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date: 25 May 2018

Nationalism and Minorities in China

Summary and Keywords

China’s minority policy after 1949 combined the Qing legacy with a socialist affirmative strategy. The concept of a multiethnic Chinese state derived from Qing ideology and policy in the 18th century, when the Qianlong emperor realized his vision of universal rulership by expanding the Qing empire deep into Central Asia. During the nation-building period of the first half of the 20th century, the imperial geobody was reconstituted as a Sinocentric and multiethnic nation-state. Ideological rivals the Guomindang and the Communist Party both pursued hegemonic strategies of national unity by constructing a new myth of national belonging firmly rooted in history. But China’s weak international position and the internal crisis of the Republican state prevented the implementation of any territorial concept of national unity. In the People’s Republic of China, ethnic diversity was restructured according to a majority-minority dichotomy. Historical multiculturalism was reduced to fifty-six rigid minzu “containers” defined by strictly applied criteria of language, religion, and customs. The minorities were integrated into the unitary Chinese nation and granted only regional autonomy. Although the autonomous regions produced expectations of belonging among their titular nationalities, the official minority policy was strongly assimilationist in the 1960s and 1970s, generating centrifugal forces of ethnic resistance. Since the 1990s, a popular nationalism stoked by the central government has been expanding into a broader sense of Chineseness in a globalizing world.

Keywords: ethnic group, minority nationality, myth of uniformity, multiculturalism, nation-state, nationalism, hybridity

Historical Roots: Multicultural Diversity in Imperial China

“Nationalism” and “minority” are modern concepts devised to define and structure state and society. Whereas “nationalism” refers to the territorially localized nation-state, the definition of “minority” status is rooted in ethnic hierarchies. Both notions emerged in Western intellectual debates of the 19th century. They were soon adopted in China, where they encountered a society that possessed a centuries-old tradition of esteeming culture (wenhua). Culture was conceptionalized without any connotation of race (zhongzu). Nevertheless, every ruler had to decide how to deal with ethnocultural differences. A rarely questioned stereotype developed to the effect that all who practiced Chinese mores and customs were supposed to be part of the Chinese civilization, whereas everyone else was considered uncivilized, barbaric, and alien. Chinese rulers viewed themselves as resting at the center of “all under heaven” (tianxia), surrounded by culturally inferior barbarians whom they classified according to their geographical location: Yi in the East, Di in the West, Rong in the North and Man in the South.

On this model, Chinese state-building was described as a process of expansion from the core to the peripheral areas through political overlordship and cultural diffusion, Sinicizing, over at least two millennia, all those who came into contact with the radiating center. Confucianism, the central force of Chinese culture, emphasized cultural universalism rather than ethnic distinction.1 Although the ancient concept of China was based on people and their cultures, not on territory, environmental factors such as soil, water, and climate were believed to impact human physiology and character. The famous 17th-century philosopher Wang Fuzhi (1619–1692) described how varying geographical conditions led to different customs, ways of behavior, and “natures” of Chinese and barbarians.2 He recommended that such demarcations be maintained rather than attenuated.3 Later, in the Chinese Republic of the 1930s, scholars revived these ideas of environmental determinism.

Throughout China’s dynastic history, ethnocultural divisions were never set aside. The two conquest dynasties, the Mongolian Yuan (1279–1368) and the Manchu Qing (1644–1911), mainly reordered the cultural hierarchies during their periods of rule. Although the Yuan emperors preferred Muslims, Tibetans, and other non-Han groups to expand and administer their empire, the Manchu monarchs cultivated close relationships with Mongolian tribes in a loose nomad-style confederation of Manchu, Mongol, Han, Tibetan, and Muslim constituencies. In both cases, the formation of ethnic identities was directly connected to the rise of a new political power. Originally, “Mongol” and “Manchu” were political rather than ethnic categories that referred to the followers of the founding heroes Chinggis Khan (d. 1227) and Nurhaci (1559–1626) and their descendants. In the case of the Manchu, even the Mongols and the Han Chinese, who had submitted to their rule at an early stage, were included. Both elite groups set up ethnic hierarchies to rule over the multicultural world of imperial China. Although the Mongols introduced a territorial system of provinces to China, they preferred a hierarchy of four classes, in which only the two lower classes of northern Chinese and southern Chinese were categorized according to territorial divisions. The Manchus, for their part, divided their empire into the Chinese heartland and the frontier region. Because they were vastly outnumbered by their Chinese subjects, the Manchus strengthened the internal cultural boundaries by imposing different and specific regional governance and legal structures, collecting genealogical records and instrumentalizing cultural practices, especially religion. The distinct ethnic communities were separated from each other and, ultimately, governed by the universal Qing monarch, who mediated between them with the support of the imperial state bureaucracy.4

At the same time, the Qing dynasty went to great lengths to preserve a Manchu identity. This manifested itself in different ways: (a) by maintaining its own military banner system, which allowed the Qing government to keep the Manchu elite outside Chinese jurisdiction; (b) by neglecting the traditional Chinese practice of primogeniture, which meant that the Manchu court ensured succession within the ruling clan; (c) by securing the dominance of Manchu officials at the top level of the imperial bureaucracy by various means; (d) and by imposing a general ban on marrying Han Chinese and comprehensively enforcing it. The multicultural empire was stabilized by differentiated methods of rule over the Chinese and the various non-Chinese groups. Ethnic boundaries between these groups were reinforced under Qing supremacy. In the heyday of the dynasty, the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–1796) designated the languages of five peoples—the Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, Tibetans, and Han Chinese—as the official languages of the Qing empire.5

Because Qing monarchs were aware not only of the ethnocultural diversity inside their empire but also of the position of their realm in a wider world of states, they used the fixing of territorial boundaries and the establishment of a system of frontier control as novel tools of imperial state-building.6 During the 18th century, the fluid cultural regions of Tibet, Mongolia, and Eastern Turkestan were molded into militarily protected buffer zones. In their efforts to tighten their grip on the frontier peoples, the Manchu rulers had recourse to the traditional Chinese precept of controlling the various peoples of the empire by making use of their own cultural characteristics (yinsu erzhi).7 Only by cooperating and collaborating with local ethnic elites were the Manchus able to stabilize their expansive multiethnic empire. In the different parts of the Qing frontier zone, local religion served to strengthen imperial control. In the case of Tibet and Mongolia, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism represented a most effective means of consolidating Qing overlordship; in Eastern Turkestan, the local Muslim leadership was enlisted into service. The differences and boundaries within the empire were thus preserved by political, military, and religious means.

