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Creating the Zhuang: Ethnic Politics in China

Katherine Palmer Kaup
Creating the Zhuang: Ethnic Politics in China
ISBN: 978-1-55587-886-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-322-8
2000/226 pages/LC: 99-051386

"Inasmuch as policies on nationalities have been the Achilles' heel of the various Chinese communist experiments, it is surprising that it took so long for scholars ... to examine the mainland's largest ethnic minority, the Zhuang. Kaup's fine little book goes a long way to filling the void.... There have always been Zhuang, but before the 1950s they never loomed large on China's ethnographic landscape. How this was changed is interesting enough. How it all worked out ... is simply fascinating."—Choice

"In a polished, sophisticated analysis of a topic on which little has been known, [Kaup] shows that the Zhuang are a nationality created by CCP policy."—June Teufel Dreyer


Managing ethnic nationalism within the People's Republic of China has become increasingly challenging. As new reforms widen economic disparities between minorities and the Han majority, even the most assimilated of minorities, the Zhuang, have begun to demand special treatment from the central government.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officially recognized the sixteen million Zhuang as China's largest minority nationality in the early 1950s, granting them regional autonomy. Prior to this, however, the Zhuang did not share a common ethnic identity. Katherine Palmer Kaup explores why the CCP in effect created the Zhuang nationality. Why did it launch a massive propaganda campaign to increase nationality consciousness? How is the party now responding to the Zhuang's assertive political demands?

This pioneering study unveils the unique culture of the Zhuang people, showing at the same time the CCP's skillful balancing of ethnic and regional loyalties over the past 50 years to integrate the diversity of China's ethnic mosaic.


Katherine Palmer Kaup is James B. Duke Professor of Asian studies and politics and international affairs at Furman University.


  • Introduction: Ethnic Nationalism Ascendant.
  • The Zhuang Setting: Guangxi and Yunnan on the Eve of the Communist Revolution.
  • Early CCP Minority Policy: The Decision to Recognize the Zhuang.
  • Politics: The Consolidation of Central Control.
  • The Expansion of Regional Autonomy and the Growth of Zhuang Activism.
  • Culture: The Creation and Promotion of the Zhuang Cultural Heritage.
  • Economics: Development and Disparity.
  • The Rise (and Fall?) of Zhuang Ethnic Nationalism.
  • Appendix: The Law of Regional Autonomy.