“Quelling unrest is an art as much as it is a science,” Yang says, steepling his fingers, “and we are hoping to solicit your help for a particular task. All in the name of peace, of course.”
“Of course,” says Katherine. “Uh huh.”
“As you are likely aware,” Yang says delicately, “the Xinjiang Province has been an increasingly active zone of conflict here in China. It is of growing concern.”
The Indian guy next to me chortles. I nearly do too but manage to catch myself. Calling Xinjiang an “active zone of conflict” is like saying, “There was a small disagreement in Concord and Lexington in 1775.”
For years, there’d been rampant speculation in the west that if Xi’s iron fist of domination and control was to finally loosen, or rather– be forcibly pried open, that it would start in the Xinjiang Province. In the past decade, Xi’s CCP had gladly picked up the baton of colonization off the ground where the British had dropped it like a flaming potato two-and-a-half centuries ago, doused and dusted it off, and then happily continued the imperialist tradition. Territory by territory, the Chinese Empire had slowly expanded: Macau, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and now, Xinjiang. All of these regions were previously independent territories with their own peoples, cultures, and local governments. But under Chinese rule, they were slowly assimilated into China’s fold. First, they were “autonomous regions” and each was structured (laughably) under a rule of “two governments, one country.” But over subsequent decades, inciting events in every region had “required” the CCP to “reluctantly move in to restore and maintain the peace.” Funny thing was that after “restoring the order,” the Chinese National Guard just conveniently never left. And slowly over time, the Chinese national security apparatus just weaved its way into the local governments and social fabric of each autonomous region. They went from being initially “helpful” to being “important” to then being “necessary” until finally becoming “indispensable.”
“What do you want our help with in Xinjiang?” I ask, finally speaking up. May as well join this circus and see where it all goes.
“Xinjiang is currently a tinder box,” Yang says. “With the unfortunate violence and riots that happened last month, it appears like we’ve reached an inflection point with the province. As you know, the CCP has extended nothing but goodwill towards the Xinjiang people.”
“And by ‘goodwill’ you mean ‘convenience police stations’ every other block, I assume?” says Katherine.
“We do what is necessary to keep our citizens safe,” Yang says evenly, “and police is an integral component of that equation.” He gestures towards Katherine. “You, Ms. Katherine Henley, of all people should know that. After all, until recently, you led Foogle’s Smart City initiative in Darwin, Australia, did you not? In particular, the division to ensure public safety and trust?”
Katherine’s eyes narrow but she says nothing.
Yang turns towards us. “We have here, a collection of unique individual talents. Mr. Coleman Hughes,” Yang looks at the skinny black guy, “you are a political consultant and were instrumental behind the scenes helping DTJ win the most recent presidential elections in America. Mr. Deepak Chopra, you are an academic who specializes in colonial history. I found your dissertation on the Indian/Pakistani border separation of 1947 fascinating.”
Chopra, the Indian guy sitting on the barstool next to me, merely stares back at Yang. His expression gives nothing away.
Yang then turns to me. “And last but not least, Mr. Dexter Fletcher, you are our resident data science expert. You freelance for the American government and in your free time, do open-source work in cryptocurrencies. May I also add, you are quite an accomplished fan fiction author.”
The room suddenly feels about ten degrees hotter and I’m pretty sure I turn at least a little red. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Katherine raise an eyebrow and hearing Yang mention her most recent gig finally jogs my memory. This is rich– the woman who single-handedly nearly turned Darwin into a unitary police state has the gall to judge me. That’s great.
“And on Team China,” Yang continues smoothly, “we have Shu Qi, Alan Chen, and Vanessa Tan. Shu specializes in marketing and promotion– there’s literally nothing on this planet that she can’t sell you.” Shu bats her long lashes and smiles. “Alan grew up and was raised in Xinjiang; he knows everything there is to know about the province, and Vanessa –well– Vanessa does a bit of everything.”
Yang clasps his hands together. “Between the lot of you, we are hoping that you’ll help us create a new campaign plan to win over the hearts and minds of the Xinjiang people. Over the past decade, Xi has thrown every tool in the toolbox at the province but we’ve been… unsuccessful. We’re now trying a more soft-power approach, you could say.”
“You want us to help China assimilate Xinjiang?” I ask, somewhat incredulous. This is most definitely not consulting work even remotely related to Echelon. Like, at all.
“I, and the Xi government, want a safer future for all Chinese citizens,” Yang says calmly, “and that includes all of the good people of Xinjiang.” He checks his watch and sees the time. “And now, I’m afraid I must be off for another appointment. I’ll take my leave now but feel free to mingle amongst yourselves. If you have any questions, please ask Shu, Alan, or Vanessa. They will be here all morning to answer any queries you may have. Thank you for your time this morning. I really do hope you will join us.”
Notes:1. Explain why the CCP has brought us to China - Campaign to win "hearts and minds" of the people. - First project: Quell civil unrest in the Xinjiang Province. 2. Introductions.