China (Xinjiang)


Conflict Summary

Xinjiang, an autonomous region in China, is home to an ethnic Uighur population that has been waging independence campaigns of varying intensity since the commencement of Chinese rule in the eighteenth century. Its location in China’s far northwest made the region, sometimes referred to as East Turkestan, a strategic bulwark against the countries of Central Asia and the Soviet Union. The economic importance of the region increased as the People’s Republic began exploiting its rich oil, gas and mineral resources in the middle of the twentieth century. Uighurs, the largest section of Xinjiang’s population, are Turkic and predominantly Muslim and have been held responsible for committing sporadic acts of violence since the creation of the People’s Republic. In response, the government has carried out counter-insurgency initiatives, involving ‘anti-crime’ drives, aimed at maintaining peace in the region. However, officially sponsored migration of Han Chinese into the region has been met with a rise in ethnic tensions, as some Uighurs have felt that most new opportunities from the region’s rapid economic development have gone to the Han immigrants. For their part, many Han Chinese believe Uighurs receive preferential treatment. After occasional bomb attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China perpetrated in the late 1990s by the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), there was a notable rise in violence in 2009 when major ethnic clashes erupted, particularly in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The conflict escalated again in late 2013 with an attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and there were several large-scale attacks in 2014, including outside Xinjiang itself. China has responded with a mixture of ‘strike hard’ security policies and development initiatives, as Xinjiang is integral in Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ economic strategy.

  • 3,092
    Fatalities since 1991

  • Non State Parties
    • - East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
    • - East Turkestan Liberation Organisation (ETLO)
    State Parties
    • - China, People’s Republic of (gov of)

    • Inter-community violence
    • Separatism
    • Terrorism
  • 5 January
    Economic developments
    Local government reports that nearly US$70 billion will be earmarked for investment in regional infrastructure projects in 2018.