Voluntary Monotone: How Nationalism Impedes Linguistic Diversity in Modern-Day China

Ms Zhuangsi Xu1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

For a hundred years before the PRC, the entire Chinese elite was united in a conscious effort to eliminate language diversity in the pursuit of modernity and independence. Importing Western concepts, the idea that transforming into a classic Westphalian nation was the only pathway for China’s reinstatement in the world was ingrained into the national consciousness. This connection of nationalism and linguistic homogeneity originating from the 19th century is impeding the legitimacy of minority language protection in academic and political rhetoric today. Minority language matters are subsumed in a narrative of national crisis and rejuvenation, sidestepping the issue of state obligation and minority rights. With the foreseeable rise of cultural conservatism in the Xi administration, preserving minority languages in China will prove increasingly challenging in the future.  This paper analyses how nationalism in China is utilised by the government to create a self-reinforcing narrative that legitimises its policy of linguistic assimilation. The system of the ‘Beijing Consensus’ that links national rejuvenation through economic development, the Communist party leadership and linguistic homogeneity tightly together provided a stable theoretical basis for assimilating policies readily accepted by the general public, contributing to the voluntary erosion of linguistic diversity.


Ms Zhuangsi Xu is a PhD law student at the University of New South Wales, her topic is on the impact of international law on China’s protection of minority language rights. Zhuangsi completed her LLM at the University of Hong Kong and interned at the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Center


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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