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The Disappearance of the “Model Muslim Minority” in Xi Jinping’s China: Intended Policy or Side Effect?

Author: Hacer Z. Gonul, Julius M. Rogenhofer

Abstract: This article critically examines how securitization campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) turn the country’s Muslim minorities into potential threats, while simultaneously seeking to legitimize the CCP’s repressive security practices. Applying securitization theory, the article examines whether there are ethnicity-based differences in the securitization process, particularly between the Hui and Uyghur Muslim minority groups and why such differences exist. In doing so, the article briefly introduces the different Muslim communities within China, as well as the impact of the Chinese government’s Open Door Policy on Chinese Muslim minorities. The existential security threat perceived and subsequently leveraged by China originates in demands for increased autonomy, more cultural and religious rights, and, in some cases, formal independence from China by its Uyghur population. Sociopolitical unrest in Xinjiang heightens Chinese insecurities and hardens the CCP’s policies toward the Uyghur minority group inside Xinjiang, as well as other Chinese Muslim minorities, specifically the Hui minority predominantly located in Ningxia. There are significant differences in how the state securitizes these two Muslim minority groups, which can be explained with the use of model minorities. In framing its own Muslim minority groups as a security issue, China employs the post-9/11 Global “War on Terror” to transform ethnic unrest into a terrorismbased challenge to the Chinese state. As such, the focus of securitization shifted from ethnic identity to religious practice. This conceptual shift underlies state attempts to legitimize its counterinsurgency policies under the principle of combating the “Three Evils” of separatism, terrorism, and religious extremism, which are aimed specifically at religious minorities.

Keywords: Uyghurs, Hui, securitization, China, security policy, model minorities