This article analyses strategies of minority education currently in place in Xinjiang in the context of the second generation ethnic policy debate in China. The article argues that the 2009 ethnic riots in Xinjiang coupled with the change of leadership in China has significantly hardened the state's approach to aggressively promoting Putonghua (standard Chinese). This policy is facing significant structural and political challenges in its implementation and acceptance in Xinjiang. The policy to universalise Putonghua in all Xinjiang schools is likely to produce more resistance to the statist agenda rather than resulting in the intended outcome of integration. © 2016 SAGE Publications.