The Diane Rehm Show

Ethnic Tensions in China

Ethnic riots in China this week left at least 156 dead and thousands injured or imprisoned. Cheng Li joined Diane Rehm to speak about the Uighur protests and China’s reaction to them. Discussion with Cheng Li begins 14 minutes into the broadcast.

Diane Rehm, host: Cheng Li, let me ask you about the migration process and what has led to this clash of cultures here in western China?

Cheng Li: Well, because of the market economy you do see the increasing integration—the migration, actually—two ways, not just the Han Chinese move to Xinjiang region. But also a small number of Uighurs also move out of Xinjiang and they live in Beijing and other cities, also a number much smaller...

Rehm: Were the Uighurs there in great numbers in that province before this migration of Han?

Li: Well, not many but now there are increasing villages, Xinjiang villages, in Beijing and elsewhere, but also the Chinese government also deliberately wants to move people to Xinjiang and Tibet.

Rehm: Why?

Li: Because of the concern about possible ethnic separatism. They want to make people, Han Chinese, integrated with that region; this is a better way to control. Of course, the Chinese government usually denies that this is the reason. It’s more because of or driven by market but of course the market—or economic integration—plays a very important role. But the problem is that not only does the Chinese government believe that this will help Uighurs and help the economy but the reality is more complicated. Of course, some people probably benefit but many, they are losers because the job competition is very intense and the Uighurs believe that they took jobs from us and also there are a lot of economic problems because the Chinese entrepreneurship can sometimes be very aggressive.

Listen to the full interview » (external link)