Surviving State and Society in Northwest China: The Hui Experience in Qinghai Province under the PRC

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Journal Article
Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 2008, 28 (3), pp. 401 - 420
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State and society have been ambiguous entities in parts of Northwest China for centuries. A border region in multiple cultural and political senses, historical social formations there have been complex but disaggregated, political links associative rather than direct. Before the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949, no modern state had successfully integrated the region politically or culturally into its national territory. One of the principal groups in the region's demographic mix, the Hui participated in most aspects of Chinese social culture but were distinguished by their practice of Islam and their role as economic facilitators. A Hui warlord regime, paradoxically facilitated by the violently destructive Muslim Rebellions of the nineteenth century, confronted the Communist forces in Qinghai in 1949. New China's state programs challenged the accustomed frontier-zone fluidity and diversity for the province's multi-ethnic populations, whose particular cultural values, practices and traditions served to benefit or disadvantage them in the changing local environment. This paper examines how this historical legacy of conflict, cultural persistence and adaptation contributes to Hui survival strategies, and increasing success, in the contemporary Chinese state, in an era of greater state and societal integration than at any time in the past.
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