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Under Xi Jinping, minority education has become a key site of intensified nation-building efforts, and the status of minority languages has been significantly eroded. Schools in minority regions are tasked with forging ‘Chinese national consciousness’, which is seen to require teaching in the ‘national common language’ of Mandarin. Educational reforms which replace minority languages with Mandarin as the medium of instruction have been pushed through even in the face of significant local opposition, as in the case of protests and school boycotts in Inner Mongolia in 2020.

As part of China Week, experts Katherine Swancutt (King’s College London), Yiming Dong (King’s College London), Robert Barnett (SOAS), Uradyn Bulag (University of Cambridge), chaired by Thomas White (King's College London) will discuss the transformation of minority education under Xi Jinping. To what extent do recent policies represent a new assimilatory trajectory? How has the implementation of policies differed among China’s autonomous regions? How have China’s minorities responded to these reforms? And what light can be shed on the Chinese case through comparison with minority education in other contexts?

The panel will be followed by drinks and nibbles.


Katherine Swancutt is a social anthropologist with interests in the anthropology of religion. She is the Project Lead of the ERC synergy grant ‘Cosmological Visionaries: Shamans, Scientists, and Climate Change at the Ethnic Borderlands of China and Russia’ from 2020-2026. She joined King’s in 2013 and founded the Religious and Ethnic Diversity in China and Asia Research Unit (REDCARU) at King’s in 2016, of which she is also the Director. She has since established additional network branches for REDCARU at Yunnan Normal University and Yunnan Minzu University in Kunming, China. Before King’s, Dr Swancutt was a Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Before that, she held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge and taught as a Departmental Lecturer at the University of Oxford. She holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and three separate BA degrees in Anthropology, Chinese and Russian from the University of Utah.

Thomas White is Lecturer in China and Sustainable Development at the Lau China Institute, King's College London. He was previously a Research Associate at the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. After completing his PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, he worked as a Lecturer at this university, and then as a Senior Researcher at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He holds a BA from the University of Oxford, and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. Thomas studied Mandarin at SOAS, and has lived and worked for several years in China, where he also learned Mongolian. His forthcoming monograph explores the politics of state environmentalism and nation-building in the arid west of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. 

Robert Barnett is a writer and researcher on nationality issues in China, focusing on modern history, politics, and culture in Tibet. His publications include studies of Chinese policies in Tibet, border issues, social management, language policies, women in politics, cinema, television, and religious regulations in Tibet.

He is currently Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and an Affiliate Lecturer at the Lau China Institute, Kings College, London. He founded the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University in New York, where he was Director of Modern Tibetan Studies and an Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Tibetan Studies for some 19 years. He has also taught at Princeton, INALCO (Paris), Tibet University (Lhasa), and IACER (Kathmandu).

Uradyn E. Bulag is Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University. His interests broadly span East Asia and Inner Asia, especially China and Mongolia, the Mongolia-Tibet interface, nationalism and ethnic conflict, geopolitics, historiography, and statecraft. He is the author of Collaborative Nationalism: The Politics of Friendship on China’s Mongolian Frontier (2010), The Mongols at China’s Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity (2002), and Nationalism and Hybridity in Mongolia (1998).

Yiming Dong is a Research Associate at the Department of International Development. Prior to joining King’s, she had working and research experiences in the United Nations, Fudan University, and Xinhua News Agency. In 2019, she was awarded a research grant by the Universities’ China Committee in London to explore her interest on return migration and social and economic development in Western China. Dr Dong holds a PhD from the Lau China Institute at King’s, a MSc from the University of Oxford, and a BA from Fudan University.

At this event

Katherine Swancutt

Reader in Social Anthropology

Yiming Dong

Module lecturer

Affiliate Lecturer

Thomas White

Lecturer in China and Sustainable Development

Event details

Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG