WRESTLING WITH THE CENTRAL STATE: COMPARATIVE ETHNIC REGIONAL AUTONOMY IN CHINA AND RUSSIA
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This dissertation compares ethnically-based identity politics in two constitutionally-defined multi-ethnic states, China and Russia, by focusing upon one type of prescriptive institution, territorially-based formal autonomy designated at the sub-national levels for ethnic minorities. Intriguingly, some of these ethno-regions have been more capable of actually exercising the formally promulgated autonomy than others. What can explain the variations across different ethno-regions in terms of implemented autonomy outcome? This dissertation develops an analytical framework that consists of a response variable, an ethno-region’s implemented autonomy outcome, an explanatory variable, an ethno-region’s inter-ethnic boundary-makings, an intervening variable, titular elites’ bargaining capacity, and two condition variables, formal arrangements of center-periphery relations and party-state relations. An ethno-region’s implemented autonomy outcome is assessed in terms of compliance with the corresponding autonomy-establishing legal document(s) on three dimensions, political participation, economic development, and cultural promotion among the ethno-region’s titular ethnic population. Based upon fieldworks that combined elite interviews, participant observations, and oral history, a controlled comparison is conducted of two ethno-regions with strikingly contrasted autonomy outcomes for the first six years of the 2010s, the more autonomous Republic of Tatarstan in Russia and the less autonomous Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, by tracing the process of how three dimensions of inter-ethnic boundary-making processes, acculturation, social integration, and psychological identification, mold three dimensions of titular elites’ capacity, elite-level inter-ethnic relations, central state’s perception of the titular population, and intra-ethnic cleavage structure, which jointly shape a fourth dimension, titular elites’ representation in the ethno-regional state’s most powerful positions. Four additional ethno-regions, Tibet and Inner Mongolia of China, Bashkortostan and Yakutia of Russia, are used as shadow cases. It is argued that greater inter-ethnic integration, when combined with robust consciousness of inter-ethnic distinction, is conducive to building the capacity both for elites of the titular ethnic category to bargain with the central state and for intra-ethnic cohesion, which in turn can lead to greater autonomy outcome for the ethno-region. In such processes, the key to socio-economic development in ethnically heterogeneous societies is to strike the balance between the mutually competing but not necessarily irreconcilable tendencies towards inter-ethnic differentiation and inter-ethnic integration.