Academic Interest

Why do you want a PHD Degree on Ethnic Issues in Xinjiang?

There are several reasons for pursuing a PhD Degree in Xinjiang. First, pursuing this PhD Degree will provide me with an opportunity to grow my career in the academic field of political sciences, and especially further my understanding on the role that ethnic relations play in international relations. Therefore, pursuing a PhD degree on ethnic issues is mainly a matter of academic interest as well as achieving career growth. Pursuing this degree will provide me with a chance to contribute to the field of ethnic relations, particularly on how governments can ensure a fit exist between their ethnic policies and context for implementing them. Besides, the reason for pursuing this degree stems from the passion for diversity and inclusion. I care about social justice and work towards the realization of racial justice. Therefore, a PhD Degree in ethnic issues will enhance my understanding of the ethnicity, social inequality, and race, which is an essential requirement in a world that is increasingly becoming diverse in terms of ethnicity and race. Across the globe, intercultural mixing is becoming the norm; hence, this degree will play a crucial role in enabling me to become an effective international citizen through providing a better understanding of the world through the lens of ethnicity.

The second reason for pursuing a PhD Degree in Ethnic Issues is to gain expert knowledge concerning political, social, cultural and other aspects related to people residing in the Northwest China as well as other regions whereby people of various ethnicities reside. With this knowledge, I will be able to provide expert opinion to people having interests in the Northwestern region of China such as investors and the government of China. For instance, I will be able to provide expert advice to the government of China on areas to commit its efforts in order to achieve ethnic harmony. In the same vein, I will be able to use the knowledge gained from the PhD Degree in Ethnic Issues will enable me offer expert advice to those having business interests in the Northwestern region of China.


Why do you have your research interests on ethnic relations and ethnic policies on Xinjiang? What makes you be especially interested in Xinjiang?

My research interests on ethnic relations and policies on Xinjiang stem from the fact that my father was sent to work and live in Xinjiang during the Chinese Cultural Revolution for three years. During his stay in the region, my father remembers Xinjiang as a beautiful place characterized by friendly Uyghurs. Before the onset of the Cultural Revolution, China adopted double-faced policies for its ethnic minorities. The government officially acknowledged five nationalities in the country including the Han, Tibetan, Manchu, Mongol, and the Uyghur (Muslim Turk), which were represented symbolically in the countrys flag having five colors. The government clearly expressed its aim of preserving national unity albeit through racial assimilation. This meant that using different languages and wearing different clothes were banned in a number of provinces. Nevertheless, this was not the case in Xinjiang with respect to the suppression of language, religion, and culture because the Chinese authorities had little control and influence in Xinjiang province. The insignificant influence of the Chinese government on the province is attributable to the fact that the USSR had significant economic and political influence on the Xinjiang province. The result is that Xinjiang enjoyed cultural unification. Ethnic minorities in China also enjoyed a considerable level of autonomy despite considered being part of China. In the Constitution of China, national customs as well as the special cultural features including linguistic freedom were guaranteed. These observations explains why my father described Xinjiang as a beautiful place full of friendly Uyghurs. As a result, I was impressed by my fathers experience and stories in Xinjiang. Overtime, the ethnic disharmony in Xinjiang has changed from good to worse, and I have developed more curiosity to understand why the perceptions of Han Chinese or Uyghurs and vice versa have worsened over the years to reach a crisis level. Presently, numerous cases of ethnic-related violence have been documented in the province. The transition from ethnic harmony to the currently witnessed ethnic unrest in the province is an issue that raises more questions than answers. Consequently, I am more interested in devising effective approaches that the government can use to contain the increasing ethnic dissent in the province.

Why do you think your research project on ethnic relations are important and timely with regard to the Chinese Governments One Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Why your research project on Xinjiang is important to the Chinese foreign policies towards Central Asian countries?

