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

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Nationalities Papers

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page





ethnic nationalism, Inner Mongolia, state integration, Tibet, Xinjiang


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.



Print ISSN




Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2017 Association for the Study of Nationalities. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Additional Information

The Dalai Lama was awarded honorary citizenship by the government of Canada in 2006. In 2007, he met with then Australian Prime Minister John Howard and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and received the Congressional Gold Medal from then US President George W. Bush in a public ceremony at the Capitol. In 2010 and 2011, and again in 2014 and 2015, he met with former US President Barack Obama. All these visits and activities, and the Dalai Lama’s refugee status in India, were denounced by Chinese officials in Beijing and the TAR, which, in their understanding of Xinzheng precedents, reflect external encouragement to an exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to “split” China. China has alleged that the Dalai Lama’s Tibet Foundation has been a beneficiary of the US Agency for International Development, which dispenses funding to third-world nongovernmental organizations favored by the US government, to the amount of $23 million in 2007 (Ma 2008). Whatever his intentions, the Dalai Lama clearly understands he only has limited use of foreign attention and influence for his cause, since foreign actors always have their own interest calculations, hence his desire to maintain a dialogue with the Chinese authorities through his emissaries.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version



Recommended Citation

Chung, C.-p. (2018). Comparing China’s frontier politics: How much difference did a century make? Nationalities Papers, 46(1), 158-176. doi: 10.1080/00905992.2017.1350151