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Discussion: Language in Xinjiang Education, Uyghur or Mandarin?

April 14 | 103 Comments

Ever since reading Blaine Kaltman’s Under the Heel of the Dragon, my views about language in education have been challenged. At this moment in the Xinjiang city of Karamay, there is only one Uyghur-language high school and judging from the rumors I’ve heard recently they may soon switch to Mandarin.

Why is that?  Or rather, why is that important?

The Dilemma | Language Education in Xinjiang

Here’s a quick rundown of the situation at hand in Xinjiang.

The Uyghur people, a minority group who make up about half the population in Xinjiang, speak their own language which comes from a completely different family than Mandarin, the official Chinese language.

It is rare to hear an elderly Uyghur speak Mandarin without a heavy accent.  Even a majority of the next generation in their 30’s and 40’s have difficulty communicating sometimes.

This isn’t a huge problem most of the time since Han and Uyghur don’t often intermingle, but when employment is at stake, language is usually the deal-breaker.

The Divide

  • Han business people don’t want to hire employees who can’t speak Mandarin well.
  • Uyghur job-seekers may not have had the luxury of a great education, or at the least one taught in Mandarin.
  • The Chinese government has been put into a tricky position where they need to encourage Uyghur to maintain their local language while providing the best opportunity to for Uyghur to succeed – which means a Mandarin education.  Regardless of your personal feelings for the CCP and how they’ve handled the situation so far, one has to concede that the solution isn’t easy.

The Discussion

What I want to discuss is not how much you love or despise the Chinese government.  I want to talk about whose responsibility it is to maintain Uyghur language and culture.

  • Should classes in predominantly Uyghur cities be taught in the Uyghur or Mandarin language?  Do you think the government should be directing policy on this issue?
  • Is affirmative action (or “positive discrimination”) a practical policy in this situation?
  • Do you think the Uyghur language will still be active a century from now?

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. What in your city in America they have a uyghur language school?

    Hows your prediction on when they are opening up the internet in Xinjiang going?


    Josh on April 14th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I still refer to Karamay possessively as “my city” because honestly it is home to me. They only have one Uyghur middle / high school left in the area but like I said, there are talks to change the curriculum to Mandarin.

    I predicted May holiday, so I still have some time. We’ll see how it goes, though, because I’m still not crossing my fingers.


    T. Adams on May 7th, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I taught English in Urumqi for over a year and had students of many different dialects. They were being taught in Mandarin, but amongst themselves they spoke in their own language or dialect.

    There isn’t many countries that have the diverse culture as America; however English has always been the prominent language. Cultures such as Hebrew, Chinese, Spanish and Japanese have managed to continue their language in the home and by classes after school. I remember vividly my friends who left school to go to their Chinese class and their Hebrew class. China is different because the diverse languages there were native spoken in the different regions. As the power of the country has decreed everyone must learn in Mandarin (I was unaware that there were any Uyghur schools left at all, I had been told differently), I would assume, like here, the mother tongue will have to be taught through private sources, or in the homes as our Hispanic American citizens do. Many of our Native American tribes have long lost thier language, and renewal is coming through people that care enough to do it. Many younger generations don’t care about it enough, so sadly, like many animals and plants, languages are in the endangered lists, and will soon be extinct.


  2. an Irish analogy

    After 800(or so, depending on when you start measuring) years as a province of Britain, and nearly a hundred years of independence, approximately 3% of Irish people speak Gaelic as their first language, this despite the fact that it’s compulsory in both primary and secondary education.

    Have we benefited from being an English speaking country? Definitely, we are seen as the gateway to the eurozone for American companies, Dublin hosts the European HQ for companies such as Google.

    Have we lost out culturally from the loss of our ancient language? Definitely, though there have been continual (and somewhat successful) attempts to revive Gaelic, it is still remains a minority language (especially in Dublin), something of a badge of pride for patriots. The fact remains that the cultural and literary heritage for which we are so famous is an English language one (Joyce, Yeats etc.)

    Now this situation came about, for better or for worse (and I am somewhat ambivalent about it all), from the historical need for Irish people to adopt English in order to access education and survive financially. Perhaps, in terms of language at least, we can extrapolate some conclusions about the future of the Uyghur language from the Irish example.

    If so, will the Uyghur language be alive 100 years from now? Yes, in a greatly reduced form, as a household language, but not as the language of commerce and education.

    Should classes be taught in Uyghur or Mandarin? Perhaps a mix of both would be most beneficial? Perhaps following the Malaysian example would work (though this has its own problems) wherein science subjects are taught in English, thereby giving their students access to the globalized economy.
    Business and science in Mandarin? Literature and history in Uyghur?

    Whose responsibility is this? It’s the responsibility of those who collect the taxes, though its hard to imagine an organization as conservative and paranoid as the CCP seeing the cultural identity of the Uyghurs as anything but a threat, at worst, or an inconvenience at best.

    Anyways, just some thoughts, feel free to enlighten me if I’m way off on any points. I’m no doubt much less well informed than most of y’all when it comes to XJ.


    Adam Daniel Mezei on April 14th, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Dave,

    I like where you’re going with this. Residing in Europe (Czech Republic) as I do, I have strong opinions about minority languages in general.

    By the way, I have no Uighur friends or colleagues and have never been to Xinjiang before, just to place all of this into proper context. So Josh, please forgive me if I stray a bit here…

    In Europe, the most successful examples of nations that can boast of their own ethnic languages and cultures, yet which have zero trouble communicating in the International Language of Business (English) are the Scandinavians.

    Icelanders, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and Finns — as a group — are standout examples of what young Uighurs should expect to become if given half the chance. What Josh asks in this post can basically be applied to any of the minority tongues proliferating around Central Europe. As the crow flies from, say, Munich, passing through Prague, Bratislava, Krakow, Budapest, and then downward onto Bucharest and out to Turkey, I can count at least six national languages which bear *some* similarities to each other (egs. German/Czech, Czech/Slovak, Czech/Slovak/Polish, Polish/Slovak, with the exceptions to the rule being Romanian and Hungarian) but aren’t cognates. Between them, there is very little commonality. If all of these rinky-dinky countries were to stubbornly stick to their own languages and bombastically expect their neighbors to bend to their linguistic will, there would be no trade, no interchange, no nothing. We’d be back to where we were before WWI in Europe, which was basically bloody, warlike, and isolationist.

    If a universal language of communication weren’t somehow decided upon, nations like the ones I’d listed would eventually shrivel up and die. In all those countries I’d mentioned live excellent speakers of English who are at the forefront of their nations’ business and cultural affairs. They use a common language — English — to spread their reach on a continent which has too many languages than necessary — in my opinion. The Irish are, as a society, a great example of a nation that — by hook or by crook — has made the prudent and practical choice to thrive instead of waste time and resources on language nonsense. I realize there are heaps of people who will flame me as a speaker of English for my attitude.

    Parochialism and insular behavior — such as the kind practiced by the locals where I live here in Prague — is pure nonsense in the 21st-century and I see too many contradictions for a country professes its openness to the world yet which doggedly sticks to its own “useless” language. Fine and well to have your own language for use at home, in the pub, in the theatre, wherever…but to travel the world and not speak at least *one* of the big international languages and walk around stammering and stuttering and fearful is outright delusional (read: the Czechs and Slovaks, for example). Western Europeans like the Irish, the Dutch, the Germans, and the Belgians, for instance, have already honed this lesson well.

    In contrast to EU states, the Uighurs don’t have their own country — while there have been attempts at consolidating Uighurdom into East Turkestan between the two Wars — so they therefore find themselves at the mercy of the present Chinese authority. As such, there exists a national language of communication (Mandarin), and an “ethnic” language (Uighur).

    Should there be instruction in Uighur? Yes. But hand in hand with Mandarin. If ever there were a dispute between the two, default to Mandarin, since I suspect there are plenty of young Uighurs who don’t have a firm grip on Uighur anyways, so insisting on it in Xinjiang schools only confuses young Uighurs with a desire to get ahead in their country, whether they love it or not.

    Language teachers should be bilingual, speaking with proper Mandarin diction. If these same teachers were native Uighurs (or miraculously, Han), they might serve as excellent examples for the youth on what their future can be.

    Remember that Uighurs, by virtue of their cloistered geography, are the consummate language chameleons and can blend in extremely well. You can even “meet” one of them in Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, the talented “Polat,” meaning steel. He spoke Russian, Uighur, Turkish, Mandarin, and eventually learned some English. How’s that for talent?

    This is what young Uighurs can eventually become…


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:39 am

    So true…as is mentioned in other comments here, Uyghur speak English with a great accent. I’ve also met many of them who also speak Russian and a bit of the Kazakh dialect. This just means, however, that the Uyghur students have to work that much harder than their Han counterparts to get the same opportunities.

    Hongormaa on May 29th, 2011 at 7:36 am

    It’s important to remember that there is an ongoing trend towards increasing Sinicization going on now in Xinjiang; you cannot really compare it at all to the current situation in the Czech Republic, which I am very familiar with. Once citizens can no longer study their own language, either at the secondary school or university level, the vocabulary of any given language becomes impoverished, and that can lead to eventual langage extinction.

    You may recall that the Czech language itself faced very similiar problems in the early 19th century, when the ‘language renewers’ Jungmann and Dobrovsky set out to create a Czech literary language almost from scratch. If they had not done so, Czech would have remained ‘kitchen Bohemian’, and the great writers who emerged in the second half of the 20th century (Kundera, Hrabal, Seifert…) might not have dome so.

