Xi Jinping Xinjiang Terrorism
Chinese president Xi JinpingReuters

Chinese president Xi Jinping has put the restive western region of Xinjiang in the front line of Beijing's counter-terrorism efforts.

The region has been rocked in recent years by a series of deadly attacks laid at the door of separatist militants. In March, 29 people were killed and 140 injured in a knife rampage by militants in the city of Kunming.

It was the biggest loss of life attributed to a separatist attack.

"The Kashgar region is the front line in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability," Xi told paramilitary police in the Xinjiang's Silk Road city of Kashgar, a city that has been at the heart of much of the unrest.

"The situation is grim and complicated. The local-level police stations are fists and daggers," he told police.

"You must have the most effective means to deal with violent terrorists. Sweat more in peacetime to bleed less in wartime," Xi continued.

In 2013, more than 100 people were killed in the region and that sparked a crackdown on Uighurs Muslims.

Uighurs resent Chinese control and changes to their traditional way of life. Many are urging the creation of an independent state called East Turkestan.

Uighurs speak Turkic and follow a moderate form of Islam but some have adopted more radical strands of Islam found in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

On his tour to the region, Xi called for unity between the Uighurs and Han Chinese and urged children to learn both languages.

"Learning two languages will not only make finding jobs easier, it more importantly will make contributions to promoting ethnic unity," Xi told pupils and staff at a local school.

Xinjiang has a population of approximately 10 million Uighur Muslims.