Capital: Urumchi

Otherwise known as the "Uighur Autonomous Region", Xinjiang Province is located in northwestern China, bordering Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia.

Over 60 percent of Xinjiang's population is made up of ethnic Uighurs, who are largely Muslim. However, the Chinese government has seen fit to essentially flood the area with Han Chinese in order to dilute the native population (as is done in Tibet.)

The Uighurs do not sit back and take this abuse- Xinjiang is rife with anti-Chinese guerrilla groups.

Given all the press that Tibet gets, it is surprising that one hardly ever hears about Xinjiang- it is essentially the same situation.

Once again, an Everythingian makes false assumptions and spreads misinformation on China. A shame. Since I've been to Xinjiang, I'll node about it. For a more thorough debunking of typical stereotypes and assumptions, go to the brutality of Red China.

Xinjiang is located in the north-west corner of China. China took control of the region in the 1950's, it having previously had no government, inhabited very sparsely by nomadic tribes. Incidentally, Xinjiang was on the verge of being seized by the Russians as border defense if the Chinese didn't get there first. Which was a good thing, considering what the Russians did to the ethnic Muslims in their provinces.

In the 1980's, the Chinese government embarked on an extensive campaign of economic development of the region. Among other resources, there was massive amounts of oil in its deserts. Initially, they were state-controlled enterprises, but in the 90's they were mostly privatized. However, most of this huge province remains untouched (since it is mostly desert), for the benefit of the nomads who wish to live the nomadic life. Some have moved to cities, some haven't. Their choice.

No, Xinjiang isn't "rife" with anti-Chinese guerilla groups. This is not Sri Lanka. Despite what you think, the Chinese government cannot just tell people to pick up and leave, at least without some very serious monetary compensation (as in the building of the Three Gorges Dam). I believe the average amount of compensation dealt out there was about 5 times the yearly wages of an average Chinese worker (5000RMB), depending on the amount of dependents the family has (elderly, children).

People moved there because China's eastern seacoast was getting too crowded, and the ample business opportunities that exist there. Xinjiang is an autonomous region, and it is more economically relaxed than other provinces. Xinjiang is almost on the same degree of economic freedom as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

To answer the reason why Tibet gets more attention: It is because Dalai Lama doesn't come from Xinjiang, and Islam is not all the fad right now. Remember. Buddhism is cool and peaceful. Islam breeds a bunch of fanatic Muslim terrorists. So says the media anyways. Definitely not me. I don't make assumptions like that.

The Xinjiang Uihgur Autonomous Region (formerly spelled "Sinkiang") is the northwesternmost province of the People's Republic of China.  The province can be divided into four regions:

  • The northern slopes of the Kunlun Mountains, through which the fabled Silk Road passed for millenia.   Several alluvial fans on these slopes receive enough water from Kunlun snowmelt to allow agriculture; oases which support a string of cities through which the road passed:

    • Kashgar ("Kashi"), which would have been the first stop for caravans who had just crossed the Pamir mountains from the west (or the last stop, going the other way).
    • Yarkand ("Suoche"), which gives its name to a river that flows into the desert and disappears;
    • Guma ("Bishan")
    • Khotan ("Hetian"), once the center of a Hindo-Buddhist culture transplanted from India; its relics suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution.
    • Keriya ("Yutian")
    • Niya ("Minfeng")
    • Cherchen ("Qiemo")
    • Charkhlik ("Ruoqiang")

    The road once continued eastwards past the Lop Nor area into Kansu.

    The area is bordered on the south by Tibet and Qinghai. Attatched to this area, on the south side of the Kunlun, is the Aksai Qin area, occupied by the PRC in 1962, and uninhabited except for the Peoples' Liberation ArmyIndia and Pakistan separately claim the area as part of Kashmir.

  • The Tarim Basin, which is taken up entirely by the Takla Makan Desert, the driest, most inhospitable place on Earth outside Antarctica.   A few towns eke out an existence  where the Tarim River turns south before petering out in the desert.   At the eastern extreme of the Takla Makan is Lop Nor ("Luobu Bo"), a lake which appears to have migrated over the past few centuries.  On the shores of its most recent location lie China's primary nuclear missile testing facilities.