    Of course, it’s desirable for speakers of small languages to learn the major ones–not, however, to be gobbled up by them, which is a real threat, and not only from Chinese. I think people who speak a ‘world’ language should make an effort to also learn a ‘smaller’ language.

    jixiang on December 7th, 2012 at 1:58 am

    @ Adam Daniel Mezei:

    Please. You cannot compare the case of Ireland with those other countries. The Irish haven’t just learnt English as a second language, they have lost their own language. Would you like all other European languages to go the same way? Wouldn’t that be a cultural loss?

    You say Europe has “too many languages”. So which languages would you like to abolish? If someone wanted to abolish your own language, how would you feel about it? It’s easy to say these things as an English speaker, whose language will never be endangered.

    Your idea that “since some young Uighurs don’t have a firm grip on their language anyway, teaching it only confuses them” is nonsense. In actuality they are more likely not to know Mandarin well. So should we not teach them Mandarin, “so as not to confuse them”?

    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:17 am

    I like your analogy Dave. It definitely seems to fit at first glance. I think it’s safe to say that in order for Uyghur to succeed in China they’re going to have to learn Mandarin, much like the Irish had to learn English. Question, though: You admit to being ambivalent about the situation, but does that go for most Irish you know?

    I would guess that the Uyghur response to this idea as a whole would be split pretty much down the middle, and I would also add that the line would probably reflect economic status.

    Those who are doing well economically would agree that Mandarin is a must and that the responsibility of maintaining the Uyghur language is up to the family.

    Those in the smaller towns and in the farms who earn less money might see it differently. Mandarin is an intrusion on their life, as are the people who are trying to teach it to them.

    I agree with you that the Uyghur language will still be around 100 years from now. The Uyghur have too much pride to let something like that die, and that’s a good thing.

    I also wonder (hypothetically) how these problems would be different if the Uyghur weren’t Muslim. Would the CCP see them as such a threat then? In other words, is the CCP afraid of religious fanaticism or is that just their excuse? I feel it’s a little of both, with the scale tipped a bit toward the latter.


    Dave F on April 15th, 2010 at 4:55 am

    “Question, though: You admit to being ambivalent about the situation, but does that go for most Irish you know?”

    I fall into the section of the population that considers Gaelic to be somewhat irrelevant to modern life in Ireland, though I’m glad that it does exist somewhere. I’ve no idea how representative this view is of Ireland as a whole, though I’d hazard a guess that it’s more prevalent in Dublin that in the west or the south. We’re known as “West Brits” or “Jackeens” (because, allegedly, we used to wave the union jack when the queen came to visit)… in the distant past if you wanted to succeed in the British economy you came to Dublin, and you spoke English. Sound familiar?

    I say that I’m ambivalent as I accept this as all being history at this stage, though no less interesting for being so.

  3. Hiya, erm, “What I want to discuss is not how much you love or despise the Chinese government.” Is this a hack or a legitimate question?


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Ha! A poorly constructed sentence maybe, but the idea is simple…try to keep the passionate emotions about the CCP out of the discussion. :)


  4. Well, traditionally it has been the Uighur intellectual class that has proven to be the most resistant to Chinese rule. And while preferential policies (al la youhui zhengce) in Education and Mandarin language learning have been designed to close the gap in both education and living standards, others believe this has been initiated surreptitiously to win Uighur loyalty, or to dissolve intellectual malcontent.

    It is evident that through teaching Mandarin and offering higher education in that language, Beijing’s acculturation policy has allotted a new generation of Uighur intellectuals and merchant middle class with an intrinsic knowledge in, and appreciation of, Chinese history, culture and language. And it seems to be working as the average Uighur generally accept China’s axiomatic position within Xinjiang.

    Who knows if Uighur will exist in 100 years? My guess it will resemble something similar to Gaelic as above; mostly irrelevant to the daily existence of most Xinjiang-ren. Positive discrimination is another case of Chinese whispers gone mental – the Chinese government has far more to lose than to not have preferential policies… and let’s be realistic here, for every preferential policy accessible to the Uighur, they face much more “negative” discrimination and lack of opportunity than most Han do.


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:26 am

    You bring up an interesting point, James. I guess Uyghur intellectuals are likely resist, while those who prosper economically usually just accept the situation. Those who are both try to leave :)

    But seriously, I believe that economics is the root of this whole problem. The population of Han and Uyghur is fairly equal right now, but the wealth of the land is divided quite unfairly. I never really felt unsafe in my city of Karamay because most of the Uyghur there were proportionately well-to-do. People don’t want to mess with things when all is going well, right?

    Also, James, if you have a moment I’d love for you to expound upon your last paragraph. I’m not quite sure I understand your position there – are you saying the Chinese government should enact preferential policies or that it wouldn’t matter if they did?


    James on April 16th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Josh, I would be happy to elaborate on my last paragraph regarding preferential policies in Xinjiang. Absolutely I believe preferential policies are necessary in Xinjiang, but how effective they are in reality is another issue all together. You nailed it on the head when you said “…one has to concede that the solution isn’t easy. ” So to give my op on the discussion point of whether affirmative action is a practical solution vis-a-vis language education as a means of upward movement for minorities in Xinjiang, I would like to look at the opportunities, and restrictions, of those minority members utilising affirmative action initiatives.

    In your former home you noted that the one minority language high school might soon be switching to Mandarin, and you questioned why that was so and what of its importance. Cultural considerations notwithstanding, research has shown that affirmative action in education, i.e., Xinjiang minority persons with a Mandarin high school or university education, meant that minority persons were in a much stronger position to acquire a professional/ elite position than their Han counterparts. Issues of cultural subsistance notwithstanding, this would indicate that for minorities to progress, especially in urban areas, an understanding of Mandarin is essential.

    However, how does this translate in reality, and what professional/elite positions really exist for the progressive minority? As you may or may not know about preferential policies in China, the underpinning structure is “equality-in-fact” (shishishangde) rather than equal treatment. Equality-in-fact is an idea that a portion, of say national cadres, should match the population distribution of nationalities within that specified area.
    In reality, however, while this might be true for government positions within State, county and local levels; party positions – which are generally seen as more powerful compared to their government contemporary – are filled to the rafters by the Han ethnic group. Therefore, real decision making remains with the Han ethnic group. One Hui once said to me that minority government leaders in Xinjiang are but mere puppets to the Party secretaries. So obviously, some minorities in Xinjiang might question the validity of “elite positions” acquired through affirmative action educational pathways.

    For Xinjiang’s flourishing market economy, the results are mixed but generally less opportunity exist for Uighurs pursuing employment within the private sector. Quota systems are largely at the discretion of the employer, and in many cases Han prefer to employ fellow Han, opportunistically quoting Laws on Enterprises (qiye fa) that do not have preferential policy provisions.

    Entrepreneurship is what I see as the best way forward for the progressive minority – I say progressive minority in the context of living within a Han dominated society – which for some comes naturally through dint of personality, intelligence or just plain hard work. For most Entrepreneurs, however, living within China, this comes through experience and relationship building, which for a minority person especially of Central Asian heritage, may be harder to gain in a Han dominated market. Nonetheless, examples of industrious minority members making a packet are plenty and opportunities do exist – their causes too varied to generalise.

    So, Josh, to answer your question, yes, I do support minority policies in Xinjiang. But with all things Chinese policy, one must disaggregate form from substance, what is on paper and what is the reality. For Xinjiang Minorities to get ahead, they should take advantage of the preferential policies and embrace the Mandarin language. As you may have noted from Kaltman’s book, those minority members whom harboured ill-feelings towards the Han Chinese were those who missed the boat. This is not to say that their concerns are illegitimate, but without education or a grasp of the Mandarin language, minority opportunities are slim. All-in-all, self-employment is my conclusion as the best means forward.

    On a side note, I often ask my Han Chinese friends what they think of the whole minority issue. A consistent grievance they have is that they believe the minorities have much more opportunities than them because of preferential policies, and they tend to believe that they do not capitalise on those opportunities because of a lack of motivation. Obviously, I reason different, but you can see the complexity of the issues with common cultural nuances and ignorance’s coming in to play.

    Porfiriy on April 17th, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Hi James, when you say:

    research has shown that affirmative action in education, i.e., Xinjiang minority persons with a Mandarin high school or university education

    Do you mind telling me what research you’re referring to?

    I’m also curious what exactly you mean by “affirmative action.” By my understanding, “Xinjiang minority persons with a Mandarin…education” is an issue under the umbrella of bilingual education whereas “affirmative action” is a separate but related issue of giving extra points on evaluations or lowering cutoff standards for minorities. I ask because in the sentence you’ve written above seems to imply an equivalence between bilingual education and affirmative action.

    Jimba on April 18th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Porfiriy,
    No problems. Great work over at The New Dominion btw, great to see you guys back. From my own look at education and preferential policy research on Xinjiang, I tend to find that research of this kind had its watershed period in the 1990; and as I am yet to find polemical studies, I am still happy to use it. Please see Hannum, Elimy and Yu Xie (1995) ‘Ethics & Gender Stratification in an economic reform era: the case of Xinjiang’. University of Michigan Population Studies Centre.

    Arh, that clumsy sentence… By affirmative action you’re quite right. What I was attempting to say was that for those minority members who are able to access higher education, then affirmative action acts as a mechanism to expand their chances of success and in term widen the minority middle class overall. So in simple terms, those who do not learn Mandarin do not gain access to societal programs of advancement.



  5. I’ve not been to Xinjiang,hope to visit this summer. I have been to other provinces in China where the highlight and celebrate the ethnic minorities there. It seems that this ‘celebrating’ is not happening with the Uygher people.

    In Response to Dave F – if Gaelic has been taught in primary and secondary schools and is still only spoken by 3% of Irish people, wouldn’t a similar situation in China produce similar results?

    I see this as a tough situation to handle. I think I would agree with Porfiry about how much say Uyghers have in this battle; let them decide what they would like to pursue.


