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China Studies

Adrian Zenz, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow and Director in China Studies

Dr. Adrian Zenz is Senior Fellow and Director in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Washington, D.C. (non-resident). His research focus is on China’s ethnic policy, Beijing’s campaign of mass internment, securitization and forced labor in Xinjiang, public recruitment and coercive poverty alleviation in Tibet and Xinjiang, and China’s domestic security budgets. Dr. Zenz is the author of Tibetanness under Threat and co-editor of Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Change. He has played a leading role in the analysis of leaked Chinese government documents, including the “China Cables,” the “Karakax List,” the “Xinjiang Papers,” and the “Xinjiang Police Files.”

Dr. Zenz obtained his Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge. He conducted ethnographic fieldwork in western China in Chinese and regularly analyses original Chinese source material. Dr. Zenz has provided expert testimony to the governments of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. After publication of his research on forced labor in cotton picking, the U.S. government banned the import of goods made with cotton from Xinjiang. Following his research on population optimization and birth prevention, an independent Tribunal in the United Kingdom determined that China’s policies in the region constitute genocide. Dr. Zenz’s work on parent-child separation in Xinjiang prompted The Economist to feature this atrocity on its cover page and to refer to it as “a crime against humanity” that represents “the gravest example of a worldwide attack on human rights.”

Dr. Zenz has acted as academic peer reviewer for a wide range of scholarly journals, including The China Journal, the Journal of Contemporary China, Asian Studies Review, International Security (Harvard University), China Perspectives, Central Asian Survey, the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Asian Ethnicity, China: An International Journal, the Journal of Chinese Political Science, Issues and Studies, and Development and Change. Dr. Zenz is a member of the Association of Asian Studies. He has published opinion pieces with Foreign PolicyForeign Affairs, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at @adrianzenz.

Contact Dr. Zenz


Peer-Reviewed Academic Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“Innovating Repression: Policy Experimentation and the Evolution of Beijing’s Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang.” Journal of Contemporary China (2024).

“Measuring Non-Internment State-Imposed Forced Labor in Xinjiang and Central Asia: An Assessment of ILO Measurement Guidelines.” Journal of Human Trafficking (2023).

“The conceptual evolution of poverty alleviation through labour transfer in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Central Asian Survey (2023)

“Innovating Penal Labour: Reeducation, Forced Labour, and Coercive Social Integration in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” The China Journal. Vol. 90 (2023).

“Coercive Labor in the Cotton Harvest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Uzbekistan: A Comparative Analysis of State-Sponsored Forced Labor”Journal of Communist and Post-Communist Studies (2023).

“The Xinjiang Police Files: Re-Education Camp Security and Political Paranoia in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, vol. 3(2022): 1–56.

“The Xinjiang Papers: An Analysis of Key Findings and Implications for the Uyghur Tribunal in London.” The Uyghur Tribunal. December 9, 2021.

The Xinjiang Papers: An Introduction. The Uyghur Tribunal. (2021).

‘End the dominance of the Uyghur ethnic group’: an analysis of Beijing’s population optimization strategy in southern Xinjiang. Central Asian Survey, Volume 40, Issue 3. (2021).

A Research Note on Recent Developments With Tibetan-Medium Tertiary Student Intakes and Degree Programs. In: Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Power Vol. 11, U. Wallenböck et al. (eds.), Prague: Oriental Institute. (2019).

“Wash Brains, Cleanse Hearts”: Evidence from Chinese Government Documents about the Nature and Extent of Xinjiang’s Extrajudicial Internment Campaign. Journal of Political Risk, 7(11). (2019).

Securitizing Xinjiang: Police Recruitment, Informal Policing and Ethnic Minority Co-optation. The China Quarterly. (2019).

Thoroughly Reforming them Toward a Healthy Heart Attitude” – China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang. Central Asian Survey. (2018).

The Limits to Buying Stability in Tibet: Tibetan Representation and Preferentiality in China’s Contemporary Public Employment System. The China Quarterly, 234(2), 527-551. (2017).

