Author: Patrik K. Meyer
China’s global initiatives, such as the One Belt One Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are bringing Chinese increasingly in contact with Muslims around the world. The fast-paced implementation of these initiatives does not allow Chinese businessmen and officials to familiarize themselves with the traditions, priorities, and values of local Muslim populations with whom they interact, resulting in numerous people-to-people disputes. Once disputes arise, Chinese representatives often approach them in an unsuitable manner, allowing them to linger and grow in intensity.
The central objective of this paper is to present a novel Sino-Islamic interpersonal conflict management framework (SICMa) that integrates the principles, traditions, and values that define traditional Islamic and Chinese conflict management methods. SICMa consists of three core parts. First, the guiding principles behind Islamic and traditional Chinese conflict management approaches are described and compared. Then, the commonalities and discrepancies between the two are identified and addressed, and potential misunderstandings clarified. Finally, this hybrid framework bridges the theory-reality gap by taking into account human behavior and integrating local indigenous conflict management principles. An important finding of this research is that Chinese and Islamic conflict management traditions share numerous similarities that so far have been ignored, making of SICMa an effective tool for Chinese representatives to better manage and defuse interpersonal tensions with Muslims.
SICMa allows its users to identify commonalities between the Islamic and Chinese cultures that often go unnoticed, clarify misconceptions resulting from cultural and linguistic differences, overcome incompatibilities that could block the dispute resolution process, and bridge the theory-reality gap to make their dispute management more effective. Ultimately, SICMa should help Chinese and Muslims to overcome intercultural misunderstandings and obstacles, and to open novel communication channels to explore mutually acceptable dispute resolutions.
In recent years, conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims have mushroomed despite massive human and economic resources invested to prevent and mitigate them (Meyer 2012, 2). Numerous countries around the world have been affected by their governments being at odds with their Muslim minorities, often due to socio-economic and political inequalities, and compounded by poor understanding that the sides have of each other's grievances and traditions (Williams 2015, 148). Furthermore, instead of facilitating the dialog between dissenting parties, it seems that fast-paced globalization deepens the gaps between the conflicting groups and accelerates the escalation of conflicts (Cordell and Wolff n.d., Ch II, 6). It is so that is common for interpersonal disputes to arise between local Muslim populations and Chinese businessmen and officials when visiting Islamic countries.
China’s ever expanding globalization driven by numerous massive projects such as the One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) brings Chinese increasingly in contact with Muslim communities in South East and Central Asia, as well as in the Middle East and Africa. The BRI is not just a vast economic initiative, but also a Chinese model of global relations and governance, and a roadmap to achieve a united and harmonious world. It is the physical evidence that China is taking on its historical burden of leading mankind in building a united, harmonious and prosperous world for all. The facts on the ground, however, show that China’s probably well-intentioned interventions are resulting in increased anti-China sentiments among the local Muslim populations (Meyer 2016).
While the Chinese regime is making concerted efforts to find win-win cooperation opportunities in those countries, Chinese businessmen and officials are increasingly getting entangled in interpersonal disputes with the local Muslim populations (Engseng 2015). These disputes are often left to linger and when Chinese attempt to resolve them, they predominantly follow the “Western tendency to think about peace and conflict resolution in terms of rational order or problem solving predicated upon reason and expediency” (Said and Funk 2001). However, given that “relationships between people in daily life are constructed in the process of social interaction” (Berger and Luckmann 1966), this rational and expedient approach is ineffective. It is ineffective because it does not address fundamental drivers of disputes, such as ignoring each other’s traditions and values, not taking time to build up respect and trust, and the numerous misunderstandings due to linguistic, cultural, and social differences. More relevant to this research, once the tensions have built up and conflicts have emerged, Chinese often ignore them or mange them ineffectively, allowing conflicts to grow in intensity and leading to what the author has labeled as social earthquakes (Meyer 2016).
A social earthquake is a violent social conflict resulting from the sudden release of tensions existing between groups formed by the fracturing of a society along ethnic, religious, economic, ideological, or political lines, or a combination thereof. When these groups that share a common space and compete for the same resources, have little in shared values and numerous competing differences, they can behave much like “social tectonic plates,” allowing for significant stresses to build up between them. Over time, their coexistence becomes increasingly difficult and they might start looking at each other as different, strangers, or even as the “evil others” (Lipschutz 1998, 169). At this point, even minor disputes can trigger violent social conflict, i.e. a social earthquake (Meyer 2016).
The objectives of developing a hybrid Sino-Islamic conflict management framework (SICMa) are to facilitate the communication between Chinese and Muslims and to prevent minor interpersonal disputes from escalating into social earthquakes. This is achieved by describing traditional Islamic and Chinese conflict management approaches, integrating their similarities, clarifying potentially harmful misunderstandings, cautioning of fundamental differences, and bridging the gap that separates theory and practice. SICMa should be an effective tool in the hands of Chinese businessmen and officials to manage their interpersonal conflicts with Muslims. A modified SICMa framework can also be used effectively by individuals with a cultural background strongly influenced by Confucian values, such as in the case of Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Singaporeans.
Conflict Management in Islamic and Chinese Tradition
A fundamental commonality between Islamic and Chinese traditions is that both belong to high-context cultures and provide a set of guidelines and values defining how a dispute resolution process should proceed and what its objectives should be. In both cultures, conflicts are triggered when their (cultural) normative values are challenged and, once engaged in a dispute, both favor a non-confrontational, exploratory approach to its resolution. This is in contrast with low-context cultures that will usually take a more confrontational, fact-based, and more rigid approach to managing them (S. Ting-Toomey 1985).
In Islam, Quran regulates and describes how the relationship between God and man, and man and man should be, as well as how people should deal with conflicts at the interpersonal and community levels. In addition, the life of the Prophet recorded in the Hadith illustrates the practical implementation of God’s will. For instance, making peace and restoring harmonious relations among people are two of Muslims’ sacred duties, which is reflected in Prophet Muhammad’s own words: “Shall I inform you of merit greater than fasting, charity, and prayer? It is in the conciliation of people” (Hadith reported by Abi al Darda). These two objectives are paramount in the Chinese traditions too.
Regardless of its nature, in the Islamic and Chinese traditions conflicts are seen as negative and destructive, and should be avoided. To avoid conflicts and to resolve them once they happen, Quran orders Muslims to be fair and just:
“Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious” (Al Maidah 5:8).
Fairness and justice are two fundamental principles on how to handle and resolve conflicts in Islam. They are important in the Chinese tradition too, but Chinese prioritizes saving face and restoring social harmony. Once conflicts arise, both traditions engage both the individuals at odds as well as the families and communities to which they belong (Abu-Nimer 2003).
The Chinese and Islam traditions are very explicit about the need to harness the numerous weaknesses of human nature, such as arrogance, anger, and greed that can fuel conflicts and hinder their resolution. Thus, for both it is fundamental for the people involved to take sufficient time to get to know each other, understand the sources of the conflict, and understand the different positions (Vebapi 2008). Also, important for both is that conflicts be resolved as promptly as possible because hostilities undermine the well-being and unity of the community that are so important to Islamic and Chinese traditions.
A last fundamental commonality is that both traditions put the focus on the action, not on the person. If a person breaks the law or harms someone, the community will not label him as a thief or as a bad person, but will label his action as illegal or harmful. This is important because by focusing on the action, the individual can be easily redeemed if he stops his wrongdoings. This is fundamentally different from the West, were the focus is on the person and the person, making it much harder to redeem the individual. There are numerous commonalities too in what concerns the resolution of disputes.
Conflict resolution: Justice vs. harmony
By focusing on the action rather than on the individual, both Chinese and Islamic dispute management approaches offer paths of “redemptive transformation” (Said and Funk 2001, 2), which facilitate their resolution. Also, a general principle guiding both Islamic and Chinese traditions is the Confucian principle of “Do not impose to other what you do yourself do not desire” (Wei 2010, 24c). Already in the early times of Islam, the Prophet advised his companions to find common ground when they interacted with people of different religions and cultures, to then start building relationships on these commonalities. When interpersonal conflicts arise, Muslims are expected to explore them truthfully and resolve them justly to ensure that they will not linger and disrupt the community’s peace in the future (Osman 2009). To do so, mediators have to get the parties to be willing to explore just settlements and forgive each other. Similarly, Chinese also want to preserve and cultivate the community to ensure that harmony reigns among people (Irani and Funk 2000).
