Xinjiang and China’s Relations with Central Asia, 1991-2001: Across the ‘Domestic-Foreign Frontier’?
The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is China's largest administrative unit and is populated by predominantly non-Han Chinese peoples. Throughout the 1991-2001 period, Xinjiang has witnessed regular and sometimes violent incidents of Uighur opposition to Chinese control of the region. The re-emergence of ethnic nationalist sentiment in Xinjiang has serious implications not only for China's internal economic and political development but also for its foreign relations with the states of Central Asia. This paper will argue that this process does not follow an internal-external trajectory exclusively, in that both its foreign policy objectives and the international environment in which those objectives are pursued can also influence China's policies in Xinjiang. Conversely, reformulation of Chinese foreign policy objectives toward certain states can also have an impact upon the formulation and implementation of minority policy within Xinjiang. An example of these processes is China's relations with the post-Soviet Central Asian Republics. This paper argues that China's relations with these states over the 1991-2001 period have been influenced by both fragmenting and integrating dynamics, whereby renewed ethno-religious conflicts have developed in parallel with increasing economic and political integration across Central Asia and Xinjiang.