A news article by U.S. website Business Insider recently made the claim that some exported Chinese-made personal protective equipment (PPE) was produced by "oppressed Uygur Muslims." Just the headline's wording alone, "PPE made in China and exported to countries like the US was produced by oppressed Uygur Muslims, report says," is sufficient to misrepresent to Westerners what is really happening in Xinjiang. Another word Westerners frequently associate with the work program employing Uygurs is "brainwashing."
For Uygurs, learning how to manipulate fabric, plastic, elastic, and other otherwise unrelated materials with the use of sophisticated machinery has provided hundreds of thousands of unskilled, and in many instances illiterate, adults with experiences and skills they can take with them when they leave the training centers, and start earning income in greater amounts than any in their family has ever previously experienced. There are several consequences: the most obvious is that they become productive members of their community and of China. Far less obvious to the common Western observer is they are no longer tempted to sympathize with terrorists. The U.S. way of dealing with terrorists: bang, bang! This approach incites revenge, and creates more terrorists. The Chinese way: disarm the motivations for wanting to become a terrorist. This approach incites appreciation for and love of country, the real anathema of terrorists.
Something else the U.S. media seems to forget to mention: The terrorist narrative of Muslim benefits such as many virgins in heaven upon becoming a martyr are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the Muslim teachings. Very few of the Xinjiang Muslims who have been enticed by such claims are actually familiar with the Quran. Rather than the Xinjiang training centers summarily dismissing Islam as bad, when such individuals are presented the real teachings in the centers or factories, their Muslim faith becomes stronger, and turns toward the faith of peace that it really is, because that is the underlying true teaching of Islam. Some Uygurs are more resistant to change than others; unfortunately, those are the ones we hear about, because they do require additional containment in order to protect the majority. But because the majority is beginning to see the bigger picture, the majority is thriving. The Uygurs have come to embrace the whole process as one that is helping them become educated, confident and productive; the Western media and governments unfortunately claim it is a process of oppression and brainwashing.
Perhaps we would best take a fresh look at who is really doing the brainwashing, and to whom.
(The author is a voting citizen from Chico, California, currently residing in Nanchang, Jiangxi, China. His personal website is www.OrfeoMusic.org.)