South-West China and South-East Asia

Cross-border religious and ethnic development between South-West China and South-East Asia

Collaboration with Minzu University in Beijing (Professor Wu Da)

In 2013 a Program was started to study the new possibilities for trans-border networking of religious and ethnic minorities as a result of the political, economic, and infrastructural expansion of China into the regions of South-East Asia that share borders with China. The national borders in the area are of relatively recent origin as part of the nation-state formation of China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. On all sides of the borders one finds a host of nationalities or minorities that are not part of the ethnic majority that constitutes these nation-states. Some of these nationalities have their own national aspirations. In some cases there is an overlap between ethnicity and marginalized religion. The region is rich in resources, most importantly water resources. In short, this is a border region with a highly diverse population and a history of violent conflict, militarization, and fragmented pacification. The most important of these conflicts in the past was the global Cold War, the Vietnamese-American War, and the ensuing Vietnam-China War. Today the most important conflicts are about control over resources.  The political and economic conditions in the area are rapidly changing. This program studies the effects of these changes on new forms of networking in the area. It compares the state policies of the various nation-states towards their minorities and the possibilities of these minorities to use transnational networks to enlarge their playing field.

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