Monday, November 25, 2019

Most Chinese Lump Central Asians Together with Uyghurs as Muslims, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 21 – Just as many Americans define all Latin Americans as “Mexicans,” so too Han Chinese when they think about the peoples of Central Asia at all – and the numbers of these groups are so small as to make them invisible in much of China -- define them as Muslims much like the Uyghurs rather than as distinct nations.

            That linking of Central Asians to the Uyghurs, of course, one Russian commentator says, means that the Central Asians are often assumed to be the same and to represent the same anti-Chinese attitudes that the Uyghurs long have manifested (

            At present, there are approximately 190,000 Kyrgyz in China, 10,000 Uzbeks, and 1.5 million Kazakhs. Only the latter are numerous enough to attract much attention, the commentator says; and even they rarely appear on television or in the media and so remain part of an undifferentiated “Muslim” population.

            Indeed, the Russian commentator says, few Chinese including educated ones give much thought to these peoples. They are simply too small a fraction of the population of China to have made much of an impression. And many Han Chinese relate to them much as they do to other smaller Asian peoples like the Koreans, Indians or Vietnamese.

            What such attitudes mean, of course, although the commentator does not say so directly, is that Chinese who come into contact with Central Asians view them as potential Uyghurs, a nation whose members have routinely resisted Chinese power and who have been subject to the most severe kinds of Chinese repression to this day as a result.

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