Territorialising Chinese Inner Asia: The Neo-Developmentalist State and Minority Unrest

  • Sören Köpke (Author)


Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s claim to inter-ethnic harmony, the human rights situation of some of the PRC’s 55 official minorities is problematic. The article discusses minority unrest in relation to the ongoing transformation of the country’s Inner Asian frontier regions. Taking the three autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as case studies, it examines the long-running but recently accelerated processes of modernisation and ethno-political conflict. It argues that minority policy is driven by nationalist / neo-developmentalist motives aimed at both the expansion and intensification of Chinese power, and that this process can be termed state-led territorialisation. Programmes such as the Great Western Development and the Belt and Road Initiative are viewed through the lens of neo-developmentalist territorialisation, which is aimed at entrenching the Communist Party’s control of China’s frontier regions. This perspective provides explanations for conflict that cover several dimensions, from political, economic and cultural causes to ethno-political strife.


Neo-developmentalism, minorities, ethnic conflict, territorialisation, China, Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia