Zenz's Xinjiang population 'research' lacks evidence, ignores basic demographic facts: experts
Published: Jun 08, 2021 09:19 PM
Residents participate in a wedding ceremony at a scenic spot by Ili River in Yining of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 5, 2017.Photo:Xinhua

Residents participate in a wedding ceremony at a scenic spot by Ili River in Yining of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 5, 2017.Photo:Xinhua

Some Western media outlets have started hyping another report by pseudo scholar Adrian Zenz, which claimed there will be millions fewer Uygur and other ethnic minority newborns in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the coming 20 years, but the unreliable "research" has been slammed by Chinese observers as pure political manipulation. 

Adrian Zenz, a darling of Western media, told Reuters that his new "research report" found China's policies would cut 2.6 to 4.5 million births of Uygurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang within 20 years compared to the projected population.  

Reuters reported that the research was accepted for publication after peer review. Reuters did not reveal or even hint at the data source and methodology leading to the sensational conclusion, but claimed that some anonymous experts thought the analysis and conclusion were "sound" after seeing the methodology Reuters shared with them.  

Some other news outlets including BBC and VOA followed suit in their reporting. 

However, demographers pointed out that Zenz's "estimate for the future" ignored the fact that a dropping birth rate is a natural trend of all societies that see economic and social development. 

It is impossible to evaluate the accuracy of the number Zenz alleged without getting access to the raw data and methodology he used, but both Han and ethnic minorities in China are seeing dropping birth rates alongside economic progress, Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert and senior researcher from the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Actually, the Han group's drop in birth rate came way earlier than that for Uygurs and other ethnic minorities, and the latter has only recently seen such changes as a result of anti-extremism and anti-poverty achievements that gave women opportunities to work rather than restricted them to the house to have babies, Huang said. 

Zenz also claimed that the Han population would increase from 8.4 to 25 percent in southern Xinjiang, but Huang scorned the claim, as it picked just one spot to indicate the big picture. 

Uygurs and other ethnic minorities are having more children than Han people and they are prospering across Xinjiang. The population structure change in one area could be driven by economic growth, as well as inbound and outbound migrations. "Why is this kind of migration  alright in other provinces but suddenly becomes a problem in Xinjiang?" Huang asked. 

Zenz always shouted about his reports before they made a splash academically, proving "his purpose was not to make achievements in Xinjiang studies but to hype up the topic to smear China," said Jia Chunyang, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Jia told the Global Times on Tuesday that Zenz has no background or training on Xinjiang studies, but suddenly appeared on the stage in the past few years with the assistance of Western media. 

No matter how ridiculous Zenz's reports are, he always has Western media's backing, because they are in the same anti-China camp, analysts said.