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:37 am

    I think many Chinese people would disagree with you on that, even though I see your point. Many would point out that events such as the Spring Festival Gala feature Uyghur music and dance troupes. Porifiry has keenly pointed out, however, that many of these dances only serve to create a sex symbol out of a beautiful cultural display.

    It is a tough situation to handle, this I agree with wholeheartedly. And as much as I also agree with Porfiry about a Uyghur say, I don’t think they would be able to agree with an overwhelming majority.


  6. Interesting points guys,

    as a caveat to what I’ve written I should stress that while 3% of Irish people people speak Irish as a FIRST language, a far larger section of the population speak it competently, and often fluently, as a second language. Gaelic is far from dead, but it IS artificially sustained, and most Irish people are glad of this.

    There is a happier example of a thriving minority language within Britain however, that of Welsh. 20+% of Welsh people consider themselves Welsh speakers, which is no mean feat considering what a weird language it is!

    All of these examples are reliant on things that the Uighurs don’t have however, namely “meaningful autonomy”, and the wealth of a European nation. The problem for the Uighurs (and other minorities in China) is that the survival of their identity depends on them being granted rights that are denied to the majority of Chinese people, and therein lies the crux of China’s multicultural problems. To say that they are “systemic” is something of an understatement.


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I like that phrase…

    “meaningful autonomy”


    Chinese Nationalist on July 15th, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Can we talk about the difference between “autonomous region” and “autonomous people”? There are autonomous regions throughout the world in which all residents share the same rights and citizens of the nation have the right to move in and out of these regions freely. But what is this “meaningful autonomy” you are talking about here for Xinjiang?

  7. I’m probably way to opinionated to participate in this discussion.

    Nevertheless, my opinion on this is as with almost everything else cultural in Xinjiang. It’s not a question of Uyghur or Mandarin, it’s a question of whether or not Uyghurs have a say in it. If all the Uyghurs wanted to study Mandarin, shundaq bolsun. But it’s a different thing if it’s insidiously and patronizingly forced down their throats.


  8. OK OK I have to come in now. As far as bilingual education is concerned i think Wales is a much better example than Ireland. Here all the children learn Welsh in school regardless of their background. On top of that they have Welsh medium schools both at junior level as well as senior, there is even talk of Welsh at University level. This has been made possible because of the endeavours of the newly devolved welsh assembly who are trying to restore the usage of their language. Has it worked? well at least in token use. Welsh speaking families are on the decline, what will happen 10 years down the line who can say. But again to the point I want to make is all in Wales learn Welsh,not just those who are Welsh people. I suppose you could say well this sounds political rather than practical and yes you won’t be wrong. In fact studies have shown that many Welsh people don’t believe speaking Welsh is necessary for them. here I think Uyghur will be different in that their language is spoken in other parts of the world, especially the ‘stans’ around them as well as Turkey.


    Dave F on April 15th, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I think that’s interesting, that all in Wales learn Welsh, and it probably would be a good idea for Han people in Xinjiang to aquatint themselves with the Uighur language also, but then, Xinjiang is a very diverse place, what about a little Kazakh? Tajik? The mind boggles…

    And I agree that bilingual education in Wales has been more successful than in Ireland


    Swan on April 15th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I’m interested in your point about diversification, from what little I know Turkic language is spoken by all minorities in Xinjiang or am i wrong? Is there a very clear linguistic difference amongst the other minorities?

    Josh on April 16th, 2010 at 5:32 am

    The Uyghur language shares similarities with other Central Asian languages, which basically means that somebody from Turkey would understand what is being said, but they are still very different languages.

    The other minorities in Xinjiang, which include Kazakh, Kyrgik, Tajik, Mongolians, and Russians among others, may share linguistic families but are still distinct languages.

    Porfiriy on April 15th, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Yeah, it’s kind of mind-blowing how absent Uyghur is from the education of *Han* people in Xinjiang. I’ve taught in a primary education institution in Xinjiang. It stands in marked contrast, to, say, the United States where there is a significant and tangible interest in learning Spanish, and the case isn’t even comparable since in the US many Spanish-speaking communities are immigrants or the descendants of recent immigrants whereas in the case of Xinjiang the *Han* not only came to Xinjiang but also under the aegis of the PRC gave Uyghurs “autonomy” and put the word “Uyghur” into the name of the region.

    Uyghur education should have been a requirement from the start; but now it’s quite late. Uyghur as a language has a carefully cultivated reputation among Han as useless, coarse, and backwards. I had the distinct joy of taking a few classes with ethnic Han who were majoring in Uyghur at a university in Urumqi. I didn’t find one single person who appreciated or enjoyed the language, on the contrary, they were all there because they did bad on the gaokao or because their parents forced them – Uyghur speaking Han snap up valuable positions in the power structure of Xinjiang, in contrast to Han speaking Uyghurs… but that’s another story.


    James on April 16th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Well, while not historically accurate, I’ve always thought that the relationship between the Uighur and the Han mirrors the relationship between an autochthonous culture and the colonist. While I can’t accurately say whether Navajo Indian is taught or not in American schools, I know for a fact that Aboriginal is not taught in Australian schools. So the absence of Uighur is not surprising, but at they do teach it at University, which is more than I can say, regrettably, for Australian Universities. Hope I’m not sounding too much like the apologist.

    Rui on April 19th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Uyghur and Spanish probably aren’t comparable. Spanish is the 2nd/3rd most spoken language in the world and a UN language.

    Chinese Nationalist on July 15th, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Just get the historical facts straight. Spanish speaking Americans is more “native” than English speaking Americans in several southern states in the US.

  9. I find your observations really interesting, Dave. Ireland certainly is a good analog here. The Irish have never been that excited about political, cultural, religious, OR linguistic influence from England; much the same can be said about Uyghurs vis-a-vis China.

    Of course, it would be a little disingenuous to point out that now Ireland is in fact its own independent country. I think it’s worth bringing up though since, as I said above, I think the concern here is not which language is used but how much of a voice the people in question have in the selection process. English language in Ireland may have a long and volatile history, but the fact of the matter is today the Irish, in full command of the “educational destiny” of their children, if you will, have opted into the English speaking world. As things stand, the Uyghurs aren’t opting into Mandarin – they can’t opt into anything. The paternalistic state is deciding for them.

    I think it’s worth linking your comment on Malaysia to my interest in seeing the desires of the Uyghur people themselves take precedence in the education system:

    Anyone who’s been in Xinjiang and has had more than surface level contacts with Uyghurs will notice rapidly that both talent and passion for speaking English is very widespread among them. The talent really isn’t something I’m just imagining up, Uyghur syntax, grammar, and sounds mean that Uyghur speakers pick up English much more rapidly than the Chinese and speakers of many other languages. The interest is much more intriguing though, when I got right down to it Uyghurs actively seek out English as a way to maneuver around the Chinese language system and nevertheless gain access to opportunity, employment, and income. One of the most obvious examples of this are the numerous Uyghurs – frequently working outside the “official” system – who approach Westerners visiting Xinjiang and in nearly flawless English offer to be a tour guide and driver. I’ve talked with several English – learners, from aspiring tourist guides to aspiring international diplomats, and most often their English is self taught, by waking up early, going to sleep late, hitting the books, and watching English shows and movies on Youku for pronunciation. Why self-taught? Well, because they can’t study English in their institutes of learning. For most Uyghurs the “second language” in their primary education is by default Mandarin, and English major spots at the university are too competitive and are usually snapped up by Han students; that, or Uyghur English majors are left behind in the dust because they have to take a mandatory 2 years of Mandarin classes before they even start their major.

    This is fascinating. If the idea is this benevolent “arm Uyghurs with economic opportunities,” I contest that not only would more Uyghurs *prefer* to learn English; in fact, their native language makes it an almost ingrained talent among many of them. Arguably English can offer just as much, if not more, opportunities than Mandarin (for now casting a blind eye to the inconvenient fact that the Chinese government makes it well near impossible for Uyghurs to leave the country, or even Xinjiang). By learning English, Uyghurs would have access to the dominant language in global finance, global politics, global scientific exchange, and more.

    So English meets the “gain opportunities” criteria (that’s why it’s the required language for all the other schools in China!). Way more Uyghurs would prefer to learn English over Mandarin. My addition to the discussion then, is why isn’t English learning a wider option for Uyghur students? An option where certain subjects are taught in Uyghur, and then maybe 2 or 3 hours of intensive English language learning.


    Josh on April 15th, 2010 at 3:33 am

    Huh…I never really thought about that before, but it makes sense. Learning English would allow for better economic employment as well as sidestep Mandarin (an added plus for some). Of course, learning all three (Uyghur, Mandarin, & English) would provide limitless opportunities.

    I’ll also agree with you from my experience as a teacher that on average most Uyghur I knew could pronounce English words so much better than Han Chinese. It must just be the different sounds of each language.

    My only concern with the English language is that most of those opportunities to use the English language (aside from tourism) would be outside the country, as you mentioned. Most Uyghur I know find it next to impossible to get a visa to leave the country.

    I’ve never been able to verify this, but at one point the Uyghur language written using the Latin alphabet. What I heard was that this was discarded by those in power because it gave the Uyghur an unfair advantage learning English. Is this true, or just fabricated?


    Porfiriy on April 15th, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Over time I’ve come to learn that my interests and views regarding the Uyghurs and their human rights situation inevitably is embedded in a larger set of interlocking values. I agree with you here. The value of learning English is greatly diminished by restrictions on movement Uyghurs face (as illustrated by your interview of Mansur), but in my eyes the right, or ‘freedom,’ if you will, to self-determine language of education goes hand in hand with freedom of movement.

