foreign tourists into Taiwan, Chen said. The government has set a high goal for next year, as it hopes to best the record for foreign tourists visiting Taiwan, which was set at 11.86 million in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign tourist arrivals