Regarding the One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR), the proposed research project on ethnic relations and policies is both timely and important because finding a solution to the ethnic disharmony in Xinjiang is aligned to the aims of the OBOR initiative. Essentially, the Xinjiang province is geopolitically significant for China, and the rising ethnic tensions in the region is posing a significant threat to the realization of China geopolitical goals associated with the OBOR initiative. Through the OBOR initiative, China seeks to establish linkages to Europe through Russia and Central Asia; connect itself to the Middle East via the Central Asia; and create unity between South East Asia and China. It is evident that the Xinjiang Province lies at the center of achieving these objectives. With the ethnic tensions in the region yet to be solved, the success of the OBOR initiative hangs in the balance. Therefore, it can be suggested that for China to successfully pursue the OBOR initiative, it must first resolve the rising ethnic disharmony being witnessed at the region. In the light of this view, the proposed research project seeks to evaluate the context under which the Chinese Government implements its ethnic policies and make recommendations on how it can its policies to fit the context. Essentially, the proposed research will offer insights to help understand why China has not been successful in achieving good ethnic relations, which can be possibly attributed to the lack of fit between the context and the policies; hence, the proposed study will reveal new areas that the Chinese government can commit its efforts to realize ethnic harmony by strengthening positive social conditions as well as co-existence prior to the implementation of its ethnic policies.

With respect to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the proposed research on ethnic policies and relations in Xinjiang is timely and significant because the fact that the banks geopolitical implications are closely intertwined with the ethnic conflict being witnessed in the Xinjiang province. In essence, the response from Asian countries with regard to joining the bank will depend significantly on how China responds to the rising ethnic tension in the province. It has been suggested that China should handle the conflict cautiously if it has to maintain positive relations with countries such as the Turkey, which have interests in the region. Thus, if Chineses governments adopts policies that appear overly harsh to the Muslim Uyghurs, its relations with other Muslim countries might be tainted. Additionally, the success of the proposed AIIB is closely interlinked to the OBOR initiative. The success of the OBOR initiative is contingent on the governments response to the rising ethnic tensions in the Xinjiang province, which will subsequently influence the number of Asian countries seeking to join the AIIB. The AIIB has the main goal of enabling China to penetrate and integrate Eurasian markets, and the extent to which this goal can be achieved depends on how the Chinese Government responds to the crisis in Xinjiang. China created the AIIB as a sign of South-South cooperation; however, the rising ethnic tensions in the Xinjiang Province might dispel this notion if China fails to handle it in an appropriate manner.

Lastly, the proposed research project on ethnic policies and relations is both significant and timely with regard to Chinas foreign policy towards Central Asian countries. This is because Xinjiang is a significant factor as far as the relations between China and Central Asia states is concerned. Numerous scholars agree that the immense efforts adopted by China to pacify the Xinjiang Province is an indication of the importance that the government places on its role in influencing relations with as well as presence in the Central Asian countries. It has also been argued that Chinas foreign policy towards Central Asia rests significantly on its security needs; thus, problems in Xinjiang have serious ramifications for China with respect to security. Therefore, Chinas presence and influence in Central Asia depends significantly on the stability of the Xinjiang Province, which is because Xinjiang is the only border shared between China and Central Asia. In fact, some authors have argued that Chinas foreign policy towards Central Asian states is an extension of the policy that country has adopted over Xinjiang.

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What are the necessary components do you need to include in your research?

The first component that will be included in the proposed research is the context and nature of ethnic relations in the Xingjian province, which will be examined through the lens of social integration theory. This entails exploring the everyday interactions between the ethnic minorities and the Han Chinese, which has been factored when developing policy proposals to deal with the ethnic disharmony in the region. Thus, an important component that will be included in the research is the status of co-existence between the Muslim Uyghurs and the Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Province. The second important component that will be included in the research project is the policy adopted by the Chinese government to address the ethnic unrest in the province and how these policies are affecting the everyday interactions of the Muslim Uyghurs and the Han Chinese. By examining these two components, the findings from the proposed research will highlight crucial insights to highlight why the ethnic policies adopted in China have not been successful and whether there is a need to tweak the policies to reflect the context under which they are being implemented.

