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Establishing a Tujia Autonomous Prefecture in Western Hunan: A Chinese Response to the “National Question” (湘西土家族苗族自治州成立“考”)

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image of Rural China

This article explores the history of the establishment of a Tujia-Hmong Autonomous Prefecture, an ethnic autonomous administrative division in Hunan province. The article highlights some significant characteristics of the Chinese institution of ethnic regional autonomy, which fundamentally departs from both the Austrian Marxist and liberal-nationalist prescriptions for solving the so-called national question. It argues that the Chinese design is neither a leftist “ethnic cultural autonomy” nor a rightist “devolved government.” It appreciates the cultural psychology of ethnic groups, but also addresses issues beyond cultural affairs. The institution has administrative boundaries like any devolved government, but the ethnic group that forms the majority of the region’s population cannot monopolize the local government. Local government cannot become a “nationalized” apparatus dominated by cadres and intellectuals of a particular ethnic minority. The Xiang Xi Tujia-Hmong Autonomous Prefecture is a legal arrangement that balances the interests of all the resident groups, thus providing the possibility of a true “people’s government.” The Tujia case does not represent a universal solution inasmuch as the characteristics of China’s ethnic autonomous regions vary. However, it may still enrich our understanding of the history.This article is in English.本文研究了成立湘西土家族苗族自治州的历史过程,在与奥地利马克思主义和自由民族主义等学说的比较中,揭示了中国民族区域自治制度的一些特征。中国的民族区域自治并非“民族文化自治”或者“高度自治地方政府”:它照顾少数民族的文化心理意识,但并不是处理民族文化事务的专门机构;它划分出拥有一定自治权力的地方行政区域,但不能依照简单的少数服从多数原则由当地占有人口优势的某一个民族垄断自治权力,不能形成由民族干部、知识分子控制的所谓“民族化”政权机关。只有认识到中国民族区域自治制度的独特性,才能正确推动它继续发展。


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