Structuring Local Identity: Nation, Province and County in Shanxi During the 1990

Cambridge University Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The China Quarterly, 2002, 172 (1), pp. 837 - 862
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One of the more interesting aspects of politics in the People's Republic of China during the 1990s was the attempt by many provincial leaders to create a specifically provincial discourse of development that entailed the reformulation of provincial identity. Both inside and outside the People's Republic of China, provincialism has often been held to challenge the unity of the Chinese state. However, an examination of the provincial discourse of development in Shanxi during the 1990s suggests that provincial and indeed more local identity politics are more complex and finely nuanced than might at first seem to be the case. Shanxi's new provincial identity was neither exclusive nor opposed to other identities, but one of a series of multiple and overlapping identities, structured within a hierarchy of place and identity that reached down to and interacted with the more local levels of county and village, as well as up to the national level. At the same time it is clear that the appeal to localism has started to influence the ways in which provincial leaders participate in national politics. Moreover, there is some indication that the emphasis on localism may have resulted in the county and the town or city becoming more significant locales for identity formation than the province, though the consequences of this for provincial and local politics remain unclear
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