“End the Dominance of the Uyghur Ethnic Group”: An Analysis of Beijing’s Population Optimization Strategy in Southern Xinjiang

Adrian Zenz, “End the Dominance of the Uyghur Ethnic Group”: An Analysis of Beijing’s Population Optimization Strategy in Southern Xinjiang,” Central Asian Survey, 10 June 2021.



This 2021 article published in the Central Asian Survey by German anthropologist Adrian Zenz looks at the systematic evidence of Beijing’s intent to substantially reduce ethnic minority population growth in Xinjiang. In particular, Dr. Zenz explores the observed difference between projected population growth without state interference in Xinjiang against reduced growth scenarios due to birth prevention policies. The latter, Dr. Zens posits that, is critical to Beijing’s counterterrorism goals, and aligns with state discourses on “ethnic population optimization” that akin Uyghurs to a biological threat; and a breeding ground for religious extremism. Highlights of Dr. Zens’ article include focuses on Xinjiang’s draconian birth control regime that punishes women with extrajudicial internment for violations and sterilization practices with long-term health consequences; and policy implementations aimed at increasing the raw number of Han in southern Xinjiang in targeted areas.


Chinese academics and politicians in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have argued that the region’s “terrorism” problem can only be solved by “optimizing” southern Xinjiang’s ethnic population structure. High Uyghur population concentrations are deemed a national security threat. “Optimizing” such concentrations is achieved by embedding substantial Han populations. Scenarios that do not overburden the region’s population carrying capacity entail drastic reductions in ethnic minority natural population growth. The intent to “optimize” the population serves as a basis to assess the intent to destroy an ethnic minority population in part, as outlined in the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention. The “destruction in part” is assessed as the difference between projected natural population growth without substantial government interference, and reduced growth scenarios in line with population “optimization” requirements. Based on population projections conducted by Chinese researchers, this difference could range between 2.6 and 4.5 million persons by the year 2040.