Abstract: While human rights remains the predominant lens used to analyze the Chinese government’s recent intensification of surveillance, incarceration, and control over Uyghurs and other non-Han native populations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), racial capitalism provides a more useful analytic in understanding the governing logics of political economy behind the development and justification of technologies of repression in the region.
In this article, I argue that the severe intensification of discriminatory repression in the XUAR is not merely a question of political authoritarianism, but rather a phenomenon directly linked to Chinese state capitalism: the rise of the corporate state, greater integration of the region’s economy into domestic and international energy and trade markets, the colonial imperative to eradicate Indigenous claims to the land. Most recently, the massive investments to transform the XUAR into a key global trade hub for the Belt and Road Initiative has spurred the development of a ‘terror capitalism’ security industrial complex that uses anti-Muslim counter-terrorism discourses to justify the expropriation and exploitation of Uyghurs and other non- Han native populations in data and labour-intensive private-public partnerships. These developments also have major implications for African publics, given that AI enabled digital surveillance solutions perfected in the XUAR are now being sold by Chinese companies to African governments looking to bolster their own policing and state intelligence infrastructures.
This emergence of a “racial capitalism with Chinese Characteristics” during the development of China’s highly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative poses a new and challenging questions for international economic law, which has traditionally elided questions of law and political economy.
Cite as: Vincent Wong, "Racial capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: analyzing the political economy of racialized dispossession and exploitation in Xinjiang", Volume 3, AfJIEL (2022), 7-39.