    The ironic thing is that this is one of the very things that have made the Han Chinese people shine on the modern global stage – Chinese have reputations for going out to every corner of the globe and making a vast diaspora of studious, hardworking individuals who maintain ties to their homeland. The Chinese diaspora very frequently is well-educated, speak one if not several “global” or “international” languages, and send hefty contributions back to their family in the PRC.

    My contention is that if self-determination in education was coupled with freedom of movement, Uyghurs would be more than capable of doing something similar (though the volume of the phenomenon would be miniscule compared to the Han). The drive and ability to learn English is there. Uyghurs who HAVE against *all odds* made it to other countries, be it Australia or the UAE or Germany or whatever, tend to be well educated and very interested in sending financial and cultural support to their homeland. But I lie much blame on a system whose thinking leads to both a paranoid, patronizing restrictions and interventions in Uyghur education AND completely illegitimate deprivation of freedom of movement.

    Geo on April 18th, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Traditionally, most of Chinese diaspora are from the big cities or wealthy coastal areas of China. So one must reason that being wealthy or well educated or living in an area that’s well off INSIDE of China first is a condition to make it overseas first. So if Uyghur is “lacking of freedom of movement” to go overseas, that may largely because they are not from one of those areas of China. Getting out of Xinjiang first to go to an university in the big, better cities in China will provide them a lot more opportunities. But of course, for that, they have to learn Mandarin Chinese well enough. There is a reason why most of the Chinese diaspora are from Guangdong province or Fujian province, or from universities in Beijing or Shanghai. It’s not easy to find a Chinese living overseas come straightly from Yunnan province or Guizhou province (both are relatively poor and inland). No body limits the freedom of movement of Yunan or Guizhou people within China or abroad. They are limited by their geographic, economic and educational status. I suspect similar reasons may explain better why Uyghurs in Xinjiang don’t have the same amount of opportunities to move abroad.

    Porfiriy on April 18th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Your explanation makes sense but that’s frequently not the case with the Uyghurs.

    Uyghurs are frequently unable to get *passports,* or they have their passports taken from them during sensitive periosdo. So irrespective of whether or not someone has the financial ability to go abroad, they can’t legally leave the country because they don’t have the paperwork.

    Also, your comments seem to be referring to people in the Chinese diaspora in Western nations. You’re absolutely right. Most people you meet in Britain, the US, or Australia will be from wealthier Eastern coast provinces.

    But Xinjiang itself is a “coastal province,” that is, it borders more countries than any other province in China. In fact, it’s easier geographically to go abroad from Xinjiang, than, say Fujian. However, since it’s an issue of paperwork and passports, it’s equally difficult for a Uyghur to go to America or to Russia which is literally next door, because, well, he doesn’t have a passport.

    Finally, it’s kind of a myth that Xinjiang is “poor.” As you can see from this link it really isn’t proper to compare Xinjiang’s situation with Guizhou or Yunnan. The distribution of wealth in Xinjiang, however, is another story.

  10. What a great discussion you all have going on here!

    My somewhat new spice on this already flavorful conversation is the idea that reconciliation cannot and will not happen if individuals living within the same area cannot communicate with one another. For many years governments around the world have tried very hard to keep people “separated”. This separation has come by way of differing languages, neighborhoods, politics, and race classification.

    I argue that it is vital for Uyghurs and Han to get to know one another on a human level, a level that allows for a realization that there are differences, but that the similarities greatly outnumber the differences. The way this occurs is by communicating, and if the Uyghur and Han cannot speak the same language, they cannot begin to mend fences.

    In addition to this, I understand that Mandarin is the language of business, and if a Uyghur wants to maximize opportunity, they must learn Mandarin. However, when it is all said and done, and all of the evidence is stacked up for a “bilingual” education system, I still have this feeling deep inside that the Uyghurs should be focused on learning their own language.

    This is a great conversation, one in which a betting man could thoughtlessly place his money on the outcome with odds… but I still think it’s great that we grind it out, because there is the solution that makes sense, but it comes with the moral dilemma of letting an ethnic language die.


    Baoru on April 16th, 2010 at 12:34 am

    “In addition to this, I understand that Mandarin is the language of business, and if a Uyghur wants to maximize opportunity, they must learn Mandarin. However, when it is all said and done, and all of the evidence is stacked up for a ‘bilingual’ education system, I still have this feeling deep inside that the Uyghurs should be focused on learning their own language.”

    Agree. It should be like that. Actually, this is fairly common sense, because this is where the concept of identity comes in.


    Erland on April 16th, 2010 at 2:32 am

    I’m not sure, Baoru, if your reference to common sense is being directed at a “billingual education” or having Uyghurs actually focus on learning the Uyghur language?

    Forcing a people to learn a language that isn’t traditionally or historically theirs doesn’t seem right to me from a moral standpoint (but what do morals have to do with it when you are running a country?)

    In the United States, the second generation Chinese who don’t speak one lick of Mandarin still have “identity”, it has just taken a new shape. Identity can evolve with a people. The question remains if China should force (and by force, I mean the current “billingual system”) Uyghurs to learn Mandarin in primary school or not?

    Baoru on April 17th, 2010 at 6:21 am

    “Forced” is not exactly what I have in mind. More like, you use a language for survival’s sake.

  11. Porfiriy,

    Strictly speaking, I don’t see the clause itself forbid the use of Mandarin in teaching without a minority language curriculum. Article 37 is largely circumstantial.


    Porfiriy on April 16th, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Article 37 says they they 应当 use 少数民族文字 in 课本, and to use 少数民族语言 when 讲课. I’m not a native Chinese speaker but the meaning of 应当 is pretty unambiguous.

    Sure, there’s a 有条件. But that doesn’t really apply to bilingual education as it is being implemented today (what exactly are the 条件 at work here?). Anyway, if you can slap a 有条件 or a “state secrets” or some rubber band clause on every single law in the PRC (which is pretty much to case) allowing vested interests to ignore laws whenever convenient…well… might as well not have any laws.


    anon on April 16th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Well, right or wrong, the law is written as it is. According to what is written, it just doesn’t support what you are claiming.

    You are right to ask what the “conditions” (有条件) are at work as they are mentioned in the article, but un-specified conditions should not be intepreted as “unconditional” (even though they may be loopholes).

    Again, right or wrong, you cannot invent something that is not written there in order to support your point. I suppose that we have to separate opinions from facts no matter how strongly we think that some opinions should really be/become a matter of fact.

    Excuse me for splitting the hair here as a lawyer.

  12. When it gets right down to it, my beef comes from this:

    The People’s Republic of China Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law

    Article 36 In accordance with state guidelines on education and in accordance with the law, autonomous agencies in ethnic autonomous areas decide on educational plans in these areas, on the establishment of various kinds of schools at different levels, and on their educational system, forms, curricula, the language used in instruction and enrollment procedures.

    Article 37 […]Schools (classes) and other educational organizations recruiting mostly ethnic minority students should, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use these languages as the media of instruction. Beginning in the lower or senior grades of primary school, Han language and literature courses should be taught to popularize the common language used throughout the country and the use of Han Chinese characters. […]

    第三十六条 民族自治地方的自治机关根据国家的教育方针,依照法律规定,决定本地方的教育规划,各级各类学校的设置、学制、办学形式、教学内容、教学用语和招生办法。

    第三十七条 […]招收少数民族学生为主的学校(班级)和其他教育机构,有条件的应当采用少数民族文字的课本,并用少数民族语言讲课;根据情况从小学低年级或者高年级起开设汉语文课程,推广全国通用的普通话和规范汉字。 […]

    This is the law, not a suggestion, and the idea of Western holier-than-thou moralizing doesn’t even enter the picture here. This law was made by the PRC government in 1984.

    Article 37 suggests that at most Mandarin language and Han literature should be given as classes within a minority language curriculum. Like a Spanish class in an American high school. That’s perfectly reasonable. However, the latest “bilingual education” policies in Xinjiang are doing the exact reverse, mandating the instruction of all classes in Mandarin except for demarcated Uyghur language and literature classes. This, of course, contravenes article 36’s statement that the minorities are in control of their own education. The bilingual education policy is a paternalizing top-down policy, not a grassroots desire of Uyghurs who are on the streets clamoring for Mandarin schools.


  13. My two cents: I think China has an exceptional minority policy and i don’t see what all this western holier-than-thou attitude is all about. Like seriously..nobody is discussing aboriginal languages in Australia or native american languages in america or the worst situation which almost no one realises, which is the total assimilation of african-americans into the mainstream white culture and the total annihilation of african languages brought over during the slavery period such that nowadays african americans ALL 100% speak english and no one knows any nigerian anymore…and you have ppl talking about china’s ‘oppressive minority’ policies? Give me a break..from what i know and experience, China has one of the most advanced minority policies compared to its neighbours, like Korea, Japan, and countries like well as in the recent past Indonesia and Thailand..i think many white folks simply don’t know much about the region and only know about what the western media chooses to selectively focus on…the western world is still very much stuck in the cold war era, whereby ‘communist’ China will always be oppressive whereas ‘democratic’ countries such as India (which is a basket case in many respects, including minority policies..) can do no wrong despite having malnutrition and starvation levels in some states such as orissa..

    Back to the minority policy of China, i was amazed to see 10 yrs ago in a program the signs everywhere written equally large of a minority language with chinese in the autonomous regions…even recently with the qinghai earthquake, what caught my attention was a photo taken that in one of the crumbled schools, tibetan (?) was written alongside chinese displayed prominently in front of the school…i dun understand how anyone can doubt the autonomy of these provinces or the cries of ‘cultural genocide’ when not only do the laws prescribe that minority languages must be alongside chinese in equal font but its also enforced in practice as well.

