Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Great Mall of China

The Chinese are planning--on a grand scale--classic counter-insurgency population protection in order to defeat separatism in their far northwest.

Protecting the population from insurgent attack and influence--or, alternatively among a hostile population, separating the population to keep them from supporting an insurgency--by gathering them in locations where they can be protected (or watched) is classic counter-insurgency.

In Cuba, the Spanish called them "concentration camps"--but running them badly gave that name a very bad name, of course.

In South Vietnam we called it "strategic hamlets."

We used this in Iraq using the "oil spot" strategy as many called it--or a "population-centric" approach that viewed securing the people rather than killing the enemy as the main metric of success. Both are ultimately necessary and reinforce each other.

China, as a big country that built the Great Wall, is thinking big to cope with the non-Han in Xinjiang:

Dozens of new cities and towns will be built from scratch in China’s remote and restive far west as part of the country’s intensifying “people’s war” on terror, according to reports in the state media. ...

The bingtuan’s move to build dozens of new cities fits into a “very ambitious” 20-year plan urbanisation plan unveiled by Xinjiang’s government in 2012, said James Leibold, an academic from Australia’s La Trobe University who studies China’s ethnic policies.

“Xinjiang must march onto the road of new style urbanization,” says the plan, calling for 68 per cent of inhabitants to live in cities by 2030. ...

The bingtuan’s cities would also “try to integrate Uighurs more closely into Chinese society,” as a way of potentially guarding against increasing religious radicalisation and reducing ethnic violence between Uighurs and China’s Han majority. “But they don’t have a track record of being very good on this,” Dr Leibold added.

If things work out as expected, the rural swamp is drained and the people are put in cities where the people can be controlled, bribed with the amenities of cities, and indoctrinated.

Of course, the problem is that China's rulers may be trapped in the template of their rural-based Communist past that mobilized peasants to win the cities. Today's cities are capable of being centers and targets of insurgencies.

It may be that the Chinese should be thinking in terms of rural-based strategic hamlets rather than building new cities that may just create large urban battlefields.

Perhaps the Chinese need to pre-wire these new cities with massive camera surveillance systems and intrusive wiretapping built into communications networks to help cope.

Will the Great Mall of China pacify the Uighers?