Friday Reads

#1 - In Need of Change, Tajikistan Gets a Crackdown (Freedom House)

In light of Tajikistan president Emomali Rahmon's visit to China, a piece on Tajikistan seemed appropriate. This recently published article by Freedom House outlines the current political culture in Tajikistan.

The pattern of political repression has been fairly consistent under Rahmon, who took office in 1994. Meanwhile, Tajikistan is still the poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and a shocking 47 percent of its gross domestic product consists of remittances sent home by migrants working abroad, mostly in Russia. The country is the top conduit for Afghan heroin moving north to reach the Russian and European markets. Corruption is unrelenting. Yet as the November election approaches, there is no expectation that voters will be allowed to give new leaders an opportunity to correct the failures of the incumbent.

#2 - China's Strategy in Afghanistan (China in Central Asia)

Until two years ago, Chinese strategists regarded Afghanistan as solely an American concern: Washington broke it, and Washington should have to put it back together. Now, Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are the largest investors in Afghanistan’s extractive sector and Afghan officials speak of Chinese investment as central to ensuring that the national government in Kabul will remain in power after 2014. American analysts, for their part, have undergone a similar transition, going from criticizing Chinese companies for riding on the coattails of U.S. security to openly advocating that Beijing take a leadership role in post-withdrawal Afghanistan.
#3 - Settlers in Xinjiang: Circling the wagons (Economist)

The Economist has an article describing the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (bingtuan) and its role in the region, both economically and militarily. When I visited Xinjiang, one of the "trivia" facts folks harped on was that it had the largest militia in China.

The bingtuan operates its own schools, hospitals and newspapers. It has its own courts, police and prisons as well as a 120,000-strong militia force which is the reason for its military-sounding names (though bingtuan towns look no more military than any others in China). It produces nearly one-sixth of Xinjiang’s GDP (see chart), including 40% of its cotton (one of the region’s main cash crops).

#4 - Xinjiang's April 23 clash the Worst in Province since July 2009 (Jamestown Foundation)

Jamestown Foundation's newest issue of China Brief has a thorough rundown of the unfolding developments after April 23 and is the first I've read noting this interesting consideration:

Further confusing matters, at around the time of the incident, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) released its latest batch of videos through Islam Awazi, including one in which a now believed dead senior al Qaeda ideologue, Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti provides “advice for the Muslims of East Turkestan” (jihadology.net, May 4). At no point in these videos is there any mention of recent incidents in Xinjiang or of any specific direct threats against targets in China. Something suggestive of a disconnect between what Uighur groups operate in Waziristan and their ethnic brethren in Xinjiang. The narrative of this incident further emphases this discontent, pointing in the direction of being a domestic clash with no external instigation.

#5 - Portraits of Uighurs, China's Embattled Muslim Minority (Atlantic)

A few photographic portraits of Uighurs in Kashgar, Xinjiang.