China’s troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.
Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.
China, as this piece for the Council on Foreign Relations points out, has long been concerned that these states on its periphery both in central and south Asia may be tempted to back a separatist movement in Xinjiang because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to its neighbours.
To that extent it has cultivated close ties with some of these neighbours, even trying to promote direct trade between Xinjiang and the provinces of neighbouring countries just over the border.
In April this year, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region signed an agreement to establish friendly provincial relations with Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, according to this report in the state-run China Daily.