Xinjiang/East Turkistan

Posted: 2011年02月1日 in Original Thoughts

The term “Xinjiang” (interpreted variously as “New Territory,” “New Region,” or “New Dominion”) reflects the colonial perspective of the Qing conquerors who in the 18th century established a military-civilian presence in this Central Asian territory. The Chinese Communist Party later designated this area as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Others identify this area as “East Turkestan” or “Chinese Turkestan,” terms used to refer to region west of the Pamir Mountains. However, “East Turkestan” now has subversive connotations. Through extensive Chinese propaganda, Dōng Tūjuésītăn (East Turkestan) is now firmly associated by many with the “three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. Some continue to use the place name East Turkestan to signify the cultural distinctiveness of this region from China proper. Others use it in recognition of the inappropriateness of the Qing-derived toponym. After all, to the Uyghurs, there is nothing “new” about the territory they have occupied for over 1,200 years. Still others use it to signify a pro-independence position. These highly politicized geographic terminologies reveal the dynamics and developments of the region and highlight the different ways of thinking about Xinjiang history and its future. It is only for the purpose of convenience and consistency that this website/E-journal employs the popular term “Xinjiang” to refer to this highly contested region of Central Asia. The use of “Xinjiang” also implies a focus on the time period spanning from the Qing dynasty colonization, when the region became the Qing’s new dominion, to the present, in which controversy over the legitimate status of the region still remains.

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