Open Forum

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” strategy has magnified Chinese concern for the security of its long restive northwestern province, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Xinjiang, as Owen Lattimore argued, throughout much of recorded history constituted (along with Tibet and Mongolia) the “marginal Inner Asian zone” of Chinese expansion.1 With the region’s “peaceful liberation” by the PLA in 1949, however, Beijing sought to overcome this marginality through encouragement of Han Chinese settlement and extension of the institutions of state control. Since the late 1980s, its approach has rested on turning Xinjiang’s geopolitical position to China’s advantage through a “double opening”: to simultaneously integrate the region with China proper in economic terms and to establish security and cooperation with Central Asian neighbors.2

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