Unity and Diversity in Tension: China’s National Ideology and Ethnic Theory Reflected in The Social Policies of Yunnan

  • Lindsey Christine Cook

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Ethnic policy In China is currently undergoing a shift towards assimilation, with a growing emphasis being placed on shared commonalities among the 56 minzu groups forming the ‘Chinese nation’. This project examines policies from Yunnan province which intersect with the lives of ethnic minorities. It analyses how these policies reflect Xi Jinping’s ideology and call for ethnic unity under the banner of the ‘community of the Chinese nation’.

A dataset of 102 policy documents published between 2014-2022 were extracted from the governmental websites of six prefectures in Yunnan using a keyword search. These documents were then coded and developed into themes. The themes were explored using an adapted three tier model of ethnic identity construction, which correlates to techniques of governmentality. A trend of soft assimilation which includes efforts at engineering a ‘Chinese’ consciousness through the construction of ethnic unity demonstration zones, and ideological indoctrination and which encourages the fusion of cultures was identified. This soft assimilation preserves local characteristics as economic resources for development and encourages identification with a broader ‘Chinese national’ identity, history and culture.

While Yunnan still embraces its unique position as the home of diverse ethnic cultures, the combination of practical developmental policies and ideological campaigning are shaping the conceptualisation of ethnic relations and identities as China moves forward in its ‘New Era’.
Date of AwardMar 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAnton Popov (Supervisor), Ebru Soytemel (Supervisor) & Hermann Aubié (Supervisor)


  • Yunnan
  • Ethnic Minorities
  • Policy
  • Inter-ethnic Unity

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