    For the Chinese minorities living in South East Asia (roughly 35 million), they should really have been the ones rioting and protesting throughout the 20th century. An example is Indonesia, where laws not only did not give preferential policy to Chinese(like China is giving to minorities now) but banned chinese characters and all forms of chinese cultural celebrations in public until as recently as 1998. Did ppl even know that the immigration forms at airports until as late as 1998 told you that as a tourist, it was illegal to bring in chinese language publications?! Also, Jakarta became known as the only Chinatown without Chinese writing until 1998.

    Another example, which i was frankly shocked to know about, in Thailand, back 15-20 years ago, a friend told me he attended a Chinese majority school and they had chinese lessons but whenever the education inspectors came they had to hide their chinese textbooks. I was extremely shocked to know about this given that Thailand is supposed to be a democracy.

    Of cos, its all different now, but it meant the Chinese were oppressed 10X more than uighurs until very recently in sea…in malaysia, the government instead of doing what china does, gives preferential treatment to the majority race, quotas in housing, education in favour of the majority malays and NOT the minority chinese/indians. This is still policy happening now.

    The list goes on, Japan,with its Ainu and Zainichi Koreans and the Japanese don’t even have anything like an autonomous region or laws safeguarding minority rights which China has until last yr or something.

    So before critisizing China, ppl should educate themselves about how China does comparatively with other countries in its vicinity as well as other Western nations.

    PS: In terms of difficulty leaving the country, isn’t the issuing of visa something decided by the foreign embassies? so why is the chinese govt getting blamed for that as well? it may well be that western nations do not want to issue visas to muslim uighurs as much which is a problem that lies with them and not the chinese govt. it’s so easy nowadays for han chinese to leave the country as they please so i don’t see why its different for minorities to do the same.


    Josh on April 17th, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Hey Adrian,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I would like to clear up one thing for you, though. Yes, the issuing of a visa is decided by a foreign country, but you can only be issued a visa if you have a passport. The majority of Uyghur are not given passports for this very reason. Han, on the other hand, can obtain a passport much more easily.


    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    If I am not wrong, I believe the CCP maybe because of concerning and worrying for some of the Uyghur separatists whom always involve in many terrorist activities which caused many unrest for their society… that’s why the CCP don’t issue passport to some of the Uyghur that easily…

    So I think it’s as what I had mentioned before… “It’s needs both hands to clap” if there are any complain about anyone…

    anon on April 17th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    China has 55 recognised ethnic minority groups. I wonder if all of them have difficulties in applying for a passport. If not, why?

    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Honestly, I do not know whether do the rest of the ethnic groups in China will face any problem in applying for a passport?
    But I have a Han Chinese friend whose wife is an ethnic Mongolian who was born in Inner Mongolia of China… she doesn’t have any problem whenever she travel oversea to visit other countries (which mean, she do have a Chinese passport).

    But if as you said, that other ethnic groups may “not” have any problem in having a passport… then it maybe as I think that’s because the Uyghur do have some histories in creating terrorist disturbance towards their society, that’s the CCP are so sensitive towards some Uyghurs that they don’t issue passport to them easily.

    Anyway I just want to clarified with you that… there a total of “56” ethnic groups in China rather than”55”…

    anon on April 17th, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I read in the news that the Chinese premier had to use a translator to address some local Tibetan crowd in the recent earthquake zone. That’s a pretty damn job after more than 60 years of “cultural genocide”, isn’t it?


    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Well I believe why the Chinese premier need a translator when he was communicating with those ethnic Tibetan in Qinghai province recently… that’s because many of the local Tibetan could be farmer families who maybe not educated and only speak and understand in their own mother tongue Tibetan. So a translator for situation like that is really necessary.

    Just as what I did mentioned before that… accounts given by some Han Chinese businessmen in other provinces, who at first supported the policy by the CCP of employing more Uyghur in their companies or factories… so by doing that, they have to also specially employ translator for their communication… above that, since the Uyghur are Muslim… specially prepared Muslim food and hostel have to be specially prepare for them too…
    But according to the accounts of these Han Chinese employers was that… most of the Uyghur do not stay long in their job, and return to Xinjiang just after a very short period of employment. In the end, these Han Chinese employers have to always compensate for their money lost. As times went by… some Han employers stop employing ethnic Uyghur anymore… which may create certain discrimination misunderstandings among the Han and the Uyghur.
    And I believe these maybe exactly the same misunderstanding among the employment problem among the Han and Uyghur in Xinjiang.

    Lastly as whether there are really any “cultural genocide” problems happen in Tibet or other provinces among the Tibetan… maybe you can pay Tibet China a visit one day to clarified your doubt… and I believe you maybe surprises to see their culture, language… everywhere, even in some other provinces.

    Hope that you will enjoy your trip there…

    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 11:45 pm


    … And yes I agree with you also…
    Though I am not a Chinese citizen, but I always know that Tibetan culture is always one of the main focus in any of their Chinese festival celebration… and that’s same goes for the Uyghur’s.

    Though I do not know where are you from… but I really love to travel around the whole of China one day and I have confident to see all the culture of the 56 ethnic groups of Chinese being wells preserved… that I agree with you that “cultural genocide” never exist in any of their ethnic groups. And I believe these are only all the propaganda and excuses used by the others nations who are against China.

    Erland on April 17th, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I’ve never understood the tactical argument of comparing two wrongs?

    Such and such country 20 years ago had a really bad policy, so that makes our bad policy not so bad? I don’t get it.

    Even though the United States handled the annexation of Mexico poorly, it doesn’t mean that people in the United States can’t be critical of China’s handling of Xinjiang.


    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    As what the Christian said… realize and amend your own mistake first before you can criticize on others mistakes in a more proper manner…

    Many other countries already have enough of their own big load of problems within their policies and minorities… I don’t think they are all “expert” enough in handling others countries’ problem.

    Let China handle their own problem while every nation in this world are still not “perfect” also. We foreigner should show respect to the Chinese and their policy. As what they used to said… “Don’t appreciate their Chinese painting in the way how the westerner appreciate their western oil painting…”
    Please pardon me if I do not phase it properly. :)

    Akihiro on April 17th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Yes adrian, I agree with all your comments…

    I just want to add on that… even the Tibetan in Tibet China are now already have their hand phone system in Tibetan language which can enable them to send messages in their own Tibetan language character other than English and Mandarin… and of course all these are from the policy of their CCP.

    The Tibetan in Tibet China have also come out with many IT computer softwares and systems in their Tibetan language… so I don’t think this all is consider “cultural genocide” as what others claim.

    Will the Australian or American invent hand phone system in their minorities’ or native’s language specially for their other ethnic groups?

    And of course all these improvement in the Tibetan society system need also the involvement of their ethnic Tibetan together with the ethnic Han Chinese.

    So, the Uyghur can and will have all these privileges like the Tibetan too… provided they should also involve and work for themselves other than only depending on the Han in taking care of them.
    And that’s why I feel that it’s important for those Uyghur intellects, successful businessman or professional… to stay within their homeland and built up their society rather than migrating to other foreign land… at least for the sake of those fellow poor Uyghur who can’t afford to migrate oversea for purchasing their future.

    What I really feel that is, they should be faithful to their homeland…


    Amanda on May 4th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    well, I think the discussion here is not to criticize the minority policy that China has, but to look into the gap between the policy and the reality.

    I do see the benifits of being able to speak fluent Chinese and in fact, I always encourage my people to learn better Mandarine. From the economic development point of view, being able to speak fluent Chinese is the key for Uyghurs to improve the poor economic status. However, should classes in predominantly Uyghur cities be taught in the Mandarin language? No, I don’t think so. At least, one has to learn his own language first before he/she tackles any other languages. There should not be only one option (if you can call it an option).

    Korean Chinese (Chaoxianzu)in China also has bilingual education system, which is to me a very good example. At least, all of the Koreans I met speak fluent Korean, Chinese and even fluent Japanese and/or English. I talked to some of them and according to what they said, they learn both Chinese and English at school, and most of the class is taught in Korean, although they have strong emphasize in Chinese teaching. Maybe I am biased, but I was indeed impressed the way Koreans handeled themselves in the north part of China.

    I personally befinited from the ‘affirmative action’ and it allowed me to go to one of the best universities in the country. However, to me it is not really a practical policy. In fact it created a lot of discrimination. The reason why most of the Chinese do not understand Uyghurs’ complaint is because of this policy. But, if you look close, you will notice that this policy not practiced all the fields and not all the minorities befited from this policy are the real minorities. Just give you my own example: my university provided 12 places for minorities from Xinjiang and among 12 students who finally made it, only four of us were ‘real’ minorities. Rest of the eight were fake. One girl moved to xinjiang just half a year before the Gao Kao(college entrance exam) and changed from Chinese to Mongolian. By the end, you get the yearly report saying that the government educated xx amount of minotries, but how many of them are real? No one knows. I am pretty certain that my case is not the only case all around the country.

    My point here is not to blame those fake ones, but to tell you that there is a gap between those ‘wonderful’ minority policies and the reality and sometimes, it is hard for you outsiders to really understand what is going on there. In this case, both Chinese and Uyghurs have a say and unfortunately, most of the time both sides go for extremes.

    It is not fair just to say that since so and so countries had bad policy, no one should look into the Chinese minority policy. Only with these criticial views, we will be able to identify a better policy, which does not threaten the authority of the Chinese government and at the same time benifit the Uyghurs, as well as other neglected minorities in the region.


  14. Excuse me for being a slack-jawed dunce, but I honestly don’t see what part of 应当采用少数民族文字的课本,并用少数民族语言讲课 I am quote ‘inventing’ unquote.


