Chapter Ten – Passage Four
Undoing centuries of culture and community was not a challenge for the faint of heart. And it took every tool in the toolbox for the CCP to achieve its aim. But like everything the CCP did, there was neither subtlety nor patience in the endeavor. Change was a blunt instrument brought to bear, all at once, in a single stroke.
When you are occupying a foreign land, there are generally two approaches. And it’s entirely a numbers game. The first approach is if you’re the minority population numbers-wise.
“For example,” Deepak had once explained to us. “The British in India. No matter what the British did, they would never outnumber the number of Indians on the subcontinent which was at the time 500 million and counting. While there were only a few thousand British. Thus, the English were destined to forever only be a minority in the country.”
This is why the grand British experiment had ultimately failed in India. (At least, according to Deepak.) And had also failed in the Americas. And in North Africa, the Caribbean, and China (then, Manchuria). They simply never had the numbers on their side. So they tried to win hearts and minds instead. Hence, to this day, the English that is spoken in India still carries a heavy British influence and intonation. “Trousers” instead of “pants”; “rubbish bin” instead of “trash can.” Etc, etc.
When you are the numerical minority, you need to try to win mindshare and you need to convince and persuade. This is the first approach of colonialism and foreign occupation.
“This,” Alan explains patiently, “is obviously not what China did.”
He’s sitting upright in the armchair holding a bag of frozen peas to his cheek, which is now rapidly swelling. Alan grimaces as Shu rubs some ointment on his face– a nasty cut has opened right beneath his right eye.
And then, Alan goes on to explain, the second approach.
Pioneered by the thirteen colonies in the new world, the second approach is when you possess –or will possess– overwhelming numerical superiority. In this case, you can swoop in, bulldoze the native lands, and steamroll all of the aborigines to get your way.
“There’s no need to win hearts and minds if you simply assimilate all of the willing and annihilate anyone who resists,” as Deepak had once told us. “The Christopher Columbus and John Smith model of occupation. People forget this sometimes, but before the British colonists, back in 1619, North America actually already had people on it.”
So what happened to the existing indigenous population?
“Oh, it’s simple,” Deepak explained, shrugging. “You simply shunt them off into reservations– a tiny fraction of their previous homeland while you– the American majority– subsume everything else. Then in several generations, they’ll either all have been assimilated –via money, wealth, fame, promises of a better life, etc– or have died off.”
We call this approach The American Model: Success and achievement via brute, unrelenting, numerical force.
“The Chinese are a proud people but they’re not above picking and borrowing from the best ideas,” Alan says. “As Deepak had wrote up in his report– in 1619 with Jamestown, the US pioneered a new model of occupation that was a wild and smashing success. So being the keen students of history that they are, the CCP simply used that exact same playbook in Xinjiang.”
Alan taps a few keys on his laptop and I see several charts flash onto the screen. It’s an illustrated comparison of the Uyghur birthrate in Xinjiang compared to the Chinese birthrate. Suffice it to say, the Chinese population is significantly outstripping the Uyghur birthrate by at least threefold.
In my head, another piece suddenly falls into place.
Even before we had joined the project, I remember now that the previous team who had worked in Xinjiang ahead of us had focused their energies on encouraging feminism, equal rights, and a higher standard of living in Xinjiang. They’d hoped to tap into some of the repression of the Muslim community but at the time, I hadn’t understood the reasoning. But now I understood– it was clear as day.
All of the data unequivocally shows, as clear as day, that with industrialization and rising gender equality, birthrates will always sharply plummet. Research has long demonstrated that every society which possessed more educated women also likewise results in declining family sizes and birthrates. As women flourished and were able to pursue their dreams, many chose careers and started families later or not at all.
Masquerading as champions of gender equality and progressivism, China had poured resources into Xinjiang that had encouraged women to become increasingly independent. To begin with, it’s only been the small things– like being able to drive their own cars or not have to wear hajibs. But freedom begets more freedom. And while the Uyghur women were probably never going to be using Kindlr or whatever app of the day for loose, casual hookups, the CCP had done everything in its power to empower women in the region.
It took several decades, but the Chinese plan had slowly over a generation gained traction. The Uyghur women got a taste of freedom and liked it. Within sixty years, liberalization had begun sweeping the land– more women working and fewer tending to families. And families were increasingly smaller and wealthier– better adapted to fit the “knowledge economy” that was increasingly the only way to make a living anymore as living standards had slowly ticked ever upwards over the decades.
The second leg of the plan, then, was to somehow “deal” with the conservative, religious right– bastions of Uyghur culture and identity. Under no circumstance would women from those households ever be working or empowered, despite the CCP’s best efforts. The deeply religious stuck dogmatically to their doctrine, praying at the mosques five times a day, holding steadfast to their beliefs.
And so Beijing developed COVID-59– the ace in their back pocket. A biological agent to break the religious right by using their most cherished strength against them: Their belief.
“Logical people are the least dangerous and the most easily tricked,” Deepak had concluded. “Rational people who listen to science and follow the data are the most easily convinced. You simply show them ‘data’ and ‘new facts’ and you’ve changed their ‘enlightened minds’. It’s the people who believe against all reality who are the most dangerous. Convincing or destroying this set of people in Xinjiang will be what the effort hinges upon– the difference between overwhelming success and outright failure.”