Solving Ethnic Issues in Our Own Unique Way

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 09:37
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 Ethnic issues have a major bearing on the future prospects of our country and the wellbeing of the people. In September 2009, CPC Central Committee General Secretary Hu Jintao addressed the State Council’s Fifth Commendation Meeting for National Ethnic Solidarity and Progress. During his speech, Hu Jintao stated that above all else, the 60 years since the founding of New China have taught us that we must commit ourselves to resolving ethnic issues in our own unique way and in line with the ethnic realities of China. 

 In line with the requirements set forth by the CPC Central Committee, we must continue to pursue and develop this approach, fully implement the ethnic theories and policies of the Party, perform well in tasks concerning ethnic issues, and continue to ensure that all of China’s ethnic groups stand together, live in peace, and progress harmoniously under the socialist system.


    Tibetan students attending a gathering organized by 75-year-old Yang Changlin

(second from left), a Professor of Wuhan University, at his home on March 13, 2011. 

Professor Yang Changlin has provided Tibetan college students in Wuhan with constant

 support over the last 33 years, offering them personal, academic and mental guidance. 

He has devoted his life to promoting the development of Tibet, strengthening the 

solidarity of ethnic groups, safeguarding the unity of the motherland, and training 

special personnel for Tibet. His devotion has been met with love and admiration 

from Tibetan students. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Hao Tongqian

    I. China’s unique approach to ethnic issues was created by integrating the realities of China into Marxist theories on ethnicity

 There are many factors that determine what kind of approach a country takes to resolve its ethnic issues, such as the specific economic conditions, social situation, cultural heritage and political system of that country. The unique approach that China takes to ethnic issues is the right choice. This is because it is both faithful to history and suited to the national conditions in China. It represents a great achievement made by several generations of Chinese Communists who have strived to find a solution to ethnic issues in China. 

 China has been a unified but ethnically diverse nation since ancient times. Throughout Chinese history, various central governments practiced a policy of governing ethnic minority regions in line with local customs. This led to the formation of various distinctive forms of autonomous governance, such as the Burke System in Xinjiang, the Kalon System in Tibet and the Banner System in Mongolia. However, these policies were subject to both historical and class limitations, and were thus unable to present a fundamental solution to ethnic issues in China. Following the outbreak of the Opium Wars, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal nation. With this, maintaining national unity and ethnic solidarity became a historic theme that has been present throughout the course of China’s fight for independence, liberation and national prosperity. In our modern history, many people of outstanding merit and progressive thought devoted unremitting efforts to the pursuit of this goal, but ultimately failed to identify a means of solving ethnic issues that was right for China. During the period of KMT rule, extreme efforts were made to forcefully dispel the differences that existed between different ethnic groups and deny their respective interests, which only intensified the conflict between different ethnic groups and resulted in a backlash of ethnic opposition. 

 The founding of the Communist Party of China in 1921 signaled the beginning of renewed efforts to identify the correct approach to ethnic issues in China. Viewing the ethnical and national theories of Marxism-Leninism in the light of China’s ethnic situation at the time, the CPC established the principle of equality and union between different ethnic groups in the earliest days of its founding. On this basis, the Party gradually developed the idea of autonomous governance in ethnic minority regions. The Party engaged in unremitting efforts to bring this idea to fruition. Trial initiatives involved the formation of a revolutionary government with minority participation during the Second Chinese Revolutionary Civil War, the foundation of the Garzê Tibetan Government and Yuhai County Chinese Hui Autonomous Government by the Red Army during the Long March, and the practice of minority autonomy in revolutionary bases during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. Moreover, in response to groundless separatist calls for an “Independent Autonomous” Inner Mongolia, the CPC established the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in May 1947, which was the first autonomous region to enjoy provincial-level status in China. 

