Xinjiang is the largest Chinese administrative division and borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is also the home of 7 ethnic groups of which the Uyghurs are the largest. Reputably only 4.3% of the land is fit for human habitation. Its rivers disappear into the desert or salt lakes, fed by snow from the surrounding mountains.
The deserts are rich in salt, borax, oil, gas, coal and jade, with metals and gold in the surrounding mountains. The desert is also rich in subterranean water but most life and agriculture clings to the present water courses where cheap flood irrigation methods are available.
It is 1/6 of China and is divided into two basins, the Dzungarian and Tarim basins, by the Tian Shan mountains, and is surrounded by mountains pushed up by India, the Pamir and Karakoram to the south west, Kunlun in the south, and Altai in the north east. It has huge tourist potential and a rich and romantic history.
It is very poor with a very low GDP and it shows. The Uygurs feel they are being swamped by recent Han Chinese and they are. Although their standard of living has increased they feel their voice in local affairs is not being heard. This was felt by all in our travels through the region when ever we came in contact with Uyghur individuals.