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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Cultural Genocide, Global Discourses of Terrorism and China’s Bid to Remake the World Order
3: The Great Revival of the “Chinese Race” in an Age of Postcolonial Anxiety
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Following the 19th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping declared that China will preserve sovereignty as the underlying principle of international relations but remains “dissatisfied” with a system built by European colonialism. China, as a “new type of superpower,” will forge new norms of “mutual respect, fairness, and justice” by using Eastern traditions of consent to organise domestic politics and world order. Its foreign policy aims to remake world order to counter a Western “age of anxiety” (Eklundh et al, 2017) characterised by terrorism, financial crises, and declining incomes, and lead the world into a “new age of socialism with Chinese characteristics” (Xi, 2018). These bold pronouncements emerge alongside security measures to deal with domestic identity anxieties and promote racial “fusion” (jiaorong 交融) policies to counter “extremism” such as mass extra-legal internment camps to eliminate and transform Uyghur identities in Xinjiang. Xi’s emphasis on global “justice” reflects historical anxieties about both Western colonial desires to convert China and ethnic minority desires for recognition. This paper analyses official narratives on the Great Revival (weida fuxing 伟大复兴) and current policy developments in Xinjiang to ask how are the CCP’s approaches to world order and ethnic relations interlinked in its “anti-hegemonic” cultural politics? It argues that the CCP’s anti-colonial narrative of a “window of opportunity” to transform world order and its “mission” to unify the “Chinese race” are mutually constitutive goals in the Great Revival narrative of China’s inevitable trajectory towards global and domestic power.