The modern binary cartography of “autonomous regions” in border areas versus “provinces” in China proper was already mapped out in the Qing state. The last dynasty in Chinese history promoted two elements that are essential for understanding the relationship between nationalism and minorities in modern China: although the Manchu rulers propped up ethnic identity, they also implemented a new category of governance—territoriality. When Qing rule broke down in 1911 and monarchical government in China came to an end, it was not least because of the emergence of two new historical forces: racism and nationalism. Both developed during the final stage of the Qing. A biological concept of race emerged in a strong anti-Manchuism among Chinese rebels and dissident scholars during the second half of the 19th century; this contributed decisively to the demise of the imperial state. Although the notion of “Han” had existed for centuries following the rule of the Han dynasty (206 bc to ad 220), Han nationalism grew as a vehement and often violent force of opposition, in both word and deed, against a weakened Qing government that was unable to defend China against Western and Japanese imperial encroachment.

The Republic of China (1912–1949) was founded on two important rationales. First, the vast imperial frontier regions had to be integrated into what was seen as a new nation-state; second, anti-imperial nationalism was the only thing uniting the multicultural population. In the transition from dynastic rule to the nation-state, the traditional center-periphery relations of the old multicultural empire had to be translated into modern ethnic categories. Although a new slogan of an egalitarian union of five nationalities (wuzu gonghe) was officially propagated, the category of ethnicity (minzu) remained useful in defining the minority status of all the marginalized and subaltern groups in a society that dominated by the Han Chinese. It served as a new perspective on the world and helped the Han Chinese make sense of their new place in the world.8

The Rise of “Zhonghua minzu” and the Transition from Empire to Nation-State

The establishment of a Republican nation-state in 1912 was predicated on a nationalist ideology that was response to the Western imperial domination of China since the Opium Wars of the 1840s and 1850s. The political, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic boundaries between China and the outer world were delineated and symbolically charged by the ascending Chinese nationalists in order to create a Chinese collective imaginary. In the early Republican state, the Han majority served as a central component of the discursive construction of a unified and homogeneous nation. The Han were the core element in the new concept of Zhonghua minzu, introduced by Liang Qichao in 1902,9 that was based on the awareness of a distinct “Chinese nation” in the confrontation with Western imperialism. The term minzu—variously translated as “people,” “nation,” “ethnicity” or “race” following the Japanese neologism minzoku—was introduced in China by the first generation of Chinese reformers and revolutionaries in the late 19th century.10 Minzu was not originally intended to refer to the minority peoples but to the majority of the Han commoners.11 Anti-Manchu revolutionaries conceptualized a “Han race” (Hanzu), allegedly oppressed by the “alien” Manchu dynasty.

From 1912 onward, the Chineseness of Han Chinese citizens no longer depended on their loyalty to an emperor and commitment to traditional Confucian values. Opposition to foreign imperialism had made patriotism an important element of Chinese self-identification. The Western concept of sovereignty replaced Confucianism as the pivotal idea defining “China.” Consequently, the non-Han peoples had to be accepted as members of the Chinese nation even though they could not identify as easily with this new concept as could the Han majority. Throughout the passage from dynastic empire to nation-state, the non-Han peoples had no political voice of their own. Only Outer Mongolia had their voice and left the Qing empire in the moment of collapse. In fact, the protagonists of nationalism and the modern state-building project were almost exclusively Han Chinese intellectuals.12

One of the leading voices during this transition process was Liang Qichao (1873–1929), who as early as 1901 had conceived of China as a single multiethnic state. In his view, ethnicities constantly diverged and merged in history. Even the Han Chinese were not a static and undifferentiated entity but an amalgam of many peoples that had been formed through assimilation of multiple ethnic groups.13 Relying primarily on Chinese historical records, he argued that Han culture had been the driving force of Chinese civilization. Yet after the fall of the Qing dynasty, Liang Qichao’s interpretation of Zhonghua minzu changed from a being basically an exclusive synonym for the Han people to one that emphasized the term’s composite and inclusive meaning. He paved the way for a broader repositioning of the Han as the racial backbone (gugan) of a multiethnic yet territorially limited Zhonghua minzu, which included Han and non-Han peoples alike.14 Liang criticized the anti-Manchuism of the late Qing period, which related the modern phenomenon of nationalism to ethnic questions, as expressed in the influential publication Qiushu (Book of Compulsion, 1900) by Zhang Binglin (1868–1936). Zhang propagated the idea of the Han as an expression of a racial unity embodied in a common blood lineage that dated back to the mythical Yellow Emperor, around 2500 bc.15 Liang Qichao condemned this kind of “petty nationalism” (xiao minzuzhuyi). He preferred a “broad nationalism” (da minzuzhuyi) under the leadership of the Han people and encompassing the whole geobody of the former Qing empire. Liang rejected the destructive nature of “racial revanchism” (zhongzu fuchou zhuyi) and placed the Han community at the racial, cultural, and geographical core of the multiethnic nation-state. His well-known and influential ideas illustrate that the concepts of race, ethnic minority, nation, or nationality are modern political constructs that emerged during the period of transition from the premodern empire to the modern nation-state.

The “Five Big Peoples”: Attempts to Balance Ethnicity and Territoriality in the Chinese Republic

A first step toward integrating multiethnicity and nationalism was the proclamation that the new nation-state was a “Republic of Five Nationalities” (wuzu gonghe). This territorially based motto was introduced in January 1912 by Sun Yatsen (1866–1925) in his inaugural address as the provisional president of the Republic of China, and was the result of negotiations between the nationalists and Yuan Shikai, a central figure in the late Qing court.16 The Republican government promised to unify China by “combining the lands of Han, Manchu, Mongolians, Tungusic tribes and Tibetans into one state.”17 Later, in September 1912, Sun added that all nationalities should enjoy equal status: “Our hope is that the five big nationalities will cooperate from their hearts, make state policy together, and allow China to advance to become a first class civilized power in the world. This is the big responsibility that we five nationalities take together.”18 The idea of equal status among the five nationalities was symbolized in the national flag of the Yuan Shikai government by five regular stripes.19 However, Sun Yatsen’s various speeches were not very consistent in the face of the political and constitutional reality, and the general preference for racial assimilation came increasingly to the fore.20 The new political leadership seemed to ignore the fact that several frontier peoples had already made their choices: Outer Mongolia had declared its independence, with Russian support, in December 1911, and in Lhasa, the thirteenth Dalai Lama ordered the expulsion of all Qing officials and troops from Tibet in early 1912. Both governments confirmed their decisions in January 1913 by signing the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance between the Government of Mongolia and Tibet. Caught between competing great powers, such early expressions of nationalism were destined to be short-lived, especially for Tibet.

