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By blanketing the oil-rich Xinjiang with troops, China’s rulers may have subdued the Uighur revolt, which began in Urumqi, the regional capital, and spread to other heavily guarded towns like Hotan and Kashgar, the ancient cultural center whose old city is to be razed and redeveloped to help drain supposed jihadist swamps. But this deadliest case of minority rioting in decades — along with the 2008 ethnic uprising across the Tibetan plateau — shows the political costs of forcible absorption, shattering the illusion of a monolithic China and laying bare the country’s Achilles’ heel.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party had gone to unusual lengths to block any protests from flaring during this symbolically important year marking the 60th anniversary of its coming to power.

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