It is important to clarify that, in the Islamic and Chinese contexts, achieving a state of harmonious peace does not imply that everyone is following one ideology and one set of values. On the contrary, both welcome diversity of civilizations within the unity of humanity. Muslims are ordered in the Quran to be respectful when communicating and interacting with people from other cultures, religions, and ethnic groups: “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His mercy: and for his did He create them” (11:118-119). Hence, cultural, ethnic, ideological, religious, and social diversity are welcomed both by Chinese and Islamic traditions.
As mentioned earlier, achieving a just peace is one of the central objectives in Islam. This is because peace is “closely linked to justice and human flourishing. Peace in Islam suggests a condition of principle-based order – a proper equilibrium of parts – from which a pattern of harmony can emerge” (Said and Funk 2001, 1). The Prophet advised his followers to seek peace over war: “Do not pray to confront your enemy, you should ask peace from Allah” (Khan 1995). Achieving and maintaining a just peace is the ultimate objective of a dispute resolution, in contrast with the Chinese ultimate goal of achieving social harmony. While Islamic and Chinese traditions aim for similar outcomes, it is important to note that Islam follows a truth-seeking process to achieve a just settlement and Chinese follow a face-saving process to achieve a settlement in which truth and justice might have been distorted.
Hybrid Sino-Islamic Conflict Management Framework
The central objective of this research is to develop a hybrid Sino-Islamic interpersonal conflict management framework, SICMa, intended to be tool to be used mainly by Chinese businessmen and officials to defuse interpersonal disputes with Muslims. SICMa is built by describing the dominant factors shaping Islamic and Chinese conflict management processes, integrating their similarities, clarifying potential misunderstandings, cautioning of controversial differences, and bridging the theory-reality gap. Based on the previous information, the following summary of the Islamic and Chinese conflict management approaches provides the context in which SICMa is developed.
Describing Chinese and Islamic CM approaches
To manage and resolve conflicts, Muslims seek guidance in the Quran and Islamic traditions, and Chinese use predominately Confucian ones for their guidance. In Islam, the “emphasis is upon obligations rather than upon rights, and upon the divine origin of the law” (Hyder 2003, 6), which is an infallible source of guidance (Johnston, Camelino and Rizzo 2000, 9). The sources guiding Chinese principles are human and fallible. Two important features that both share is that their focus is on the action, not on the individual, and that the community plays a significant role in the conflict resolution process. Unlike Muslims, Chinese are willing to sacrifice the individual rights for the sake of the greater good of the community and achieving a quick return to social harmony. In both traditions, the negotiation process should be conducted in a respectful manner towards different cultures and ideologies. However, in the case of Islam, the process must be a truth-seeking one while the Chinese case it is one that prioritizes face-saving. Both welcome mediation as an effective way seek a resolution to interpersonal disputes.
In Islam, mediators are expected to be trustworthy, have strong moral integrity, enjoy authority, and be well-respected in the communities. Chinese traditions, prefer mediators that hold position of seniority and high social status, leaving moral integrity and truthfulness as desirable, but not necessary. Also, a Muslim mediator should be a good listener, kind, patient, and just, while Chinese prefer one that knows what to say at the right to protect everyone’s face. Finally, both prefer and older and experienced mediator.
The most important objective of the Islamic mediation process is to please God by reaching a just resolution for the harmed individuals and restoring social harmony to ensure that a sustainable, long-term, just resolution is achieved. Restoring harmony in the community is the single most important objective of the Chinese tradition. However, given that the greater good of the community trumps the individual’s rights, Chinese resolutions might fall short from being just for the individual. Moreover, given that seniority and status can strongly influence how justice is distributed, resolutions can be strongly slanted in a way that they benefit disproportionally the individuals who enjoy higher status and seniority. Finally, in the Chinese context, the materialistic view of a “win-win” resolution is only acceptable if it does not disrupt or weaken a harmonious state (Chen and Xiao 1993). These factors defining the Chinese approach to dispute management result in negotiations where truth might not be fully sought after and resolutions that are neither fully equitable nor just. While both traditions reject revenge, if awarded a compensation, Chinese expect to be compensated. Pure forgiveness is not expected and is rare among Chinese. For Muslims, the central incentives to resolve conflicts justly are to avoid God’s anger and receive his blessing. Revenge is acceptable, but forgiveness is the ultimate conflict resolution in Islam.