    Josh on April 17th, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I hope you don’t mind Porfiriy, but I’d like to translate this phrase for those who may not be able to read Chinese:


    Directly translated means:
    “Minority languages should be used in textbooks as well as in class lectures.”


    anon on April 17th, 2010 at 6:48 am

    “where conditions allow”

    anon on April 17th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    “Whenever possible” is your intepretation in ENGLISH.

    This is a Chinese law which has to be interpeted by its meaning in Chinese!

    The law is simply circumstantial with regard to language teaching in XJ. You make it sound that the law is absolute and unconditional which is not the case.

    Porfiriy on April 17th, 2010 at 10:55 pm


    “whenever possible,”

    The current bilingual education policy is converting existing Uyghur schools with Uyghur teachers and Uyghur materials to primarily Mandarin curriculum.

    Obviously, the “possible” criteria has been met in any case where Uyghur curriculum is being replaced.

    In other words, you are wrong.

    Or “inventing something that is not there to support your point.” That makes sense though, if you’re a lawyer.

    Porfiriy on April 18th, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Wrong again.

    First of all, I linked the translation provided by Peking University’s Law Department. Either “whenever possible” is the correct interpretations or the legal experts running the law database of the country’s foremost law school are idiots. “Whenever possible” also happens to be the English translation created by the US human rights watchdog group, the CECC. If a Beijing academic institution and an American human rights organization agree on an interpretation, you can bet your bunghole it’s the closest you can get. “Whenever possible” is the most agreed upon rendering of art. 37. “When conditions allow” is your wrong interpretation.

    Second, the language is irrelevant. The standard is 有条件的. Schools that are being converted from EXISTING UYGHUR CURRICULA have already by their existence have met the entirely unambiguous, un”laweryable” criteria of 有条件的. Either the Uyghur school Josh spoke about in Qaramay is 有条件的 or 没有条件的. But since IT’S A UYGHUR SCHOOL it is ipso facto 有条件的. The condition being met, the following clause defined by the verb 应当 also known as SHOULD is applicable here. In other words, this school should use Uyghur text and have Uyghur lectures. If it does not, it is contravention of article 37.


    1. Your rendering of the phrase in English is wrong
    2. Your understanding of the law in Chinese is wrong

    And as we all know, lawyers hate being wrong.

    mr.t on February 14th, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Are you sure it’s not the same version? The one from the PKU’s website is a verbatim copy of the CECC.

  15. I am wondering why white people are so interested in XJ’s language issue?


    Josh on April 20th, 2010 at 5:42 am

    What does being white have to do with it? I believe that gaining a better understanding of global issues is part of being a responsible member of the global community. Besides that, I also get the sense that many of these commenters are, in fact, not white.

    Let me turn this question around on you for a moment: What is there to gain from ignoring the problem? At least by discussing it we have a chance get both sides of the story, even those that are extreme. I, for one, have learned quite a bit I didn’t know just from this particular comment thread.


    Porfiriy on April 20th, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Good thing I’m not white.


  16. Hallo
    I have read all the posts with great interest. Especially concerning language politics in Europe and comparative cases like the Irish turning to English.
    That is indeed a very interesting case because it seems to be the only successful mass conversion of contiguous population from one language to another. Granted there are other cases as well but on a much smaller scale. Here we have an entire country losing its language. In the case of the Irish the deciding role played the famine of 1844-1948. The West of the country which was still completely Gaelic was hit the hardest. About one quarter died and one quarter emigrated. There is no doubt that the famine marked the end of Irish as the majority language in Ireland. But there is a long history before that: special laws which forbid Catholics to gain any higher position or education and the economic preference that was given to English people in Ireland. To be Irish meant to be poor and powerless from the 17. to the 19th century.
    But however one might view the process undoubtedly there was a certain kind of “success” at the end: The Irish had forgotten their own language.
    The closest in Europe apart from the Irish is the fate of the Ukrainians, whose language was lost in those parts of the country which were already in the thirties under Soviet control. Here the coup de grace for the language was also delivered by a famine. Like in Ireland about 25% of the population perished in 1930-1933.
    But in both cases interestingly enough the language change didn´t engender a loss of a separate consciousness as an ethnic entity.
    So how successful will be the Chinese government in forcing a language change upon the Uighurs? Which obviously is the rationale in making Chinese the language of instruction for all subjects except the Uyghur language.
    Let me venture an opinion. Both the Irish and the Ukrainians are close cousins of the people whose language they took. Less so in the case of the Irish but still… In appearance they are virtually indistinguishable from either the English or the Russians and there´s a shared past. Russian culture and religion first appeared in the Ukraine and it were the Irish who brought Christianity to Britain.
    With Uyghurs and Chinese the problems of successful assimilation are much greater. Both are from completely different cultural spheres. They eat different food, have a strikingly different religiosity, a completely different way of organizing themselves and also look different.
    Now Chinese isn´t simply a language as a European language. By learning the characters you not only imbibe a different culture you also learn a different “way of learning” which is very different from the way you learn any other language except Japanese or Korean. Also to be literate in the generous definition which is employed in China i.e. know 300 characters, doesn´t give you much. Chinese is very much all or nothing. At least written Chinese.
    So I guess, all those Uyghur kinds (or most of them) will not become more literate in Chinese than the average country child. And that won´t do much for changing the spoken language. After all 300 words in any language don´t exactly make you fluent.
    So what will happen? I believe the closest analogy one can find in the world is the fate of the European gypsies. They are a minority who immigrated from India and have stayed apart in every sense of the word. There is no country in Europe where they have lost their language, but there is also no part of Europe where a majority is literate in the true sense of the world. I believe the outcome with the Uyghurs will be substantially the same. A complicating factor of course is that the Uyghurs have a homeland and that across the borders there are many millions who speak very similar languages. So the task of the Chinese government is truly daunting.


  17. As comparing to China’s history,one European countrie is just like one province of China. Before B.c., as Qin unified the whole China in 221 BC,the chinese (from different states) speak the same language. So,Uyghur must learn the mandarine,then they can advance with the whole country. American Indians still live in poor condition today ,why the US government don’t accompany with them to advance with the white society? China has done something better than the Europe countries and US on minornity issues .


    Josh on April 26th, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Maybe…and maybe not. I’ll agree with you that the US and Europe didn’t do great with their minorities but I think you’re pulling rabbits out of a hat if you think China has done “better”.

    Besides that, the whole point of this article was to ask: Does a comparison against another country justify bad actions? I think not.


    joyce on June 23rd, 2012 at 5:55 am

    “good ” or “bad” is not an absolute concept. Some people can only think in “black” or “white”, but reality is always in some “shade of grey”. The comparison is complete legitimite because it can kind of put China on the scale of “shades of grey”. We can leave out 100 millions of Native Americans were killed during the European conquest of “New World”, now the well being indicator of natives is lower than that of African Americans. Besides, Xinjiang was the new world to Uighur later than Han.

  18. Q:Should classes in predominantly Uyghur cities be taught in the Uyghur or Mandarin language?
    A:Uyghur! As far as I know, most Uyghurs don’t like to be taught in Chinese. It is against their will, and they it is as a threat and an attempt to assimilate them.

    Q:Do you think the government should be directing policy on this issue?
    A:No, they shouldn’t. Uyghur people should decide their own destiny. However, this is impossible as long as CCP in power.

    Q:Is affirmative action (or “positive discrimination”) a practical policy in this situation?
    A: I don’t get it.

    Q:Do you think the Uyghur language will still be active a century from now?

    A: I guess so. How many people predicted the super power Soviet Union would collapse a decade before? Currently, China is undergoing many social and economical problems, despite its great economical achievement. These problems are not being solved but pressured down. If there is small crack, it will cause collapse of whole system. Let’s see.


  19. Seen from neighboring Kyrgyzstan..
    Difficult to answer those questions, any way there may be a growing gap between classes in Uyghur society, between villagers keeping a strong cultural identification to their ancestors and people in the cities preferring assimilation in stand of economical marginalization. The same was witnessed in Soviet Central Asia, and has became a matter of fact very hard to deal with in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, with a big deal of hatred between those in the cities who feels compelled to Russian, not only for the language but also for culture or political opinions, and the rest of the country holding a strong identity, where cultural performance is held in national language… Now, will uyghur still exist within 100 years, I hope so, else seeing one of the most literate Turkish language disapear would be so sad … By the way China lost a big occasion of building a strong soft power toward central Asia, using Uyghur culture, some old musical movies in Uyghur language might have gotten very compelling for a region where people are great consumers of indian movies..


  20. In response to the passport situation, it is difficult even for the Han to get a passport in Xinjiang. Passports on the eastern seaboard, and in Beijing are relatively easy…a few bucks from the post office and you have it in 15 days.. Xinjiang goes by the old laws and to get a passport, one had to have the permission of seemingly everyone in their life, their boss, their family, their spouse, their neighborhood secretary…and unless you are willing to grease a palm or two, you may or may not get your passport. I know educated Han that have taken two and three years of reappling to obtain a passport. Then the question of the Visa comes up. Many people are not aware of the fact that the U.S., does not easily allow visas. A Chinese citizen must travel with a tour group to visit the U.S., unless they are here on a business visa, which takes documentation beyond belief. Most countries reject Chinese tourists. Only the 5 Eastern border provinces are even allowed to go to HongKong, others, such as Xinjiang citizens must get a special visa and travel with a tour agency.

    China worries about the “Brain drain”, and the U.S. worries about the visitor getting “lost in the country” and becoming another “undocumented worker”.


