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Securitizing Xinjiang: Police Recruitment, Informal Policing and Ethnic Minority Co-optation

journal contribution
posted on 2022-01-18, 00:07 authored by A Zenz, James LeiboldJames Leibold
Following a series of high-profile attacks in Beijing, Kunming and Urumqi by Uyghur militants, the Chinese party-state declared a war on terror in 2014. Since then, China's Xinjiang region has witnessed an unprecedented build-up of what we describe as a multi-tiered police force, turning it into one of the most heavily policed regions in the world. This article investigates the securitization of Xinjiang through an analysis of official police recruitment documents. Informal police jobs, which represent the backbone of recent recruitment drives, have historically carried inferior pay levels. Yet, advertised assistant police positions in Xinjiang now offer high salaries despite low educational requirements, thereby attracting lesser-educated applicants, many of whom are ethnic minorities. Besides co-opting Uyghurs into policing their own people, the resulting employment is in itself a significant stability maintenance strategy. While the known numbers of violent attacks have subsided, China's heavy-handed securitization approach risks alienating both minority and Han populations.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of colleagues on previous drafts and for sharing insights from their ethnographic research in Xinjiang. This project received funding from La Trobe Asia and the China Studies Research Centre at La Trobe University.


Publication Date



China Quarterly



Article Number

PII S0305741019000778


25p. (p. 324-348)


Cambridge University Press



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