Great Progress in Ethnic Minority Relations

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-19 23:55
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    Over the past 60 years since the founding of New China the Communist Party of China has always attached great importance to issues related to ethnic groups and related work. The Party has retained the basic tenets of Marxism while adapting it to suit the situation with China’s ethnic groups in working out and implementing correct policies on ethnic groups and promoting peaceful coexistence, mutual help and harmonious development of all ethnic groups. 

    The first generation of central collective leadership of the Party with Mao Zedong at the core united and led the people of all ethnic groups of the country in realizing the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation and founding New China. They viewed the unification of the country, the unity of the people and the unity of all the ethnic groups in the country as a fundamental guarantee for the victory of our cause. They established the basic principles and basic policies for the equality, unity, regional autonomy and common prosperity of all ethnic groups, abolished the system of national discrimination and oppression, carried out identification of ethnic groups, established ethnic minority autonomous localities and trained cadres from ethnic minority groups. They also carried out democratic reform and socialist transformation in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities, guided the ethnic groups in working together on the road of socialism and developed a correct path for solving problems concerning ethnic groups that conforms to the conditions of China and has Chinese characteristics. All this laid a solid foundation for the cause of national unity and progress.

    The second generation of the central collective leadership of the CPC with Deng Xiaoping at the core clearly defined the nature of the relationship between different ethnic groups in the socialist period as one between the workers of the ethnic groups and corrected errors in the guidelines for work related to ethnic groups. They also pointed out that the key to solving the problems concerning ethnic groups is development and shifted the focus of work on ethnic groups to economic development and improved and developed socialist relations among ethnic groups. They organized formulation of the law on regional autonomy for ethnic minority groups, which laid the foundation for instituting the rule of law on work related to ethnic groups. Ethnic minority groups and regions populated by ethnic minorities made fresh progress in reform and opening up, injecting vigor and vitality into the cause of unity and progress for ethnic groups.

    The third generation of the central collective leadership of the CPC with Jiang Zemin at the core developed the scientific thesis that “there are no minor issues in ethnic minority and religious work.” They carefully expounded all the issues behind problems with ethnic groups, clearly pointing out that these included development for ethnic minority groups, and identified accelerated development for ethnic groups as the key to solving the problems of China’s ethnic groups. They also advocated the important idea that “the Han ethnic group cannot be separated from the minority ethnic groups, the minority ethnic groups cannot be separated from the Han ethnic group and no minority ethnic group can be separated from the others (This became known as the “three inseparables” in Chinese),” stressing that all ethnic groups should share a common fate, should all be of one mind and should continuously work to strengthen the cohesive force of the Chinese nation. The CPC held two central conferences on ethnic minority work followed by a series of major strategic decisions concerning development of the western region. This has led to rapid development of the ethnic minorities and regions inhabited by ethnic minorities.

    Following the Sixteenth CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the General Secretary defined new tasks for reform and development closely related to current conditions and stressed the important position of the work concerning ethnic groups in the overall work of the Party and government. They defined the theme for the work concerning ethnic groups in this current period of the new century as working together to achieve prosperity for all and development of all ethnic groups to ensure that the Party’s guidelines on ethnic minority work keep up with the times. They also stressed that in the end we must rely on development to solve the difficulties and problems of the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities and that we must apply the Scientific Outlook on Development in regulating overall economic and social development and strive to develop a harmonious socialist society. At the first central conference on work related to ethnic groups in this current period of the new century, important documents were promulgated, including the Decision of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Improving Work Related to Ethnic Groups and Accelerating the Economic and Social Development of Minority Ethnic Groups and Regions Inhabited by Ethnic Minorities. In addition, Regulations of the State Council on Implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy were formulated and a system of preferential policies was established to promote sound and rapid economic and social development among ethnic minority groups and regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. It was stressed at the meeting that “national unity is a guarantee for the lasting stability, order and prosperity of the country and promoting national unity and achieving progress for all is the fundamental task of our work related to ethnic groups.” This marked a new starting point in the effort to constantly strengthen the great unity of all ethnic groups and the cohesion of the Chinese nation and further the cause of national unity and progress.

    People from all ethnic groups in China gather in front of the pillars of national unity in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square for a picture during the celebration for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. /  Photo by Xinhua reporter Li Ziheng

    The CPC and the central government have led all the ethnic groups of the country in working together to take the socialist road, thus carrying out the most extensive and most profound social change in the history of the development of the Chinese nation. After the founding of New China, the CPC and the central government took various steps and adopted a variety of methods to carry out democratic reform and socialist transformation in areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups to satisfy the wishes of the many members of ethnic minority groups. The successful completion of democratic reform and socialist transformation completely abolished oppression and exploitation of social classes, allowing very underdeveloped ethnic groups to skip several stages in social development and enter socialist society together with the other ethnic groups in the country and truly become masters of the new society.  