  21. Folks, this is not only about the language this is about survival of an ethnic group.
    In my memory there are certain things required for a ethnic group to survive such as language, common culture, religion and economy.
    All these are threatened by Chinese government.
    1. Our religion is labeled as “fundamentalism”, falsely linked with terrorism.
    2. Promoting/following our culture is discouraged (you may not believe that wearing scarf or keeping mustache is not allowed for government employees in Xinjiang)
    3. With all main posts- banks, licence/tax/certificate related posts occupied by Han-chinese people with double standards its very hard for Uyghurs to survive the competition. As banks, good policies, preferences always given to Han-chinese people. (If you think uyghurs can not seat on these key posts because they cannot speak Chinese, not say it loudly as it sounds stupid).
    4.Now we are about to forced to speak and think in Chinese.

    If we are not facing genocide movement in other fields we might able to accept the reasoning that “learning Chinese can benefit us in job finding, learning new technologies ect”, but after realising that Han Chinese people trying to remove all the pillars which stands as foundation of Uyghur ethnic nationality, we can not accept the lie says – you speak Mandarin and you get benefit.
    First of all, with tenth of thousands of graduates who speak/write mandarin well stay jobless or out of the “circle of power” we do not believe learning mandarin may bring us any benefit that promised on the book.
    Secondly, getting basic education in our own language is a right given to us on the constitution, which should not be taken away forcefully.

    This is something you may not want to accept by force, you may change your name any time, for any reason as long as you wanted to do it, but if someone asks you to change your name by order you can not accept it, can you?

    Besides, Chinese is not a language very useful in the future compare to English, French , Germany or Russian which you can use international, if Chinese government doesn’t give a good job after we learn it it is useless.

    It is not only learning a language it is changing whole education system, there will not be any space in text books for learning about our folklore , historical Uyghur figures, no one will teach our children songs we love.

    Further more in the future we have to adopt mechanical teaching methods of chinese teachers which only focus on marks.


    joyce on May 13th, 2010 at 12:49 am

    I don’t get why the government doesn’t give passports to all Uyghur. If your guys hate China that much, you can cross the border into other countries even you don’t have passports. Mexicans do it all the time and there are over 10 millions of illegal Mexicans in USA. It is not that you can go where ever you want even if you have passports.


  22. Well, I’m really grateful that people are discussing the Uighur issues here. I am a Uighur. And I want tell you guys about my own experiences as an eye witness and even a participant of the “bilingual education” in the region.

    I have to tell you first that I was forced to study in Mandarin. I learned Uighur from my parents at home. At school I was given that “Uighur language is not capable to learn the terms and concepts of modern science” as the reason that I should study in Mandarin. However, I was told that if I learned Uighur properly it would help me to learn not only other Turkic languages but also some “alien” languages such as Arabic, Persian, English and even French. Because, I was told, that a Uighur-speaking person can easily pronounce many words in these languages. Therefore, I learned both Mandarin and Uighur.

    I was given additional 50 marks in the final high school exam for studying in Mandarin.

    I came back to Urumqi after I received my Master from a University in Shang Hai. And tried to find a good job. However, most of the times, just coming into the (many different) companies I saw the written sign on the reception desk “We do not need Uighurs”. And sometimes the same answer was given by a spoken Mandarin. Explanation of the sign was that I could not work here because Mandarin is not my mother tongue. Interestingly, the Mandarin which was spoken by the employers to give me this reason was worst than ever. I mean they could not speak Mandarin even as I do (did).

    We can see that giving additional 50 marks to send Uighurs to universities, and, not giving a job after graduating it is the government’s policy. In western countries people call this “positive discrimination”.

    Later, I realised that my neighbour (who used to serve as a captain in the National Army of ETR before the communist invasion) was right. He was right in telling me that the only thing the communist government really needs us to do is becoming Chinese (Han). Anything else, For example: being a good CCP member, being “new bilingual generation”, giving up religious belief, peacefully living in the “harmonious society”, protecting the national unity of the “mother land”…. can’t make this government changes its policies in the region.

    The problem is not Uighur or Mandarin, I believe most of the Uighurs want to learn Mandarin as a language (just like English). But the problem is becoming Han Chinese. This is hard. Uighurs do not need 50 marks in the exam, they need their language and their ethnic identity.


    Brett Elmer on August 3rd, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Hi, Uighur from Aus – My name is Brett Elmer and I would love to ask you a few more questions about your experience as a Uighur who studied Chinese and Uighur in Xinjiang. I have done extensive reading and it seems there are more and more individuals such as yourself in the XUAR today. If you, or anyone else, would like to email me, my email is [email protected]

    I’m a postgraduate university student who has recently completed a thesis on Chinese policies in the XUAR since the end of the Soviet Union.



  23. As a student of the Uyghur language and culture, I have wondered if it would be beneficial to both Han and Uyghur in Xinjiang to use English as a go between language that neither ethnic group is native in order to level the playing field and reduce discrimination. English is spoken well in so many parts of China that it could very well be a secondary langauge to Manderin in order to communicate with the various ethnic groups. I would imagine that both ethnic groups would welcome the utilization of English as opposed to forced or heavily urged learning of the other group’s language. English is also a language of business in China- an idea to consider and discuss.

    In preparation of traveling to Xinjiang, I am not planning on learning Manderin, but focusing on using Uyghur and English not only as my means of communication but a statement about Manderin by omission. I would be much more comfortable saying I speak Uyghur and English, than prefering to speak Uyghur but being forced to limp along in Manderin because I had learned some.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion,



  24. Learning a new language (whatever it is) is always beneficial.
    So my guess would be that just as Uyghur children might benefit from mastering Mandarin ALONG Uyghur, an interesting move would be that Han kids learn Uyghur too! Both languages are official in the XUAR, so it would be fair enough!


  25. Nathan who said
    ‘I have wondered if it would be beneficial to both Han and Uyghur in Xinjiang to use English as a go between language” and
    “English is also a language of business in China.”

    And you plan to go to China?

    What an ethnocentric idiot!


  26. This question is not just about ‘the best way to get ahead’ in a given culture, but about language (and cultural) survival.


  27. China won’t be able to fully incorporate xinjiang into itself without completely breaking down the language barrier. Eliminating uyghur language is never the goal, reinforcing mandrin education is. You guys don’t give a crap about China’s concern in xinjiang by proposing English as a “sidestep” tool to circumvent mandrin study. Sad thing is that the more uyghurs and their foreign supporters think this way, the more urgent China feels about language “unification” and thus the less emphasis will be given to the upkeep of uyghur language.


  28. CN:
    1) Why do you suggest that Xinjiang is not fully incorporated into China?
    TrueXinjiang states that “Since the Han Dynasty established the Western Regions Frontier Command in Xinjiang in 60 B.C., the Chinese central governments of all historical periods exercised military and administrative jurisdiction over the region.”

    2) Why should “Breaking down the language barrier” involve only Uyghurs learning Mandarin?

    Anyway, how could anyone possibly think it possible to live in a region and still not understand half of its population?
    GENERAL and MUTUAL bilinguism seems to be the key.


  29. Xemit, having military and administrative jurisdiction and full incorporation are two different levels of control. What’s the issue? As long as there is separists movement in Xinjiang, it is not fully incorporated into China.

    Well, that’s China’s national policy and it doesn’t single out uyghurs or anyother minority groups. I can’t communicate with a lot of Hans in different provinces in China since the local dialects are so different but I am not required to learn each dialect. If all people in Xinjiang are required to learn uyghur, why not ask all people in Shanghai to learn Shanghainese or all people in Guangdong to learn Cantonese? Then how many languages and dialects a Chinese have to learn? How can China function as a nation?


  30. CN:
    Could you please elaborate on your conception of full incorporation? What are the criteria to be fulfiled?

    The point is : do you want to be able to communicate with a mere half of the persons in the region you settle in?
    One other question is : why should China try to implement this notion of nation on its citizens, while the facts show that this XIX-century European scheme is out of step with the social reality of China in 2011?


  31. Full incorporation is the recognition of China as the motherland by all the people in Xinjiang.

    What XIX-century European scheme? English proficiency is required for US citizenship test. Why not Spanish? Many parts of US had Spanish settlers earlier than English speaking ones and still have large spanish speaking population. Why not different American India languages? North America is their land anyway. There is nothing wrong to promote a common language among a naiton’s citizens. You are either stupid, blind by your bias, or have unspeadable purpose.


  32. I don’t think I’m stupid (who would anyway?) but I feel it important that I understand is your conception of terms as “motherland” or “nation” to avoid misunderstandings.
    So what should one do/think to recognise China as one’s motherland?

    I’d say that 2 issues are at stake here : the alibity for communicate and live in a multilinguistical environment, and the nation-building process as it is at work in China.

    Just like I wrote it above, I can not imagine Uyghurs not speaking Mandarin. But can Han live in Xinjiang totally unaware about the whole cultural Uyghur-speaking world next door? This is also their neighbourhood’s cultural heir, and turning a blind eye on it seems to be the best way to misunderstandings between the communities. That is why I am convinced that multilinguism is the key to today’s world (and not only in China). What means I don’t have any objections toward Uyghurs learning Mandarin, and I think that learning Uyghur is in the own interest of Xinjiang’s Hans.

    About the nation: if one has a look of China as it is at the moment, one is bound to get to the conclusion that China gathers several ethnies that, in my opinion, could also be “nations” on their own.
    Let me put it as clearly as I can possibly do : I don’t support any splitism or independence of any part of today’s RPC. I think that the current organisation of the Chinese state does not permit all ethnies/nationalities/minorities to be given the same respect and consideration. This disbalance can but end in social tensions for which external powers can not be blamed.
    I consider a modern state to be the voluntary association of communities (such like Switzerland, the Indian Union, or the building of European Union), a stronger federation in which everyone can nurture one’s own culture.
    I consider the 18th century European nation-state concept, advocating forcible assimilation (like France throughout 20th century, and RPC in my estimation), as an anachronistic and obsolete idea.