 During the course of preparations for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 1949, the first generation of Party leadership, as led by Mao Zedong, exercised extreme caution in regard to the major issue of whether China would implement a federal system or pursue a policy of ethnic autonomy. The Party solicited a wide range of opinions before a decision was made. In light of China’s history, the geographical layout of ethnic minorities as small communities spread over a vast area, and the successful foundation of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Party eventually sided with a proposal to implement autonomy in ethnic minority regions. Upon receiving the affirmation of various social sectors, the policy was written into the Common Program, which served as a temporary constitution before China’s new constitution was finalized. Following the founding of New China, the Party took a cautious but progressive approach to the democratic and socialist reform of ethnic minority areas. As reforms went ahead, the class-based oppression and exploitation of the old system were shattered, resulting in the most widespread and in-depth social changes in the history of China. Ethnic surveys and identification initiatives were launched across the country, which were followed by the successive foundation of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and the Tibet Autonomous Region. 

 Following the beginning of the reform and opening up drive, the second generation of Party leadership, as led by Deng Xiaoping, quickly shifted the emphasis of the government’s ethnic initiatives toward socialist modernization, a move which was based on the historical changes that had occurred in the core role of the Party and the central government at that time. Enhanced efforts were made to implement ethnic policies, development was highlighted as the key element in the solution of ethnic issues, the visionary strategy of developing China in two major stages was proposed, and China’s first law in regard to regional ethnic autonomy was formulated and put into effect. These things effectively reinvigorated China’s unique approach to ethnic issues. The third generation of Party leadership, as led by Jiang Zemin, accurately read the complex international and domestic situations following the end of the cold war, and clearly identified the developments in China’s ethnic situation. On this basis, they proceeded to propose a series of important thoughts, such as “No matter concerning ethnicity and religion is a small matter,” and “The Han need the minorities, the minorities need the Han, and the minorities need each other.” In particular, decisions to launch the large-scale development of China’s western region and provide Tibet with dedicated support from different regions nationwide helped to lay down the solid foundation for the accelerated development of ethnic minority regions. The current CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the General Secretary has identified the creation of a moderately prosperous society in all respects as a historic task for the new century and a new stage. It has called on all ethnic groups to “Work as One and Prosper Together,” and has formulated a series of documents and plans aimed at accelerating the pace of economic and social development in ethnic minority regions. Since the beginning of 2010, the central government has successively convened the 5th Forum of the Central Government on Work in Tibet, the Forum of the Central Government on Work in Xinjiang, and the Work Meeting on the Large-Scale Development of the Western Region. In addition, a series of preferential policies and key measures aimed towards promoting the leap-frog development of ethnic minority regions have been adopted. With this, we have succeeded in bolstering a socialist mode of ethnic relations that is characterized by equality, solidarity, mutual aid and harmony, and are taking progressively larger and more confident strides as we seek to address ethnic issues in our own unique way.     

 Experience has shown that China’s unique approach to ethnic issues is the only way that equality between China’s various ethnic groups and mutual progress can be achieved. This approach has also served to demonstrate the enormous superiority of the socialist system. Our dedication to this approach over the past 60 years has brought about the historic transformation of our society. In this time, China’s once closed, backward and impoverished ethnic minority regions have opened up to the outside world, sought progress and taken strides towards prosperity.    

 II. China’s unique approach to ethnic issues is the product of the Party’s accurate judgment and correct action

 China’s unique approach to ethnic issues was born out of the revolutionary war that occurred in the new democratic period of Chinese history. It was developed during the period of socialist development, and further enhanced following the launch of the reform and opening up policy and the drive for modernization. Uniquely characteristic of China, this approach represents an all new way of resolving ethnic issues. 

 China is committed to socialism with Chinese characteristics. In many ways, the approach that a country takes to ethnic issues is determined by its overall political direction. Historically speaking, China’s unique approach to ethnic issues was born out of the united efforts of all ethnic groups to establish New China and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics. It has always been guided forward by a commitment to socialism and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a common ideal that caters to the joint will of the people and serves to bring them together as a whole. Its very essence has strengthened the friendship and cohesion between people of all ethnic groups. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a common goal that has inspired people of all ethnic groups to give their all to China’s opening up, reform and modernization and has converged people of all groups in a major concerted effort.   

