China, Ethnicity, Han, Nationalism


Beginning in the 1980s, a trend of traditional studies known as “guo xue,” (国学) meaning national studies, proliferated in the wake of socioeconomic changes in China. In particular, it encompassed the revival of Confucianism, giving rise to related activity such as the establishment of “national studies institutes” (国学院) and “Han study centers”. Yet despite its popularity, the legitimacy of “national studies” came under the critical scrutiny of historians who argue that that contemporary “national studies” have either consciously or subconsciously co-opted Han traditions and practices over other ethnic cultures that made up the social fabric of past and present China, thus reinforcing the idea of “Chinese-ness” as a Han-centric and exclusionary one. This article contextualizes the discursive terrain in which Han-centricity in national studies has been conceptualized and incubated, and seeks to add nuance to the conventional wisdom, official narratives and assumptions that have guided popular discourse on present-day Chinese nationalism, ethnic policies and challenges.