Outline the steps you need to take for your PhD research on ethnic issues in Xinjiang

A number of steps will be taken to complete the research. The preliminary phase for the research will include surveying the literature, drafting the literature reviews, and then developing the research questions. The second phase of the research will be gathering the data, which will be completed in two phases. Two steps are needed to collected data for the PhD research on ethnic issues in Xinjiang, which can be attributed to the fact that a mixed methods approach will be adopted for the proposed research. The first step will entail conducting a qualitative research using interviews with intellectuals and scholars from China, Singapore, and other countries who have worked on ethnic policies and issues in both Singapore and China. Finishing this step will require recruiting intellectual and scholars in the field, which will be accomplished using snowball sampling, wherein the researcher will rely on referrals to recruit more participants for the qualitative interviews. Initial referrals will be made with the assistance of familiar academic staff at research institutes or universities. The focus of these interviews will be on surveying the views and opinions of experts concerning the nature of ethnic relations and policies in China and Singapore including aspects associated with governmental system, educational and employment admission systems, national identity, ethnic identity, and national language. After recruiting the needed number of participants, arrangements will be made to conduct interviews via either video, telephone, or face-to-face interviews depending on the convenience and availability of the participants.

The second step that will be needed to complete the research will involve conducting a quantitative survey with the Singaporean and Chinese citizens to measure the social integration indicators such as ethnic prejudice, national identity, ethnic identity, cross-ethnic ties, social capital, social exclusion, and social participation. In administering this public survey, I have considered the importance of establishing trust relationships. I will make sure that the survey is reviewed and approved by the local authorities prior to proceeding. I will also provide participants with a written consent. Also, since ethnic relations is a sensitive issue in China, I will make sure to utilize a non-judgmental tone, using indirect questions, using an escape response for sensitive questions, and guaranteeing the anonymity of the participants. The research would not be complete without surveying the views of Uyghurs residing in the Xinjiang Province and those who have migrated to other developed cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai. The focus of these informal interviews will be on collecting information related to current ethnic policies, problems, and relations. The interviews with the Uyghurs will be conducted in a non-structured, informal, and friendly manner. Equally important is the need to take into consideration the issue of research ethics, which will include voluntary participation, refraining from putting participants in physical and psychological harm, protecting the anonymity and confidentiality of participants, and conducting the research in accordance to the laws and regulations of China and Singapore. This will be followed by analyzing the findings and making relevant recommendations that can help address the issue of ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang Province.

As a Han Chinese who lived in Singapore for many years, what is your advantage on using Singapore as an example to carry out research on ethnic issues in Xinjiang?

The advantage associated with using Singapore as an example to conduct the research on the ethnic issues in the Xinjiang Province stems from the fact that Singapore has been largely successful in realizing positive ethnic relations. Singapore is an ideal comparative case because it shares the same ethnic profile with China. For instance, Singapore, just like China, is a multi-ethnic society having the Han Chinese as the majority. Thus, Singapore provides an ideal case for conducting an apple-to-apples comparison to understand why the ethnic policies adopted in China have been unsuccessful whereas those of Singapore have been effective in fostering ethnic harmony. Singapore also faces the same problems as China with respect to the issue of ethnic relations.

What will your research contribute to the academic field and people who are interested in ethnic issues in Xinjiang?

The findings of the proposed research project will contribute to the field by making use of a new approach to explore the phenomenon of ethnic relations. Fundamentally, the proposed research project will place emphasis on the relations between people to help examine the micro-context of ethnic relations in China and Singapore. In the extant literature, considerable attention has been placed on using the macro-approach to analyze Chinas ethnic relations with little attention to using the micro-approach characterized by examining the daily to day interactions between ethnic minorities and the Han Chinese. Thus, the proposed research contributes to the field by addressing this gap in the literature, wherein particular emphasis is not on scrutinizing the policies but rather on investigating the context in which the policies are implemented and how they affect the interactions between the ethnic minorities and the Han Chinese. It is possible that the findings of the proposed research may challenge the commonly held stance that the ethnic policies adopted by China are ineffective, and instead propose that the problem lies with the context for the implementation of these policies. Hence, the findings might highlight the novel areas that the Chinese government can redirect its efforts to address the ethnic conflict in the Xinjiang Province.