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Wild West China: The Taming of Xinjiang Hardcover – 7 Aug 2003
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'A fascinating book ... following in the footsteps of Peter Fleming, Tyler paints a vivid portrait of Xinjiang and reminds us of another of the immense problems facing China's new leadership' (Chris Patten )
'The world is only too aware of what the Chinese are up to in Tibet. But few know of the sufferings of neighbouring Xinjiang. Now, at last, its subjugated people have found a champion in Christian Tyler. His revelations will not go down well in Beijing' (Peter Hopkirk )
'I greatly admire Christian Tyler's book on the Uygurs ... now we have a splendid account of a people, the Chinese Turks, whom the lengendary "Empire of the Steppe" left behind. As China grows, books such as this will obviously be important as well as enjoyable' (Professor Norman Stone )
'Christian Tyler is an excellent reporter ... Formerly staff writer for the Financial Times, he is determined that while there is a body of academic work on Xinjiang and some lurid travellers' tales, what is needed is a book for the general reader. This he has quite brilliantly produced. In rigorous, clear language, he manages to give a comprehensive account of Xinjiang's long, tangled and violent history as well as a closely observed survey of the current situation, which he neatly summarises' (Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review 20030901)
'An important and timely book. It is not only the first popular history of Xinjiang, but also an exposé of China's colonial oppression ... Christian Tyler has assembled a detailed and forceful narrative whose span is enormous ... Inevitably he leaves open the question of whether there is any future for the Uighur in their homeland, and whether the book will rank as a watershed, or a requiem.' (Colin Thubron, Sunday Times 20030727)
'An excellent and engrossing portrait, the first of its kind for the general reader ... Divided into two parts, Wild West China first presents a credible account of the Tarim Basin's history, which until now had been sketchy at best. Then it delivers a meticulously sourced and hard-won anatomy of a contemporary cultural as well as physical genocide' (Financial Times 20030727)
'An enjoyable and very readable general account ... This is not in any sense a classic of history, geographical description, travel writing or political analysis. Instead, it contains elements of all four. The author has put together a book that will save anyone interested in Xinjiang - someone planning a trip along the Chinese section of the Silk Road, for instance - from the labor of having to read a whole library of others' (Taipei Times 20030824)
'The intriguing Machiavellian detail of this narrative is as expansive as the land in which it's set, the author keen to record and elucidate the past, present and future of Xinjiang, a corner of the world about which he is clearly very passionate' (Geographical Magazine 20031001)
"What Beijing dreams of turning into a Chinese California has been relatively neglected in the West. Christian Tyler handsomely repairs that omission." (The Tablet 20031213)
'Tyler's book eloquently presents a lucid historical and present day political, social and economic context' (Indobrit magazine 20031213)
"Well written and informative" (The Tablet 20031213)
'Tyler details the cycles of repression and resurgence, dating from the 1760s up to today' (Good Book Guide 20040801)
'Tyler took a 100-mile trek across the Taklamakan desert in 1995 and determined to write an accessible history. This is exactly what he has done. He has the knack of untangling political knots, making a difficult subject comprehensible and, above all, conveying a real sense of place' (Sunday Times Culture Supplement 20040815)
About the Author
Christian Tyler is a former staff writer of the Financial Times of London. He has reported on industry, politics and international trade, and has travelled widely in China. He is married to the actress Ciaran Madden, has three children and a stepchild, and lives in Dorset.
Top Customer Reviews
Christian Tyler provides an overview of the Uyghur question for general reader.Starting from the history of the region, she brings the problem to nowaday and explains the current situation.
The book falls into two parts. The four chapters of Part 1 cover the history of the region up to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.. The first four chapters of Part 2deal with events and policies under Communict rule and the last two with the present situation of the Uyghurs inside and outside their country.
Chapters 5 and 6 are especially remarkable because of the details of the human rights violations and repressions to the Uyghur minority by the Chinese government.
As the writer expressed correctly this book " .. is that those who know a little about Xinjiang will learn a lot more and that those who know a lot may learn a little".
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I decided to Google the author's background after reading it; Christian Tyler is a writer who worked for the Financial Times, and that's about all I can find on this so-called "expert" on Xinjiang. He has no idiomatic fluency in Mandarin Chinese nor Uyghur, which makes me wonder how he was able to grasp the cultural and linguistic nuances of such a complicated subject matter.
Like another review has said, avoid this book to get a true picture the ethnic tensions in China.
After establishing that Chinese authority in the region dates back to around 600 CE, the author then begins building a case against China's presence and against Han Chinese mistreatment of the Uighurs (one of many native minority populations inhabiting the region). Paradoxically, it was the Qing Dynasty Manchus (non-Han) who dominated China and brought Xinjiang under complete control, as they did the rest of China's Han population, until they themselves (the Manchus) became totally assimilated into Han culture. The author believes that China's continued administration of Xingiang since this time in unfair and that Xinjiang must now be granted independance. These is no mention of the fact that the Uighurs (the Orkon Uighur Kingdom) are not indigenous to the Tarim Basin region and themselves invaded the area (displacing Indo-Europeans who we know were living there at least as far back as 1800 BCE) after being thrown out of Western Mongolia in 840 CE by the Kirghiz, another Turkic people that the Uyghurs had themselves previously invaded and dominated.
The author's rhetoric quickly builds into a vitriolic polemic against the Chinese Communist Party, listing horrific injustices that they imposed on the native populace; presumably with the end goal of exterminating all of them. Author seems unaware that the atrocities he lists have been suffered not just by Uighurs, but by Han Chinese as well. He also downplays efforts made by China to bring education, modernization, food & sanitation to the region. One might ask, "What right does China have, forcing these people to enter the modern world?" This is perhaps valid when dealing with adults who can choose for themselves, but forcing children to live in squalor and remain uneducated is not acceptable by any standard of civility.
The author is excessive in describing "Han chauvinism," the attempt to turn Muslim Uyghurs into Han Chinese and he contradicts himself again in the latter part of the book, claiming that imported Han Chinese steal jobs that would otherwise have gone to "more highly qualified Uighurs." This is after we have been told about how the Uighurs are not given educational opportunities because of Han chauvinism and that they instead cling to Muslim madrasah religious indoctrination that also breeds violence. How then are they "more highly qualified" than Han Chinese who have attended university and learned useful skills, instead of hateful religious indoctrination? He also bemoans the fact that there is no unified Xinjiang liberation movement due to what two prominent Uighur (or "Eastern Turkistan") elders (i.e.: General Riza Bekin & Erkin Alptekin) attribute to "laziness and lack of education," (p.234) coupled with in-fighting among the various contenders for Uighur leadership in exile. These are exactly the same observations that Han Chinese who live in Xinjiang commonly make. This, in spite of the fact that the Chinese government has extended preferential treatment to the Uighurs (e.g.: greatly reduced college entrance requirements).
Another obvious (to anyone familiar with Asian people) faux-pas, is the author's selection of a photo, captioned: "A border guard in fraternizing mood". This photo, of a Han Chinese military officer cuddling a young girl, is meant to portray how "Han Chinese regard the minority peoples with a mixture of fear and fascination, as attractively exotic, but also as primitive and 'unpatriotic.'" It goes on to mention how this attitude is "repressive." The author wants us to believe that the perverted Han army officer is being inappropriately cuddly with a Uighur child who does not welcome his affection, when the girl in the picture is NOT one of the author's beloved Uighurs at all, but obviously a Han Chinese---and is in all likelihood the officer's daughter...
The Uighurs that Christian Tyler champions are not as saintly as he would like us to believe and if China's Communist Party, as universally reviled as everyone already knows it to be, were to suddenly pull out and leave them to their own devices, they would merely be absorbed by Afghanistan, where they would not likely fare much better. Setting the Uighurs up as martyrs only serves to reinforce their perpetual "status as victim," which will not help any of those who may choose to break out of this cycle and better themselves. This is what Han Chinese who also suffered unspeakably under "Liberation" chose to do.
I suspect this book may have been a Master's, or perhaps Ph.D. thesis that was not properly supervised. There are many points of interest, but the author sells himself short with sloppy scholarship and relentless Han-bashing. Those seeking a dispassionate presentation of Xinjiang history would appreciate "China Marches West," by Peter C. Perdue. Perdue carefully lays out well-documented material, leaving speculative judgments to the reader...