SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar tackles the politics of national identity in China in latest book

19 September 2013
Enze Han latest book pic

Dr Enze Han, a lecturer in the International Security of East Asia, provides a new theoretical framework to explain national identity among minority and ethnic majority groups in China.

Contestation and Adaptation unravels the complexities of national-identity, focusing on the interactions between domestic and international forces that inform ethnic groups' national-identity contestation.

Dr Han examines how five major ethnic minority groups in China negotiate their national identities with the Chinese nation-state: Uyghurs, Chinese Koreans, Dai, Mongols, and Tibetans. The scholar points out, of the fifty-five ethnic minority groups in China, only the Tibetans and Uyghurs have forcefully contested the idea of a Chinese national identity.

He argues that whether ethnic groups contest those national identities depends on whether they perceive a better, achievable alternative. In particular, Dr Han says that ethnic groups with extensive external kinship networks are most likely to perceive a capacity to achieve better circumstances and are, therefore, more likely to politically mobilize to contest national identity.

Dr Han commented: “Simmering grievances and occasional outbursts of social unrest among ethnic minority populations in China challenge not only the ruling party's legitimacy and governance, but also contemporary Chinese national identity and the territorial integrity of the Chinese state. However, contesting Chinese national identity is not uniform across various ethnic groups in China, and in this book I examines the variations and reasons of why some ethnic groups contest the Chinese national identity while many others do not.”

Thomas J. Christensen, William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War and Director of the China and the World Program, Princeton University said: "Professor Han provides a subtle and learned analysis of ethnic political mobilization and internal conflict in contemporary China. His innovative theoretical approach-combining international and domestic factors-explains why rebellion against Beijing's rule has largely been limited to two of China's many ethnic minorities. This important book will be of great interest to students of comparative politics, international relations, and Asian studies."

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