Mapping Tertiary Graduate Student Trends and Advertised Public Sector Recruitment in Amdo and Kham Tibetan Regions in the P.R. China. In: Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Change, J. Ptackova and A. Zenz (eds.), Prague: Oriental Institute. (2017).

Beyond Assimilation: Dynamics of Tibetanisation and Re-Tibetanisation in the Context of Tibetan Education in Qinghai Province. Inner Asia, 12(2), 293-315. (2010).

Research Articles and Working Papers

Unemployment Monitoring and Early Warning: New Trends in Xinjiang’s Coercive Labor Placement Systems. China Brief (Vol. 22, Issue 11). (2022).

Public Security Minister’s Speech Describes Xi Jinping’s Di-rection of Mass Detentions in Xinjiang. ChinaFile. (2022).

Evidence of the Chinese Central Government’s Knowledge of and Involvement in Xinjiang’s Re-Education Internment Campaign. China Brief. (2021).

Coercive Labor and Forced Displacement in Xinjiang’s Cross-Regional Labor Transfer Program. The Jamestown Foundation. (2021).

Parent-Child Separation in Yarkand County, Kashgar. Medium. (2020).

Xinjiang’s System of Militarized Vocational Training Comes to Tibet. China Brief. (2020).

Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang. China Brief. (2020).

The Karakax List: Dissecting the Anatomy of Beijing’s Internment Drive in Xinjiang. Journal of Political Risk. (2020).

Beyond the Camps: Beijing’s Grand Scheme of Coercive Labor, Poverty Alleviation and Social Control in Xinjiang. Journal of Political Risk. (2019).

Break Their Roots: Evidence for China’s Parent-Child Separation Campaign in Xinjiang. Journal of Political Risk. (2019).

Is This the End of Belt and Road, or Just the Beginning? ChinaFile. (2019).

Xinjiang’s Re-Education and Securitization Campaign: Evidence from Domestic Security Budgets. China Brief. (2018).

New Evidence for China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang. China Brief. (2018).

Is the Belt and Road Anti-Democratic? ChinaFile. (2018).

Corralling the People’s Armed Police: Centralizing Control to Reflect Centralized Budgets. China Brief. (2018).

China’s Domestic Security Spending: An Analysis of Available Data. China Brief. (2018).

“Full Employment” in Tibet: The Beginning and End of Chen Quanguo’s Neo-Socialist Experiment. China Brief (2018).

China’s Securitization Drive in Tibet and Xinjiang. China Policy Institute Analysis. (2018).

Chen Quanguo: The Strongman Behind Beijing’s Securitization Strategy in Tibet and Xinjiang. China Brief. (2017).

Problematic Privilege in Xinjiang, The Diplomat. (2017).

Xinjiang’s Rapidly Evolving Security State. China Brief. (2017).

Beijing’s Eyes and Ears Grow Sharper in Xinjiang. Foreign Affairs. (2016).

The evolution of Tibetan representation and preferentiality in public employment during the post-fenpei period in China: insights from new data sources. ISS Working Paper No. 620, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. (2016).

Opinion Pieces

Forced Uyghur labor undergirds Xinjiang’s export boom. The Hill. (2023).

How Beijing Forces Uyghurs to Pick Cotton. Foreign Policy. (2023).

Beijing Plans a Slow Genocide in Xinjiang. Foreign Policy. (2021).

China Has a New Plan to Tame Tibet. The New York Times. (2020).

Xinjiang’s New SlaveryForeign Policy. (2020).

China Didn’t Want Us to Know. Now Its Own Files Are Doing the Talking. The New York Times. (2020).

You Can’t Force People to Assimilate. So Why is China at it Again? The New York Times. (2019).

Reeducation Returns to China. Foreign Affairs. (2018).

The Chinese province of Xinjiang is synonymous with human rights abuses, mass incarceration, and forced labor. Western sanctions have come into force as a result. But the South China Morning Post reported on October 24 that Xinjiang’s foreign exports surged by a record 49% in…

In a new Foreign Policy op-ed, VOC’s Dr. Adrian Zenz argues that China’s use of coercive labor is getting less visible, but more intense. As Dr. Zenz writes, “Beijing has repeatedly claimed that there is ‘no forced labor’ in Xinjiang….

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