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National Minorities Policy and
Its Practice in China


I. A United Multi-Ethnic Country

The People's Republic of China is a united multi-ethnic state founded jointly by the people of all its ethnic groups. 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. As the majority of the population belongs to the Han ethnic group, China's other 55 ethnic groups are customarily referred to as the national minorities.

According to the fourth national census conducted in 1990, of the country's total population 91.96 percent belong to the Han ethnic group, and 8.04 percent belong to minority ethnic groups1. A sample survey conducted among one percent of the total population in 1995 showed that 108.46 million people belonged to minority ethnic groups, accounting for 8.98 percent of the country's total population of more than 1.2 billion, a 0.94 percentage point increase over the figure in 1990.

China's ethnic groups live together over vast areas while some live in individual concentrated communities in small areas. In some cases minority peoples can be found living in concentrated communities in areas inhabited mainly by the Han people, while in other cases the situation is just the other way round. This distribution pattern has taken shape throughout China's long history of development as ethnic groups migrated and mingled. The national minorities, though small in numbers, are scattered over vast areas. 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 Taiwan2.

China has been a united multi-ethnic country since ancient times.

In 221 B.C., the first united, multi-ethnic, centralized state--the QinDynasty--was founded in China. Today's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province, where minority peoples are concentrated, were prefectures and counties under the jurisdiction of the united Qin regime. During the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the centralized feudal state became even more powerful by inheriting the Qin system. The Han Dynasty set up a Frontier Command Headquarters in the Western Regions (a general term for today's territory west of Dunhuang, Gansu Province, since the Han Dynasty) and added 17 prefectures governing the people of all ethnic groups there. In this way, a state with a vast territory embracing the ancestors of the various peoples living in Xinjiang today emerged. In the course of the frequent communication between the Han Dynasty and the surrounding minority peoples, the people of the Chinese nation were called the Han by other ethnic groups, and the most populous ethnic group in the world, the Han, emerged. China as a united multi-ethnic country was created by the Qin Dynasty and consolidated and developed by the Han Dynasty.

The central governments of all dynasties following the Han developed and consolidated the united multi-ethnic entity. The central governments of the past dynasties were established not only by the Han people but also by minority peoples. In the 13th century, the Mongolians established the united multi-ethnic Great Yuan Empire (1206-1368). The Yuan Dynasty practiced a system of xingsheng (province, or branch secretariat, a paramount administrative agency in a provincial area) across the country and appointed aboriginal officials or tu guan (hereditary posts of local administrators filled by chiefs of ethnic minorities) in the prefectures and subprefectures of the southern regions where minority peoples lived in concentrated communities. It established the Pacification Commissioner's Commandery in charge of military and administrative affairs in Tibet, whereby Tibet has became thenceforth an inalienable part of Chinese territory, as well as the Penghu Police Office for the administration of the Penghu Islands and Taiwan. Ethnically, the Yuan Empire comprised most of modern China's ethnic groups. The rise of the Manchu in the 17th century culminated in the founding of the last feudal dynasty in Chinese history, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The Qing Dynasty set up the Ili Generalship and Xinjiang Province in the Western Regions, appointed resident officials in Tibet and established the historical convention of conferring honorific titles on the two Living Buddhas Dalai and Panchen lamas by the Central Government. In addition, the Qing Dynasty carried out a series of policies, including a system of local administrators in minority areas appointed by the Central Government, in southwestern China.

Although there were short-term separations and local divisions in Chinese history, unity has always been the mainstream in the development of Chinese history3.

During the long process of unification, economic and cultural exchanges brought the people of all ethnic groups in China closely together, giving shape to a relationship of interdependence, mutual promotion and mutual development among them and contributing to the creation and development of the Chinese civilization.

Due to their interdependent political, economic and cultural connections, all ethnic groups in China have shared common destiny and interests in their long historical development, creating a strong force of affinity and cohesion.

