The Battle Of Urumqi
While the Chinese government is claiming that the Uighur riots in Urumqi, Western China are under control, the importance of this uprising for the future of China should not be overlooked. It took thousands of troops to quell Uighurs brandishing makeshift weapons. The Chinese have engaged in brutal repression in Tibet and in Xinxiang Province, but it doesn't look entirely sustainable to me. Rebiya Kadeer writes in the WSJ:
On Sunday, students organized a protest in the Döng Körük (Erdaoqiao) area of Urumqi. They wished to express discontent with the Chinese authorities' inaction on the mob killing and beating of Uighurs at a toy factory in Shaoguan in China's southern Guangdong province and to express sympathy with the families of those killed and injured. What started as a peaceful assembly of Uighurs turned violent as some elements of the crowd reacted to heavy-handed policing. I unequivocally condemn the use of violence by Uighurs during the demonstration as much as I do China's use of excessive force against protestors.
While the incident in Shaoguan upset Uighurs, it was the Chinese government's inaction over the racially motivated killings that compelled Uighurs to show their dissatisfaction on the streets of Urumqi. Wang Lequan, the Party Secretary of the "Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region" has blamed me for the unrest; however, years of Chinese repression of Uighurs topped by a confirmation that Chinese officials have no interest in observing the rule of law when Uighurs are concerned is the cause of the current Uighur discontent [...]
The unrest is spreading. The cities of Kashgar, Yarkand, Aksu, Khotan and Karamay may have also seen unrest, though it's hard to tell, given China's state-run propanganda. Kashgar has been the worst effected of these cities and unconfirmed reports state that over 100 Uighurs have been killed there. Troops have entered Kashgar, and sources in the city say that two Chinese soldiers have been posted to each Uighur house.
The nature of recent Uighur repression has taken on a racial tone. The Chinese government is well-known for encouraging a nationalistic streak among Han Chinese as it seeks to replace the bankrupt communist ideology it used to promote. This nationalism was clearly in evidence as the Han Chinese mob attacked Uighur workers in Shaoguan, and it seems that the Chinese government is now content to let some of its citizens carry out its repression of Uighurs on its behalf.
It's possible that this works in the short-term, but not in perpetuity. Closed societies like China's struggle to remain close. Eventually, Xinxiang will be free just as Tibet will be free.