Degree Name



Political Science


Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Publication Date



repression, China, minorities, Xinjiang, Tibet, genocide


While Xinjiang suffers genocide and Tibet has experienced human rights abuses for years from the Communist Party of China (CPC), government abuses in Xinjiang are far more severe, even though the regions represent similar (low) levels of separatist, terrorist violence. To understand this variation in the CPC’s treatment of its western ethnic minorities, I theorize that the actions in Xinjiang must be tied to regime survival, which in China is tied to performance. The CPC’s performance has been lacking in providing power for its urban population, which makes up its most important base of legitimacy. According to my theory, educated, urban Chinese have given up substantial freedoms in exchange for the government’s efforts to provide them with social services and basic resources, like electricity. This kind of social contract is predicated on the performance of the CPC. If the CPC’s performance in providing these services and resources is poor, the regime’s legitimacy is at risk. I present a most similar case study comparing Xinjiang and Tibet to understand the possible threats the CPC might see in those regions that would justify the costly, ongoing repression in those regions. Since the abuses in Xinjiang are far more severe and costly for the CPC to carry out, regime concerns about unrest in that region can be assumed to be higher. I analyze two different explanations for regime concerns. The first is the CPC’s stated pretext for the repression— terrorism. I find that the terrorism threat in both regions is overblown, and the government is using it more as a pretext for its actions. The second explanation centers on the costs of unrest to the regime, proxied by energy resources in the regions. I find that energy resources explain the variation in repression between these two regions, while terrorism cannot. In this thesis, I argue that the CPC has pursued genocide and industrialized repression in Xinjiang because of that region’s abundant and easily extractable energy resources that form an important contribution to China’s energy systems, while Tibet lacks these. In addition, I find that the CPC’s accounts of terrorism in Xinjiang are exaggerated to provide a convenient pretext for its treatments of the Uyghurs.