The Equality of All Nationalities Is the Cornerstone of China’s Nationality Policy

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 12:16
text size: T | T
Share:

 Subcommittee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the CPPCC National Committee 

 China is a unified country with a number of ethnic groups. The equality of all ethnic groups is a major principle provided by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and is China’s fundamental position in dealing with issues related to ethnic groups. 

 Due to historical and geographical factors, the degree of economic and social development varies between one ethnic group and another in China, especially between the Han ethnic group and ethnic minority groups, and there are also differences in language, culture, religious beliefs, habits and customs. It is crucial to gradually close the gap in economic and social development while fully respecting the humanistic characteristics of all ethnic groups in order to realize equality among all ethnic groups in the country. China’s system of regional ethnic autonomy and various policies on ethnic affairs provide the institutional basis and policy guarantee for realizing this goal. 

 China’s system of regional ethnic autonomy is a basic political system of the country adopted in light of the country’s history as a unified country established through the concerted efforts of various ethnic groups and conditions in the country. Regional autonomy for ethnic minority groups does not mean “self-government for ethnic minority groups” nor “a high degree of autonomy” divorced from the reality of the country. The system of regional ethnic autonomy is a system practiced in regions and districts where people of minority ethnic groups live in compact communities that grants them the right to regional autonomy through autonomous organs under the unified leadership of the central government. Localities practicing this system enjoy the benefits of state policies that guarantee equal rights for ethnic minority groups, but they are also subject to the unified government laws and decrees that apply to all administrative areas of the country. All localities under the system of regional ethnic autonomy are inalienable components of the People’s Republic of China and the autonomous organs of those localities ensure that all the ethnic groups in their jurisdiction enjoy equal rights. China’s system of regional ethnic autonomy and polices on ethnic groups are a manifestation of the fact that China fully respects and guarantees the right of ethnic minority groups to manage their own internal affairs and that the country follows a principle of ensuring the equality, unity and prosperity of all ethnic groups. All ethnic minority groups, from the largest with a population of over ten million to the smallest with a population of a few thousand, have the same right as the majority Han nationality with a population of over one billion to participate in the political life of the country. The ethnic minority and the Han ethnic group jointly administer state affairs as masters of the country. This is the essence of national equality as well as China’s basic position in dealing with issues related to ethnic groups. Equality refers not only to political and legal rights, but economic and cultural rights and all other rights related to the activities of society. Progress and prosperity for all of China’s ethnic groups is a basic requirement for realizing all-round equality among different ethnic groups. 

 China has brilliantly succeeded in advancing the cause of equality and unity among ethnic groups and ensuring progress for the nationalities in China over the past sixty some years since the founding of New China, completely abolishing the old system practiced in Old China that discriminated against and oppressed certain groups. A new socialist relationship among ethnic groups has been established characterized by equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony and this relationship is being constantly improved and developed.

 The ethnic minority groups have gained political rights and are now in charge of their own internal affairs under the unified leadership of the central government. The system of regional ethnic autonomy was set up as the basic system for resolving the issue of ethnic minorities. There are five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties in which all the leading positions in the local autonomous government are held by members of the respective ethnic group. In addition to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, local governments of autonomous localities have passed regulations on autonomy, individual regulations, and amendments and supplementary provisions for existing laws and regulations, basically comprising a legal system for ethnic groups with Chinese characteristics. In order to guarantee the right of ethnic groups to participate in the administration of state affairs, every minority group has deputies to the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). One of the 34 types of deputies to the CPPCC National Committee is the deputies representing national minorities. In addition, minority ethnic groups are also proportionally represented in all local level people’s congresses and CPPCC committees. Since the ninth CPPCC National Committee, each ethnic group has had at least one member on the CPPCC National Committee and since the tenth CPPCC National Committee, each ethnic group with a population exceeding one million has had a representative on the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the CPPCC. Of the 2,233 members of the 11th CPPCC National Committee, 251 are from ethnic minority groups. Of the 298 standing committee members, 37 are from ethnic minority groups, and of the 25 vice chairpersons, 5 are from ethnic minority groups. The proportions of representation of ethnic minority groups in these organizations are all higher than the proportions in the total population of China. In addition, we offer various forms of training and operate colleges to train ethnic minority cadres, and these have produced large numbers of ethnic minority cadres and skilled personnel.

