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Five Races, One Parliament? Xinhai in Xinjiang and the Problem of Minority Representation in the Chinese Republic

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While the early Chinese parliament has been criticised as an ineffective shield against warlord machinations, this article brackets the question of its institutional efficiency and instead treats the National Assembly in terms of the visions of China that were expressed in the process of its construction. Debates on electoral divisions and rules for non- Han regions allow insight into the competing principles by which such territories might be incorporated into the new Chinese nation, and show that the ‘Five Races’ vision of China provided a meaningful vocabulary for non- Han elites to press for a greater say in the nation’s institutions. Although the electoral system preserved the principle of aristocratic privilege in the case of the Mongols and Tibetans, such concessions to ethnic difference could not be applied in Xinjiang, which had had provincial status since the 1880s. To some Muslims, this betrayed the Republic’s promise of equality among the ‘Five Races’, prompting calls for dedicated Muslim representation in the parliament.

Affiliations: 1: Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University


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