Xinjiang Unrest Tests China’s Ties with Central Asia

Xinjiang Unrest Tests China’s Ties with Central Asia

The ethnic rioting that has rocked China's northwestern province of Xinjiang over the past few days has badly poisoned the already tense relations between the region's Uighurs -- Muslims who make up a plurality of Xinjiang's residents -- and the Han Chinese. It could also complicate China's increasingly important ties with its neighbors in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

The Chinese presence in Central Asia has grown in recent years, especially in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Trade between China and Kyrgyzstan -- much of it exports of cheap Chinese manufactured goods -- tripled between 2004 and 2006 (the last year for which data were available). What's more, between 10,000 and 100,000 Chinese merchants and workers now live in Kyrgyzstan.

But the Chinese influx has become increasingly unwelcome, and resentment is growing among many Kyrgyz. "The migrant flow from China should be reduced," one parliamentarian said recently. "There is a threat that in 15 years, the country will overflow with Chinese."

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