The Making of the National Border between
China and Vietnam-Laos: Focusing on
Trans-border Ethnic Groups
Author : Ahn, Chi-young & Chang, Jung-a
Page : 407-445
This article explores the historical basis of trans-border exchange in
Chinese border areas. International movement and exchange transcending
the borders established by modern states are subject to state control and
management. Any movement and exchange that occurs outside government
control and management is considered illegal. In reality, however, movement
and exchange in border areas varies depending on state capacity for border
management, historical circumstances, regional characteristics, and other
factors. In China, residents of border areas are granted special privileges,
allowed to cross over borders and engage in exchanges without special
permission. This implicit allowance has been longstanding.
The complicated characteristics of movement and exchange in Chinese
border areas thus signify a border not as a line clearly demarcated and
controlled by the state but a mechanism for new and various movement
and exchange. Movement and exchange occurring in China’s border areas
are not only related to China’s management of its borders with surrounding
states but also, more fundamentally, the history of China’s border formation.
The objective of the current study, then, is to understand the history
of the formation of the border between China and Vietnam-Laos.
The article deals with a hitherto little-explored issue in the formation of this border: the living space for local residents known as ethnic minorities.
These residents were all but invisible in the border formation process
not only to the Qing Dynasty central government and colonial authorities
but also the central governments of neighboring states following their
achievement of independence. The border thus took form without regard
for these residents’ existence, intentions, or living space, which has been
artificially fractured into the territories of different states. It is precisely
this border formation process that has been such an important factor in
creating China’s numerous trans-border ethnic groups.
Movement and exchange occurring in China’s border areas and the
differing forms of movement and exchange that have emerged over the
course of China’s opening are related to the history of the marginalization
of ethnic minorities in China’s border areas amid the process of border
formation. This article, which explores the formation of the border between
China and Vietnam-Laos through modern and contemporary history,
focuses on the signing of national border treaties. The existence of
trans-border ethnic groups signifies that border areas serve as the artificially
divided living spaces of ethnic communities.
China, Vietnam, Laos, Trans-border ethnic groups,
National border treaty