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Although Chinese empires have often ruled parts of Xinjiang throughout history, their control over it was only ever shaky at best: Even when claimed by Chinese rulers, it was often independent in practice.
The Qing Empire changed its name to Xinjiang (“New Frontier”) when it annexed the region as an official Chinese province in 1884, after reconquering the territory from local warlords and rebels.
Many came during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), when whole populations shifted across the vast Mongol Empire.
However, much of what is known about the group comes from the Chinese authorities and press, who are eager to label any opposition to Beijing as terrorism.
Indeed, many analysts think it’s more likely there are a number of splinter groups operating in the region, with different agendas and varying degrees of ties to global Islamist terrorism.
Today there are more than 20 million Muslims in China.
(For comparison, there are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and the entire population of Saudi Arabia is around 29 million, nearly all of whom are Muslim).