When I returned to Xigang after five years, I couldn’t recognize it. What had been a small but generally well-maintained beach town had become a sprawling mess of a city; construction, mud, and piles of garbage were seemingly everywhere. The Han Chinese with whom I spoke trumpeted the new opportunities that Beijing was bringing to the local Gaomian ethnic minority in this frontier outpost. The Gaomian people, they told me, didn’t know how to develop their land and resources. Xigang may be a mess now, but, they assured me, it would emerge looking like a modern Chinese city.