Document Type



Tibet and Xinjiang are two of the five administrative divisions known as ‘autonomous regions’ within the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China) that are allocated for national minorities. Unlike the other three - Inner Mongolia, Guangxi and Ningxia - Tibet and Xinjiang are well known to the wider world which associates them with national independence movements. Tibet in particular has received major media attention with the prominence of its charismatic leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the 14th Dalai Lama. The run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics was also a driver for continued awareness of the pro-independence issue and criticism of China’s human rights record in these regions.

However, this article is less concerned with providing yet another critique of Beijing’s policy towards Tibet and Xinjiang and more interested in exploring the value of these two regions to China. Their importance can be analysed under four areas: 1) territorial unity; 2) history and development; 3) resource security; and 4) geopolitics. To begin with, a brief overview of the two regions is needed.