  • The Tian Shan ("Heavenly Mountains") which stretch all the way across the province from Kyrgyzstan in the west to the three-way meeting with Kansu and Mongolia.  Again, oases on the slopes of the mountains support several communites.   The northern slopes of the Tian Shan contain the province's most industrialized cities and most of the population.  On the southern side an alternate route for the Silk Road left Kashgar, then passed east through

    A gap in the mountains connects Turfan with the capital, Urumqi ("Wulumuqi"). Urumqi has more than 1.5 million people, one-fourth of the province's total population.  Shihezi lies about 130 km northwest of Urumqi.

    The western Tian Shan form an eastward-pointing "V", separating the Ili River valley from the rest of Xinjiang. The principal city of the Ili Valley is Khulja ("Yining").  The Eastern Tian Shan eventually fall intio the Bei Shan in Kansu.

  • The Dzungarian Basin, to the north of the Tian Shan.  ("Dzungar" is a name for the western Mongol tribes). The basin is closed on the northeast by the Altai Mountains.  On the west, gaps between several parallel mountain ranges.  Dzungaria was traditionally viewed by the Chinese as China's "back door", through which various nomadic peoples invaded the Middle Kingdom.

Xinjiang is a patchwork of ethnic groups:  Kyrgyz and Tadzhik in the area around Kashgar, the majority Uighur in the Kunlun and Tian Shan oases, Kazak throughout Dzungaria, and Torgut Mongols in northern Dzungaria.  Han Chinese settlement is most extensive in the oases on the north slopes of the Tian Shan, primarily around Urumqi.  Yining is a center of the Tungusic Sibo people. A large number of Hui (Han Chinese Muslims) live east of Urumqi.

Xinjiang was occupied in stages by Qing Emperors in an 18th Century race against Russia to snap up as much of Central Asia as possible.   Dzungaria was conquered in 1757; the Tarim Basin in 1760.  Urumqi was expanded from a small Silk Road town in 1763 into a center of Qing control.  The area controlled by China extended several hundred miles to the west, to the shores of Lake Balkhash.  This was new territory for China, and it is named as such: xin jiang.

While China lay in the grip of various Western powers at the end of the 19th Century, Xinjiang was within the Russian sphere of influence, although The Great Game ensured that the British would have a hand in affairs.  The Tsar's army captured what is now Kyrgyzstan in the wake of the Taiping Rebellion, between 1864 and 1881.  An 1884 treaty between Moscow and Beijing allowed Xinjiang to be set up as a province.   After 1912, the area was under the control of the military governor Yang Zengxin, with the Ma Zhongying and exiled White Russian troops thrown into the bargain.  In 1930, the expulsion of the Kumuliks from their land triggered a bloody rebellion which lasted until 1934.  In truth, Xinjiang in the 1930's was like the rest of China, under the control of various warlords.

After the Communist takeover of China, Xinjiang was once again viewed as China's back door, a bastion against the Soviet Union.  The first railroad from Lanzhou was built in 1968. Urumqi and Shihezi developed into large industrial centers.  In order to assert greater control during the Great Leap Forward, the PRC government forcibly moved ethnic Han Chinese to Xinjiang in the 1950's and 1960's.  During the Cultural Revolution, many Kazaks fled to the Soviet Union.  Xinjiang became a zone of relative economic freedom after Deng Xiaoping's reforms of the 1980's.

Both of the writeups above so oversimplify the situation from their various viewpoints as to be offensive.  The situation (no, I haven't been there) is more like the American Wild West of the late 1800's, complete with robber barons.  The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, combined with resentments generated during the Cultural Revolution, created a desire for a national identity in many of Xinjiang's non-Chinese peoples, one beyond autonomy handed down from Beijing. Part of the expression of this was radical "Islamic" militancy.  Various separatist groups, claiming all of Xinjiang as an "East Turkestan", have indeed exploded terrorist bombs in Urumqi as well as Beijing.

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