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Modern China Lecture Series featuring Benno Weiner – This Absolutely is not a Hui Rebellion! The Ethnopolitics of Great Nationality Chauvinism in Early-Maoist China

November 17, 2022 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

Speaker: Benno Weiner, Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

Through much of the 1950s, the Chinese Communist Party considered disunity between ethnocultural groups (minzu)primarilyto be a product of “great nationality chauvinism,” which refered to exploitation committed in the past by the Han majority against “minority nationalities.” In parts of China’s Northwest, however, the Party identified Hui Muslim elites, not Han, to be the main agents of nationality exploitation and Tibetans to be their principal targets. It therefore declared Tibetans of all classes to be a priori victims of nationality exploitation. By contrast,because Hui were considered to be both victims and traffickers of nationality exploitation, the regional leadership ordered “good” Muslims be distinguished from “bad.” While echoing Qing and even Republican-era practices of labeling Muslim communities and responding to rebellion, I argue that its 1950s permeation must be understood within the CCP’s own practices of minoritization and frameworks for conceptualizing the new socialist nation-state. All of which was made more urgent by a string of uprisings that between late-1949 and mid-1953 engulfed several Muslim-majority areas along the Qinghai-Gansu Highlands and spilled into the Tibetan and Mongol-dominated grasslands to their south.

Dr. Weiner is a historian of Modern China, Tibet and Inner Asia. His research revolves around China’s contested and possibly incomplete transition from empire to nation-state and in particular the processes and problematics of twentieth-century state and nation building within China’s ethnic minority regions. Before joining CMU, he taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Dr. Weiner’s first book, The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier (Cornell UP, 2020), is among the first major studies of a “nationality minority region” during the formative years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the first to examine early efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to integrate the vast region known to Tibetans as Amdo into the PRC. Applying the theoretical lens of imperial transition to the methodology of local history, it argues that in 1950s Amdo Party leaders implicitly understood both the administrative and epistemological obstacles to transforming a vast multiethnic empire into a unitary, socialist nation-state. For much of the decade the CCP therefore employed a “subimperial” strategy, referred to as the United Front, as a means to “gradually,” “voluntarily,” and “organically” bridge this gap between empire and nation. However, the United Front ultimately lost out to a revolutionary impatience that demanded immediate national integration and socialist transformation. This led in 1958 to communization, “democratic reforms,” and large-scale rebellion. Despite successfully identifying the tensions between empire and nation, and attempting to creatively resolve them, empire was eliminated before the process of de-imperialization and nationalization was completed. Like so many of the world’s most intractable conflicts, he therefore contends that at the root of the Sino-Tibetan conflict lies the unresolved legacy of empire.

Read the Transcript Here: Read Transcript

YouTube recording of “Modern China Lecture Series featuring Benno Weiner – This Absolutely is not a Hui Rebellion! The Ethnopolitics of Great Nationality Chauvinism in Early-Maoist China”


November 17, 2022
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


CGIS South Room S354

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States

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