A history/travelogue of the far-reaching Chinese frontiers that share more with the cultures of central Asia than with the Han majority.
Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan, Dongbei: These are the border regions of China that contain its 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities (about 100 million people) yet are increasingly being populated and overruled by the Han. Sunday Telegraph Beijing correspondent Eimer synthesizes his trips into these nether regions since the 1980s, when he first ventured to Xinjiang, the region of the Muslim Uighurs in the far west, bordering Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, among other countries. The journey west across the ancient Silk Road still takes days on a train, but there are many more Han moving westward in what the author sees as a new “colonizing” fever. They have not been particularly welcome among the natives, who often don’t even speak Chinese and “regard the Han as interlopers.” Indeed, there continue to be spontaneous uprisings against them, and the Uighurs and other minorities largely keep a wary distance from the Han, and vice versa—unlike the more harmonious mixing of ethnic groups in nearby Kazakhstan. From Kashgar, Eimer moved south through the Silk Road stops of Yarkant and Hotan, where he sensed strongly the Chinese Communist Party’s strenuous efforts to suppress the Uighurs’ religious expression. Then he traveled into mountainous, exotic Tibet, where simply possessing a picture of the Dalai Lama can lead to arrest and Buddhists pilgrims continue to flock despite severe CCP repression. In the deep south of Yunnan Province, heart of the Golden Triangle, the author traveled along the porous, jungle borders of Myanmar and Laos. Eimer also explored Dongbei, which makes up the northeast border near Mongolia, Russia and North Korea and contains many Koreans and Manchus of all stripes (even Christian).
A swift-moving, colorful account of the bewildering array of fiercely independent ethnic groups within an uneasy Chinese “home.”