The economic backdrop to China's terrorist attacks

This photo taken on on June 29, 2013 shows a muslim Uighur man at the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province. China's constitution proclaims the country's dozens of minority groups as integral and equal parts of the national tapestry -- but analysts say the mishandling of such distinctions is a driver of unrest in remote Xinjiang.

Chinese officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Early this morning in the western city of Urumqi, 31 people were killed and at least 90 others injured when vehicles plowed into a crowded market and then exploded. It’s the latest in a series of attacks in China. In March, a knife attack by a group of men killed dozens in Southwest China, and just a few weeks ago, a bombing and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi, injured dozens more. China’s government have blamed the previous attacks on Uighur separatists -- Uighurs are an ethnic Muslim minority who live in China’s vast Northwest region of Xinjiang, a Chinese province roughly the size of Alaska that borders Central Asia. China has so far not blamed any particular group for today’s attack.

Today’s attack comes a week after the trial runs for a line that will connect Xinjiang with the rest of China by high-speed rail for the first time. In the past, Xinjiang was always considered very far away from the rest of China -- parts of it are closer to Baghdad than they are to Beijing and the people who live their have Caucasian facial features, many Uighurs don’t speak Chinese. But now a new train will reduce what was a trip that took days into hours, and that underscores China’s political control over this region, extending to economic control. Historically, Uighurs have always been businessmen -- this is the home to the ancient silk route. But these days, many Uighurs are frustrated because they feel they’ve lost a lot of economic decision-making power over their homeland to people they consider outsiders from Eastern China who now dominate government and business there.

 

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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