Happy Lunar New Year, folks. There's some debate over whether it's the year of the goat or the sheep. If you're David Icke, of course, or one of UKIP's wackier supporters, every year is the year of the sheeple.
Anyway, James has another piece out on China's quest for total spectrum information dominance through Big Data; a dilemma for Beijing since finding out everything it wants to know implies allowing greater freedom of information than it would like. The story starts in Xinjiang:
On 5 July 2009, residents of Xinjiang, China’s far western province, found the internet wasn’t working. It’s a regular frustration in remote areas, but it rapidly became apparent that this time it wasn’t coming back. The government had hit the kill switch on the entire province when a protest in the capital Ürümqi by young Uighur men (of the area’s indigenous Turkic population) turned into a riot against the Han Chinese, in which at least 197 people were killed.
The shutdown was intended to prevent similar uprisings by the Uighur, long subjected to religious and cultural repression, and to halt revenge attacks by Han. In that respect, it might have worked; officially, there was no fatal retaliation, but in retrospect the move came to be seen as an error.
Mainly because Uyghur rebels seem to have become the first 21st century dissident movement to take themselves offline.
On that note, Beijing has also taken its campaign against Islamic radicalism in Xinjiang in a truly bizarre direction:
But there are particular reasons why the Chinese Communist Party might be interested in promoting public dancing in Xinjiang now. Beijing is nervous about what it considers signs of religious extremism among Uyghurs, and one of these telltale signs is a disinclination to dance. In speech at the National People’s Congress in March last year, a Xinjiang representative and deputy chairperson of the China Dancer’s Association Dilnar Abdulla gave a speech claiming that religious extremists in Xinjiang were ‘campaigning for the commoners not to sing and dance, even not permitting them to sing and dance at weddings.’
So, according to this logic, orchestrating a campaign to encourage people to dance is actually a way to get people to disavow publicly any sympathy for religious extremism. People are technically not coerced into dancing, despite what the Turkish headlines scream, but it would be a brave individual who would call attention to themselves as a potential extremist by refusing the invitation to ‘cut a rug’. Public and peer pressure is enough for most people to join in.
Yes, Beijing is quite literally compelling Uighurs to dance in public to demonstrate that they are moderate Muslims.