    A total of 56 ethnic groups were identified and the people of all ethnic groups were made masters of the nation and equal partners in administering the affairs of state. After the founding of New China, the central government carried out a large-scale project to identify all the ethnic groups in the country and carried out a large-scale study of the social and historical conditions and languages of the ethnic minorities. This work ascertained the basic social and historical conditions of all the ethnic minorities, provided a scientific basis for working out and implementing policies related to ethnic minorities and created the necessary prerequisites for all the ethnic groups to realize their rights as masters of their own country and enjoy the same rights and interests as everyone else in the country. Any group of people was classified as an ethnic group that was in a distinct historical stage regardless of the size of their population, the size of the area they inhabited, their level of social development and the uniqueness of their religious beliefs and all identified ethnic groups were given equal political, economic and cultural rights and equal rights in administering the affairs of state as guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws.     Socialist relations were established among ethnic groups and an unprecedented unity among ethnic groups was achieved. Soon after the founding of New China, the central government adopted a series of important measures to eliminate misunderstandings and discrimination among different ethnic groups that existed before Liberation and to strengthen unity and trust among ethnic groups. Between 1949 and 1964, the central government dispatched many groups to console and visit ethnic minority people and a number of delegations to tour regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. In addition, ethnic minorities also organized their own delegations to visit the capital and interior regions to witness the progress being made in development, effectively smoothing relations among different ethnic groups. Since the institution of the reform and opening up policy, the government has worked to inform and educate the public on the importance of unity and progress for all ethnic groups as well as commended organizations that have done well in this regard. The government has worked to popularize the concept of the “three inseparables,” and convened four national rallies on the unity and progress of all ethnic groups. The Party and government strictly differentiated the two different types of social contradictions, one among the people and the other between ourselves and the enemy, in relations among ethnic groups since the institution of the reform and opening up policy in light of the conditions and issues that have emerged recently, then properly handled issues threatening unity among ethnic groups and defeated all types of ethnic secessionist activities in accordance with the law, thus effectively safeguarding the dignity of the law, the interests of the people, the unity among ethnic groups and the integrity of the country.

    Regional autonomy was granted to some ethnic minority groups to allow them to independently administer internal affairs under the unified leadership of the state. Granting regional autonomy to ethnic groups was one of the first measures adopted by the CPC to adapt the basic tenets of Marxism to actual conditions in China. The CPC directed the establishment of the first provincial-level autonomous region, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, way back in 1947. This provided a successful example and allowed the government to gain valuable experience in granting regional autonomy for ethnic minority groups. In the years following the founding of New China, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region were established. The system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities was improved and further developed following the institution of the reform and opening up policy. The National People’s Congress promulgated and implemented the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy in 1984 and revised it in 2001. The Congress passed Regulations of the State Council on Implementing the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy in 2005. Localities implementing ethnic autonomy also worked out 637 generally applicable regulations on autonomy and regulations specific to particular autonomous areas as well as a number of accommodations and supplementary provisions, basically forming a legal system governing ethnic minority groups with Chinese characteristics. The Fifteenth CPC National Congress defined the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minority groups as a basic political system of the country. There are now 155 autonomous administrative localities for ethnic minorities. Out of the 55 ethnic minority groups identified in the country, 44 enjoy regional autonomy. The major local government leaders in ethnic minority areas enjoying regional autonomy are cadres from the same ethnic minority groups. In addition, the country has established more than 1,100 ethnic minority townships as a supplemental form of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities. 

    Support and assistance was provided for regions inhabited by ethnic minorities to develop their productive forces and accomplish historical strides in their modes of production and living standards. The CPC and governments at all levels have always attached great importance to helping the people of ethnic minority groups solve difficulties in their working and living conditions. Some of the 156 key state construction projects of the 1950s and the “third line” construction projects arranged in the western and northwestern regions in the 1960s laid the foundation for developing modern industry in the ethnic minority regions. The central government made special allowances for the budgets of ethnic minority regions by setting up special funds for subsidies for ethnic minority regions, reserve funds for autonomous ethnic minority localities, subsidies for construction projects in border areas and ethnic minority development funds. Since the institution of the reform and opening up policy, the state has implemented major strategic measures such as programs for richer areas to help poorer areas, poverty alleviation programs for hardest hit areas, opening up border areas to the outside world and development of the western region, creating favorable conditions for accelerating development of the ethnic minority groups and regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. The total size of the economies of the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities increased from 32.4 billion yuan in 1978 to 3.0626 trillion yuan in 2008, an increase of more than 17-fold, reckoned at comparable price. The average per capita disposable income of urban residents increased from 414 yuan in 1980 to 13,170 yuan in 2008, an increase of more than 30-fold. The average net per capita income of farmers and animal herders increased from 168 yuan in 1980 to 3,389 yuan in 2008, an increase of 19-fold.