Although the Chinese government demarcated its international borders in legally binding agreements, it lacked the military power and political will to incorporate the vast frontier regions and their non-Han inhabitants into the nation-state. The official line was partly supported by the newly emerging scientific disciplines of archaeology, history, anthropology and geography, which all felt called upon to construct a myth of Chinese national identity.21 During the early years of the Republic, a domestic meaning was added to the term Zhonghua minzu. Sun Yatsen used Zhonghua minzu in the 1920s to identify a unified nation based on the assimilation of the five nationalities: “The name of ‘Republic of Five Nationalities’ exists only because there exists a certain racial distinction which distorts the meaning of a single Republic. We must facilitate the dying out of all names of individual peoples inhabiting China, i.e., Manchu, Tibetans etc.”22 Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi, 1887–1975) applied this idea to the last five thousand years of Chinese history and reduced the five big peoples to “five stocks,” thereby negating any diversity of “race” or “blood” that had been celebrated by earlier nationalist writers. Echoing Wang Fuzhi’s 17th-century ideas, Chiang Kai-shek emphasized a dissimilarity in creed and geographical determination. He suspected that ethnicity was a centrifugal force threatening the overriding aim of national unification. His strategy was later reflected in the Guomindang’s political manifesto of 1943, published under Chiang’s name as China’s Destiny: the ethnic groups within China’s borders had to be reduced to “large and small branches of the same lineage,” fusing them into an “integral whole with no trace of difference.”23 Pushing for the total assimilation of non-Han peoples as part of frontier administration (bianzheng), the Nationalist government never saw a need to develop a general ethnic policy. In the context of the process of nationalization, the traditional center-periphery relationship was internalized within the Republican state. The Mongolian-Tibetan Affairs Commission was established in 1929 to demonstrate the Nationalist disregard for Mongolian and Tibetan independence. The radical Guomindang concept of the Chinese nation was also reflected in the academic debates carried out by between the historian Gu Jiegang and the social anthropologist Fei Xiaotong (1910–2005) on the question of the unity of the Chinese nation.24 A similar idea was the “common-origin thesis” (tongyuanlun) that emphasized a shared progenitor—either the Peking Man or the Yellow Emperor—for Han, Mongols, Manchus, Hui, and Tibetans alike.25

Yet the Republican period was also the time when scholars tried to engage with multiethnicity. The historian Lü Simian (1884–1957) distinguished between “ethnicity” (minzu) and “race” (zhongzu) by relating cultural differences in language, religious beliefs, and customs to minzu and differences in physiology and skin color to zhongzu. His system of “integrated ethnic heterogeneity” (heji cuoza zhi zu) in China was based on twelve distinct ethnicities that were said to constitute the Chinese people.26 Lü’s colleague Gu Jiegang proposed using the racial vitality that he attributed to some non-Han peoples to renew the Han by an “infusion of fresh blood” through intermarriage.27

The scholars who followed the Guomindang government to the southwestern provinces after Japan’s invasion of China proper in July 1937 expanded the scope of the academic discourse on ethnic diversity beyond the “five peoples” concept of the early Republican period. The rich ethnographical studies on the southwestern frontier done in the late 1930s and early 1940s challenged the supposed unity of the Zhonghua minzu, and called for a complete re-evaluation of the origin, nature, and meaning of ethnic identity in China.28 Japan’s intensified support of secessionist movements in Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang, however, prompted many scholars to support the Guomindang ideology of national unity.29

The early Communist leaders tried to distance themselves from the Guomindang perspective by emphasizing the polyphyletic origins of the Chinese people.30 The co-founder of the Communist Party, Qu Qiubai (1899–1935), wrote that as “a nation, China is not simply the Han nationality; there are also the Hui, the Tibetans, the Mongols, the Li, the Miao, the Yi.”31 Qu revived the Qing concept of an internal boundary between “China proper” (Zhongguo neidi) and the “frontier regions” (bianqiang diqu). The spatial concept of the Qing frontier also paved the way for the introduction of the new ethnopolitical category of “minority people” during the Republican era.

Yet if the concentric imagery of imperial Chinese scholars positioned Chinese and barbarians within the same social order of tianxia, the early Marxist authors interpreted these differences as, above all, economic, as a contrast between a burgeoning capitalist China proper and a nomadic and primitive frontier.32 The traditional “barbarians” were reclassified as “minority nationality” (shaoshu minzu). The term was originally used by the Comintern; it was introduced into the manifesto of the First United Front between the Guomindang and the Communist Party in 1924 to identify the various non-Han peoples and to incorporate them into the new, inclusive Zhonghua nation-state.33 The term “minority” (shaoshu) allowed a distinction to be made between, on the one hand, the struggle of the entire Chinese nation (Zhonghua minzu) for national self-determination in an international context dominated by imperialism and, on the other, the integration of the “minority nationalities” into a Han-dominated Republican state. The combining of minzu and shaoshu into “national minority” reflected the fact that the territory referred to as the Chinese nation-state exceeded the physical habitat of the Han community. The non-Han peoples therefore had to be defined in the national narrative as “internal others.” Communist nationality experts were trained to interpret the Comintern’s universally defined “national question” as a purely “domestic national question” (guonei minzu wenti).