 China is committed to autonomy in ethnic regions. The long-term resolution of ethnic issues calls for the implementation of a structural and institutional design that caters to the realities of China. In seeking to address ethnic issues, the Party was cautious not to blindly emulate the federal system implemented in some countries or simply graft a unitary system from elsewhere. Instead, the Party integrated the concepts of ethnic autonomy and regional autonomy to create an alternative approach that was suited to the conditions in China, resulting in a new form of national structure and a new mode of ethnic relations. Regional ethnic autonomy gave full consideration to ethnic, regional, political, economic, historical and practical factors. It also represented a sound balance between institution and law. With the introduction of regional ethnic autonomy, an ethnically diverse and socialist China managed to seal a high level of national unification on the basis of democracy. As a system, regional ethnic autonomy demonstrates respect for the sentiment, individual standing and creative spirit of all ethnic groups. It is both conducive to the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and fundamentally beneficial to people from all ethnic backgrounds in China.  

 We are committed to working as one and prospering together. Based on the realization that China is still in the primary stage of socialism, the Party has identified “working as one and prospering together” as the theme of its initiatives in regard to ethnic issues. This decision was made by giving due consideration to the characteristics of China’s current phase of economic and social development, and by taking the realities of ethnic issues into account. This theme is both a continuation of the Party’s ethnic theory and a product of constant efforts to innovate. It has allowed China’s unique approach to ethnic issues to become more characteristic of the times we live in, and has given it a more practical sense. Only when people from all ethnic groups work as one and prosper together will China have the impetus to stride ahead. Only when people from all ethnic groups work as one and prosper together will China have a foundation on which to build. Grasping the essence of this theme is essential if we are to address ethnic issues in the right way and perform well in this regard under new circumstances. If we can do this, then we will be in the position to constantly take our ethnic initiatives to new levels during the course of our historic venture to create a moderately prosperous society in all respects. 

 We are committed to accelerating the progression of ethnic minorities and the development of ethnic minority regions. Development is the key to the resolution of ethnic issues. Development is both a characteristic and an inherent requirement of China’s unique approach to the resolution of ethnic issues. Developing ethnic minority regions and endowing minority residents with wealth is the only way that we can succeed from a long-term perspective, regardless of what approach we take. Since the founding of New China, and especially in the three decades that have passed since the launch of the reform and opening up drive, China has always viewed the progression of ethnic minorities and the development of ethnic minority regions with strategic significance. Strategic plans have been drawn up, dedicated schemes have been formulated, and comprehensive assistance has been given in terms of policy, funds, personnel and technology. China’s ethnic minority regions have undergone enormous changes for the better over the last 60 years. These changes have allowed ethnic minorities to better identify with the Party and the central government, and have helped to spread harmony between the various ethnic groups. This success has increased our determination to address ethnic issues in our own unique way.

 We are committed to maintaining the mental bonds that bring us together. History has demonstrated that the Han need the minorities, the minorities need the Han, and the minorities need each other. This realization represents the ideological basis of China’s unique approach to ethnic issues. Throughout the course of its long-term effort to resolve ethnic issues in China and deepen the solidarity between different ethnic groups, the Party has always laid emphasis on the cohesive power of the motherland to bring the people together, which would not be possible without the unbreakable emotional bonds that link all of China’s ethnic groups. China enjoys a social climate in which people from different ethnic groups regard each other as brothers, despite the differences that exist between them. The further we progress down the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the greater our responsibility to maintain the unity of the nation will be. Therefore, we must convey the importance of unity to all ethnic groups and seek to strengthen the ties between people of different ethnic backgrounds. We must ensure that the hearts, the minds and the fates of the people remain as one, and continually bolster the foundations of our great national unity.   

