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How safe is XinJian (Kashgur) right now?

How safe is XinJian (Kashgur) right now?

Old Feb 25th, 2003, 03:31 PM
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How safe is XinJian (Kashgur) right now?

Hi!<BR><BR>I am an American who has great interest in travellin to XinJian this spring / summer. Especially to Kashgur, and other localities nearby.<BR><BR>However, in light of world events, I want to check on the safety of this regeon from other travellers. <BR><BR>Has anyone been there recently and could provide me insight? Or can anyone suggest resources for me to research? I've tried the State Dept to no avail.<BR><BR>Thanks!<BR><BR>-J
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Old Feb 25th, 2003, 04:59 PM
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It's a mistake to imagine that being an American accords any particular status in most of China. Differences in nationality are largely lost in the greater difference of simply being not Chinese. If you happen to be of Chinese descent, then your Chinese-ness will be stressed, and your nationality is just a formality--you're really a Chinese. The ideas of race and nation are blurred--if you admit to being American, British, or Canadian for example, you may be told that you don't look like one, but look like you're from somewhere else. Knowledge of a particular foreign country, where it exists at all, amounts to a checklist no more sophisticated than saying that the British have polite policemen, the French eat garlic, and Italians are good lovers. <BR><BR>But the Chinese checklist often refers to ideas which will make no sense at all to those who belong to or who have visited the nations to which they apply, perhaps referring to manufactured heroes of the Mao era, foreigners who happen to have made it big on Chinese television, or to Chinese-made television series or Chinese films set in foreign places and rarely seen overseas. Most people have no idea what's going on abroad (not least because they are not told), and except when there's one of the regular campaigns to blame foreigners for something or other in order to attempt to unite the populace behind the Party, they have absolutely no interest, and often not even then. Life's tough enough as it is, and they are just getting on with making the best of it.<BR><BR>I happened to be in China when the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, a period perhaps assumed to be particularly perilous for Americans. I happen not to be an American, but at times of heightened emotion, carefully engineered by all-channels broadcasts condemning the US in the most extravagant terms, no one is interested in such nuances as nationalities--you're a foreigner, and that's that. So before shouting &quot;Kill! Kill!&quot; at me in the street, no one came up to ask me where I was from. <BR><BR>But (you may have noticed) no one killed me; nor was I even slightly afraid, nor is my view altered one jot that China (bar the driving) is one of the safest places there is to travel. Talk is one thing, and action is another. <BR><BR>Even such an orchestrated campaign of vilification as was being poured out through the media only led to two more events which personally affected me; one in which someone came up to shout the F word at me a few times, and another in which I was greeted (in Mandarin), &quot;Hello, NATO friend (Beiyue pengyou).&quot; In China, being or not being American is mostly neither here nor there. Being foreign is what counts, and the West is all a land of milk and honey (or fish and rice, if you like) where everybody is impossibly rich and can afford anything.<BR><BR>More...
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Old Feb 25th, 2003, 04:59 PM
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There is a tiny percentage of the population which is better educated and more open-minded, but not many of them are in Xinjiang. This question is presumably to do with the very likely imminent invasion of Iraq, the high numbers of Muslim minority Uighur people (and Hui) in Xinjiang, and the idea that they might become anti-American as a result.<BR><BR>It's true that these people have in general a bit more knowledge of the outside world than the average Han Chinese, due to trade links with close neighbours Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and the other nearby Muslim nations of the CIS. But their quarrel is principally with the Han Chinese, and largely cut off for decades from direct contacts with other Muslims (until recent times), their identification is with a struggle to be able to continue their own way of life unmolested by Han authorities, and, at it's most extreme, a struggle to reassert the control over their own lives they had prior to the Qing invasion in the middle of the 19th century (&quot;Xinjiang&quot; means &quot;New Territories.&quot<BR><BR>For those who have time to be interested in events beyond their borders, the news they hear will not all be pro-Hussein, for indeed many Muslims are anti-Hussein. Those who visit Kashgar from neighbouring countries are Ismailis as well as Shias and Sunnis, so there's a broad difference of approach there for a start, which doesn't seem to cause the frictions it might elsewhere, however. <BR><BR>For those who are pro-Hussein, action against foreigners, whether American or not, is extremely unlikely. For those who are unhappy under the Chinese yoke, foreigners tend to be seen as allies, or at least sympathetic listeners to stories of injustice. The Han Chinese resident in Kashgar and Urumqi are nervous of Uighur people, or actively fear them, and the odd knifing gives them reason, although the xenophobia which is commonplace nationwide leads them to magnify those few incidents which actually occur. But it's clear that most Uighur loathe the Han, and most Han prefer not to walk the streets alone at night, are rarely seen at Uighur markets, etc.<BR><BR>However, whether Bush bombs Baghdad flat or not, most foreign visitors will likely find the Uighur, although a little rough at times, to be amongst the most hospitable people they've met anywhere in China. I've been to Kashgar and Urumqi five or six times each, and circumnavigated the Taklamakan Desert visiting tiny oasis towns, and I've always found the instinct for hospitality to be very strong whether in city or village. I've been invited into more houses than at anywhere else I've travelled in China, and even to a wedding (which I had to leave because I was distracting attention from the bride and groom, and I didn't want to spoil their day).<BR><BR>I've tried here to put the Xinjiang situation in the context of China as a whole, and to explain why being an American doesn't matter. I personally wouldn't hesitate to go, and the idea that unfounded fears might keep others away might actually make it more attractive. Right now the Uighur need and deserve our help and sympathy as more than 250 of their number lie dead in a dreadful earthquake.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR>http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
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Old Jul 13th, 2003, 05:19 AM
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Peter, thanks for the very detailed and interesting post. I'm planning now for a trip to Xinjiang next year, including circumnavigating the Talkamakan, and I wonder how things will go if I only speak English, plus a few Chinese phrases. Do you speak Mandarin or any local language? Are there many English speakers outside the major cities like Kashgar and Urumchi? I've traveled in eastern China before, but never the west.

Thanks.

K
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Old Jul 13th, 2003, 10:01 AM
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There are very few English speakers even in the major cities, but this really isn't a problem. And if you know a few words of Mandarin you are ahead of the game (there are plenty of Uighur people whose grip on Mandarin will be worse than yours). Both Urumqi and Kashgar have cafes targeting independent travellers with English speakers, but beyond that you're in territory few foreigners reach. But I've been right round the south side of the desert, and crossed over the mountains into Qinghai. I do speak Mandarin, but there's no need. You can do this by yourself without a word of Uighur, Mandarin, or English, and with a bit of pointing, mime, and pen and paper, in the usual way. Try to time your visit to Khotan (Hetian) for the Sunday market, which more authentic than Kashgar's now trammelled affair. Beyond Khotan, there are numerous pleasant oasis towns with practically nothing in the way of official sights, where the donkey is still an important form of motive power, and where life, and least in the Uighur part, goes on much as it has for centuries. Here you won't feel as if you are travelling in China at all, but in Central Asia.

Peter N-H
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