A similar change is evident concerning the right of self-determination. This notion was transferred from the Leninist rhetoric in Soviet Russia to the debates in China by Mao Zedong (1893–1976).34 Following the Sowjet model, Mao used minzu as synonym for “nationality.” The 1931 constitution of the Jiangxi Soviet included the right of self-determination (minzu de zijuequan).35 At the same time, the Chinese Communists appealed to a new consciousness of the people (minzu yishi) that would unite all nationalities with the Han in a single, all-encompassing national identity. In the struggle against foreign imperialism, the Communists drew closer to their Guomindang rivals in emphasizing the unity and shared destiny of all “Chinese people.” This integrative strategy was expressed in the early 1940s by propagating the idea that the main role of the “modern” Han majority was to guide the “backward” minority peoples toward a joint liberation of the victimized nation.36

New Structures in a New State: Autonomy Rights and Minority Nationalities in the People’s Republic of China

With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo) in 1949 under Communist leadership, the long-term goal of creating a sovereign nation-state was finally realized. Torn between the nationalist ideal and the multiethnic reality, the People’s Republic defined itself as a “unitary multinational state” (tongyi duo minzu guojia). The myth of China’s uniformity was based on the fact that the Han Chinese constituted more than 90 percent of the total population.37 This overwhelming disparity in numbers seems to imply that minorities are of little significance in China today; however, their geographical concentration in the sensitive frontier regions suggests a different emphasis.38 The assimilation of the periphery through the territorial state-building efforts of the Communist government produced further asymmetry. From the beginning, the Han majority was seen as the most advanced of all the nationalities, the standard against which the minorities had to be evaluated. The Communist party-state adopted the former Republican-era narratives of a racially homogenous Zhonghua minzu for its own purposes. Through a government-led Ethnic Identification Project (Minzu shibie), the legal-political status “minority” was granted only to certain ethnic groups. Hundreds of ethnologists, linguists, historians, sociologists, and archaeologists were divided into teams to examine the claims of over four hundred self-reported groups. The minority population was then divided according to the political interests of the Communist Party, which decided which groups were entitled to minority rights under Chinese law. The ethnic-identification campaign was followed by nationwide linguistic field studies to help the minorities create and reform their written languages. Hundreds of books on minority history and language were published to enforce the state-recognized ethnic structure.39

The constitution of 1954 granted the right of self-government to the newly established autonomous regions. This regional nationality autonomy combined both territorial and ethnic principles, and thus incorporated Han Chinese who lived in the locality. It was a kind of co-ethnic autonomy that recognized the “titularity” of one minority group. Unlike in the Soviet Union, the legitimacy of secession was denied.40 The minority nationalities were now integrated in the national narrative as victims of imperialism and divided into revolutionary classes.41

The right to self-government was channeled into the legal framework of the autonomous regions and counties. The Communist party-state exercised leadership by classifying the ethnic groups: of nearly 350 ethnic groups that had also applied for minority status, fifty-five were recognized as shaoshu minzu based on criteria of historical, cultural, social and material advancement. As part of the United Front Strategy, the Communists tried to get the minorities to recognize the new Chinese state.42 Because of this juridical and theoretical concession of minority rights, the traditional differentiation of core and peripheral ethnicities persisted. In sum, nationality was constructed as a relational identity in a system of differences. The American anthropologist Louisa Schein has, critically, called this process an “internal orientalism.”43 In contrast to the Han people in the provinces of China proper, who had already experienced a regime change from the Nationalists to the Communists, the minorities in the borderlands were confronted for the first time in their history with direct integration into the Chinese government system. The new leadership offered them a trade: ethnic autonomy in return for loyalty to the socialist nation-state.44

During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), ethnological activities were suspended. There was a second ethnic campaign in the 1980s, when around five million people recovered or changed their minority status.45 At the time, the proposed groups were incorporated into already identified minority groups through linguistic, territorial, and historical references, but no new minority was identified. In 1990, however, the census registered over 740,000 individuals classified as “unidentified,” signifying that their ethnic features still did not fit into any official nationality category.46 As a case study of the Bai people (the second largest minority in Yunnan province) reveals, the official policy of defining the social status of minority groups and the acknowledgment of the new status by the minorities themselves had profound effects on ethnic identity.47 The identification, territorialization, and transformation of minority peoples created lasting ambiguities. Moreover, the violent introduction to socialism from the late 1950s onward, which brought class struggle and the elimination of the upper classes to the autonomous regions, triggered vehement resistance, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang. Their critical geostrategic position within the Chinese polity, combined with their adherence to a world religion, made the Tibetans and Uyghurs a highly sensitive issue for the central government.48 A network of newly trained minority cadres loyal to the Communist Party cooperated to suppress attempts at secession in both regions. Intragroup identity was mainly reduced to ethnic-language learning, religious practices, and exclusively ethnic-based marriages. At the same time, the state encouraged Han migration into the autonomous regions along the China’s borders with the aim of outnumbering and submerging the local minority populations.

In the post-Mao era an experimental process of reform and opening up dominated the state and society alike. It was reflected in vivid discourses about Chinese nationalism and identity, including new attitudes toward the question of ethnicity. The abandonment of a monolithic perspective on Chinese nationalism paved the way for an inclusive, multiethnic concept of Chinese history.49 In his new paradigm of “one body with multiple origins” (duoyuan yiti), the veteran anthropologist Fei Xiaotong integrated ethnic relations into a pluralistic pattern of Chinese identity and even placed plurality before unity.50 His revival of the concept of a unified Chinese people and nation (Zhonghua minzu) was described as a “snowball theory” because it saw the Han majority as the “nucleus of integration,” bringing together all the different peoples into a multifaceted whole.51 Though diversity was still only tolerated within the unified state the histories of non-Han peoples were integrated into the Chinas self-perception and its history for the first time. Bai Shouyi (1909–2000) was one of the historians who also advocated for an autonomous historiography of the minorities.52 Authors of such works should be members of a minority group themselves and their works should be written in minority languages.53 Being a Chinese Muslim (Hui) himself, Bai Shouyi met his own requirements. In fact, the visibility of minority scholars increased in the last decade of the 20th century. At the same time, Han migration the increasingly threatened the cultural identity of minorities in the autonomous regions. The Han have outnumbered the local non-Han population nearly everywhere.

Various Minority Perspectives

China’s minorities are highly diverse; their degrees of change, modernization, and assimilation into Han culture differ enormously. As a result they interact with the Chinese government in different ways.

