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Previous scholarship has identified an emerging consensus for ethnic policy reform in China, in the direction of strengthening national integration and a ‘melting pot.’ This article identifies three major contending schools in Chinese debates about the country’s ethnic governance: liberal autonomists, integrationists and socialist autonomists. It argues that the socialist autonomists, who oppose the ‘melting pot,’ have prevailed politically. Contention among the three schools, specifically, revolves around tradeoffs between autonomy and ethnic particularism. That is, compromised autonomy but preferential policies. The liberal autonomists reject the tradeoffs because of the cost to autonomy. The integrationists reject the tradeoffs because of the divisive role of ethnic particularism. The socialist autonomists, however, embrace the tradeoffs because of the developmental and distributional benefits. With the leftward turn of the Xi Jinping regime, they have prevailed ideologically and politically to safeguard the current system from any fundamental change.


“This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Contemporary China on 2019, available at: .”



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