Sinification is a dangerous process for China to engage in. By sinification, I mean the process of attempting to create a homogenous identity for all of China based on the ideology of the Han majority.
China is currently attempting to force Hui, a group of Muslims who are Han Chinese and mostly assimilationist, to conform to the wider Han culture beyond their current assimilation.
Furthermore, accusations that the teachers being sent to reeducation camps are Wahhabists with ties to Saudi Arabia, rather than independent teachers who happen to profess a desire, at least aspirationally to return to the original practice of early Islam is problematic as China lacks the proof to tie them to Saudi Arabia.
Unfounded accusations that because the Hui are coreligionists with Saudi Arabia, they are more loyal to Saudi Arabia than China are similar to such accusations made towards Jews in Russia and France or English Catholics. In almost all cases, such accusations were unwarranted. Holding the same religion and even similar interpretations do not necessarily make two groups allies or even increase mutual loyalty between a state and their coreligionists, as Europe’s numerous wars demonstrate.
The Hui teachers state that they are not teaching theology, but are instead serving to keep children out of poverty and from radicalization. Such efforts to reduce poverty and prevent extremism would be undermined by the actions China is currently taking. Furthermore, such persecution may cause an alteration in that position as they fear being treated like Uighurs, a separate group of Muslims in Northern China that are highly nationalistic. Thus, the fear of being treated like nationalists may push the Hui towards nationalism as a means of avoiding the state’s persecution.
Russia fell right after Czar Nicholas introduced Russification, which was a policy of making Russia the dominant group in the Russian Empire and persecuting all other groups, including Georgians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews. However, allowing cultures to maintain their own ways of life ensures greater stability. Therefore, China, from a strictly pragmatic view, should not alienate the Hui. The attempt to produce homogenous cultures will probably instead result in a revival of pride in their religion. This is precisely the outcome the Chinese Communist Party would prefer to avoid if their actions are an indication of an attempt to homogenize Chinese culture.
Beyond the international reproach of China, this failure to produce the desired unity with these reeducation camps and closures of mosques indicates the foolishness of the policy towards the Hui.
Such actions by the Chinese discourage the Uighur from ending their nationalist dreams because it diminishes their already nonexistent trust of the Chinese government. This would force the Chinese to expend military force on the Uighurs, the Hui, Taiwan, Tibet, and the South China Sea simultaneously. Furthermore, while there is no evidence of Saudi involvement in Hui schools, without the recourse of schools to prevent radicalization and poverty, such involvement may occur, though unlikely. The Hui may make Hajj, but most Muslims do so, and Saudi Arabia does not have an influence over all Sunnis. Simply traveling to Mecca for religious purposes does not render someone an agent of the government in Riyadh. The Saudi government may control Mecca, but Hasan Minaj has criticized Saudi Arabia despite hajj being a requirement of the religion.
Claiming that a group of otherwise assimilated people is influenced by a foreign government would make them less likely to comply with the government, especially as the Hui may not hold the expansionist version of Salafi Islam, which holds that Islam should return to its roots, than the Saudi Wahhabism version of Salafi ideas. As I have stated, such action results in ostracization and alienation.
Therefore, this policy is not a pragmatic policy for China to follow, even if one ignores the moral reasons to avoid it. The moral reasons against this policy, being the necessary due process and the fact that prejudging a group based solely on the actions of an unrelated group of coreligionists, are not acceptable. Such a policy reveals a desire for homogeneity that will not be fulfilled by such actions and which denies the diversity and heterogeneity of China.
Jacob Ningen is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org