In Central Asia's forbidding highlands, a quiet newcomer: Chinese troops

Villagers say dozens, maybe hundreds, of Chinese troops have been posted for three years at an outpost near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Villagers say dozens, maybe hundreds, of Chinese troops have been posted for three years at an outpost near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
A Chinese soldier with the surname Ma buys goods in the Murghab bazaar. He told The Post that Chinese forces have been in Tajikistan for three to four years. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
A Chinese soldier with the surname Ma buys goods in the Murghab bazaar. He told The Post that Chinese forces have been in Tajikistan for three to four years. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
A satellite view of one of the Chinese outposts at the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan on Sept. 29. (Planet Labs)
A satellite view of one of the Chinese outposts at the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan on Sept. 29. (Planet Labs)
Chinese troops visit the Murghab bazaar. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Chinese troops visit the Murghab bazaar. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Murghab, established as an army outpost in the 1890s by Russian Cossacks, is about 85 miles north of the remote Chinese border outpost. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Murghab, established as an army outpost in the 1890s by Russian Cossacks, is about 85 miles north of the remote Chinese border outpost. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Safarmo Toshmamadov is a shopkeeper in Murghab. Some of her customers are Chinese troops. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)
Safarmo Toshmamadov is a shopkeeper in Murghab. Some of her customers are Chinese troops. (Gerry Shih/The Washington Post)