The official China Dream of the Great revival tells a story of China reversing “humiliation” by Western powers and returning to its premodern, rightful place at the center of world affairs. However, since ethnically targeted violence in Ürümqi in 2009, leading thinkers and policy makers ask how they can avoid a “nightmare” of frontier insecurity derailing dreams of international power. This article uses a postcolonial approach to critically analyze tensions between ethnic inclusion and exclusion in visual and textual narratives from a Xinjiang regional exhibition that celebrated the PRC’s sixtieth anniversary. It asks who is included and excluded in these visions of China’s rise? How does China domestically refract insecurity from experiences of a colonial world order that constructs it as inferior? The event tells a story of the history and future of a powerful rising state but expresses deep insecurities that domestic cultural difference is an obstacle to China’s global power.
Minor Events and Grand Dreams: Ethnic Outsiders in China’s Postcolonial World Order
David Tobin is Hallsworth research fellow in the political economy of China at the University of Manchester. He is currently researching how postcolonial relations shape foreign policy making and ethnic politics in contemporary China. His forthcoming book Securing China’s Northwestern Frontier: Identity and Insecurity in Xinjiang analyzes how the relationship between identity and security in Chinese policy making shapes ethnic relations between Han and Uighurs in Xinjiang.
David Tobin; Minor Events and Grand Dreams: Ethnic Outsiders in China’s Postcolonial World Order. positions 1 November 2019; 27 (4): 739–771. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7726968
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