Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (10): 1650-1663.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201510009

• Theory and Behavior Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A critical geopolitical analysis of "East Turkistan violence and terrorism" activities in China

Ning AN1,2(), Hong ZHU1()   

  1. 1. Centre for Cultural Industry and Cultural Geography, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
    2. School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK
  • Received:2014-11-27 Revised:2015-05-28 Online:2015-10-20 Published:2015-10-20
  • Supported by:
    Special Program of the Preliminary Study of National Basic Research Program (973 Program), No.2014CB460614;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171125;China Scholarship Council, No.201306380085


Widely influenced by "violence and terrorism" activities that are organized by the terrorist organization "the East Turkistan Movement" in China, the imaginative geography of Xinjiang has recently changed a lot. As "the East Turkistan Movement" tries to secede Xinjiang away from China by carrying out "violence and terrorism" activities in and out of Xinjiang, the geographical imagination of Xinjiang is gradually changing from a place of beauty and romance into a space of terror and danger. This article focuses on the variation of the geographical imagination of Xinjiang by exploring how Chinese internet media have impact upon it, and discusses how such variation gets involved into Chinese government's policy of anti-terrorism by employing the theory of critical (popular) geopolitics. To this regard, this article pays attention to how Chinese internet media, such as Baidu News, 360 News, Sougou News, and Sina Weibo, produce, practice, negotiate, and reproduce the geographical meanings of the place and space of Xinjiang, by drawing on the textual analysis and online anthropological exploration of the discursive practice of abovementioned internet media and audiences' responses to them. In doing so, this article summarizes the empirical studies in this body of research. It can be concluded that, the internet media produces the negative geographical knowledge of Xinjiang by representing and spreading the information of "violence and terrorism" activities in and out of Xinjiang, and thereby constructing the negative geographical imagination of Xinjiang. Furthermore, such imagination is incessantly negotiated and reproduced in the process of media consuming by audiences. The negotiation and the reproduction of the geographical meanings of Xinjiang positively get involved into and keep in consistence with Chinese government's policy of anti-terrorism, thus the critical (popular) geopolitics model of Chinese anti-terrorism is constructed in the end of this article. Finally, this article could be widely read as a contribution to: (1) human geography, which gets engaged in the discussion of people's everyday life in producing geographical meanings into geography studies; (2) geopolitics, which subverts the paradigm of traditional geopolitical studies that focuses on the influence of the ontological and objective geography upon statecraft practices, and turns to viewing the imaginative geography as an important research object in geopolitical studies; (3) governance, by which the study of internet media is valuable and meaningful for government's guidance of the discourse of mass media.

Key words: critical geopolitics, "East Turkistan violence and terrorism" activities, internet media, audience, geographical imagination