Unity the hallmark of China’s National Minorities policy
By S. M. Hali
People’s Republic of China is a fine blend of various ethnic groups, coexisting with unity and harmony. So far, there are 56 ethnic groups identified and confirmed by the Central Government, namely, the Han, Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Uygur, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Bouyei, Korean, Manchu, Dong, Yao, Bai, Tujia, Hani, Kazak, Dai, Li, Lisu, Va, She, Gaoshan, Lahu, Shui, Dongxiang, Naxi, Jingpo, Kirgiz, Tu, Daur, Mulam, Qiang, Blang, Salar, Maonan, Gelo, Xibe, Achang, Pumi, Tajik, Nu, Ozbek, Russian, Ewenki, Deang, Bonan, Yugur, Jing, Tatar, Drung, Oroqen, Hezhen, Moinba, Lhoba and Jino. Since the Han comprise 91.96 percent of the population according to the 1990 census, the 55 other ethnic groups consisting 8.04 are referred to as minorities.
The over 1.2 billion population of China dwells in concord, owing to pragmatic policies of equality, unity, regional autonomy and accord, decreed by its Constitution. Minority peoples live in every province, autonomous region and municipality directly under the Central Government, and in most county-level units two or more ethnic groups live together. Now minority peoples are mainly concentrated in provinces and autonomous regions such as in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Guangxi, Tibet, Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Liaoning, Jilin, Hunan, Hubei, Hainan and Taiwan.
Xinjiang is a remote region to the west of China, and more than half of its population is made up of ethnic minorities who hold Muslim beliefs. Compared to the more opulent eastern China, Xinjiang was relatively underdeveloped. The disparity was exploited by separatists, which has resulted in sporadic incidents. In May this year, 39 innocent people were killed in a terrorist attack in Urumqi.
PRC leadership has taken serious cognizance of the trouble mongers, who are fanning ethnic intolerance and separatism. On the one hand, the government has launched numerous development projects for the uplift of the people of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), while on the other it has decided to give a “crushing blow” to terrorists and a “strike-first” strategy to deter enemies, while maintaining “high intensity” in the country’s counter-terrorism operations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has personally visited the province to oversee development projects, has called on all ethnic groups in the XUAR to show respect, tolerance and appreciation for each other, in a bid to boost ethnic unity in the region. Addressing a central work conference on Xinjiang’s development, Xi described ethnic unity an issue of utmost importance in the long run. He stressed that all ethnic groups in Xinjiang must “show mutual understanding, respect, tolerance and appreciation among themselves, and learn and help each other,” so that they could be united together “like seeds of a pomegranate”.
“The more separatists attempt to sabotage our ethnic unity, the more we should try to reinforce it,” the president said, adding that unity is the “lifeline” for people of all ethnic backgrounds. President Xi Jinping has called for ‘nets spreading from the earth to the sky,’ to defend against terrorist threats in northwestern region of Xinjiang. He said that long-term stability was the main goal for the region. In this regard, the Chinese President has called for all efforts in developing the economy, improving people’s livelihood, the Party’s construction, and focus on the general objective of achieving social stability and long-term peace and order in XUAR.
In a pragmatic manner, President Xi has directed focus on fostering a team of patriotic clergy and boosting the general quality of people in the religious circle so as to ensure that the leadership of religious organizations is firmly in the hands of people who love the country as well as religion. According to Xi, the basic principle for handling religious issues is to protect legal religious activities, deter illegal and extreme ones, guard against infiltration and crack down on crimes.
China’s top economic planning body the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has been tasked to focus on promoting economic and social development and improving living standards in XUAR. It is working to implement a variety of support policies in employment, education and poverty reduction. NDRC has also vowed to speed up the building of major transport, water conservation and agricultural infrastructure to continuously enhance equality of basic public services and make sure people of all ethnic groups enjoy the fruits of reform and opening up. Transportation will include high speed rail links. The hallmark of all the projects is that they will provide employment opportunities to locals and contribute to their uplift and development.
The Chinese President has proposed the construction of a “Silk Road Economic Belt” as a way of developing political and economic ties with China’s neighbors and accelerating the development of China’s western regions. He rightly realizes that Xinjiang is a major energy powerhouse for China while insufficient transport capacity has long restricted the region’s development as lots of raw materials and products have to be sent to the inland regions by trucks, which take more time and are more costly. Developing means of communication will enable XUAR to rise to its true potential and people in Xinjiang will benefit from it. Regional autonomy, equality and respect for religious beliefs of minorities have ensured tranquility in China.