by Xiaoxuan Lu
University of Texas Press, 2023
eISBN: 978-1-4773-2756-2 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-2755-5
Library of Congress Classification HC428.B67L8 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 330.951


How China’s borderlands transformed politically and culturally throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

China’s land borders, shared with fourteen other nations, are the world’s longest. Like all borders, they are not just lines on a map but also spaces whose histories and futures are defined by their frontier status. An ambitious appraisal of China’s borderlands, Shifting Sands addresses the full scope and importance of these regions, illustrating their transformation from imperial backwaters to hotbeds of resource exploitation and human development in the age of neoliberal globalization.

Xiaoxuan Lu brings to bear an original combination of archival research, fieldwork, cartography, and landscape analysis, broadening our understanding of the political economy and cultural changes in China’s borderlands in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While conventional wisdom looks to the era of Deng Xiaoping for China’s “opening,” Lu shows the integration of China’s borderlands into national and international networks from Sun Yat-sen onward. Yet, while the state has left a firm imprint on the borderlands, they were hardly created by China alone. As the Chinese case demonstrates, all borderlands are transnational, their physical and socioeconomic landscapes shaped by multidirectional flows of materials, ideas, and people.