The Impact of Ethnic Minorities on China’s Foreign Policy: The Case of Xinjiang and the Uyghur

Author name: 
Clarke, M
Journal title: 
China Report

This article argues, through a case study of the evolving impact of the Xinjiang and Uyghur issue, that the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) ethnic minorities have been a significant factor in Beijing’s foreign relations throughout its history. Since the end of the Cold War in particular, China’s approach to the Xinjiang and Uyghur issue has played an important role in undergirding domestic stability and shaping its relations with Central Asia. More broadly, the case of Xinjiang and the Uyghur suggests that the nature and scale of the challenge posed by any one ethnic minority in the context of the PRC’s foreign policy has largely been a function of the interplay of five major factors: the historical relationship between the ethnic group and the Chinese state; the geographic concentration of an ethnic minority; the degree of acculturation to the dominant Han society; external great power support; and mobilised diasporas.

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