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China’s final frontier

The remote, rebellious western provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang are China's poorest, but they hold vast natural wealth. On a 3,000-mile trek I saw how far Beijing is bending the whole central Asian region to its will

By Parag Khanna   June 2009

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The final stretch on the road to Yarkand, about 125 miles from China’s border with Pakistan, feels like the middle east. Each village is a collage of single-storey mud-brick homes with turquoise door-gates. People travel by donkey cart or scooter-rickshaw. Men greet each other the Muslim way (palm to the chest and a slight bow); women wear headscarves. In small villages many signs are still in Uighur, the local language. But for how much longer?

The absorption of China’s far west begins with renaming cities—Yarkand, once a regional capital, to Yecheng, Kashgar…

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