 We are committed to equality, solidarity, mutual aid and harmony. In ethnically diverse counties, ethnic relations are more important than any other form of social or political relationship. The state of ethnic relations is the clearest indicator of the effectiveness of ethnic policy. The Party has taken note to draw on both domestic and international lessons in regard to ethnic issues. In rallying the people behind China’s unique approach to the resolution of ethnic issues, we have shown respect for the individuality and the autonomy of different ethnic groups, and have also emphasized that different ethnic groups should provide each other support and learn from one another. In doing so, we have successfully formed a model for socialist ethnic relations. These relations are founded on the principle of equality, defined by harmony, geared towards solidarity, and held together by the support that various ethnic groups show for each other. As a constant theme throughout all our ethnic initiatives, we are constantly deepening the connotations of these relations. Why is it that China has been able to maintain national unity and ethnical harmony on a long-term basis when other counties have been ravaged by frequent clashes and ethnic warfare? The fundamental difference lies in China’s continued commitment to equality, unity, mutual aid, and harmony between all ethnic groups.   

 III. Building on past achievements and seeking renewed success in China’s unique approach to ethnic issues

 Profound changes have occurred in the international and domestic situation. As we come to face new situations and new tasks, it is important that we build on past experiences, strengthen our commitment to resolving ethnic issues in our own unique way, strive to further enhance this approach, give full play to its advantages and its roles, and lay down lasting foundations for common prosperity among all ethnic groups in addition to social harmony and stability.  

 We must commit ourselves to fully implementing the fundamental ethnic theories and policies of the Party. The ethnic theories and policies of the Party are founded on the principles of equality and solidarity between all ethnic groups, autonomy in ethnic minority regions, and the common prosperity and progression of all the people. They represent the lifeline of China’s ethnic initiatives. Therefore, we must make greater efforts to publicize ethnic theories, policies, laws and regulations and basic knowledge pertaining to ethnic matters. By allowing cadres and the public to gain a firmer grasp of these things, they will be in a better position to act with initiative in this regard. Ethnic policies and laws and regulations must be the ultimate criteria for the handling of ethnic issues, and should be fully implemented in all aspects of our ethnic initiatives. The system of regional ethnic autonomy must be maintained, enhanced and well implemented. A balance must be struck between ethnic factors and regional factors, and both should serve to promote ethnic solidarity, progression and national unity. Continued efforts must be made to publicize and implement the law on regional ethnic autonomy. Several Measures of the State Council regarding the Implementation of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy must be fully implemented, while the formation of supporting legal regulations and measures should be completed as soon as possible. We should also do more to monitor and inspect the implementation of these regulations. Under the backdrop of China’s urbanization, new problems and circumstances are likely to be encountered as we implement the system of regional ethnic autonomy and our ethnic policies. Efforts must be made to fully understand these problems and seek a rapid and effective means of solution. By turning to new practices, drawing on experience and identifying objective laws, we should constantly improve our system of regional ethnic autonomy and develop our ethnic policies, thereby demonstrating them as superior, commanding and inspirational initiatives. From a policy-wise and institutional perspective, this will help to ensure social development and stability in ethnic minority regions.   

