Former China correspondent for the New York Times Howard French notes in his former paper the way how the US deal with the racial riots in 1967 Denver, and draws some lines to the racial riots in China’s Xinjiang earlier this year. The so-called Kerner Commission went to the bottom of the riot and French believes China should do the same:
China’s efforts to assimilate both Tibet and Xinjiang needs closer scrutiny, he believes:
Although this effort lacks in candor and transparency, not to mention the possibility of meaningful input from or consent by the locals, it would be wrong to conclude it is entirely undertaken out of bad faith. The materialists who rule China seem to genuinely believe that economic development is the answer to almost every question, and their favorite statistic relating to Xinjiang is the doubling of the region’s economy between 2002 and 2008.
At best, this statistic is misleading, though. Most of the economic growth in Xinjiang is related to the expansion of the petroleum sector, which is overwhelmingly dominated by Han. Indeed the unrest there seems fueled in part by a sense of among Uighurs that they are losing ground economically to the Han in their own homeland.
It is time China deals with a reality of racial discomfort that has become all too obvious, Howard French argues:
Two years of violence may not yet make a trend, but this myth [of harmony between the races] has just become a lot harder to sustain, even among China’s Han majority, who may yet come to appreciate that respect for differences rather than forced assimilation is the better recipe for harmony.
Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you want to share his insights, please let us know.