given the current situation in east turkestan (xinjiang), i think that it would be useful for us to discuss how the people’s republic of china is a settler colonial state. although the PRC actively denies that there are indigenous people in china, the name of xinjiang, which means “new border” or “new frontier” points out that the territory was a relatively recent addition to the qing empire, whose territory the PRC inherited–minus mongolia and taiwan
how has this “new territory” been subject to policies of settler colonialism, particularly what wolfe (2006) has called the “elimination of the native”?
one way of considering this question is the way that recent state projects to develop “the west,” part of the broader belt and road initiative, have been touted as a means to expand economic benefits to uighurs and other minority nationalities in xinjiang but have actually brought increasing numbers of the han majority population to settle. as wolfe (2006) has argued, one feature of eliminatory policies is that they seek not to exploit the labour of the colonized group but import settler labour from elsewhere; in the united states, for example, elimination of Indigenous peoples proceeded along with the development of chattel slavery. settler colonial states have no desire to exploit the labour of Indigenous populations because their goal is the elimination of the Native. thus settler colonial societies import labour while erasing Indigenous connections to their land
where explicit genocidal policies are not possible, settler colonial states will employ other means to eliminate the Native, including forms of assimilation and re-education. again, the current forms of surveillance targeting uighur people in xinjiang, as well as the well-documented re-education camps in which around one million uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been held in extra-judicial detention, fit within this well established model. compare the orphanages and detention camps with residential schools in north america
these are two ways in which a settler colonial model fits well with PRC treatment of east turkestan (xinjiang). the question is why china scholars refuse to employ terms like settler colonialism to refer to china?