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There is plenty of horrifying detail in the so-called Xinjiang Papers, a collection of leaked documents outlining the motives and modalities of China’s repression of its Uighur minority. Yet the most striking thing about the documents is what they reveal about the Janus-faced nature of Chinese power.

Beijing is simultaneously a brash, rising power and a brittle, insecure regime besieged by enemies. President Xi Jinping may talk about realizing the “Chinese Dream” of great wealth and international influence. But the autocratic Chinese government has an abiding fear of subversion and upheaval. These seemingly opposing influences are in fact two sides of the same coin: It is the regime’s eternal vulnerability that impels so much of its external ambition.

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