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Comparing China's frontier politics: how much difference did a century make?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Chien-peng Chung*
Department of Political Science, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. Email:


In response to foreign demands for concessions and territories, China's last imperial court in the early twentieth century executed reforms to strengthen fiscal, personnel, military, and cultural control over its frontier regions. However, in so doing, it provoked an awakening of the national consciousness of the elites of non-Han ethnic minorities there. Much has changed over the past 100 years regarding the governance of China's frontier territories of Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang, with the diffusion of nationalist claims among increasing numbers of the ethnic minority populace, heightened focus of foreign actors on the humanitarian and rights situations of the ethnic minorities, and greatly extended reach and firmer grip of the central government. What remained unaltered is the “state integration” purpose of Chinese regimes, as manifested in the practices of “internal colonialism” or “ethnic assimilation,” which has led to grievances and resistance by China's ethnic minorities against the Chinese state.

Copyright © 2017 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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