China has brought over 20,000 troops and police into the western city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. The actual death toll from over a week of unrest, appears to be more than 500 dead, over 2,000 injured and several thousand arrested. Most of the dead and injured are Han, while most of those arrested are Uighurs.
Two years ago, there was similar unrest in Tibet, where a similar situation exists (Han Chinese moving into a fringe part of the country where Han are a minority that is on its way to being the majority). This is how China has evolved over the last few thousand years. Today, China's border areas are full of minorities, often groups that have been fleeing the Han for centuries, and are now trapped. The Han are 92 percent of the 1.3 billion population and believe that these minorities merely need more education and better work habits (in other words, be more like the Han) in order to prosper. When the communists took over sixty years ago, they encouraged Han to move into minority border areas, mainly to counterbalance any anti-communist attitudes. But the Han did bring more economic activity, and Han cultural influences that were most attractive to the young. In the last decade, the Han migration has increased, and many minorities, like the five million Tibetans, and ten million Uighurs in China, feel they are doomed to be eventually absorbed by the Han, just like so many other minorities. But the process is very unpleasant. The Han tend to favor each other in economic matters, and the government corruption also helps Han more than Uighurs. So while the economic growth helps the Uighurs, it helps the local Han a lot more.
The current violence arises from the fact that the Han Chinese moving in are better educated and connected (with the local Han officials), and more successful economically. The Han look down on the Uighurs as backward and ungrateful for the prosperity and economic growth the Han have brought with them. Many Uighurs resent this treatment, and this occasionally leads to Uighur mobs attacking Han neighborhoods, and businesses in Uighur areas. The same thing happened in Tibet, and overseas, where colonies of "overseas Chinese" have, for centuries, settled and prospered (and not integrated with the local majority).
China apparently learned from their experience in Tibet two years ago, and had a Information War plan in place when the Uighur unrest broke out. The government promptly shut down most Internet and cell phone service in areas where there was violence, and cranked up the reporting (for Chinese media) on how most of the victims were Han, attacked by ungrateful (for Han driven economic growth) Uighurs. This reduced foreign support for the Uighurs, and created a Han backlash against the Uighurs throughout China.
The trigger for the recent Uighur violence appears to be the murder of two Uighur men who were working in a factory in southern China. The two men were accused by local Han of raping women. Han have the usual prejudices against minorities, especially the Uighurs (because they are Moslem). The murder of the two Uighur men (who were apparently innocent of any rapes), caused a stir back in western China, and the local security officials (nearly all of them Han) didn't pick up on it.
July 15, 2009: In Taiwan, the government now plans to take advantage of better relations with China, by reducing its armed forces 20 percent (from 275,000 to 215,000). This will be done over the next five years. The government would also like to elimination conscription (which is very unpopular) and switch to an all-volunteer force. But this would be expensive, and the government is unsure if it could find the needed cash in the next five years. At the same time, the military will get new, or upgraded, weapons and equipment. The foundation of Taiwan's military defenses is its expectation of American intervention if China should attack.
July 14, 2009: Chinese working in Algeria were warned to be careful, after al Qaeda websites called for revenge attacks on Chinese working in Moslem countries. There are 50,000 Chinese working in Algeria. China warned the Algerian government that, if there were attacks on Chinese, then some Chinese investments and aid projects, would be withdrawn.
July 13, 2009: In Urumqi, police shot and killed two armed (with knives) Uighur men. But this did not trigger more rioting, because of the heavy army and police presence in the city.
July 9, 2009: In western China, shops are open and public transit operating in Han neighborhoods, but not in Uighur areas. The police and army presence is heavy, with trucks full of troops patrolling.
July 8, 2009: Several brigades of troops moved into the western China city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. The soldiers broke up Han or Uighur mobs, and arrested anyone they could catch. Thousands of riot police, and ordinary police, has already arrived in Urumqi.
July 7, 2009: In the western China's provincial capital Urumqi, Han mobs, armed with clubs and knives, now went into Uighur neighborhoods, seeking revenge. Most of the dead and wounded have been Han.
July 6, 2009: The Chinese government announced that 156 had died and over 800 injured. Over 1,400 had been arrested.
July 5, 2009: In western China, where Turkic Uighurs are the largest minority (but a decade ago they were a majority), small demonstrations, protesting the death of two Uighurs in a clash with Han (Chinese), escalated into widespread violence against the Han migrants to western China (Xinjiang province). Violence quickly spread from provincial capital Urumqi (population 2.3 million, most of them Han), to the city of Kashgar. Xinjiang province has 20 million people, 45 percent Uighur, but with a growing Han minority of 41 percent. The rest of the population is other minorities.