Book Review: Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West


Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West is a collection of academic articles edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle. Although ethnically and historically quite dissimilar, the two regions of Xinjiang and Tibet occupy a similar space in China’s political landscape. Both are large volatile regions on the country’s western borders with large non-Han populations—many of whom continue to bristle at their integration into the People’s Republic of China.

Xinjiang and Tibet represent China’s two largest officially classified Ethnic Autonomous Regions, with the ethnicities in question being the Uyghurs and Tibetans. Although this classification underplays the degree of ethnic diversity within each region, and indeed within the Uyghur and Tibetan ethnic communities themselves, it is still the Tibetans and Uyghurs who are the largest population and primary focus of the book.

Although the history of Uyghur and Tibetan resistance to Han-Chinese rule is centuries old, the articles within this book is concerned only with the manifestation of conflict in the modern era. For both regions, 2008 is the key date that marked the resurgence of ethnic unrest that continues to this day. The year of the Beijing Olympics saw mass protests across both regions, with Tibetans and Uyghurs in their thousands taking to the streets to protest. Read more