Source: Global Times [17:10 March 17 2011]
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Xinjiang in the border area of northwest China covers about 1.66 million square km, accounting for one sixth of the Chinese territory.
The region has a population of about 21 million, among whom 60 percent are ethnic minorities. There are 47 ethnic groups in Xinjiang, mainly the Uygur, Han, Kazak, Hui, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Xibe, Tajik, Ozbek, Manchu, Daur, Tatar and Russian.
The region has five autonomous prefectures for four ethnic groups -- Kazak, Hui, Kirgiz and Mongolian; six autonomous counties and 43 ethnic townships.
While Xinjiang enjoys between 2,500 to 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, the amount of annual precipitation for the entire region averages a mere 150 milliliters (ml), and thus the air is quite dry.
The GDP of Xinjiang exceeded 400 billion yuan ($58.9 billion) in 2008.
The major religions in Xinjiang are Islam, Buddhism (including Tibetan Buddhism), Protestantism, Catholicism and Taoism. Shamanism still has considerable influence among some ethnic groups.
Since the Han Dynasty established the Western Regions Frontier Command in Xinjiang in 60 B.C., the Chinese central governments of all historical periods exercised military and administrative jurisdiction over the region.