China’s world strategy faces west, across Eurasia. Chinese companies and workers are building roads, railways, bridges, ports, and pipelines in countries from Malaysia and Pakistan to Greece and Croatia. These projects, called the Belt and Road Initiative, are financed with Chinese loans. They are designed to bring resources to China, expand markets for Chinese goods, and extend political influence. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and new financial institutions led by China complement the Belt and Road projects. The goal is to extend Chinese primacy from China to Europe, by land and by sea.
The Belt and Road begins in China’s western province of Xinjiang, homeland of the Turkic Muslim Uyghurs. Uyghurs have resisted Han colonization with riots and occasional violence, which China says are linked to international terrorism. Now the government has imposed mass surveillance and forced assimilation, with cameras in every mosque and perhaps a million Uyghurs indoctrinated in camps to stifle their religious and cultural identity.
We will look at China’s westward strategy, and the reactions to it, and will consider the fate of the Uyghurs.
Seth Singleton teaches international relations at the University of Maine. He studied Russian history and literature at Harvard and political science at Yale. He has held grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennan Institute, the Fulbright program, and the Open Society Institute and has been academic dean in universities in the US and overseas. He has lived in Tanzania, Ecuador, Russia, and Vietnam and consulted in China, Mongolia, and Bolivia. Teaching is what he most enjoys, and he appreciates Maine students for their intelligence, curiosity, open-mindedness, ambition, and insistence on making the world a better place.