The men drove a dumper truck into a group of officers on their morning exercise jog, then threw explosives before attacking with knives in the troubled Central Asian border region.
The attack in Xinjiang province came just four days before the start of the Olympics which at least one militant muslim group has vowed to disrupt.
The attackers struck at 8am, ploughing into the police outside the Yijin Hotel next to their paramilitary border patrol station in Kashgar city.
Fourteen died on the spot and two others en route to a hospital while at least 16 others were wounded.
Police arrested both attackers.
The attack was one of the deadliest and most audacious in recent years in the area where local muslims have waged a rebellion against Chinese rule.
Kashgar, or Kashi in Chinese, is a tourist city that was once an oasis trading centre on the Silk Road caravan routes and lies 80 miles from the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
China has been on edge for months after a number of foiled plots by muslim separatists and a series of bombings around China in the run-up to the Olympics, which open on Friday.
Last week a senior military commander said radical muslims who are fighting for what they call an independent East Turkistan in Xinjiang posed the single greatest threat to the games.
In Xinjiang, a local muslim people, the Uighurs, have opposed Chinese rule after the communists took power nearly 60 years ago. Occasionally violent attacks in the 1990s brought an intense response from Beijing, which has stationed crack paramilitary units in the area and clamped down on unregistered mosques and religious schools that officials said were inciting militant action.
Uighurs have complained that the suppression has aggravated tensions in Xinjiang, making Uighurs feel even more threatened by an influx of Chinese and driving some to flee to Pakistan and other areas where they then have readier access to extremist ideologies.
One militant group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, pledged in a video that surfaced on the internet last month to "target the most critical points related to the Olympics."
The group is believed to be based across the border in Pakistan, with some of its core members having received training from al Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban, according to terrorism experts.
OLYMPICS PROTESTERS CLASH WITH POLICE
IN A separate incident, a group of protesters clashed with police near Tiananmen Square today, saying the happiness of the Beijing Olympics was built on their pain.
Demonstrations in and near central Beijing's Tiananmen Square are rare and generally stopped quickly by police. China is sensitive to any public criticism of the Olympics, and has stationed security agents throughout the city to watch for signs of unrest.
The two dozen protesters scuffled with police in the historic Qianmen district just south of Tiananmen.
The protesters said they had been evicted from their homes to make way for reconstruction of the district. The area is being rebuilt into a commercial strip with businesses such as Nike, Starbucks and Rolex.