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This course explores and analyzes the process of nation-building — not from the center of governmental power as is usually the case but from the edges — using the case of “China” as an example. It will examine this process by tracing the ways in which different boundaries were demarcated and negotiated — and re-negotiated — and their impact on people’s lives and identities. The course will pay special attention to three regions that lie on the margins, both literally and metaphorically, of the People’s Republic of China: 1) Hong Kong (a Special Administrative Region of the PRC) before and after its re-incorporation into China in 1997; 2) the territory of Taiwan that China claims to be one of its provinces but has been for years a de facto independent entity; and 3) Xinjiang (an Autonomous Region of the PRC) that is home to many of the country’s Muslim population. In addition, we will also explore the category of so-called “overseas Chinese” and Beijing’s evolving policies towards this particular “marginal constituency” as migratory patterns changed.

There has been considerable tension between each of these regions and the Beijing government over the last decades. From the perspective of Beijing, control of these regions is vital to the unity and integrity of the Chinese nation, and any questioning of their place within the People’s Republic will not be tolerated. To many people outside of China, however, these regions’ complex and contentious relationships require analysis and explanation. In brief, the overall objective of this course is to provide students with not only a better understanding of some of the difficult and potentially explosive issues facing China today, but also an opportunity to explore in some depth the problems and challenges inherent in the making of a “nation” that still haunt many countries around the world today.