Integrating Chinese and Islamic conflict management similarities
Common ground between Islamic and Chinese conflict management traditions includes fundamental issues such as that conflict is inherently bad and should be avoided, that the focus should be on the action and not the individual, and that in interpersonal conflicts the community should get involved in its resolutions. Both traditions respect and accept, at least in theory, different cultures, religions, ethnic groups, and ideologies and aim for holistic, long-term resolutions to ensure that conflicts will not be reignite in the future. Finally, both welcome mediation as an effective approach to manage disputes.
There is also significant partial common ground between the two. Both are protective of individuals’ honour and face, but Chinese put much more emphasis on this issue. Additionally, both aspire to achieve social harmony, justice, and peace, but in Islam justice and truth trumps harmony and honour (face), while the priorities are reversed in the Chinese context. Also, both welcome mediation, but when it comes to the choice of the mediator, in Islam his truthfulness and morals are more important that his status and seniority, which for Chinese are the two most important traits.
As for how to the conflict management process should proceed, both traditions consider that protecting one’s and the opponent’s honour/face is important. However, in the Chinese context protecting each other’s face is fundamental and can result in interactions that are confusing and where truth is being distorted or ignored. Chinese concern with seniority and status of individuals can compromise the justice of the resolutions. Both traditions share similar resolution objectives, which are to restore a sense of harmony and peace in the communities affected by the conflict. There are, nevertheless, fundamental differences between the two views on what a harmonious, peaceful society is and how to achieve it. These differences are discussed below. Finally, ceremonies and rites are welcomed in both traditions, but they are far more complex and play a much more important role in Chinese context.
This extensive common ground in Islamic and Chinese traditions is an invaluable resource that needs to be proactively exploited to facilitate the interaction of the disputants and the resolution of conflicts.
Differences in language and culture can become sources of serious misunderstandings that can hamper a constructive debate and, in some case, even worsen the conflict. The meaning of words and gestures can vary greatly from culture to culture and can result in serious misunderstandings or make the communication harder. Kochman (1982) is of the view that:
“We develop verbal communication styles at the early stage of language acquisition. Because such styles reflect and embody the beliefs of our culture, when we impose our verbal communication style in the process of interaction, conflict can occur (Kochman 1982).
Given that Chinese and Muslims differ fundamentally in their cultural beliefs, it is important to ensure that both parties do not get lost in translation and clearly understand the intended meaning of each other’s messages. Further complicating the communication is the fact Chinese use an indirect communication style, which results in an ambiguous language that is not argumentative and rigid. This helps avoid statements that can be perceived as too aggressive and final, and allows people to preserve their face, but such use can result in the Muslim interlocutors being confused and annoyed by the lack of clarity in the conversation and arguments. Hence, the Chinese parties need to make sure that, while remining polite and respectful, they share clearly their arguments and grievances, and state explicitly what they expect. Otherwise their message could be misunderstood and the conversation could break down.
Also, Chinese are expected to subdue their emotions in public to preserve harmonious relations (G.-M. Chen 2000) and to restrain their personal expectations for the greater good of the community (Hwang 1997, 26). This can result in individuals having to sacrifice truth for the sake of preserving harmonious relations. Following a socially correct approach might be temporarily effective, but too in the individual’s grievances, concerns, and expectations not being clearly shared and addressed. More importantly, this unemotional attitude from the part of the Chinese could be misinterpreted by the more emotionally prone Muslims as a lack of concern for their grievances or, even worse, a lack of interest to resolve the conflict. Finally, the fact that Chinese fundamentally modify how they behave and what they say depending on the status and seniority of the interlocutor can be perceived as biased and unjust by Muslims. Chinese must, therefore, make a concerted effort to be more emotional, impartial, and clear when interacting with Muslims.
