Identity and Resistance in China's Border Regions and Beijing's Foreign Policy

Syndicate A
Time Slot: 
Tuesday 15th April 11:00 - 12:30
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Tsering Topgyal (University of Birmingham)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Malte Kaeding (University of Surrey)

Identity-based resistance in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, all ‘autonomous regions’ in the People’s Republic of China, are receiving greater interest as policy challenges for Beijing, especially after the repeated outbreak of anti-Chinese protests, self-immolations and ethnic violence since 2008. Sensing the seriousness of the threat to the Chinese state, several Chinese academics, including influential establishment-scholars,  ‘liberal’ intellectuals and some nationality (minzu) affairs officials, have proposed the wholesale abandonment of China’s nationality policies. These policies, including official ethnic categorization and status, a nominal degree of autonomy and affirmative action, have been the linchpin of Beijing’s strategy since 1949 to integrate these frontier regions into the Chinese state and to foster ‘Chineseness’ among the inhabitants. These policies have been blamed for the growing nationality consciousness in these regions and the consequent security problems with foreign policy dimensions. Yet the literature specialising on these regions makes little effort to map out the precise ways in which Beijing’s conflicts with ethnic minorities relate to China’s foreign and security policies. This panel raises the following questions: Do these conflicts make any difference to Chinese security and foreign policies at all? How are these conflicts reflected in the words and activities of the foreign policy bureaucracy and security apparatus? How do they manifest in specific bilateral and multilateral contexts? Have they changed over-time or remained constant across the changing local, domestic and international political contexts? 

The panel will consist of four papers: Michael Clarke (Griffith University) will focus on Xinjiang (Xinjiang and China’s ‘Rise’: The Interaction of State-building, Ethnic Conflict and Foreign Policy in China’s ‘Wild West’), Tsering Topgyal (University of Birmingham) on Tibet (“Discursive Denial” as Foreign Policy: Beijing’s international approach to the Tibet issue), Enze Han (SOAS) offers a comparative discussion of the ways in which different ethnic issues impact Chinese foreign policy ('The Complex Ethnic Dimension in Chinese Foreign Policy). The fourth paper by Malte Kaeding (University of Surrey)will examine how identity issues also affect Beijing's relationship with Hong Kong ('Resisting China: Social Movement Activists as Radicals').