Sources of Conflict in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: History, Power, and Uyghur Identity Flux?

Samuel Glen


This commentary discusses the historical and contemporary conditions, underlying causes and future trajectories of the Uyghur conflict in the XUAR, China, and deals with issues of ethnicity, identity, religion, and nationalism in the context of the challenges within the region. It shows the asymmetrical historical development of the conflict and how its more contemporary conditions in fact exacerbate rather than assuage the Uyghur conflict in the XUAR. This paper, therefore, seeks to show that the underlying cause of the conflict and Uyghur ‘separatist’ activity in China are not necessarily a simple one-sided story of terrorist activity or religious extremism, but the result of a distinct power dynamic that perpetually favours the Chinese government in practice and policy, thereby encroaching any legitimate claims Uyghur’s may have to form an independent and fully autonomous nation-state on their own terms.

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