Copenhagen ADI Conference 2017
9th annual international ADI conference
Asian Dynamics Initiative
University of Copenhagen 26-28 June 2017 

China’s Borderlands in the Making of the Nation

Conveners: Ildikó Bellér-Hann and Edyta Roszko, Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

This panel explores the significance of China’s inland and maritime borderlands and their inhabitants both in the past and in the contemporary setting. In the course of history these regions have simultaneously constituted real and conceptual spaces on the margins of imperial, later republican and socialist China. Today the PRC defines itself as a multi-ethnic state which grants recognition to fifty-five ethnic minorities but beyond these the borderlands also comprise many other subaltern groups that do not fit easily into the overarching Han category. Whether they are Uyghurs, Mongols, Tibetans or the little known Utsat or Dan-jia, many of these groups live in sparsely populated, inhospitable terrain or in maritime peripheries, and their numbers remain demographically insignificant when compared to those of the Han majority. Nevertheless their significance for China has been considerable, not only because they contribute to the centre’s and the majority population’s self-definition, but also because they serve as a corrective to China’s image as a largely homogenous entity. Situated along China’s international borders, the borderlands are often rich in natural resources and offer opportunities for crossborder trade and illegal activities, all of which impact on their relationship to the centre of power. The panel explores how the border regions are defined and (re)configured by the complex negotiations between central policies and local reactions to them, by historical legacies of conflict and cooperation among various ethnic and other interest groups as well as by new constellations emerging from internal and transnational mobility and global events.