I've been thinking alot about this fascinating reporting by @dakekang on Xinjiang. It's really important to understand that absence of visible repression doesn't mean a loosening of state control. Visible violence often means state doesn't have other options. 1/n
@dakekang First, it's a measurement issue: mass public violence is easy to measure. A knock on the door or a disappearance at night is harder for outsiders to see and observe, esp when info is censored. This came up a LOT in my book. 2/
Second, the absence of overt physical violence is sometimes due to the *success* of state/regime repression, not it's absence. Judt called this, in E. European communist regimes, "the peace of the prison yard." 3/n
That's what came across to me in @dakekang's reporting: the internalization of a repressive environment. For China, this may be a short-term win at long-term cost, if preference falsification hides deep anger or resentment. 4/n
PRC discourse measures success by "no major attacks in X years." That's a tactical measure on a short-term time horizon; it doesn't factor in either external costs (which CCP seems to weight not much) *or* long-term domestic security risks to stability. 5/n
The thing that I found most surprising about @dakekang's report was the sentence saying surveillance cameras had been removed. Often surveillance substitutes for other forms of violence because it allows for more preventive demobilization, which has been Xi's stated goal. 6/n
I have lots of questions about that: is it because there are now other ways to track movement that aren't as cumbersome as facial recognition + back-end platforms? Because people now scan in/out of their homes, etc? Maybe. Unclear, & potentially impt. 7/n
But let's also remember that many residents of XJ have cycled thru (or are still in) re-education facilities. If you take the targeted populations (which is the translation I prefer of 重点人口) off the streets, you don't need street cameras as much. 8/n
It may be that the right % of "individuals infected by extremism" have already been re-educated, or are now confined for re-education, & while that happened, the state has built the infrastructure for less visible methods of social control. 9/n
Remember, ~a decade ago Xinjiang had less public security spending per capita than most other provinces/regions, while it was perceived by CCP as having far greater security risks. Chen Quanguo's job, with regime support, was to leapfrog - that's what we've watched. 10/n
Let me give a (much smaller-scale) example: in Taiwan, arrests & executions both dropped sharply after mid-1950s. Why? Because around that time, the KMT got a new internal security apparatus in place: one that deeply penetrated Taiwan society with surveillance/informants. 11/n
We sometimes call both executions & surveillance "repression." Both forms of repression violate rights, but they can have different causes & effects, so it's best to be precise. Lots of great, difficult polisci work on this. 12/n
With two co-authors, I spent months trying to understand why the CCP escalated detention (one form of repression) in Xinjiang in spring 2017. It will take a while to try to find the information to understand what this shift actually *is*, & why it might've occurred. 13/n
Since the Holocaust, scholars have struggled with the ethics of this task: how does one understand abuse, without justifying it? It is morally fraught & taxing to try to understand the thinking of repressive actors. But I would argue it's essential for guiding moral action. 14/n
This thread feels unfinished bc the work of understanding what @dakekang saw is far from over. And it is essential that his work continues, that those affected continue to testify, & that scholars & policymakers grapple w/how to understand what the reports & testimony mean. 15/n
Anyway: point of this is that reduced *visibility* of repression doesn't necessarily mean a) shift in CCP policy, or b) a less repressive environment for human beings in Xinjiang. It's important we as readers & observers understand that.
FIN (unless I think of sth else to add)

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More from @SheenaGreitens

19 Jul
A LOT of non-democracies have elections.
This is why my Democracy & Dictatorship syllabus has a whole section on "why authoritarian regimes have features that look like democracies (courts, legislatures, elections, etc)":
I mean, North Korea has *elections*:
There is a whole literature on competitive/electoral authoritarianism, which has been described (in Mexico) as:
a “soccer match where the goalposts were of different heights & breadths & where one team included 11 players plus the umpire & the other a mere 6-7 players."
Read 10 tweets
15 Jul
This is a really, *really* bad take. Supporting a dictatorship is the opposite of supporting "Cubans' right to choose their own government."
From a political science standpoint, Cuba's lack of democracy is not up for debate. Here is the country's score on two different global democracy-authoritarianism rankings: ImageImage
If you don't like "liberal" democracy, here are five different ways of conceptualizing it. Cuba's still not a democracy, folks. Image
Read 10 tweets
12 Jul
For those watching protests in Cuba: mass protest is necessary, but often not sufficient to get democratization. History/polisci/statistics tell us that a lot will hinge on elite & police/military response to the protests.
Most autocrats (65%) fall to other elites; @MilanSvolik calculated that only about 20% of dictatorships end via popular uprising or transition to democracy.
And about 1/2 of autocracies that do fall are replaced by other autocracies. Democracy is hard, y'all.
There is a lot of good work on what causes security forces (mil, police, etc) to stay loyal to regime or defect in these crises. In my book, I found that the more representative the security force is, the harder repression becomes for frontline officers: social costs are high.
Read 9 tweets
17 May
So @BrankoMilan your "impression," again, is sth political science has been saying since at least.... 2002? Try Levitsky & Way, which has been cited a mere 7000x (2002 article + 2010 book). This is not a new take. No-one thinks autocracy is just "failed democracy." 1/2
This is why the opening paragraph of my book reads the way it does. Because what you @BrankoMilan seem to think is new is pretty darn conventional wisdom as of at least 5-8 years ago. 2/2
Many ppl responding, @BrankoMilan, are citing core work in *comparative politics,* not area studies. On your comments re regime type, see Geddes (1999), Geddes, Wright & Franz (2018), or any of the scholarship that uses the NSF-funded dataset they built:
Read 4 tweets
16 May
Hi again, @BrankoMilan, there is not good empirical justification for this statement, only an unfamiliarity with the relevant bodies of scholarship. There is a LOT of comparative work integrating non-Western welfare, citizenship, electoral regimes, etc.
I teach a global course on "democracy & dictatorship." Here's the opening week on how we measure/define democracy, which uses metrics/tools explicitly designed to avoid over-reliance on Western conceptions.
Here's a week on elections & other political institutions under autocracy, where key Q is to what extent these institutions serve same functions under dem/autocratic systems, & to what extent functions differ.
Read 4 tweets
4 May
Excited to share a new article in Journal of Korean Studies (@JournalKorea) on how geopolitical considerations shape the citizenship claims of North Koreans, as well as the ROK state's response to those claims:
It's pretty common to hear "North Koreans get automatic citizenship in South Korea." That idea's been used to turn down NKoreans seeking resettlement in other countries. But in practice, claiming citizenship status is much more difficult than the phrase "automatic" implies. 2/
Acquiring effective South Korean citizenship is difficult, protracted (multi-stage process before NKorean resettlers are accorded full rights of citizenship), & contingent, especially when trying to claim that one should be treated as an ROK citizen *abroad.* 3/
Read 10 tweets

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