Regular readers of our blog will know well by now that I’m a regular complainer about the lack of solid facts, and that the discussion of Xinjiang can only be held on a secondary level, a discussion of perceptions and conceptions rather than of cold, hard facts. One of the best examples of this is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, an entirely nebulous organization blamed by the Chinese government for almost all instances of violent unrest in Xinjiang, officially labelled as “terrorist” by the American government; a group that produces very little information about itself except for the occasional enigmatic video.
One of the things that has remained frustratingly vague is the CCP understanding of ETIM. Of course, one thing is clear, the ETIM almost always gets blamed or at least obliquely accused for unrest, discontent, and violence in Xinjiang. In that respect, the government is unequivocal. But where does the government think ETIM comes from? What does the government think about the ideology driving these shadowy bandits? What does the government want the people of Xinjiang to think about ETIM? These deeper questions cannot be answered by the infrequent reports that state agencies and Western organizations produce on the topic.
So imagine my surprise and intrigue when at a local bookstore I spied a series of small booklets, written in Chinese, collectively titled “Readers on the History and Current Situation of Xinjiang, China.” One of these booklets is titled The Origins and Development of East Turkestan Splittism. This, of course, is a fascinating opportunity to take a detailed glimpse into how the CCP conceives and understands the ideology behind discontent in Xinjiang, and how it wants the citizens of Xinjiang to accordingly perceive the situation.
And so for the interest of all readers and scholars out there, I’ve begun translating it. It’s a slow, painstaking process given my curse of inadequate Chinese ability, but even the little section I’ve managed to cram into English wording reveals a lot about how the CCP views the history of the region, and what kind of ideological manuveuring the government places on history as far back as the 6th century in order to legitimize its standpoints.
In a few days I’ll begin the first of what will hopefully become a serial translation of this booklet. Part One is titled “‘Pan-Islamic’ and ‘Pan-Turkic’ Thought”, and section one of Part One, which I’m almost done with, is called “The Origins of the Terms ‘Turk’ and ‘Turkestan.’” For now, here’s the introductory blurb, a single sentence that apparently is so important it is placed on an entire page all by itself between the table of contents and the beginning of Part One.
“Pan-Islamism” and “Pan-Turkism” are social ideologies that took form in the second half of the 19th century and, under specific historical conditions, became the foundation for early “East Turkestan” splittist thought after entering Xinjiang at the beginning of the 20th century.
Now there’s a succint summary if I ever saw one. Stay tuned.