Yi Xiaocuo is a doctoral researcher who has lived in China and is now based in North America. The phrase yi xiao cuo in Chinese originally means ‘a small bunch.’ It is a recurring term in the Chinese Communist Party’s historical discourse to denigrate critical voices. Writing on a wide range of topics such as the politics and history of China and borderlands, Yi Xiaocuo uses this pen name to reclaim the political stance of social justice that is often underrepresented and stigmatised by the state’s propaganda machine.
The ongoing mass incarceration of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslim people in Xinjiang is rooted in Chinese settler colonialism in the region since the 1950s via the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (bingtuan) and ethnic Han influx. This article explores the ongoing human transfer project in Xinjiang through the banal language of recruitment and employment, which aims to eventually dilute and replace the native populations. While detention centres and prisons keep expanding, the bingtuan continues to legitimise itself as a stabiliser by cultivating loyalty and a sense of belonging among the new waves of Han immigrants.
A new Sino-Kazakh coproduction recounts the time that celebrated Chinese musician Xian Xinghai spent in Kazakhstan in the early 1940s, focussing on the friendship between the artist and a local composer named Bakhitzhan Baykadamov. While the movie intends to celebrate the renewed friendship between China and the former Soviet republic under the auspices of Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, it also serves a darker purpose: to obfuscate the reality of the mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz in ‘reeducation camps’ in Xinjiang.