China is populated by, well, Chinese…right? Chinese citizens, yes, but definitely not all what one thinks of as Chinese, and certainly not all that is the dominant Han Chinese most commonly pictured. The PRC (the People’s Republic of China) recognizes 55 ethnic minorities plus the dominant Han majority. The are others who define themselves as additional minorities such as being Jewish or Turkish of foreign-born naturalized Chinese citizens.
While these minorities make up less than 9% of the population, they populate over half of the land mass of inland China. This fact is acknowledged by the governing terms of Inner Mongolia (Neimongol) Autonomous Region, Tibet (Xinjiang) Autonomous Region, and the largely Muslim-populated Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
While the term “autonomous” is used, these three regions that make up over half the territory claimed by China are certainly heavily garrisoned and closely watched and controlled by Beijing.
Mongolia is sparsely populated and has recently boomed economically as more and more minerals and petroleum are discovered and brought to market. The challenges in Tibet are of long duration and have been well documented. It is at the Muslim population of Xinjiang, in the vast far reaches of northwest China that we shall examine first.