There is abundant evidence, from online social media releases of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and state-controlled media, that the Chinese military has intensified efforts to modernize ground units in the Xinjiang Military District.
The Xinjiang Military District is one part of the Western Theater Command. The latter boasts some 90,000-120,000 ground troops, principally divided into the 76th and 77th Group Armies (headquartered in the interior cities of Chongqing and Baoji respectively), according to research by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in the USA.
However, the Western Theater Command does not possess direct ground operational authority in the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. Instead, both these high-altitude regions have their very own army-directed military districts to control the security situation.
The Xinjiang Military District itself contains some 50,000-60,000 army troops, according to Dennis Blasko, a former US Army attache to Beijing and Hong Kong. Other analysis, such as that by the Belfer Center, believes the PLA has 70,000 ground troops in the district.
Whichever figure is true, the fact is that Xinjiang Military District owns more troops than Tibet does, which controls an estimated 40,000 soldiers.