Cautioning of differences
A fundamental difference between Muslims and Chinese is the fact that the source of knowledge of the first is divine and, as such, considered infallible, while the latter is inspired in Confucianism and Daoism, more of secular ideologies (Yang and Zailan 2012), based on fallible human wisdom. This difference is significant because, as a result, Muslims cannot be expected to be very flexible about their principles, while Chinese can, and should, be more accommodating to their Muslim counterparts. Said and Funk define religion “as a path of ultimate transformation, comprised of interconnected systems of symbols and guidelines” (Said and Funk 2001, 2). Religion principles and values play a significant role in generating and resolving conflicts because they address the “most profound existential issues of human life,” such as right and wrong, and what life’s purpose is (Said and Funk 2001, 1). By defining what the most profound and important values and ideals are, religion establishes the process and resolution criteria that Muslims must adopt in case of conflict (Galtung 1997). This results in Muslims being less flexible about their principles than Chinese might be. Hence, when Chinese deal with Muslims they should be aware and sensitive towards fundamental Islamic principles and, as far as possible, try integrate them in the discussions and resolution of disputes.
Chinese must ensure that they do not inadvertently insult or disrespect Muslims, particularly when it comes to their religion, because they can be extremely sensitive about it. And while Muslim might neglect values cherished by Chinese, such as showing high respect to senior Chinese officials or conducting discussions in an unemotional manner, this should be much more manageable for Chinese to accommodate. This facility to adjust to the ways of Muslims results from the fact that Chinese follow less normative, deep-rooted human values. Moreover, Chinese are not overly concerned about how non-Chinese Muslims treat them because they consider their own culture superior to others. This sense of superiority, or Han chauvinism, is rooted in the belief that Chinese history and civilization is superior (Meyer 2016), and that Chinese are far more capable technically and economically. Muslims might be intimidated by this Chinese superiority, making them even more sensitive about how Chinese treat them, particularly their most precious values, Islamic values.
Another fundamental difference between the Islamic and Chinese traditions is that Islam is an equalitarian religion where individuals are brothers and sisters in society, and equal in front of God. This is radically different from the Chinese hierarchical tradition, where the
“Principle of favoring the intimate, which as rules of thumb for distributive justice, insisting that a resource allocator should adopt different rules for exchange to interact with people of various extent of intimacy” (Hwang 1997, 18).
This results in people being respected and judged based on their seniority, status, ethnicity, and age, as well as on who they know Hence, Chinese justice is applied differently depending on the status and seniority of the individual, which can seriously distort the analysis of the claims, the interaction between the parties, and the resolution of conflicts. As a consequence, Muslims might feel discriminated against by Chinese and that truth and justice are being manipulated to their detriment. If not corrected, a lack of transparency and equity in the interactions and settlements from the part of the Chinese could result in blocking conflict resolution process and, in some cases, in a deterioration of the relations with Muslims.
This lack of transparency and equity is further aggravated by the Chinese cult for preserving each other’s faces. The vital role that preserving face plays in a Confucian society is illustrated by this popular Chinese saying: Men can’t live without face, trees can’t live without bark. Thus, in case of conflict, Chinese follow face-saving process, in contrast with the truth-seeking process of Muslims. Moreover, once a settlement is being negotiated, Chinese tend to bend justice to benefit those with more seniority and higher status, in drastic contrast with Islam’s more equitable and impartial justice. Ultimately, the Chinese approach could mask and distort truth and result in the failure to address the root-causes of the conflict, leaving it unresolved and waiting to be reignited. Chinese should make a concerted effort to share their arguments and expectations in an honest and transparent way, and ensure that an equitable resolution is reached.
Bridging the theory-reality gap
In the previous sections, the principles, values, and objectives of traditional Chinese and Islamic conflict management processes have been described and compared. However, it cannot be expected that individuals will fully behave and act by the principles that their culture or religion dictates, especially when disputes occur outside their community or, even more so, outside their country. If left unchecked, individuals tend to ignore their cultural values and act in a self-serving and confrontational manner, something that, for example, would be rare in the case of a Chinese and is in China.
For example, a Chinese businessman will tend to follow Chinese principles and values while dealing with Chinese, surrounded by his own people, observed by strict authorities, and supervised by his superiors. However, he might grossly ignore those principles and values when dealing with Muslims in Central Asia. Away from his own community, he will most probably not take the necessary time to learn about the local people’s culture and tradition, understand them, and, most importantly, gain their respect and trust before launching himself into the business battle. Instead, he will use his superior economic and technical resources to impose his views and ways to get the job done as quickly as possible and yielding the highest possible profit. This conflict-generating approach should be avoided, particularly in the case of massive, long-term projects such as the Belt, Road Initiative. Muslims too, cannot be expected to be as truthful and just as required by their Islamic traditions. Hence, when interacting with Muslims, Chinese representatives will have to preserve the numerous constructive principles that their culture offers them and be aware that Muslims might not be as righteous as their religion expects them to be. In particular, they should remain aware that they are only guests in a foreign country and, therefore, they need to respect local traditions, values, and principles, and be humble enough to allow local hosts to share the leadership in discussions and projects.
