This dissertation examines the transformation of China's Yunnan borderlands with mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia, especially during the late 19th and the 20th century, in terms of political, social, economic and cultural changes. It moves beyond the traditional paradigm…
This dissertation examines the transformation of China's Yunnan borderlands with mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia, especially during the late 19th and the 20th century, in terms of political, social, economic and cultural changes. It moves beyond the traditional paradigm that stresses the diversity and difference of mainland Southeast Asian polities, and instead, emphasizes the similarities they shared in long-term interactions based on common religions, economic patterns, wars, intra-regional migration, and trade before the area was divided into sub-regions influenced by traditional and new imperial powers. This unique perspective provides a new approach to understanding the deep-rooted social and economic dilemmas and inequities caused by the competition of big powers in the region. Based on a careful examination of China's model, this dissertation calls the scholars' attention to how the indigenous societies evolved in response to different alternatives for modernization provided or enforced by colonial and regional powers.
This dissertation addresses a phenomenon that occurred in China's nation building process in which a complicated local history of Yunnan that had a rich historical legacy of contributions from both Chinese migrants and indigenous ethnic minorities was replaced with one that focused only the ethnic minorities in the region, as well as their participation in a reconstructed national history. This simplified and ethicized history supports a multi-ethnic Chinese national identity that avoids the historical, political, social and cultural context of the independence of the indigenous societies, and instead, stresses their submission to Chinese authority and the unification of China.
This study also emphasizes the process through which the boundaries between China and other countries in the region are shifting to focus on issues of homeland security and geopolitical interest. Also frequent economic and cultural exchanges from all sides have diluted the previous ideological confrontations in the current era of China-centric globalization.