'Continuity, Adaptation, and Challenge': The Chinese Communist ideology and policy on minzu (1922-2013)
Marxism and Leninism, the theoretical foundation of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), had many ambiguous dimensions in treating the national issue, and the CCP’s national discourse was influenced by Marxist ideology, Confucian tradition of Great Unity, its own revolutionary practices, and the realpolitik concerns over resources and security as the leader of the State after 1949. Its ideology shifted in several stages. Firstly, a liberal-revolutionary national discourse which called for self-determination of all nationalities (minzu) within the Chinese territory, who made up six percent of the Chinese population based on the 1954 census. Secondly, the Long March of 1934-1935 fully exposed the CCP to the non-Han minorities in southwest and northwest Chinese borderlands, and the Party had both tensions and accommodations with local tribes. After arriving at Yan’an, the CCP had more experiences in engaging the Chinese Muslims and started empirical studies. In the third place, after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the CCP put more emphasis on the unity of the “Chinese nation” (zhonghua minzu) which was invented in the early twentieth century and implied presumably a homogeneous Chinese nation in the common resistance of the Japanese. Finally, after 1949, the CCP explicitly terminated any previous call for national self-determination, emphasizing instead the PRC’s nature as a ‘unified multi-nation State’ (tongyi de duo minzu guojia ), and the CCP distinguished itself from the Soviet Union by disavowing the Soviet-style federalism. The CCP in the early 1950s also defined the term minzu (Chinese generic word for nation, nationality, and ethnic group) as historical formations and cultural entities regardless of its presumed relationship with the rise of modern capitalism, and it rejected the labeling of buzu (clan) or buluo (tribe) to achieve internal equality. This semantic practice distanced socialist China from the Western definition of ethnicity and nation, but the Chinese Communist concept minzu, regardless of its uniqueness compared with the Soviet and Chinese Nationalist ideologies, also had some intrinsic weaknesses, one of which was paternalist ‘neo-traditionalism’ which reinforced minority nationalities’ dependency on Han nationality.
Studi di Storia
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Guo Wu, "'Continuity, Adaptation, and Challenge': The Chinese Communist ideology and policy on minzu (1922-2013)" in: "Words of Power, the Power of Words. The Twentieth-Century Communist Discourse in International Perspective", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2019, pp. 359-379
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