Finally, an important characteristic of SICMa is that it is open to adopting local conflict management principles, values and objectives. An example of the importance of doing so is the case of the use of “Taarof” in Iranian etiquette. Taarof expects people to say yes when in reality they mean no, and to agree to something when in reality the person disagrees. Taarof is a very respected behavior that defines how people should interact with each other and that permeates Iranians’ social interactions and international relations, from local to international issues (Valle 2016). More importantly, “Taarof represents the kind essence of Iranian people. In our culture, it can be impolite to express ourselves in very a direct and objective way…For Iranians, kind words are always important” (Valle 2016).
Taarof is in some ways similar to the complex and indirect way that Chinese interact, especially when dealing with disputes. Hence, it would not be a significant challenge for Chinese to familiarize themselves with it and adopt it when interacting with Iranians. This familiarity would help Chinese improve their interpersonal relations with Iranians and smoothen dispute resolution processes with them. As shown by the case of Taarof in Iran, besides becoming familiar with Islamic conflict management principles, values, and objectives, Chinese businessmen and officials should also learn and adopt local ones in their interactions with the local population.
Following Buckley’s advice that when negotiating with people from another culture it is “imperative to learn as much as possible about the mores and attitudes of that culture” (Buckley 1995, 181), the central objective of the hybrid Sino-Islamic Conflict Management framework (SICMa) is to be an effective tool for Chinese businessmen and officials to mitigate and resolve interpersonal disputes with Muslim communities around the world. After reviewing the Islamic and Chinese conflict management traditions, it can be recognized that both “civilizations adhere to dialogue between civilizations, and both oppose conflicts” (Yang and Zailan 2012, 80), which combined with the numerous similarities provide a solid foundation on which to build SICMa. By describing the traditional Islamic and Chinese conflict management methods, integrating their commonalities, clarifying potentially harmful misunderstandings, cautioning of fundamental differences, and bridging the theory-reality gap, SICMa becomes and effective reality-based conflict management framework.
Similarities between Islamic and Chinese traditions include that they both consider conflict as negative and focus on the action rather than the individual, respect different cultures, are protective of the individual’s honor, engage the communities in the dispute management, and welcome mediators to help in the process. It is not sufficient to know these similarities. It is important to take advantage of them to make the dispute resolution process more effective and smoother. There are, however, numerous sources of potential misunderstandings due to linguistic and cultural differences between the two traditions that could be prejudicial to the resolution process. For instance, Chinese indirect talk and unemotional behavior, and the fact that they give authority to people based on their seniority and social status can result confusing and irritating for Muslims, and need to be addressed accordingly.
There are a number of important differences between the Islamic and Chinese principles that SIGMa cautions of and helps to overcome. Two significant ones are the fact that in the Chinese context achieving harmony trumps justice and following a face-saving process trumps a truth-seeking one, resulting in significant tensions with Muslims who have the priorities reversed. Finally, SIGMa bridges the theory-reality gap by taking in consideration human behavior and conflict management principles of the relevant communities. Particularly important is that when Chinese leave their strictly regulated society, they often forget their most valued Confucian principles and the fact that they are guests in a foreign country, and adopt a disrespectful and aggressive attitude that tramples local traditions and values. `Ultimately, SICMa should allow Chinese representatives involved interpersonal conflicts with Muslims avoid intra-cultural obstacles and misunderstandings, and use common principles and values to open novel communication channels and explore additional mutually acceptable agreements.
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 Visiting Professor, Department of International Relations, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (Indonesia) and a New America Security Fellow. Dr. Meyer has eclectic personal, academic and professional backgrounds which inform his multi-disciplinary research and narrow the gap between theory and practice in his work. He has extensive experience cooperating with Chinese scholars to provide a better understanding of the conflicts in Xinjiang that fuel tensions between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government.