The Great Firewall of China and Islam

Oleh: Muhammad Daffa Syauqi Ariandana

(Departemen Kajian Strategis)

Once known for its role in hindering the Mongols invasion in 14th Century to prevent their advance to Yellow River, the Great Wall of China has been infamously known as one of the most symbolic representation of the country’s policy in defending their sovereignty and interests against foreign counterparts. Apparently this ‘ancient’ compherension could also be used as euphemism in their contemporary policies both in domestic and international areas as the ‘wall’ mentioned are being ‘digitalized’. Indeed the term of The Great Firewall of China is now being used as the protective measures and regulation by the Chinese government to control the ‘unwanted’ contents being spread throughout the country and also played an important role in implementing the trade protectionism policy to protect local industry as part of Golden Shield Project introduced in the early years of 21st Century[1], an instrumental project in digital security interests within China.

Through newspaper and digital media nowadays, youth in Indonesia can immediately understand the imminent rising of China as global power in challenging the hegemony of unipolar system in international world, in that meaning, Indonesians and other international world residents can easily perceive the Great Firewall of China as protective measures intended againts foreign powers, thus bringing up for the topic suggested by the writer today in bringing the context of the mentioned issue into real-time domestic conflict within China, the nation-building process. According to Deustch and Folt, nation-building is a process in constructing the national identity with the use of state’s power[2], the approach in considering the national identity therefore relied on the steps taken by the responsible government according to the interests of those in charge. We have seen in the newspaper recently that constant repression in China towards minority ethnics became harsher than ever with the consideration that those are the people who are againts the ‘Dream of China’ due to their ideology and religion[3], and therefore is legitimate to be put on surveillance. And thus begin the difficult journey of China’s attempt in nation-building process.

The Protection of ‘China’

What is being protected by the government of China indeed has given many opportunities for many analysts in deciphering China’s government action, is it cultural motivated? Religous? Or rather ideologically motivated? Whatever the reason is, it has to be understood that contemporary politics of China cannot be released from the context of Communism constitutionally in political sense that require every needs of  State must be brought first ahead of individual needs. By observing Xi Jinping action in the recent political atmosphere within one-party solution of China and extended presidential term[4], China is preparing themselves in joining the fray of international relations through their envisioned major contribution in economic, environment, and security issues as part of the ‘Chinese Dream of National Rejunevation’ as the super power during the ancient times. In order to that, Chinese goverment took a careful approach in eliminating potential opposition within themselves as the government is populated by the majority ethnic (Han Chinese), thus minority ethnics is severely ignored within decision making process and restricted unless commited to submit into government’s proposition according to each of the ethnic conflicted, the nation-building process in this case is forces not only through cultural-religously opposition that is not even considered in the parliament, but also the protection of majority’s interests towards the weaker one.

The interesting part however lands on how the euphemism of the ‘Great Firewall of China’ was given throughout the course of action, the term ‘wall’ gives a projection that Chinese government did the repression under the measure of ‘defensive’ action in protecting China rather than acting as aggressors, justifying their action in the eyes of popular majority in China while in the same time keeping the majority voice intact in the course of government’s interests by protecting them from international pressure/critics.

Islam in China

            After understanding the current regulation that is going on within China, the writer would like to take a deeper look on how Islam specifically working out in such condition. The history of Islam in China can be traced well back into the early rise of Islam in Arabian peninsula through common trade. The introduction of Islam in China started when three companions of Prophet Muhammad SAW (Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, Wahab ibn Abu Kacha, and Sayid) reached Canton sea in 629 CE[5] and greatly improving the relationship hereafter between Tang Dynasty and Caliph Uthman’s reign through the silk road and maritime trade. Islam itself in the other hand is well received by the emperor and the first muslim community was established in China were consisted of Arab and Persian merchants. Later on throughout history, the community of contemporary China will be composed of economic and administrator immigrants that came from Mongolia, Turks, Persian, and Arab settler that later integrated to the society of native Chinese and will later known as Hui, Uighur, and other inter-ethnic relations. This ethnic provides a major contribution for China dynasties for years to come, especially during its peak during Ming Dynasty where isolationism were set and encouraging the further integration of the immigrants with local population started by speaking chinese and begin to adopting Chinese name. Mosques were built and many muslims were appointed to prominent position in country administration, Zheng He the admiral and Hu Dahai were only the examples of muslim peak in China.