    A great effort has been made to carry out social programs in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. The overall ideological and moral standards, the level of scientific and general knowledge and the health of ethnic minorities have greatly improved. The state has adopted a series of special policies and measures and made a great effort to carry out social programs in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. To improve education, the government has set up institutions of higher learning and middle and primary schools for ethnic minorities and set up both regular and preparatory courses for ethnic minorities in institutions of higher learning, set up special courses and schools for Tibetan students and special courses for Xinjiang students in interior regions and arranged for bilingual instruction in areas where there are large concentrations of ethnic minorities. In addition, the government is carrying out a plan to make nine-year compulsory education basically universally available and basically eliminate illiteracy among young and middle-age people in the western region, arranged for more prosperous areas to support needy areas in education and implemented a plan for training key, high-level personnel from ethnic minorities. In 2008, the number of schools of all types in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities totaled 72,711, employing 1.837 million specially appointed teachers to teach 34.503 million students, and the target of making compulsory education universally available and eliminating illiteracy among the young and middle aged was basically achieved. The number of ethnic minority college students reached 1.1535 million, an increase of 886-fold compared to the number in 1950. In the area of culture, the state has worked very hard to rescue, protect and develop the culture of ethnic minorities by setting up a variety of cultural organizations for ethnic minorities and building a variety of public cultural service facilities in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. The project to develop a “cultural corridor” to cover all the regions along the border and the project to extend radio and TV coverage to all villages have greatly improved the cultural infrastructure in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. In the area of health care, the state has set up a special fund to send doctors and medicines to areas inhabited by ethnic minorities free of charge to address the shortage of doctors and medicines in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. Ethnic minority public health personnel have been trained and public health personnel from the interior have been sent to help improve public health in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities in border regions. In addition, hospitals, clinics and medical schools have been set up for ethnic minorities and work has been done to uncover, arrange, publish and study the traditional medicine of ethnic minorities. The basics of a health care system covering both the urban and rural areas inhabited by ethnic minorities are now in place and continuous improvements are being made in the new type of rural cooperative medical care system and medical assistance system, resulting in continuous improvement in the health of the people. 

    The Party and government have always respected and guaranteed the legitimate rights and interests of the ethnic minorities of the country and promoted equality and progress for all ethnic groups. All recognized ethnic groups in the country realize their political rights through delegates to the National People’s Congress and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The ethnic minorities also have a considerable number of representatives and members in local people’s congresses and local committees of the CPPCC. To ensure their economic rights and interests, the CPC and governments at all levels have been actively helping ethnic minorities and ethnic minority regions in their economic development, adopting many special preferential policies and instituting guarantees for the autonomous rights of autonomous ethnic minority localities to manage their own economies and societies in accordance with the law. In terms of culture, the state respects and guarantees the right of ethnic minorities to use and develop their native oral and written languages. The government also respects and guarantees the right of ethnic minorities to retain or reform their customs and habits. In the area of religion, the state respects and guarantees freedom of religious belief for ethnic minorities and has set up a special fund to repair and protect famous temples and monasteries. 

    Great efforts have been made to train cadres and other personnel from ethnic minority groups and improve relations between the Party and people from ethnic minorities. Following the founding of New China, the CPC and governments at all levels implemented a policy of “training large numbers of cadres from all ethnic minority groups.” A variety of training courses and institutes for ethnic minority cadres were set up across the country and these cadres were then widely used and frequently promoted. There are now 15 colleges and universities for ethnic minorities, and they have already turned out large numbers of cadres and personnel of all kinds. While carrying out reform and opening up, the central government has stressed that training cadres from ethnic minority groups so that they have political integrity as well as professional and vocational skills is the key to carrying out successful ethnic minority work and solving the problems of ethnic minorities. The government has formulated a series of principles and policies to train cadres from ethnic minority groups, resulting in the number of such cadres rising from around 10,000 soon after the founding of New China to more than 2.99 million today. Together with the cadres of the Han ethnic group, the many cadres from ethnic minority groups have made outstanding contributions to accelerating the economic and social development of ethnic minority groups and ethnic minority regions and safeguarding the unification of the motherland and the unity of ethnic groups.

(From Qiushi in Chinese No.19 2009)


Note: Authors: Yang Jing, Minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, and Yang Chuantang, Secretary of the CPC Leading Group of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission

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