Sun, Sand and Submachine Guns: Tourism in a Militarized Xinjiang, China

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In recent years, domestic tourism into the Xinjiang region of China has grown rapidly. Government officials view tourism as a source of both economic capital and social stability, presenting a normalcy that makes it attractive for investment. There are two paradoxes to Xinjiang tourism. According to most literature, a massive military presence should deter tourists, but numbers have continued to grow in the militarized Xinjiang region. Second, the cultural “otherness” of Xinjiang is a big draw to the region, yet this culture is being suppressed by state policies to contain Islam. Using a dataset of Han Chinese travel diaries, I look at how narrated tourist experiences of Xinjiang justify policing, how ethnic boundaries are reinforced by practices in both transportation and personal interaction, and how state policies influence Chinese travellers’ views on the authenticity of their experience. While bodily assurances of security substantiate political legitimacy, tourists resist the bureaucratic management of sites, allowing for critiques focused almost exclusively on aesthetic taste.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1129-1151
Number of pages23
JournalChina Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Xinjiang
  • China
  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • Uyghur nationality
  • tourism
  • 新疆
  • 中国
  • 一带一路
  • 维吾尔族
  • 旅游


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