Xinjiang province, located in far western China, is one of the most restricted and talked-about areas in the world. Various international media outlets have reported in horrific detail about the vast Uyghur re-education camps in the province along with firsthand accounts on the oppressive Chinese surveillance system and forced sterilization.

According to the Chinese government, this narrative is both false and hypocritical. In Xinjiang, Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic minority ethnic group, are the majority demographic over the Chinese. Over the years, this dynamic has resulted in a simmering ethnic tension. For the Chinese government, Xinjiang is a counterterrorism operation. The government’s primary adversary is the Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly East Turkestan Islamic Movement). The group’s main goal is the establishment of an independent state including parts of Central Asia and Xinjiang. In the words of China’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, China’s “radicalization centers” are not dissimilar to its peers in the West. The ambassador stated: “Countries like the U.S., the U.K., and France have established deradicalization centers or correction centers. China’s measures are not entirely different from theirs.”

It’s this counterterrorism stance that headlines China’s military media content about Xinjiang. Uyghurs are part of the “Five Poisons” of Chinese national security, the others being the Tibetan independence movement, Taiwan independence, pro-Democracy activists, and the Falun Gong religion.

Tensions in Xinjiang have existed for decades between Uyghurs and the Chinese. These simmering conflicts exploded in the 2009 riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which left an estimated 197 dead, and the 2014 Kunming Station attack in Southern China where Uyghur separatists stabbed and killed 31 people.

Because of these incidents, much of the military media released by the Chinese government in Xinjiang highlights a counterterrorism message. A prominent character in China’s Xinjiang media content is the People’s Armed Police (PAP). A national paramilitary force that’s primarily concerned with domestic security, the PAP has gone through a series of reforms in recent years, modernizing its equipment and organization. In a 2016 recruitment commercial, the PAP showcased these reforms by conducting a series of modern military operations, including scuba infiltration, helicopter insertions, and a hostage rescue mission in a building.

Despite YouTube being officially blocked in China, a variety of Chinese military videos can be found on the website through independent fan channels or China’s state-owned international media outlet, the CGTN (China Global Television Network). A July 27, 2017 video from the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, shows a joint counterterrorism exercise with the PAP and Kyrgyzstan frontier forces. Parts of the exercise are routine – Chinese forces reacting to convoy ambushes and training with K-9 units. But there’s a flamboyant flair to the military exercise, evidenced by footage of the PAP assaulting a rural hut with a flamethrower and a clip of PAP members doing an Australian rappel down a hill.