The China Quarterly

Research Article

Regionalism versus Ethnicnationalism in the People's Republic of China

Katherine Palmer  Kaup 


Although a number of scholars have examined differences among members of a single nationality in different localities within the People's Republic of China, none emphasizes the impact which formal territorial administrative divisions have on ethnic identity and consequently on state–ethnic interaction. China's largest minority nationality, the Zhuang, is divided by the Guangxi–Yunnan provincial boundary. The Zhuang on either side of the boundary have been governed by different provincial institutions. This territorial division has encouraged both a pronounced difference in ethnic identity and in official discourse on the Zhuang, and has encouraged regionalist sentiment over pan-Zhuang ethnicnationalism. This essay explores the origin and consequence of two major differences between Zhuang self-expression on either side of the provincial boundary and concludes that the central government has played regional and ethnic politics in Zhuang areas off against one another in a manner that limits both, while purportedly promoting each.