The Hui (or Chinese Muslims) are the third largest minority after the Zhuang and the Manchus. With more than ten million members, they represent the largest group of all ten Muslim nationalities. Although the government in 1958 had created the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the northwest, the Hui, unlike other minorities, are not territory-based but scattered all over China. Like the Manchus, they are strongly Sinicized. The cultural differences among Hui communities across the country are far greater than their distance from their local non-Hui neighbors. Considering this experience of locally different social worlds and their commitment to various imagined communities, it is impossible to regard all Hui as a single ethnic group. Most of them share a Sufi Muslim background derived from their historical origins as descendants of Arab and Persian merchants who came to China between the 7th and 13th centuries and intermarried with Chinese women. The Hui represent a typical example of dialogical interaction between a self-perceived ethnic identity and a sociopolitical context defined by the state.54 Before 1949, they were mainly recognized as a religious group. In the 1930s, the young historian Bai Shouyi introduced the term “Hui people” (Huimin) as a substitute for “Hui religion” (Huijiao) in order to highlight their difference from other Muslim groups. While urban Hui identity is nowadays often limited to avoiding the consumption of pork, Islam generally forms a basic marker of Hui identity in the rural parts of Northwestern China. Interethnic tension emerges frequently, but rarely with more than a local impact, whenever the Hui feel mistreated by the Han majority.55

The situation is quite different for the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The nearly ten million Uyghurs there constitute the fifth largest ethnic group in China. They are Sunni Muslims and speak an Altaic-Turkic language. In the period between the establishment of Xinjiang province (1884) and the foundation of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (1955), a modern Uyghur national consciousness took shape.56 The first East Turkestan Republic of 1933 was soon destroyed by the Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai (1893–1970), who had relied on Soviet support to rule Xinjiang with an iron hand until his fall, in 1944. Though Xinjiang formally remained a part of the Chinese Republic, a second insurgency in 1944 resulted in the founding of a Soviet-backed, socialist East Turkestan Republic (1944–1949). But the dynamics of intensified internal conflict also caused the failure of this second attempt at state-building.57 Xinjiang was finally converted into China’s largest autonomous region; it occupies one-sixth of the total territory of the People’s Republic and including to a greater part even regions where other Turkic people and Mongolian groups live. As in the other autonomous regions, the mass immigration of Han Chinese provoked hostilities and disturbances. For Xinjiang, ethnic separatism has been an important security concern for the Chinese government ever since new states with similar populations of Turks emerged along China’s border after the end of the Cold War. While the Uyghurs do not have an external national homeland as do the Kyrgiz, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks, in the 21st century violent Uyghur resistance groups continue to be the strongest advocates of independence. While most of the Uyghur population desires little more than an increase of real autonomy in their traditional homeland of interconnected oasis societies, Islamic terrorism and high-handed measures by the Chinese state further escalate the interethnic tension in the region.58

Alongside the Manchus, the Mongols are the only contemporary minority to have once ruled over China. The Manchus governed the Chinese empire as the Yuan dynasty for nearly a century. Present-day the Mongols feel superior to the Han people, and they keep alive the history of the Mongolian empire and its founder Chingghis Khan. Their national hero is present in numerous statues and portraits in public places all over Inner Mongolia. The Mongols’ modern ethnic consciousness is based on two traditional markers—the use of an Altaic language and the practice of pastoralism. Like the Uyghurs, the Mongols experienced their strongest period of nationalism during the 1930s and 1940s. Though the majority of the Mongols supported the Japanese invaders, different nationalist groups fought against Guomindang rule.59 Their principal aim was (re)unification with the Mongolian People’s Republic. At the same time, Mongols were among the earliest minority recruits of the Guomindang, Comintern, and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, as well as the Chinese Communists. Ulanhu (1906–1988), one of the leading figures from the 1940s to the 1980s, organized the Communist takeover of Inner Mongolia. In May 1947, an Inner Mongolian Autonomous Government was founded with Ulanhu as chairman. It was renamed the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 1949, a supraprovincial-level autonomous region with the six large administrative regions. In 1954, it was made a provincial-level autonomous region. The hope for Mongolian unification had already ended as a result of the Yalta agreement in 1945, which had determined that the status quo of Mongolian People’s Republic would be maintained and that Inner Mongolia be incorporated into China. In January 1946, the Republic of China recognized the independence of the Mongolian People’s Republic following a national referendum.60 Moreover, the Han migrants had already outnumbered the Mongols since the late 19th century, settling first in towns and villages. After the 1950s the division of banner and county was abolished, and the Chinese were incorporated into Mongol banners as equal citizens. With the abolishment of administrative boundaries, a process of real interethnic mixing began, making Mongols a minority in their own banner. This long-term process of Sinicization made it difficult to preserve ethnic identity. Though the Cultural Revolution in Inner Mongolia was far more violent than in Xinjiang or Tibet, ethnic tension is lower under the Mongols in the 21st century.61

Repeated periods of radicalization have characterized Tibetan nationalism. Religion is the central unifying force, embodied in a long series of Dalai Lamas. These religious leaders were first supported by the Qing emperors when suzerainty over Tibet was established in the mid-18th century. In 1912, Tibet declared its independence. Once the Guomindang was in government in 1928, it nominally adhered to the former imperial claims to Tibet. Peripheral parts of cultural Tibet were cut off from the central region: Amdo in the east was assigned to Qinghai, Kham in the southeast was first organized as Chuanbian Special Administrative District and renamed as Xikang province in 1939. Nevertheless, the Chinese Republic lacked any appreciable influence in Central Tibet. In 1959, Communist troops occupied Lhasa, though a process of “peaceful liberation” had already started in some regions in the early 1950s.62 The Dalai Lama fled to India. In 1965, Tibet was reconstituted as autonomous region.63 Although it is still the second largest regional entity of China, it remains reduced to the size of ancient Central Tibet. Whereas the Uyghur diaspora is divided among the several Central Asian states bordering on Xinjiang, the Tibetans have developed a well-organized and active exile community, mainly in South Asia. Though the fourteenth Dalai Lama (b. 1935) recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, he was never promised greater autonomy for Tibet or even allowed to return to his homeland as leader of all Tibetans. Rekindled Tibetan protests and riots have always been answered with martial law by the Beijing authorities and suppressed with considerable violence.64

In contrast to Uyghurs, Mongols, and Tibetans, the numerous minorities in southwestern China have never posed a serious threat to the Chinese state. Those ethnic groups mostly coexist peacefully with their neighbors, and they vary widely in number from less than one hundred thousand to nearly seventeen million in the case of the Zhuang people. Minorities form about 30 percent of the total population of the three provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan. However, continuous and inexorable Han migration has exerted a strong acculturating influence through language, education, and religion.65

Religious practices remain important markers in shaping ethnic identity. Most Tibetans and Mongols are Buddhists and share the same traditions, sacred texts, and rituals of worship. Although the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Hui communities are all Muslim by tradition, they do not share the same mosques or eat in the same halal restaurants. Traditional ethnic cultural forms of music, dance, and theater are accepted by the state as long as they do not threaten the political status quo. The relations between minorities are characterized by diversity. At the same time, all minorities are prevented from developing a shared civic identity with the Han. The dual structure of separate cultural and institutional spaces for minority peoples and the Han majority is rigorously upheld by the central state. By creating, defining, and rhetorically bolstering a “minority” status, the Communist rulers had encouraged an ethnic consciousness of being a we-group opposed to the Han majority. Nevertheless, Chinese-language education, political recruitment into the Communist Youth League, and improvement in socioeconomic status have also lead to a greater acceptance of the Han people among minorities.66

Discussion of the Literature

China studies generally view China as one civilization and one country. More differentiated perspectives, such as those represented by the authors of “New Qing History” are rare.67 Yet the enduring image of a homogeneous culture and society is deeply challenged as soon as we look at the topic of nationalism and minorities.68 It connects the question of ethnicity and frontiers with the mainstream Han-centric developments from late Qing history onward. In fact, any serious attention paid to the cultural and political diversity of China is confronted with the fundamental issues of the ethnic composition of the Chinese nation, its territoriality, and its relations with the neighboring states and with the international community.