 Accelerating the pace of development in ethnic minority regions is the most pressing task at hand. While development may not be the solution to all problems, the fact remains that no problem can be resolved without development. With the continuation of national strategies of large-scale development of the western region and the establishment of major priority zones, we should seize the opportunity to accelerate the modernization of infrastructure and the development of ecological protective screens in ethnic minority regions, as this will play a fundamental role in promoting the sustainable development of ethnic minority regions and the country as a whole. We should also capitalize on the changes that have occurred in the structure of the domestic and international economy. Based on the available resources, local characteristics and the current state of industry in ethnic minority regions, we should transform the pattern of economic growth, nurture high-quality industries to underpin local economies, and develop distinctive sectors that boast a competitive edge, thereby boosting the overall economic strength of ethnic minority regions. We should capitalize on the provision of dedicated aid to Tibet and Xinjiang in order to increase the cohesiveness of development and the capacity of ethnic minority regions to secure economic growth independently. Where ethnic autonomous regions come under the jurisdiction of provinces and municipalities directly under the central government, the relatively developed prefectures and cities in such provinces and municipalities should be encouraged to provide dedicated aid to those autonomous prefectures and counties. This will lead to the formation of a multi-tiered structure for the provision of dedicated aid. We should capitalize on the implementation of the national strategy for overall regional development. A series of national aid policies should be pushed forward, such as the provision of national aid to ethnic minority regions, aid to ethnic Tibetan regions in Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces, and aid to border areas in Yunnan Province. We should place particular emphasis on supporting smaller ethnic groups, intensifying activities to invigorate and bring prosperity to border areas, and compiling the Twelfth Five-year Plan for ethnic minority initiatives. Preferential policies and support programs should be inclined towards ethnic minorities and ethnic regions in order to endow them with more favorable conditions for development.  

 Ensuring the wellbeing of the people should be the starting point and the goal of our ethnic initiatives. The wellbeing of the people is a major issue. It has a decisive bearing on where the hearts and minds of the people rest. In addition to being an inherent requirement of China’s ethnic policy, this is currently the most prominent characteristic of our ethnic work. Our focus should be the matters of highest concern among all ethnic groups, and the things that affect them in the most direct and practical sense. We must improve the quality of public services on a constant basis by engaging in concerted efforts to develop education, science, technology and public health. A particular emphasis should be placed on employment, social security and the alleviation of poverty. We must make major efforts to implement the Opinions of the State Council on the Further Prosperity and Development of Cultural Undertakings for Ethnic Minorities, accelerate the formation of a system for the public cultural services covering both urban and rural areas, proceed with the implementation of cultural projects that benefit the people, and make efforts to ensure that people of all ethnic backgrounds are able to enjoy a rich, diverse, healthy and progressive source of culture. An emphasis must be placed on alleviating poverty and bringing wealth to regions that face special difficulties over an extended geographical area. We should actively proceed with development drives in ethnic minority regions such as the southern areas of Xinjiang, the eastern reaches of the Tibetan Plateau, the Wuling Mountains, the Wumeng Mountains, border regions in western Yunnan, and the Qinba and Liupan Mountains, which will lay down solid foundations for the eradication of absolute poverty by the year 2020. We should enhance our research and survey initiatives in communities where smaller minority groups reside, and in grazing areas, frontier lands and uniquely distinct zones such as rocky areas in Guangxi Province. On this basis, we should formulate support policies that yield more practical results, increase the level of aid given to disadvantaged groups, and work to improve living conditions. We should bring a better quality of life to people of all ethnic backgrounds, and ensure that the preferential policies of the Party are genuinely able to bring benefits, prosperity and harmony to minority groups and ethnic minority regions. 

 We must seek greater ethnic solidarity and progression. Ethnic solidarity and progression is the lifeline of the Chinese nation. It is the source of our strength and the foundation of our hope. Campaigns to promote ethnic solidarity and progression must be carried out on a broader, deeper and more prolonged basis. In addition to the general public, the emphasis of such educational campaigns should be directed towards cadres, and particularly leading cadres. Cadres from all ethnic groups should be made fully aware that every single ethnic group is a member of the Chinese nation, and a common bearer of the mission to maintain national unity and rejuvenate the Chinese nation. Through such initiatives, we will ensure that all members of society show greater initiative and resolve in the common effort to maintain ethnic solidarity. We must take a variety of approaches to continue the fine tradition of solidarity among the Chinese people, and ensure that support for the Party, socialism, the motherland, all ethnic groups and ethnic solidarity is the major tone of the times we live in. We should strive to create a positive social atmosphere in which all ethnic groups stand together, live in peace and progress harmoniously. Ethnic solidarity and progression should be a constant theme in the moral education of citizens and during the development of a socialist ethical culture. In particular, we should launch a diverse range of educational campaigns aimed at young people of all ethnic backgrounds to promote ethnic solidarity and progression, thereby allowing the concept of mutual reliance of all ethnic groups to take root deep in the minds of our youth. We should organize schemes to promote and commend ethnic solidarity and progression, make major efforts to promote ethnic solidarity and harmony in villages, communities, workplaces and families, give full play to progressive role models, and strengthen the awareness of the Chinese nation and state among cadres and the public. This will allow people to better identify with the motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, and socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must make constant efforts to strengthen the ties between different ethnic groups, and encourage economic cooperation, the flow of personnel, and cultural exchanges between minority regions and other regions, and also between ethnic minority regions themselves. By doing so, the various ethnic groups will be drawn to respect and learn from one another as they develop and progress in unison.

