The PRC Re-education Gulag: Repression, Assimilation and Islamophobia in the Name of Tianxia Harmony

Talk by James A. Millward, Georgetown University

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Since late 2017 the PRC has been interning up to two million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other indigenous peoples of Xinjiang in an expanding system or prisons and prison camps, submitting those ethnic people not interned to an unprecedented surveillance regime, and persecuting non-Han peoples studying or working abroad by threatening or punishing their relatives. This talk lays out the evidence for the prison camps and other aspects of the repression, in light of repeated official PRC claims that they are "vocational training centers." It also examines the new, radically assimilationist shift in CCP minzu policy against the background of imperial pluralism of Qing and earlier China-based states and similar legal, administrative and cultural approaches to accommodating diversity in the PRC. The lecture concludes that current CCP policies, besides being illegal and morally repugnant, turn their back on pragmatic Chinese tradition to chase the chimera of a homogeneous national population, a notion rooted in 19th century European experience.

James A. Millward is Professor of History at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, teaching Chinese, Central Asian and World history. He is also an affiliated professor in the Máster Oficial en Estudios de Asia Oriental at the University of Granada, Spain. His specialties include Qing empire; the silk road; Eurasian chordophones and music in history; and especially Xinjiang. He follows and comments on contemporary issues regarding the Uyghurs and PRC ethnicity policy. Millward has served on the boards of the Association for Asian Studies (China and Inner Asia Council) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society, and was president of the Central Eurasian Studies Society in 2010. His publications include The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction (2013), Eurasian Crossroads: a history of Xinjiang (2007), New Qing Imperial History: the Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde (2004), and Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Central Asia (1998). He most recent album, recorded with the band By & By, is Songs for this Old Heart. His articles and op-eds on contemporary China appear in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and other media.

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Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2019