News of violent clashes between the indigenous Uighar population of China’s Xinjiang province and the Han Chinese who have settled there en masse in recent years adds weight to Parag Khanna’s thoughtful account of China’s final frontier, published in the June issue of Prospect and free to read online here.
Khanna took a 3,000 mile trek across the forbidding but beautiful terrain of China’s rebellious western provinces, Tibet and Xinjiang, and reported on how their indigenous cultures were being trampled in China’s relentless expansion westward. While Tibet has become an international cause celebre thanks to the Dalai Lama and celebrities like Richard Gere, Xinjiang, home to the predominantly Muslim Uighar population, is in many ways more of a potential flashpoint: as Khanna points out, it has a restive population of 20m, around seven times as large at Tibet, and much more of a Chinese military presence to keep it in check. Khanna also observed how, in the city of Yarkand, propaganda posters depict happily resettled Han Chinese—who are squeezing Uighurs into the ever tighter space around the central mosque and bazaar. A recipe for trouble which has now resulted in around 140 confirmed deaths—and potentially more to come.
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