 The rights of local governments under regional ethnic autonomy to administer the local social and economic affairs in accordance with the law are faithfully guaranteed. The Party and government have always deemed it a major strategic task to speed up the economic and social development of ethnic minority groups and localities practicing regional autonomy. Since the founding of New China, the central government and local people’s governments at all levels have been actively working to help ethnic minority groups and localities practicing regional autonomy develop economically through the adoption of a number of preferential policies. The central government has adopted a number of policies and measures, including the construction of key projects, special financial assistance from the central budget, coordinated assistance, poverty alleviation programs and large-scale development of the western region, all aimed at improving infrastructure in ethnic minority areas, raising the individual incomes of ethnic minorities and accelerating the economic and social development of ethnic minority groups and ethnic minority areas. Thanks to 60 years of ceaseless efforts, China’s ethnic minority areas, like all other areas of the country, have undergone earth-shaking changes. 

  March 11, 2010, (left to right) Li Fuzhen (Hani nationality) and Yang Yamei (Yi nationality), deputies to the National People’s Congress from Yunnan Province, and Yang Xiuying (Yi nationality), deputy to the National People’s Congress from Sichuan Province, having a discussion before the fourth plenary session of the Third Session of the Eleventh National People’Congress. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Chen Shugen.

 The cultural rights of all ethnic groups in China are upheld through effective measures to protect their culture and ensure its preservation and development. The state respects and protects the right of ethnic minorities to use and develop their own languages and alphabets, and respects and protects the freedom of ethnic minorities to retain their traditional customs, habits and religious beliefs. The government has adopted a number of special policies and measures to promote the development of social programs of ethnic minority groups. The state has set up colleges and secondary and primary schools for ethnic minority groups where both ethnic minority languages and Mandarin are used in class. As a result, nine-year compulsory education is now available to nearly all ethnic minority children and illiteracy has been basically eliminated among young and middle-aged people in ethnic minority groups. Various types of ethnic minority cultural organizations and public cultural service facilities have been set up and radio and television coverage has been greatly improved in ethnic minority areas. China continues to improve the new system of rural cooperative medical care and the medical assistance system for ethnic minority areas and has developed a public health care system that covers both urban and rural areas and carried out various medical and health care programs. As a result, the overall health of ethnic minority groups in China is improving by the day.

 Because the current uneven economic development among regions in China is due to historical factors, it will take quite some time to shrink the development gap. There is a pressing need for rapid economic and social development among ethnic minority groups and ethnic minority areas, but they are unable to accomplish this on their own. For this reason, the government must make this the main task in its ethnic minority work and all ethnic groups need to join in a concerted effort to promote prosperity and development for all. Shrinking and gradually eliminating the substantive gap between the Han ethnic group and ethnic minority groups in economic and social development is therefore a tremendous task which the entire Chinese nation will be facing throughout the primary stage of socialism in China. 

 All ethnic groups in the country must work together to promote prosperity and development for all through mutual assistance. Mutual assistance is a sign of the dynamic relationship among all ethnic groups in the country, and this is characterized by the increasing interaction and mutual reliance among them. The Han ethnic group absolutely needs the ethnic minorities, and the ethnic minority groups likewise need the Han ethnic group. Moreover, the ethnic minority groups also need one another. This has been the driving force in history for the formation of this unified nation of different ethnic groups as well as the practical driving force that will make possible the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The dependence of the Han ethnic group on the ethnic minority groups, the dependence of the minority groups on the Han ethnic group and the dependence of each minority group on the other minority groups are relationships of mutual help and mutual support. The state provides assistance to ethnic minority areas and the eastern region promotes development of the western region. This assistance provides an indispensable driving force for speeding up the development of the western region, and is especially important in promoting economic and social development in the ethnic minority areas. This assistance helps the western region and ethnic minority areas to become more self-reliant in their development and helps them develop their own resources for development.