 We should build up stronger ranks of cadres and talent from minority backgrounds. Cadres and talent from minority backgrounds represent an important link between the Party, the government and ethnic minority groups. They are the backbone of our efforts to promote ethnic initiatives and strengthen ethnic solidarity. New targets and requirements for the development of cadres and talent from ethnic minority groups were prescribed in the Outline of the National Medium and Long-term Program for the Development of Talent (2010-2020) and the Outline of Reforms in the Education and Training of Cadres (2010-2010). Bolstering the ranks of cadres and talent from minority backgrounds must be approached as a matter of fundamental importance and far-reaching significance. We should be committed to large scale training, be courageous enough to select the right people, be willing to give our full trust, and be prepared to give them a free hand in their work. Plans for the development of talent and the optimization of resources should be formulated on the basis of actual demands of development in ethnic minority regions, and an emphasis should be placed on efforts to foster minority talent for administrative, technical and corporate management roles. Our goal should be to assemble a politically devoted, professionally capable and exceptionally talented team of cadres and talent from minority backgrounds. We should formulate more preferable policies, adopt a flexible and diverse range of measures, establish sound employment mechanisms, and create amiable environments in an effort to attract, encourage and support a flow of personnel and business ventures to ethnic minority regions. Greater emphasis should be given to the selection and fostering of minority representatives. Education and practical training should be employed in order to enhance the capabilities of representatives on a comprehensive basis, thereby allowing them to better connect with, solidify and guide their people.   

 We must show an unwavering commitment to ethnic unity and social stability. Maintaining reform, development and stability in ethnic minority regions is an important aspect of our ethnic initiatives. We must take a clear stand against any separatist attempt to divide the motherland and undermine ethnic unity and crack down all kinds of separatist activities in accordance with the law to maintain ethnic solidarity, social stability and national unity. In line with the guiding principles of the 5th Forum of the Central Government on Work in Tibet and the Forum of the Central Government on Work in Xinjiang, we must diminish the international operating space for Tibetan separatists, combat the terrorist activities of “Eastern Turkestan” separatists and strive to achieve rapid economic development and long-term stability in Tibet and Xinjiang. The resolution of conflicts should be approached on the basis of our principles, laws, policies and strategies. We should use education, guidance and pacification as a means of seeking rapid and satisfactory solutions to conflicts that could undermine ethnic unity. Moreover, people from all ethnic groups should be taught to turn to the law in situations where their statutory rights and privileges are infringed. Through publicity campaigns, we should teach our people to be legally aware and law-abiding citizens. Ethnic initiatives in cities should also be enhanced. We should increase our level of coordination, service and management in ethnic initiatives, enhance the management of minority populations temporarily residing in cities, and ensure that these groups are provided with adequate services. We should create an atmosphere of mutual respect, equality and consideration between all ethnic groups in our cities, as this way the people will consciously work to preserve the harmony that our society enjoys.        

