Asymmetrical Neighbors: Borderland State-Building Between China and Southeast Asia (Oxford UP, 2019) explains the variations in state building across the borderland area between China, Myanmar, and Thailand. It presents a comparative historical account of the state and nation-building processes in the ethnically diverse and geographically rugged borderland area where China meets Southeast Asia. It argues the failure of the Myanmar state to consolidate its control over its borderland area is partly due to the political and military meddling by its two more powerful neighbors during the Cold War. Furthermore, both China and Thailand, being more economically advanced than Myanmar, have exerted heavy economic influence on the borderland area at the cost of Myanmar’s economic sovereignty.
The book provides a historical account of the borderland that traces the pattern of relations between valley states and upland people before the mid-twentieth century. Then it discusses the implications of the Chinese nationalist KMT troops in Burma and Thailand and Burmese and Thai communist insurgencies since the mid-1960s on attempts by the three states to consolidate their respective borderland areas. The book also portrays the dynamics of the borderland economy and the dominance of both China and Thailand on Myanmar’s borderland territory in the post-Cold War period. It further discusses the comparative nation-building processes among the three states and the implications for the ethnic minority groups in the borderland area and their national identity contestations. Finally, the book provides an updated account of the current ethnic conflicts along Myanmar’s restive borderland and its ongoing peace negotiation process.
Enze Han is an Associate professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Hong Kong.
Victoria Lupașcu is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at University of Montréal. Her areas of interest include medical humanities, visual art, 20th and 21st Chinese literature and Global South studies.
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