The murderous attack in Kunming puts the spotlight on China's ethnic divides
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A quick Chinese lesson: Xinjiang, the oil-rich northwestern region that is home to the Uighur minority, literally means “new frontier.” One way to parse the name of Kangding, a city in the foothills of the Tibetan plateau, is from an ancient Tibetan land (Kham) and a word that can mean “to stabilize.” Nanning and Xining, the capitals of two other far-flung places inhabited by ethnic groups, translate as “peaceful south” and “peaceful west,” respectively, reflecting Chinese imperial hopes that their old borderlands remain free of conflict. China’s complicated—and often contentious—relationship with its ethnic minorities is transcribed in its very place names.