To many Uyghurs, the use of the word 'Xinjiang' (meaning 'new frontier' in Mandarin) is both grossly insulting and a clear misrepresentation of history. For them, their land is not an inherent region of China, and represents no such 'frontier' of Chinese nationhood. To them, the use of the word 'Xinjiang' can be viewed as an explicit acceptance of the legitimacy of Chinese rule and, by extension, perhaps even an acceptance of China's policies in the region.
But in the eyes of the Chinese government (and indeed most if not all Chinese people), the area has always been an integral part of the Chinese state and therefore the use of the term 'East Turkestan' is not only a misrepresentation of history but a direct challenge to the sovereignty and thus the security of China. Indeed, 'East Turkestan' seems to have been used by the Chinese government in recent years as a byword for terrorism; the very term has been 'securitized', the mere use of it deemed as a security threat.
How, then, to navigate this political and linguistic minefield? The answer would appear to be 'with great difficulty'. No matter what term one uses to describe the geographical area discussed, there is likely to be one group of people who call foul and who will regard the discussion as subsequently illegitimate. Do we use the clumsily conjoined 'Xinjiang/East Turkestan'? Do we think of another name entirely? Or should we simply abandon the well-meaning but perhaps ultimately unsustainable quest for impartiality, commit to a political judgement and use whatever term accords to that judgement?
All of these solutions are problematic, and in all likelihood would not contribute towards either a greater understanding of the region and its various problems or towards a dialogue which could help solve some of these problems, which should surely be the normative aim of all who work on these issues. Could those on both sides, then, perhaps not simply accept that regardless of the language we use to describe the land discussed, the most important issue should be to promote the dialogue and understanding which, ultimately, represents the best way of establishing peace, security and prosperity for all. Whilst language is important, it should not be allowed to overwhelm this process.