The newly appointed head of intelligence in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Major General Chen Youyi, is an expert on Russian, eastern European and Central Asian affairs. Some analysts have speculated that his appointment is the result of the PLA's concern about threats from its west, both from the province of Xinjiang but also from Central Asia, says the South China Morning Post:
Terence Yeung, an expert in eastern Europe and Central Asia at Hong Kong Baptist University, said Chen's familiarity with security and anti-terrorism issues in Central Asia, next to restive Xinjiang, could be one reason for his promotion.
A retired PLA major general, who refused to be named, said yesterday that despite Chen's specialisation in Russian, eastern European and Central Asian affairs, he could also handle relations with Western countries with ease. "Xiong Guangkai - a former chief of military intelligence - worked as a military diplomat in Germany for years, despite the fact that he studied English," he said, adding that promoting well-educated officers to leading posts in the PLA had become a trend.
Anyway, as head of military intelligence, he doubtless already is well-informed about the ethnic composition of the PLA. But for the rest of us, Xinhua has an illuminating report from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, home of China's Uighur population:
With a high nose bridge and deep blue eyes, 21-year-old Hesenjan looks like the typical Caucasian. And he is, but he wears the uniform of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China.
Hesenjan is a Chinese Uygur who joined the army and serves in an ethnic company, which is mainly composed of ethnic minorities. It's not strange in northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where 60 percent of its people are minorities.
Scattered through Xinjiang, more than 10 ethnic companies serve a special role in safeguarding borders, national unity and social stability.
Hesenjan serves in the 5th Ethnic Company, one of the two ethnic companies in a field division that is stationed in Xinjiang. According to Chang Wanqi, the division commander, ethnic recruits are usually assigned to ethnic companies, as they have the similar traditions, customs and languages, but much different from Han Chinese.
Oof. It continues:
Due to their ethnic traditions, most of soldiers of the companies are good at dancing and singing, making them the main forces for all cultural activities.
There is, unsurprisingly, no mention of any sort of Uighur discontent toward the state that the PLA defends.