Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Joyce Madancy




ethnic minorities, race, China, violence, riot, workplace


In July of 2009, violent ethnic riots between the Uighur, a Turkic-Muslim ethnic minority, and Han Chinese made international headlines. The conflict began in a toy factory in south China’s Guangdong Province on June 25. Han Chinese employees confronted some of their Uighur coworkers over allegations that the latter had raped a couple of Han women. The consequent fight turned into a factory-wide ethnic battle that resulted in the death of two Uighur men. On July 5, thousands of miles away in the capital city of Urumqi, Uighur protestors demanding a more thorough investigation of the murders turned violent. The riot destroyed vehicles and businesses and caused the deaths of 156 predominantly Han citizens. A series of bloody retaliations and political turmoil ensued. Why did an isolated brawl in a factory ignite such an explosive response? What is the nature of the relationship between the Han and the Uighur minority? How is the Chinese government responding to the matter? This paper argues that China’s urgent primary goal of rapid economic development in pursuit of becoming a world power has caused the secondary, unintended consequences of marginalizing the Uighur and creating pressure for cultural assimilation. China has refused to compromise the pace of development and has therefore failed to accommodate minorities. In recent years, the Uighur have been pushed so far to the margins that tension and resentment have grown deeper and more widespread. Frustration and anger have erupted into violence because the Uighur have no other way to express discontent or demand change.