“Big Family of Fifty-Six Nationalities:” The Chinese Communist Conceptualization of Minzu (1921–1951)
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) nationality ideology after 1949 inherited the Chinese nationalist ideology that had been present since the late nineteenth century yet departed from the assimilationist policy of the Nationalist as well as Soviet ideology and the policy of the socialist federation. “Nationalities” within the unified Chinese nation are of a lower rank than the “Chinese nation” yet higher than a tribe. Marxism and Leninism, the theoretical foundation of the CCP, had many ambiguous dimensions in treating the national issue, and the CCP’s national discourse was influenced by both Marxist ideology, its own revolutionary practices, and need for a strong and integrated nation-state. This chapter centers on the CCP and socialist China’s construction of “nationality” ideology in its own historical logic, highlighting its distinctiveness and creativity compared with the Soviet model but also reveals many contradictions and contemporary disputes in its implementation.