Since 2017 a growing number of concerning reports have emerged of re-education camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. These camps seem intended to replace religious and cultural identities with loyalty to the Party-state. Questions have been raised about academic self-censorship on this issue, as well as the general lack of response by Muslim leaders.
I was quoted on this subject in this Foreign Policy essay by Nithin Coca, ‘Islamic leaders have nothing to say about China’s internment camps for Muslims’.
Part of the answer is that money talks. China has become a key trade partner of every Muslim-majority nation. Many are members of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or are participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In South Asia, this means infrastructure investment. In Southeast Asia, China is a key market for commodities such as palm oil and coal. The Middle East benefits due to China’s position as the world’s top importer of oil and its rapidly increasing its use of natural gas.“Many states in the Middle East are becoming more economically dependent on China,” said Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, a Chinese-Middle East relations expert at the University of Technology Sydney. “China’s geoeconomic strategy has resulted in political influence.”