Chapter Nine – Passage Six
“Quran followers believe that the most heinous sin in all of Islam is shirk (شرك)– that is, polytheism; idolatry. Worshiping or deification of anyone of anything other than Allah.” Governor Wu looks up at us from the holy text and his expression turns wistful for a moment. “You know, it really is a shame that the Chinese and the Uyghurs were several centuries apart. In so many ways, we are one in the same.”
“China is an atheist state though, correct?” Coleman says. You can practically hear the restraint that he’s using every single muscle in his body to employ as he says this.
“Oh, sure, sure,” Governor Wu says waving his hand dismissively. “All of the details might be different–“
“–that’s a pretty freaking huge detail–“ Shu elbows Coleman in the ribs and he luckily quiets down.
“But the superstructure,” Governor Wu says grandly sweeping his arms, is the same. “Whether it be aesthetic thought or Islam, both the Chinese and the Muslim people worship a very particular narrowness in one’s way of thinking– very strict sense of judgement. In both of our countries and cultures, there is only one God. There is only one way that things are done. There is only one result that every good Muslim or Chinese citizen aspires to be. Or at least, the band of acceptable outcomes is much narrower.”
“And that’s a good thing?” I ask. “You do realize this narrowness of acceptability is exactly the source of your problem, right?”
Governor Wu shakes his head. “You Americans and your diversity. Homogeneity makes us strong. In every culture and every religion the world over through all of the ages of history, purity has always been the staple of our strength. In Judaism, it’s wool and linen or milk and meat.”
“A single field of all the same crop perishes with but a single disease.” Shu says quietly.
“Ah! A scholar, we have, do we?” Governor Wu says, amused. “Well, while it’s true that diversity may give you some resilience, it’s not a free lunch, is it? After all, whatever strength you gain from that mixing of variance, you give back many multiples over in lost efficiency, progress, consensus, and harmony. Nothing is ever for free.”
“So what are you saying?” I ask. I’m growing exasperated but am trying to not let it show in my voice. This guy here is the politburo person in charge of running all of Xinjiang, after all.
“I’m saying I like your plan,” Governor Wu says, smiling. “It’s actually more perfect than I think even you realize. As you yourselves have described in your analysis, Urumqi –and Xinjiang as a whole– is not a monolith. Like any large population, people have grown divided– the Muslim people are no exception. There is a Muslim hardliner group who think any cooperation with Beijing leads straight to hell. There are moderate Muslims who are more willing to give it a shot. And then there’s everyone else who doesn’t care one way or the other but just want to be able to put food on the table. And everything in between.”
In my head, I can see it all playing out. Once the fictional virus hit, you just knew that some groups would use it as pretext for God’s wrath. I could totally see it now: Ten of thousands being killed because and the Mullahs citing their deaths as the inevitable outcome of a vengeful God who’s gone on rampage to cleanse the land of all sinners and nonbelievers. The Virus would become anything and everything to anyone and everyone.
In fact, the more I think this out with this new information that Governor Wu has provided us, the more the picture begins to crystalize. The creation of our fictional virus would merely be a catalyst.
Xinjiang was already a powder keg waiting to explode. If a suddenly deadly, natural disaster swept the region, it really would be a golden opportunity for the CCP to declare martial law, enforce curfews, and restrict freedoms. On the Islam-side, the hardliners would feel that the wrath of God had finally descended.
There’d be chaos.
And amidst the chaos, undoubtedly, certain dissidents who’d long been thorns in Beijing’s side I’m sure would be resolved.
“For years already,” Governor Wu says, “the Uyghur populations have already been modernizing. The old ways are disappearing. Little by little. Every year, fewer young people return from Urumqi back to the rural lands. If we had the luxury to just wait fifty years or so, the outcome would be the same.”
“But you don’t want to wait, do you?” Kristen says, “Beijing wants results now.”
“Why the hurry?” Deepak asks.
“Xi Wiping knows that his days at the top are numbered,” says Governor Wu, “which is why he wants to expedite Xinjiang’s submission. Having this notch on his belt would go great lengths to helping him keep his powers consolidated.”
I take a moment to take off my glasses and wipe them down. Good lord, this thing is a total swampland. It’s even worse than in America. And I’d thought all of the backroom knife-fighting back in DC has been bad.
“You do understand,” Governor Wu says, sighing, “that Xi has never fully recovered from the Shangri-La disaster two years ago. That was a major public failing and a huge blackeye for him at the time. All of the global attention and bad press all at once. Ever since, he’s been increasingly desperate in wanting to show himself as the capable and rightful leader of the party.”
And so there it was. Once more, the lives of millions of innocent citizens would be toyed with simply for one man’s insatiable ego. Collateral damage in an interminable political war. A forever war. Succession was always a problem that authoritarian regimes had never quite ironed out. In America, Presidents did their time, and then good or bad, afterwards when four or eight years were up, everyone simply packed up and sailed off into the sunset. In China though, there were always vicious political opponents waiting to strike at even the slightest hint of weakness. This is what happens when you have no term limits. You do the job until you die or until you fail.