Xinjiang alone comprises one-sixth of the land of the People’s Republic of China, and Tibet, such as it is defined today, is only marginally smaller. At various times in its history, including recently, Tibet has been much larger, comprising parts of several other provinces.
On the surface, Tibetans and the indigenous Uighur population of Xinjiang would seem to have little in common. The Tibetans are Buddhist and the Uighurs are largely Muslim. But they are united in their sense of oppression, as native people of distinctive cultural spheres with a history of autonomy and even independence, all of which has been recently snuffed out by China.
The point here is not to revisit the protests that swept Tibet in March, or the murmurs in Xinjiang that followed, but rather to think about the fragile, changeable thing that is China and to revisit the way sands have shifted dramatically in this part of the world over the ages.