Unfortunately, the era of muslim tolerant era ended when Qing Dynasty invades Ming Dynasty in 1644[6] and begin to restrict any Islamic movement within the country, from the prohibition of mosques building until the further generalization of Islam on minority ethnics. This tradition continued all the way into the contemporary era of People’s Republic of China, especially during the cultural revolution in 1966 by Mao Zedong that attempted to create communist identity for China, destroyin variousg religious buildings and holy scripts that not only limited Islam, but other faiths as well. More importantly, it is interesting to see that inter-ethnic relations were created to become more divisive despite the same faith in Islam, Hui and Uighur has similarities in this manner, but were treated differently by the Chinese government. Hui muslims did not have any separate movements and tend to cooperatively working with the government while Uighur in the other hand are the opposite[7] and explaining the reason of their main target in digital security in contemporary China’s policy and severe restrictions in performing religious rituals in Xinjiang and other parts of the country, social movements and projected resolution from the opposition can be quickly disbanded through dispatches overseen by the system of the Great Firewall of China and ensuring the ‘nation-building’ process is indeed along the course with the communist government which in each day is turning more authoritarianism than ever since Xi Jinping’s declaration of extended term. Minority ethnic such Uighur is becoming more disorganized to form a political opposition or mobilizing the masses, ensuring China’s government of domestic security if their course in international world is being hindered or involved in international conflict. With that being said, the nation-building of China is not limited into the identity of similar ethnics or religions, but instead ideological need that currently supporting China’s government requires every people in answering government’s call is what they need in contemporary times, the submission towards state is the most appropriate epithet given towards China in the moment this essay is written.

 

 

REFERENCE LIST

Books

Deustch, K. W., William J. Folt. Nation Building in Comparative Contexts. New York: Atherton, 1966.

Goldsmith, Jack L., Tim Wu. Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Millward, James. Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity, and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864. California: Stanford  University Press, p. 289-295.

Tanner, H. Miller. China: A History. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009

Printed Articles

Gladney, Dru C., “Muslim Tombs & Ethnic Folklore-Hui Identity”. In The Journal of Asian Studies. California: JSTOR 1987

Online Articles

Huang, Zhepin, “Xi Jinping says China’s authoritarian system can be a model for the world.” Quartz, 9 March, 2018, Available at: <Xi Jinping says China’s authoritarian system can be a model for the world> (Accessed on 10 March 2018).

Reuters Staff, “Chinese official warns against creeping Islamisation.” Reuters, 10 March, 2018. Available at: < https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-parliament-islam/chinese-official-warns-against-creeping-islamisation-idUSKCN1GM0CV> (Accessed on 10 March 2018).

 

[1] Goldsmith, Jack L., Tim Wu. Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 80-95.

[2] Deustch, K. W., William J. Folt. Nation Building in Comparative Contexts. New York: Atherton, 1966, p. 7-10.

[3] Reuters Staff, “Chinese official warns against creeping Islamisation.” Reuters, 10 March, 2018. Available at: < https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-parliament-islam/chinese-official-warns-against-creeping-islamisation-idUSKCN1GM0CV> (Accessed on 10 March 2018).

[4] Huang, Zhepin, “Xi Jinping says China’s authoritarian system can be a model for the world.” Quartz, 9 March, 2018, Available at: <Xi Jinping says China’s authoritarian system can be a model for the world> (Accessed on 10 March 2018).

[5] Gladney, Dru C., “Muslim Tombs & Ethnic Folklore-Hui Identity”. In The Journal of Asian Studies. California: JSTOR 1987, p. 498-500.

[6] Millward, James. Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity, and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864. California: Stanford  University Press, p. 289-295.

[7] Tanner, H. Miller. China: A History. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009, p. 580-585.

 

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