The first Western studies on minorities were based on the—sometimes long-standing—experiences of missionaries, travelers, diplomats, and social scientists of the first half of the 20th century, who had also traveled to minority areas. Nevertheless, Western historiography continued to depict China in the language of universalism and Sinification. The minority peoples were represented by Western and Chinese scholars alike as being outside the history of China’s imperial past.69 Under the Maoist regime, Western scholars could no longer relate to fieldwork knowledge. This was the historical context of a very general overview on China’s minorities published by June Teufel Dreyer.70

In contrast to Chinese imperial and Republican officials who had despised the minorities as culturally backward and prone to banditry, the Communist leadership incorporated them administratively and discursively into its multiethnic nation-state after 1949. Strict class-based interpretations dominated the first three decades of post-1949 China. The minorities were portrayed by the Communist Party leadership as embracing their membership in the larger national community of the People’s Republic of China. Numerous field studies by Chinese scholars were only interrupted by the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). The identification with the imagined community of the People’s Republic of China was enforced by the construction of an official history of each minority nationality. Based on Marxist paradigms such “survey histories” (jianshi) offered, along with dictionaries and encyclopedias, basic information about individual ethnic groups.

In the 1980s, greater research freedom and permission to conduct fieldwork in China opened a new period of minority studies. The Chinese authorities began to issue figures on an wide range of topics relating to the minorities, such as statistical yearbooks and statistical data on specialized subjects, such as censuses or women. Since the early 1980s, minority-nationality publishing houses in China have published short and informative histories of the Communist liberation of the area. Apart from numerous Chinese publications, a growing literature in European languages appeared. In his general overview of the evolution of China’s minority nationalities during the 20th century, Colin Mackerras emphasizes the importance of three major debates related to China’s minorities: the first concerns the influence of China’s revolutionary developments on minority issues; the second concerns the question of minority integration and assimilation; and the third, the connection between ethnic identity, integration, and modernization.71 The extent of the influence on individual minorities differs extremely. A considerable amount of research has been done that attempts to define the ethnicity of specific minority communities. Most Chinese and Western scholars specialize in a particular ethnic group or groups, especially the Tibetans, Muslims, and Mongols. The sensitive issues of autonomy or independence for Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia are treated in separate studies. Comprehensive perspectives on China’s minorities as a whole are, however, still rare.

In fact, research on minorities requires crossing multiple disciplinary boundaries. Just as anthropologists employ anthropological methods of fieldwork to explore moments in the past, historians rely on anthropological concepts in examining at the past and analyzing the present from a historical perspective. Nevertheless, the historical link between China’s current multiethnic system and its own polyethnic past remains vague.

Primary Sources

Chinese primary sources on ethnic questions can be found at all levels of state administration, from the national legislative and policy papers issued by the central government in the 20th century to statistical yearbooks to the provincial-level and local administration. News digests released by national news agencies and official published accounts also reflect the state perspective. Local gazetteers are the major sources for the study of local history in China. They are subdivided into provincial, prefectural, and district editions. Most of the pre-1949 gazetteers cover the well-populated regions of China proper, but there are also some editions on areas of minority peoples.

Since 1949, the local perspective has also been reflected in a provincial series under the title of “literary and historical materials (wenshi ziliao).” On the national level, the Central Archives of the People’s Republic of China has issued an eighteen-volume selection of documents by the Chinese Communist Party Committee; and the Documentary Research Office of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee published selected documents on the nationality work during the new era.72 The Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Department followed with a collection of documents on the national question (Minzu Wenti Wenxian Huibian, 1991). These sources give precious insights into the Communist leadership’s policymaking processes with respect to the minority nationalities.

Western sources include manuscript collections, such as the Owen Lattimore Papers in the Library of Congress; unpublished government documents, such as Foreign Offices Files in the Public Record Office in Kew Gardens, London); and published documentary and manuscript collections.

中國邊疆史地研究資料數據庫: China’s Borderland History and Geography Studies Database.

Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) 藏传佛教资源中心.

晚清期刊、民国时期期刊全文数据库: 1833–1949 Chinese Periodical Full-Text Databases.

中国共产党数据库: Database of the Communist Party of China.

全国人民代表大会资料库: Database of the National People’s Congress.

中国政府资料库: Database of the Chinese Government

Further Reading

Blum, Susan D., and Lionel M. Jensen, eds., China Off Center: Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Dillon, Michael. “Majorities and Minorities in China: An Introduction.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39, no. 12 (2016): 2079–2090.Find this resource:

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. Ethnicity and Nationalism. London: Pluto, 2002.Find this resource:

Ge Zhaoguang. Lishi Zhongguo de nei yu wai: you guan “Zhongguo” yu “zhoubian” gainian de zai zhengqing. Hong Kong: Zhongwen Daxue Chubanshe, 2017.Find this resource:

Gladney, Dru C. Dislocating China: Reflections on Muslims, Minorities and Other Subaltern Subjects. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Harrell, Stevan, ed. Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Iredale, Robyn, Naran Bilik, and Fei Guo, eds. China’s Minorities on the Move: Selected Case Studies. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2003.Find this resource:

Lary, Diana, ed. The Chinese State at the Borders. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Liu, Xiaoyuan. Frontier Passages: Ethnopolitics and the Rise of Chinese Communism, 1921–1945. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Mackerras, Colin. China’s Minority Cultures: Identities and Integration since 1912. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.Find this resource:

Rossabi, Morris, ed. Governing China’s Multiethnic Frontiers. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Schneider, Julia C. Nation and Ethnicity: Chinese Discourses on History, Historiography, and Nationalism (1900s–1920s). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill 2017.Find this resource:


(1.) Tsung-I Dow, “The Confucian Concept of a Nation and Its Historical Practice,” Asian Profile 10, no. 4 (1982): 347–361.