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.24, 2010)

Note: Author: Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference


 Related readings: 

 A Unified Multi-Ethnic Country and a Nation with Diverse Culture

 Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, some 56 ethnic groups have been identified and confirmed by the central government, namely, the Han, Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Uyghur, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Buyei, Korean, Manchu, Dong, Yao, Bai, Tujia, Hani, Kazak, Dai, Li, Lisu, Va, She, Gaoshan, Lahu, Shui, Dongxiang, Naxi, Jingpo, Kirgiz, Tu, Daur, Mulao, Qiang, Blang, Salar, Maonan, Gelao, Xibe, Achang, Pumi, Tajik, Nu, Uzbek, Russian, Ewenki, De’ang, Bonan (also Bao’an), Yugur, Jing, Tatar, Derung, Oroqen, Hezhe, Monpa, Lhoba and Jino. The Han ethnic group has the largest population, while the populations of the other 55 ethnic groups are relatively small, and so the latter are customarily referred to as “ethnic minorities.”

 Over the past 60 years, the total population of the ethnic minorities has been on a constant increase, comprising a rising proportion in China’s total population. The five national censuses that have been conducted show that the total population of ethnic minorities was 35.32 million in 1953, 6.06 percent of the national total; 40.02 million in 1964, 5.76 percent of the national total; 67.30 million in 1982, 6.68 percent of the national total; 91.20 million in1990, 8.04 percent of the national total; and 106.43 million in 2000, 8.41 percent of the national total. The populations of the ethnic groups vary greatly from one to another. For example, the Zhuang has a population of 17 million, far more than that of the Hezhe, numbering only some 4,000.

 Some of China’s ethnic groups inhabit vast areas, while others live in individual compact communities in small areas or live in mixture. In some cases, minority peoples can be found living in compact communities in areas inhabited mainly by Han people, while in other cases the situation is the other way round. Many minority peoples have part of their population living in one or more compact communities and the rest are scattered across the country. China’s northwest and southwest are the two regions where minority peoples are most concentrated. Western China, consisting of nine provinces, three autonomous regions and one municipality directly under the central government, is home to 70 percent of China’s minority population. The nine border provinces and autonomous regions are home to 60 percent of China’s minority population. As China’s economy and society continue to develop, the scope of minority population distribution is growing. So far, the scattered minority population across the country has topped 30 million.

 In places where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, the minority populations are usually small, whereas the areas they live in are often large and rich in resources. The areas of grassland and forest, and water and natural gas reserves in areas inhabited by minority peoples account for nearly or over half of the national totals. Of China’s over 22,000 kilometers terrestrial boundary, 19,000 kilometers traverse minority areas. In addition, the minority areas boast 85 percent of the country’s national natural reserves, an important ecological screen for the country.

 The origins and development of ethnic groups in China are diverse, and have been shaped by local conditions. Some 4,000-5,000 years ago, five major ethnic groups—the Huaxia, Dongyi, Nanman, Xirong and Beidi—emerged on what is now the Chinese territory. Through continuous migration, living together, intermarriage and communication, the five ethnic groups became assimilated to each other in the course of their development, and gradually became integrated into one, from which new ethnic groups continually sprang up. Some remain distinct to this day, while others, including the once-renowned Xiongnu (Hun), Yuezhi (or Rouzhi), Xianbei, Rouran, Tuyuhun, Tujue, Dangxiang, Khitan and Saka peoples, have disappeared in the course of history due to integration wars, deterioration of the eco-environment or loss of identity.

 Although the origins and histories of ethnic groups in China are different, the overall trend of their development was to form a unified, stable country with multiple ethnic groups. The boundaries and territory of today’s China were developed by all ethnic groups in the big family of the Chinese nation during the long course of historical development. The ancestors of the Han people were the first to develop the Yellow River basin and the Central Plains; those of the Tibetan and Qiang peoples, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; those of the Yi and Bai peoples, southwestern China; those of the Manchu, Xibe, Ewenki and Oroqen peoples, northeastern China; those of the Xiongnu, Tujue and Mongolian peoples, the Mongolian grasslands; those of the Li people, Hainan Island; and the ancestors of the ethnic minority peoples of Taiwan, Taiwan Island.

(From the White Paper on Ethnic Policy issued by Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in September 2009) 

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