On the cusp of leaving Chengdu for Tibet, I run across a paragraph to an old version of an article of mine coming out soon in Korean Studies:
China’s vast borderlands assume a twin function: they act as barriers against foreign threats and as apertures for outside influence. The distinct ethnic and linguistic groups who inhabit these regions, known as minorities or shaoshuminzu in Beijing’s parlance, inspire a similarly dualistic dynamic. Borderland minorities stand at the point of conflict between centralizing and assimilationist tendencies from Beijing and local tendencies that defy the center, inviting the influx of cross-border influences. The emergence of the term “transnational” has assisted scholars in the conceptualization of such ethnic groups. However, such open-ended categories were rarely countenanced by the modern Chinese nation-state: One could embrace Chinese nationality, or be renounced as an alien or worse, as a splittist or hanjian.