(2.) See Zhihong Chen, “Climate’s Moral Economy: Geography, Race, and the Han in Early Republican China,” in Critical Han Studies: The History, Representation, and Identity of China’s Majority, eds. Thomas Mullaney, James Leibold, Stéphane Gros, and Eric Vanden Bussche (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 73–91, at 74.

(3.) On Wang Fuzhi’s environmental determinism, see also Frank Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (London: Hurst, 1992), 26–29.

(4.) Pamela Crossley, “The Qianlong Retrospect on the Chinese-Martial (hanjun) Banners,” Late Imperial China 10, no. 1 (1989): 63–107, at 64–65; and Edward J. Rhoads, Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), 293–294.

(5.) Evelyn S. Rawski, “Presidential Address: Re-envisioning the Qing; the Significance of the Qing Period in Chinese History,” Journal of Asian Studies 55, no. 4 (1996): 829–850, at 835–836.

(6.) Laura Hostetler, Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 74; and in more detail, Perdue, China Marches West, 409–461.

(7.) Sabine Dabringhaus, “Chinese Emperors and Tibetan Monks: Religion as an Instrument of Rule,” in China and Her Neighbours: Borders, Visions of the Other, Foreign Policy, 10th to 19th Century, eds. Sabine Dabringhaus and Roderich Ptak (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1997), 119–133, at 130–133.

(8.) Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 65.

(9.) Zheng Dahua, “‘Zhonghua minzu’ ziwo yishi de xingshi,’” in Jindaishi yanjiu 2014, 4, 4–9.

(10.) Frank Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1996).

(11.) Charlotte Furth, “The Sage as Rebel: The Inner World of Chang Ping-lin,” in The Limits of Change: Essays on Conservative Alternatives in Republican China, ed. Charlotte Furth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 90–112.

(12.) See Xiong Fangliang, Cong Da Qing dao Minguo—Zhongguo minzu lilun zhengce de lishi bianqian (1644–1949) (Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Chubanshe, 2016).

(13.) Liang Qichao, “Lishi shang Zhongguo minzu zhi guancha,” Xinmin Congbao, no. 56 (February 15, 1905), no. 57 (March 1, 1905), in Yingbingshi heji , 40 vols. (Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju, 1941) at vol. 41, 1–34.

(14.) Ebd, 1907, 2; Liang, “Zhongguo lishi shang minzu zhi yanjiu,” in Yingbingshi heji, 1922, 42: 1–34.

(15.) See Zhang Binglin, Qiushu (Shenyang: Liaoning People’s Press, 1994).

(16.) Uradyn E. Bulag, “Independence as Restoration: Chinese and Mongolian Declarations of Independence and the 1911 Revolutions,” in Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 52, no. 3 (2012): 1–16, at 3.

(17.) Summarized in Q. Edward Wang, “Editor’s Introduction,” Chinese Studies in History 48, no. 4 (2015): 327–330, at 328.

(18.) Zhongguo Shehui Kexueyuan Jindaishi Yanjiusuo Zhonghua Mingguoshi Yanjiushi, eds., Sun Zhongshan quanji, vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuji, 1982), 438–440, at 438–439.

(19.) June Teufel Dreyer, China’s Forty Millions: Minority Nationalities and National Integration in the People’s Republic of China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 17.

(20.) Miwa Hirono, “The Chinese State as a Civilizer of Ethnic Minorities: Civilization and Religion in Chinese History,” in Civilizing Missions: International Religious Agencies in China, by Miwa Hirono (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 54.

(21.) Tong Shuye, “Yuyan,” Yugong zazhi 7, no. 6–7 (1937): 2; and Jing Sanlin, Xibei minzu yanjiu (Xian, 1942), 13, 211.

(22.) Sun Yat-sen, “San-Min-Chu (the Three Principles),” in Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary: A Programme of National Reconstruction of China, ed. Sun Yat-sen (New York: AMS, 1927), 225–238, at 229.

(23.) Chiang Kai-shek, China’s Destiny (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 4, 13.

(24.) See Gu Jiegang, “Zhonghua minzu shi yige,” in Gu Jiegang juan, ed. Liu Mengxi (Shijiazhuang, 1996), 773–785. Gu’s article was originally published in 1939.

(25.) Tong Shuye, “Yuyan,” Yugong Zazhi 7, no. 5 (1937): 1–4, at 2; and Jing Sanlin, Xibei minzu yanjiu, 13, 211.

(26.) Lü Simian, Zhongguo minzu shi (Shanghai: Dongfang Chuban Zhongxin, 1987), 6. Originally published in 1934.

(27.) Gu Jiegang, “Zhongguo bianjiang wenti ji qi duice,” Xibei minzu zongjiao shiliao wenzhai, 5 vols. (Lanzhou: Gansusheng tushuguan, 1984), 1: 13–22, at 21. Volume 1 was originally published in 1938.

(28.) See Siu-Woo Cheung, “Miao Identities, Indigenism and the Politics of Appropriation in Southwest China during the Republican Period,” Asian Ethnicity 4, no. 1 (2003): 85–114. The concept of the Chinese nation during this period is extensively discussed in Ma Rong, ed., Zhonghua minzu shi yige—weirao 1939 nian zheyi yiti de da taolun (Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Chubanshe, 2016).

(29.) Fu Sinian, “Zhonghua minzu shi zhengge de,” in Fu Sinian Quanji, 7 vols. (Taipei: Lianjing Chuban Shiye Gongsi, 1980), 6: 985–986. Fu’s article was originally published in 1935.

(30.) Zheng Dahua, “Minzhu geming shiqi zhonggong de ‘zhonghua minzu’ guannian,” Shixue Yuekan 2 (2014): 48–54.

(31.) Qu Qiubai, Qu Qiubai wenji, wenxue, vol. 3 (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1989), 305.

(32.) Xiaoyuan Liu, “Communism, Nationalism, Ethnicism, and China’s ‘National Question’ 1921–1945,” in Chinese Nationalism in Perspective: Historical and Recent Cases, eds. George Wei and Xiaoyuan Liu (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001), 121–148, at 123.

(33.) Xiaoyuan Liu, Frontier Passages: Ethnopolitics and the Rise of Chinese Communism, 1921–1945 (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2004), 41, 68.

(34.) Dreyer, China’s Forty Millions, 63–65.

