East Asia

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 317–346 | Cite as

China’s National Identity and the Root Causes of China’s Ethnic Tensions

  • John IrgengioroEmail author


This paper seeks to examine the People’s Republic of China’s (China) self-defined national identity and the consequences on China’s ethnic relations with its ethnic minorities. This paper argues that China’s identity is equated with the identity and culture of its ethnic Han Chinese majority—a narrative originally constructed by the Chinese state which its ethnic Han Chinese majority since indulges in. However, this hegemonic narrative is at the root of interethnic issues and tensions in China today, as further ethnic tensions stem from the resistance of ethnic minorities against Sinicization and the imposition of this “Chinese” identity against them. These phenomena thus both indicate what I term a weak “internal soft power appeal” of Han Chinese Confucian culture for ethnic minorities living in the PRC, and imply that China must adopt a different, more inclusive national identity if it were to maintain ethnic stability in the long term.


Chinese identity China Minzu policy Minzu Ethnicity Ethnic tensions Han Chinese Confucian culture Sinicization Uyghur Mongolian Kazakh Tibetan Xinjiang Central Asia Inner Asia Ethnic policy Assimilation Soft power 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MA Political ScienceBrock UniversityTorontoCanada

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