Introduction: Recasting Minority Politics in China

  • Siu-Keung Cheung
  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
  • Lida V. Nedilsky


Managing diversity is a modern enterprise. When a highly centralized state seeks to consolidate its rule it needs to mandate uniformity on some of its vast and diverse population, and to permit variety and difference on others. These needs for uniformity and variety are in tension with each other, and the state must strike a balance between them. The situation in China for the past few hundred years is no exception. The Chinese state has responded to a wide range of political, social, and economic pressures by constantly redefining the terms of citizenship. For example, demographic pressures of the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries forced imperial authorities to maintain unity and stability by labeling as social outcasts some highly mobile communities such as salt merchants, the Hakka, fishing communities, bandits, and pirates. As the Communist state came to power in 1949, it instituted a rigid system of control based on the Marxist ideology of “class” in order to manipulate the direction of social and geographic mobility. This powerful system of control contributed to nation- and state-building throughout the Maoist era (1949–1976). But faced with the challenges of industrialization and globalization in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Chinese Communist state encountered new pressures for change, namely eroding mechanisms of state control, rising inequality, corruption, ethnic tensions, and emerging popular discontent in post-1997 Hong Kong.


Life Chance Household Registration Chinese State Marginal Group Religious Minority 
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© Siu-Keung Cheung, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, and Lida V. Nedilsky 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siu-Keung Cheung
  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
  • Lida V. Nedilsky

There are no affiliations available

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