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Intermestic security challenges: Managing transnational bonds

  • Jörg Friedrichs (a1)
Abstract

Intermestic security challenges arise when there is concern in a country that a dissatisfied minority relies on transnational bonds with a foreign kin group for support. They result from ethnic and/or ideological affinities translating into foreign support seen as problematic, and they are aggravated when the dissatisfied minority is able to raise territorial claims. This can lead to complications not only in domestic politics, but also in international relations (hence, the term ‘intermestic’). Intermestic challenges can escalate into civil war and other political calamities, but they can also be managed by governments. This article develops a theoretical model and discusses it with regard to China and its Muslim-majority neighbouring countries. To the west of China, transnational bonds of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang with co-ethnics and coreligionists in Central Asia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan complicate Chinese relations with those countries. In the southeast, transnational bonds of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia with their ancestral homeland have complicated Indonesian and Malaysian relations with China. While the cases have followed different trajectories, Beijing has managed either challenge rather successfully. The theoretical model developed and the management strategies discussed are likely to be useful in other contexts.

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Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Jörg Friedrichs, University of Oxford, Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Rd, Oxford OX1 3TB, England. Author’s email: joerg.friedrichs@qeh.ox.ac.uk
References
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6 Incidentally, case selection is not tainted by confirmation bias as this research began as an investigation into China’s relations with its Muslim-majority neighbouring countries. The focus on intermestic security relations emerged later, in the actual process of studying the cases.

7 Davis and Moore, ‘Ethnicity matters’; Saideman, The Ties That Divide.

8 Winslett, Gary, ‘Differential threat perceptions: How transnational groups influence bilateral security relations’, Foreign Policy Analysis, 12:4 (2016), pp. 653673 (p. 654).

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12 My use of the term ‘intermestic’ is different from, although loosely related to, the established use of the term in foreign policy and negotiation analysis. See, for example, Manning, Bayless, ‘The Congress, the executive and intermestic affairs: Three proposals’, Foreign Affairs, 55:2 (1977), pp. 306324 ; Putnam, Robert D., ‘Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games’, International Organization, 42:3 (1988), pp. 427460 .

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14 Trade links play a role in all cases under study. In Southeast Asia, diasporic links connecting the ethnic Chinese with their ancestral homeland are deeply resented. In the Uyghur case, Beijing has disrupted ethnic trade links to upend foreign support from Central and South Asia.

15 We will see this below in the case study on the ethnic Chinese minority in Indonesia.

16 B may perceive A’s transnational strategy as foreign interference and is likely to be lobbied in this direction by the (more or less influential) kin group present on its territory.

17 Intermestic security challenges are often linked with diaspora strategies. See Gamlen, Alan, ‘The emigration state and the modern geopolitical imagination’, Political Geography, 27:8 (2008), pp. 840856 ; Ragazzi, Francesco, ‘A comparative analysis of diaspora policies’, Political Geography, 41 (2014), pp. 7489 . This happens in two scenarios: when domestic minorities seek access to support from foreign kin groups in pursuit of their goals, as with the Uyghurs; and when states exert ‘extraterritorial reach to assert national influence over diaspora populations’, as with the ethnic Chinese during the Cold War. See Ho, Elaine Lynn-Ee, ‘New research directions and critical perspectives on diaspora strategies’, Geoforum, 59 (2015), pp. 153158 (p. 154).

18 Consider the Hui, another Muslim minority in China. China is home to more than 10 million Hui, most of whom speak Mandarin. Unlike the Uyghurs, the Hui are a socio-religious rather than an ethnic group. They would be Han were it not for the fact that they are Muslims. They are sometimes receptive to Middle Eastern models of Islam but, in the absence of cross-border ethnic affinities, this hardly poses a challenge. See Friedrichs, Jörg, ‘Sino-Muslim relations: the Han, the Hui, and the Uyghurs’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 37:1 (2017), pp. 5579 .

19 Ethnic Chinese approach demographic majority only in small and shattered areas like Penang, a state in northwest Malaysia that has almost 40 per cent Chinese (42 per cent Bumiputera), or in Singkawang, a Chinese-majority city of 200,000 inhabitants in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan.

20 Clarke, Michael E., ‘Ethnic separatism in the People’s Republic of China: History, causes and contemporary challenges’, European Journal of East Asian Studies, 12:1 (2013), pp. 109133 (p. 111).

21 Before the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, there had been two East Turkestan Republics looking to Soviet Central Asia. See Forbes, Andrew D. W., Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). In 1962, the Soviet Union briefly attempted to use the Uyghurs for ethnic destabilisation. See Freeberne, Michael, ‘Minority unrest and Sino-Soviet rivalry in Sinkiang, China’s north-western frontier bastion, 1949–1965’, in Charles A. Fisher (ed.), Essays in Political Geography (London: Routledge, 2016 [reprint]), pp. 177209 .

22 As we will see, the Chinese strategy has unilateral elements but also rests on bilateral and multilateral cooperation with foreign governments to contain the challenge.

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24 Given their divergent position on maritime borders, these countries do not see themselves as China’s neighbours. See Taylor Fravel, M., Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Elleman, Bruce A., Kotkin, Stephen, and Schofield, Clive (eds), Beijing’s Power and China’s Borders: Twenty Neighbors in Asia (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2013).

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62 Ibid., pp. 525–31, 538–44.

63 Available at: {http://www.pewglobal.org/database/indicator/24/survey/17/} accessed 22 October 2017. This is in contrast with China’s mixed reputation among the public in Central Asia (see above).

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69 Small, , The China-Pakistan Axis, pp. ix–xvi, 111112 .

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76 Department of Statistics Malaysia, Population and Housing Census of Malaysia; see also Eng and Peng, ‘Demographic processes and changes’.

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86 With 1.2 per cent, the share of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is much smaller than in Malaysia. See Arifin, Hasbullah, and Pramono, ‘Chinese Indonesians’,

87 Sukma, Rizal, Indonesia and China: The Politics of a Troubled Relationship (London: Routledge, 1999).

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92 Ibid., p. 563.

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97 Nasr, The Shia Revival.

98 Winslett, ‘Differential threat perceptions’ (on the Kurdish question); Wedagedara, Amali, ‘The “ethnic question” in India-Sri Lanka relations in the post-LTTE phase’, Strategic Analysis, 37:1 (2013), pp. 6583 .

99 ‘China defends envoy to Malaysia after comments on racism’, Reuters (28 September 2015).

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101 Koinova, Maria, ‘Kinstate intervention in ethnic conflicts: Albania and Turkey compared’, Ethnopolitics, 7:4 (2008), pp. 373390 . Turkish restraint has recently come under stress. See ‘Erdogan says Bulgaria’s pressure on Turks “unacceptable”’, Reuters (23 March 2017).

102 Salman Masood and Ben Hubbard, ‘Pakistan approves military hero to head tricky Saudi-led alliance’, New York Times (3 April 2017); {https://imctc.org/} accessed 7 December 2017.

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