 In addition, the development and utilization of the resources unique to the western region and the increased ability of ethnic minority areas to rely on their own resources for development will play a major role in ensuring the sustained development of the eastern region, as well as the rest of China. By helping each other, the various ethnic groups not only bring about more equality in terms of economic indicators; they will also help to unify the country and bring about a more harmonious society to create a nation that is stronger because of the diverse mix of cultures, ecosystem diversity and abundance of resources. The various forms of interaction among ethnic groups provide a source of creativity and the wide variety of ethnic groups represents an important resource for the country’s development and social progress and important conditions for promoting the creativity needed for the entire society to build a harmonious socialist society. Comprehensive economic and social development of ethnic minority areas is essential in order to reach the lofty goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. And modernization of the ethnic minority areas is essential for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. No ethnic group of the country can thrive without the others because they all help and benefit each other. 

 Economic and social development is creating the material foundation needed to bring about equality among all ethnic groups in China as well as the basic condition needed to safeguard national unity, allow ethnic groups to help each other and ensure harmonious relations between different ethnic groups. Development is the key to solving all issues and problems in today’s China as well as the key to resolving all difficulties and problems in ethnic minority areas. We must pursue development with all of our hearts and souls to ensure the long-term economic and social development of ethnic minority areas and bring about marked improvement in the lives of all ethnic groups in order to gradually close the development gap among different ethnic groups and truly ensure prosperity for all ethnic groups in the country. 

 China’s policies on ethnic groups also include provisions that grant special benefits for ethnic minority groups in terms of economic, cultural and social activities and cover the development of their economy with local characteristics, the continued use of their language and culture, freedom of religious belief and preservation of their customs and habits. These provisions provide a real guarantee that the cultural differences among the ethnic groups in the country will be respected and understood. Safeguarding and developing the fine traditions and culture of ethnic minority groups, especially in regard to their languages and literature, is becoming increasingly important in overall work concerning ethnic groups today. We must ensure that the traditions and culture of all ethnic groups are respected, protected and carried forward and promote a culture of harmony and the concept of the Chinese nation as the spiritual home of all ethnic groups while promoting social development and the progress of all ethnic groups in the country. 

 China’s policy of equality of all ethnic groups and the institutional arrangements and legislation designed to address the issue related to ethnic groups are in line with the basic conditions of China as a unified nation containing a number of different ethnic groups. The concepts of equality, justice and human rights they provide are also in line with values held by the international community. The untiring efforts and progress China has made in dealing with the major issue of equality among ethnic groups are there for all to see. China is a large developing country, and the CPC has the heavy responsibility of alleviating poverty among China’s 1.3 billion population, including more than 100 million people belonging to ethnic minority groups, in order to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and speed up the pace of socialist modernization. The system of autonomy for ethnic minority areas and the various policies on ethnic groups designed to ensure and bring about equality among all ethnic groups in the country need to be constantly adjusted, added to and improved based on the actual state of reform and development.

 Issues related to ethnic groups are part of overall social issues and are linked with and interact with various aspects of the social system. Issues of ethnic groups must be addressed in the light of the state of social development and cannot be resolved once and for all with a simple solution. Nor can we expect to exceed the limitations posed by general social issues or ignore the effects of other social issues and the impact of the international situation. We must fully recognize the general, protracted, complex and daunting nature of these issues and always bear this in mind in studying and dealing with these issues.

(From Qiushi in Chinese No. 22, 2009)

Qiushi Journal | English Edition of Qiushi Jounrnal | Contact us | Subscription Copyright by Qiushi Journal, All rights reserved