    That’s why I’d like to seem China placed anticipating the evolution of western political institutions, and not lagging one century behind.


  33. Xemit,
    You are still not acknowledging that the status of Uyghur is no different from other languages and dialects (in fact they are languages just sharing the same writing system). If it is not practical to make all Chinese people learn everyone of these languages and dialects considering the increasing mobility of people in China, non-uyghur speaking people in Xinjiang should not be asked to learn uyghur. Facing the western sponsored separtism in Xinjinag, China has nothing to lose by being tough. The current CCP rulers are soft because they are most concerned about their power grip than the nation’s wellbeing.

    BTW, no country grew big by “voluntary association”.


  34. You’re mixing up a few things. There is no use that every Chinese person speaks ALL languages spoken in China. It sounds definitely sensible that someone who settles in a Uyghur, or Cantonese speaking region learns this ONE language he will face everyday in his life there. It’s a matter of plain common sense.

    Your last “rough” sentences sound really promising, but please could you enlighten us about :
    – why CCP leaders are little “soft” sissies,
    – what is “being tough”,
    – how such strong policies will improve the situation in XJ in the short and long term,
    – how they will not fuel and justify the demands of some Uyghurs about the respect of their persons, culture and dignity?

    I’m looking forward from reading from you.


  35. So a Chinese migrant worker works around the country has to become a linguistic expert? Give me one example in which a multi-ethnic country has the policy you are proposing for China?

    You mean only if every non-uyghur speaking person in Xinjiang is required to learn uyghur, then uyghurs will feel respected?


  36. CN:

    If a migrant worker wants to work all around the country, he has to accept the contraints of the situation he puts himself in. He wants to travel all around China, then HE should submit to the linguistical realities of the regions where he wants to go. As simple as that! And his adaptability and linguistical skills could be a decisive asset for his career.
    I have never promoted forcible Uyghur lectures for Han in XJ. The truth is Han learning Uyghur, irrespective of the educational method, is both morally justified and pragmatically a necessity in such a multiethnical region.

    The topic was about education of children in XJ. As you have most probably noticed, I tend to think that a real general bilinguistic education system in XJ would be beneficial to all, Han and Uyghurs. By the way, I speak of REAL bilinguism, ie half-Mandarin, half Uyghur, not what is promoted at the moment which is 95% mandarin, 5% uyghur, and restricted to Uyghurs only. So, China could implement the three-language formula used in India as given below:
    – the first language could be the regional language (here Uyghur)
    – the second language could be the national language (here Mandarin instead of Hindi)
    – the third language could be either another regional language or a foreign one
    If the local language is Hindi, then the second language must be another regional language, like Gujarati or Tamil. And In India the regional language is taught to all pupils, inrespective of their ethnicity.
    This works in India, when pupils are not smarter than Chinese kids, and where education is far from benefiting of the same resources as in China. This would also meet your demand that all ethnicities are treated alike.

    From personal experience in England, Germany, Italy, Finland, Turkey and Chili, I can assure you that wherever I went, I drew much sympathy when I had a few words with locals in their language. So yes, I am pretty sure that Uyghurs would appreciate if non-Uyghurs would learn Uyghur. Other social issues would still need to be tackled, but such a move would help to show the respect and consideration of Han toward Uyghur culture, and thus it would refute the threat upon Uyghur culture expressed by some Uyghurs.
    And if Uyghurs are assured that their culture is not endangered and can flourish under Chinese rule, support to independence would be given a serious blow.

    Now, it’d be nice from you to answer the following questions:

    “Your last “rough” sentences sound really promising, but please could you enlighten us about :
    – why CCP leaders are little “soft” sissies,
    – what is “being tough”,
    – how such strong policies will improve the situation in XJ in the short and long term,
    – how they will not fuel and justify the demands of some Uyghurs about the respect of their persons, culture and dignity?”


    joyce on June 23rd, 2012 at 9:04 am

    XJ has over a dozen of ethnic groups. Why should Uyghur be the regional language? Why is Uyghur the only one resisting the national language? Then why should Han only learn Uyghur? Besides, Mandarin is not native to all Han to start with. What you are suggesting is incompatible with modern mobility. It is only possible if people are segregated by ethnicity and literally back to tribal time and it is impossible because of ever increasing population.

    It is odd to use India as a succesful multi-ethnic nation. Did you ever hear about partition? Did you ever hear about riots between Hindu and Muslim in which thousands were killed and the riot in Xinjiang was child play in comparison? Besides, more than one third of Indians are illiterate and living like the poorer Africans and which language in textbooks is irrelavent. Uyghur scripts are old Arab and why you guys hang on them so tight? Oh BTW,Han has been eating pork long before Islm, so eating pork is no insult to muslim.


  37. They deserve to live all aspects of their life in their own language not in mandarin. Education, politics, health, Mass Media, everything should be in their own language in order to preserve it.

    Chinese nationalist is like a little Hitler. Look at your sentence Chinese Nationalist “no country grew big by voluntary association”. Maybe then it was ok when Japan invaded China, wasn’t it? They just wanted to grew big.


  38. By the way there are many countries in the world with more than one language where the minority language is protected and required, for example, to work at the government of the region where it’s spoken. Like happens in Catalonia, part of Spain.


  39. In one country, it is very important to have a national language.. so theirs citizen among themselves can communicate effectively.. besides Chinese Mandarin is UN official language, of course it is very important for every Chinese citizen regardless their ethnicity to be able to speak and understand Mandarin, so that not only they posses national language but also an international language as well..

    But local language still need to be taught in that particular region (eg:xinjiang need to be taught uyghur or any other local language regardless ethnicity). it doesn’t hurt to know other language, besides, who know you could hook up with Xinjiang Girl (well known pretty)

    adriad said:———-
    Back to the minority policy of China, i was amazed to see 10 yrs ago in a program the signs everywhere written equally large of a minority language with chinese in the autonomous regions…even recently with the qinghai earthquake, what caught my attention was a photo taken that in one of the crumbled schools, tibetan (?) was written alongside chinese displayed prominently in front of the school…i dun understand how anyone can doubt the autonomy of these provinces or the cries of ‘cultural genocide’ when not only do the laws prescribe that minority languages must be alongside chinese in equal font but its also enforced in practice as well.

    For the Chinese minorities living in South East Asia (roughly 35 million), they should really have been the ones rioting and protesting throughout the 20th century. An example is Indonesia, where laws not only did not give preferential policy to Chinese(like China is giving to minorities now) but banned chinese characters and all forms of chinese cultural celebrations in public until as recently as 1998. Did ppl even know that the immigration forms at airports until as late as 1998 told you that as a tourist, it was illegal to bring in chinese language publications?! Also, Jakarta became known as the only Chinatown without Chinese writing until 1998.

    Another example, which i was frankly shocked to know about, in Thailand, back 15-20 years ago, a friend told me he attended a Chinese majority school and they had chinese lessons but whenever the education inspectors came they had to hide their chinese textbooks. I was extremely shocked to know about this given that Thailand is supposed to be a democracy.

    I totally agree with your statement adrian.. westerner (promoted by USA) has a bias attitude toward China.. Because China is viewed as threat, as rough state, as a competitor for whatever their (western) political motives are..

    Look at Indonesia for instance.. has plenty of ethnic group but, the largest, Javanese out numbered other ethnic group in most of the other land/island and there is not issue there.. no article about javanese killing dayak kalimantan culture or seizing their job opportunities in the western media..

    why is that? Indonesia is too small to be noticed.. heck no.. because Indonesia is “robbed” by western states.. look at freeport for example.. They just keep quite so that they can keep “sucking” Indonesia huge resources… And as long as Indonesian gov kowtows to USA..

    I have to change to Indonesian name, could not learn my mother language and face a huge discrimination in law and society.. thanks to USA’s containment policy..

    But now it is changing… not because USA is great in upholdin Human rights (bullshit slogan), but because China has risen from the “death”.. China is becoming a powerful nation.. so other countries would not dare to offend its citizens or its descendants..



  40. I do hope the Uyghur language is not forgotten. My father was raised a francophone in English-speaking Canada where he and his parents experienced much discrimination; they were made fun of and even denied jobs simply because they had French names. Based on that experience my father only spoke to me in English and sent me to English schools. By the time I began looking for work, the situation for Canadian francophones had changed greatly and being bilingual in both official languages became a great asset. There are many successful bilingual Canadians who do not lose out by learning two languages.
    While the most important language in Xijiang for commerce might be Chinese, one never knows how things might change in the span of a generation.


  41. Dispute-ending argument for the Holyfficial Gospel of China Daily:

    “”They begin to forget the dialect as they enter kindergarten and school due to a lack of a proper language environment,” Qian said.

    “I’m always trying to talk to my son in the Shanghai dialect at home. But he sticks to speaking Putonghua and said it’s the rule of his kindergarten,” Xu Yunlan, the mother of a 6-year-old boy, said.”

    How could what is true for Shanghaiese not be true for Uyghur?


  42. Well, it will be great idea if all Uyghurs move to the West and then the Uyghurs can take the advantage of the social benefit in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the UK, US … Win – win !


  43. I am quite a few years late for this but honestly speaking nobody on this earth should speak Mandarin unless they are Han Chinese or they want to. Every ethnic group in China should be learning just their own languages and only speak this “foreign” language of Chinese if they want to. It is pretty sad to know that Manchurian, Tibetan, Uyghur, and many other languages and dialects are slowly dying out because a horrible anti-human rights government takes minimal interest in them. People often compare English to Mandarin. Honestly implementing Mandarin is just a recipe for extinction of a language. the CPP knows very well that a fully assimilated population would work in their favor and would rather destroy a culture to gain followers than to preserve one that may break away.