West breaks eastern promise 2

August 8, 2003

Tim Barrett suggests that unique specialist knowledge on contemporary Uyghur separatism in Chinese Central Asia will simply "disappear" after recent cuts at Durham University ("Asian studies cuts may hit anti-terrorism effort", THES , July 11).

The decision is lamentable and potentially disastrous in view of the increasing importance of forging intercultural understanding between the West and East Asia/the Middle East. But it is inaccurate to say we have only one expert nationally working on contemporary developments in northwest China. There are at least three others involved in related research (myself included).

Further, it is worrying that would-be secessionists in the region should be unproblematically labelled "terrorists". In the course of China's post-9/11 political, religious and cultural crackdown in the northwest, it has been all too convenient for the government to render this word synonymous with the rather different notions of "national separatist" or "freedom fighter".

Joanne N. Smith
School of Modern Languages
University of Newcastle Upon Tyne

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