(35.) Minzu wenti wenxuan huibian, 1921–1949 (Beijing: Zhongguo Zhongyang Dangxiao Chubanshe, 1991), at 166.

(36.) James Leibold, Reconfiguring Chinese Nationalism: How the Qing Frontier and Its Indigenes Became Chinese (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 107.

(37.) According to the Sixth National Population Census, the Han make up 91.15 percent. See National Bureau of Statistics, “Communiqué of the National Bureau Statistics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Major Figures of the 2010 Population Census (No. 1)” (National Bureau of Statistics, April 28. 2011).

(38.) According to the geologist and demographer Hu Huanyong (1901–1998), the frontier areas, where most of the minorities live, cover over 64 percent of China’s territory. His initial research was published in Geology Journal 3, no. 2 (1935). In 1987, Hu compared this early data with population data from a new census and found that the population ratio was almost the same. See Hu Huangyong, “Zhongguo renkou: jinjian yu jianglai,” Qunyan 2 (1987): 24–25.

(39.) Wang Linzhu, “The Identification of Minorities in China,” Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 16, no. 2 (2015): 1–21, esp. 6, 10.

(40.) Ralph A. Litzinger, Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 7.

(41.) Mao Zedong, “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party,” in Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912–1949, ed. Stuart R. Schram, vol. 7, New Democracy, 1939–1941 (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2005), 279–305, at 280–281. Mao’s article was originally published in 1939.

(42.) Ke Fan, “Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Socialist China,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39, no. 12 (2016): 2091–2107.

(43.) Louisa Schein, “Gender and Internal Orientalism in China,” Modern China 23, no. 1 (1997): 69–98, at 70–74.

(44.) Wenfang Tang and Gaochao He, Separate but Loyal: Ethnicity and Nationalism in China, Policy Studies 56 (Honolulu, HI: East-West-Center, 2010), viii. See also Douglas Howland, “The Dialects of Chauvinism: Minority Nationalities and Territorial Sovereignty in Mao Zedong’s New Democracy,” Modern China 37, no. 2 (2011): 170–201.

(45.) Huang Guangxue and Shi Lianzhu, eds., Zhongguo de minzu shibie (Beijing: Minzu Chubanshe 2005), 116.

(46.) Dru C. Gladney, Dislocating China: Reflections on Muslims, Minorities, and Other Subaltern Subjects (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 9.

(47.) David Yen-ho Wu, “The Construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese Identities,” Daedalus 120, no. 2 (1991): 159–179, at 168–171.

(48.) Trine Brox and Ildiko Bellér-Hann, On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2014).

(49.) For example, Jonathan Unger, ed., Chinese Nationalism (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1996).

(50.) Fei Xiaotong, “Zhonghua minzu de duoyuan yiti geju,” Beijing Daxue Xuebao—Zhexue Shehui Kexue Ban 4 (1989): 1–19.

(51.) On Fei Xiaotong’s snowball theory, see Xue Jieshun, “Understanding the Snowball Theory of the Han Nationality,” in Critical Han Studies, eds. Mullaney et al., 113–127.

(52.) Bai Shouyi, “Guanyu shixue gongzuo jidian yijian,” Shixueshi Yanjiu 2 (1985): 72–77.

(53.) Zhou Wenjiu, “Guanyu shaoshu minzu shixueshi yanjiu neirong de sikao,” Minzu Yanjiu 1 (2009): 71–75, at 73.

(54.) Gladney, Dislocating China, 159–160.

(55.) See Dru C. Gladney, Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People’s Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996); Jonathan N. Lipman, Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999); and Gui Rong, Hacer Zekiye Gönül Rong and Gönül, and Zhang Xiaoyan, Hui Muslims in China (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2016).

(56.) Ondrej Klimes, Struggle by the Pen: The Uyghur Discourse of Nation and National Interest, c. 1900–1949 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015).

(57.) Klimes, 257–259.

(58.) Ildiko Bellér-Hann, Community Matters in Xinjiang 1880–1949: Towards a Historical Anthropology (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008), 423–430. See also Rian Thum, The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014); and David Brophy, Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

(59.) Uradyn E. Bulag, The Mongols at China’s Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), 105.

(60.) David Sneath, Changing Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 9–20.

(61.) See Christopher Atwood, Young Mongols and Vigilantes in Inner Mongolia’s Interregnum Decades, 1911–1931, 2 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002); and Uradyn E. Bulag, Collaborative Nationalism: The Politics of Friendship on China’s Mongolian Frontier (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); and Sneath, Changing Inner Mongolia.

(62.) Described in detail by Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, vol. 2, The Calm before the Storm, 1951–1955 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

(63.) The immediate prehistory of these dramatic events is described by Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, vol. 3, The Storm Clouds Descend, 1955–1957 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014).

(64.) See Sam Van Schaik, Tibet: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011); and John Powers, History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People’s Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

(65.) Mette Halskov Hansen, “The Challenge of Sipsong Panna in the Southwest: Development, Resources, and Power in a Multiethnic China,” in Governing China’s Multiethnic Frontiers, ed. Morris Rossabi (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004), 53–83.

(66.) For a detailed discussion for the 21st century, see James Leibold and Chen Yangbin, eds., Minority Education in China: Balancing Unity and Diversity in the Era of Critical Pluralism (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014).

(67.) New Qing scholarship started in the 1990s, when American authors conceived the Manchu Qing history as fundamentally different from earlier dynastic histories in China. They argue that Qing emperors saw China as only one part of their multiethnic empire. See James A. Millward, Ruth W. Dunnell, Mark C. Elliott, and Philippe Forêt, eds., New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde (London: Routledge, 2004).

(68.) See Bulag, Collaborative Nationalism.

(69.) This imbalance is overcome to a certain degree by a group of Chinese authors in their historiographic work concerning the development of ethnology in China. See Wang Jianmin, Zhang Haiyang, and Hu Hongbao, eds., Zhongguo minzu xueshi, 2 vols. (Kunming: Yunnan Education Publishing House, 1998).

(70.) Dreyer, China’s Forty Millions.

(71.) Colin Mackerras, China’s Minority Cultures: Identities and Integration since 1912 (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995)

(72.) Chinese Communist Party Committee, Zhonggong Zhongyang Wenjian Xuanji (Beijing: Zhonggong Zhongyang Dangxiao Chubanshe, 1989); and Xinshiqi Minzu Gongzuo Wensian Xuanbian (Beijing: Zhongyang Wenxian Chubanshe, 1990).