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China's ethnic policy and governance
By:China Minutes
update:December 15,2023
Dec. 15, 2023 -- Due to years of disinformation campaign by the United States and other Western countries, there are many misunderstandings and misperceptions about China among people in the West. But the fact is, when it comes to managing ethnic affairs, and protecting the languages, cultures, and customs of ethnic minorities, China has done a better job than the US and a large number of other Western countries. It is time to set the record straight and people learn the truth.
Here are some basic facts: China is a multi-ethnic country with more than 1.4 billion people; there are 56 ethnic groups in the large family of the Chinese nation; China practices a system of regional ethnic autonomy; and the languages and cultures of ethnic minorities in China are well protected.
With that in mind, there are four key words to help one fully grasp China’s ethnic policy:
First, equality. The 56 ethnic groups in China are all equal regardless of their size, and are entitled to participate in the governance of state affairs. In the early days of the People’s Republic, the government took the initiative to identify all ethnic minorities. Any minority group, even if its population was slightly over 1,000 people, was recognised as an ethnicity and accorded preferential arrangements. Today, no matter how small an ethnic group is, it has at least one representative in the National People's Congress, taking part in the exercise of the highest power of the country.
On any RMB banknote, one can see characters of Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur and Zhuang languages, apart from mandarin. Ethnic minority people can have more children and pay less taxes, and are provided with more opportunities to get training and promotion in government institutions.
Second, autonomy. In areas with sizable ethnic minority populations, regional autonomy is practiced, with autonomous organs exercising the power of self-government, and ethnic minority groups independently administering affairs in their groups. In China, there are five provincial-level ethnic autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Xizang, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, and Ningxia, as well as 30 ethnic autonomous prefectures and 120 ethnic autonomous counties.
Third, development. China is promoting modernisation that features common prosperity for all, and this means that no ethnic group will be left behind. The Chinese government has made great efforts to develop the western regions of the country and taken active actions to revitalise border areas and enrich local residents’ lives. Ethnic minority areas have benefited tremendously from preferential resources and support from the government.
For example, for more than 30 years, government departments and other localities across the country have been providing paired-up assistance to Xinjiang and Xizang. Over the past 60 plus years since the establishment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Uyghur population has increased from 2.2 million to around 12 million, and the average life expectancy there has grown from 30 to 74.7 years. Since Xizang's peaceful liberation and especially after its democratic reform, the ethnic population there has increased from 1 million to more than 3 million, and the average life expectancy in Xizang has grown from 35 to 72 years.
Fourth, unity. China's 55 ethnic minorities have a combined population of 125 million. China has been a unified multi-ethnic country as a result of multiple rounds of great ethnic integration in history, and this has contributed enormously to the uninterrupted development of the Chinese civilisation spanning thousands of years. Together, ethnic groups in China have long become a community with common interests and a shared future.
We respect and protect the customs, languages, and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities. A total of 28 written languages and 72 spoken languages are used by the country's 55 ethnic minorities. There are 144,000 registered religious activity sites in China, including more than 35,000 mosques, 33,500 Buddhist temples, and about 60,000 Christian churches and gathering venues. While working to preserve ethnic diversity, we are also striving to build a stronger Chinese national and cultural identity among all ethnic groups.
All in all, China's ethnic policy is rooted in the country’s unique history and culture, and has its own development logic. Through unremitting efforts, China has found the right path to manage ethnic issues with Chinese characteristics and in line with its own national conditions. We are ready to strengthen exchanges with other countries on ethnic policy and governance, and learn from each other, for the betterment of all, and for the progress of human civilisation.
By: Zheng Zeguang, Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
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