The unity and cooperation among the various ethnic groups have helped to safeguard China as a united multi-ethnic state. In particular in modern times, when China became a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society and the Chinese nation suffered from imperialist invasion, oppression and humiliation and was reduced to the status of an oppressed nation, in order to safeguard the unity of the state and the dignity of the Chinese nation, all the ethnic groups united and fought unyieldingly together against foreign invaders and ethnic separatists. In the 19th century, the people of all the ethnic groups in Xinjiang together with the Qing troops wiped out Yakoob Beg's reactionary forces and defeated the British and Russian invaders' plot to split China. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Tibetan people and troops dealt a heavy blow on the British invaders at the Mount Lungthur and Gyangze battles. During the eight-year war of resistance against Japanese imperialist aggression (1937-1945), the Chinese people of all ethnic groups shared bitter hatred of the enemy and fought dauntlessly and unflinchingly. It is well known that many anti-Japanese forces with ethnic minorities as the mainstay, such as the Hui People's Detachment and the Inner Mongolia Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Contingent made great contributions to China's victory in the War of Resistance. The people of all ethnic groups fought unswervingly and succeeded in safeguarding national unity against acts aimed at splitting the country, which went counter to the historical trend and the will of the Chinese nation, including plots for the ``independence of Tibet'', for the setting up of an ``Eastern Turkestan'' in Xinjiang and the carving out of a puppet state of ``Manchoukuo'' in Northeast China, hatched or engineered by a few ethnic separatists with the support of imperialist invaders.

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the central governments of the various periods in China each had a sequence of policies and systems of its own concerning ethnic affairs, but under all of them, whether set up by the Han people or an ethnic minority, there was no equality to speak of among ethnic groups. The founding of the People's Republic of China opened up a new era in which all ethnic groups in China enjoy equality, unity and mutual aid. In the big, united family of ethnic groups in the People's Republic of China, on the basis of equality of all rights, the people of all ethnic groups unite of their own accord for mutual promotion and common development and dedicate to the building of a strong, prosperous, democratic and civilized New China.

II. Adherence to Equality and Unity Among Ethnic Groups

In China, equality among ethnic groups means that, regardless of their population size, their level of economic and social development, the difference of their folkways, customs and religious beliefs, every ethnic group is a part of the Chinese nation, having equal status, enjoying the same rights and performing the same duties in every aspect of political and social life according to law, and ethnic oppression or discrimination of any form is firmly opposed. Unity among ethnic groups means a relationship of harmony, friendship, mutual assistance and alliance among ethnic groups in social life and mutual contacts. To achieve such unity, the various ethnic groups are required to, on the basis of opposition to ethnic oppression and discrimination, safeguard and promote unity among themselves and within every particular ethnic group and the people of all ethnic groups should, jointly and with one heart and one mind, promote the development and prosperity of the nation, oppose ethnic splits and safeguard the unification of the country. The Chinese government has always maintained that equality among ethnic groups is the precondition and basis for unity among ethnic groups, that the latter cannot be achieved without the former, that the latter is the logical outcome of the former and a guarantee for promoting ethnic equality in its true sense.

Equality and unity among ethnic groups as the basic principle and policy for resolving ethnic problems have been clearly defined in the Constitution and relevant laws.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates: ``All ethnic groups in the People's Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the ethnic minorities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's ethnic groups. Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited.'' Citizens of all ethnic groups in China enjoy all equal rights accorded to citizens by the Constitution and law. For instance, they have the rights to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race and religious belief; their personal freedom and dignity are inviolable; they enjoy freedom of religious belief; they have the right to receive education; they have the right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages; they enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration; they have the right to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural pursuits; they have the right to work and rest, and the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are disabled; they have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary; and they have the freedom to preserve or change their own folkways and customs4.

The Chinese government has adopted special policies and measures to effectively realize and guarantee the right to equality among all ethnic groups, which is prescribed by the Constitution and law, in social life and government activities. As a result, a favorable social environment has been created for ethnic groups to treat each other on an equal footing and to develop a relationship of unity, harmony, friendship and mutual assistance among them.

Protection of the Personal Freedom of Ethnic Minorities

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the economic and social development of the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities was unbalanced; some areas were in society under the serf system, some under the slave system and some even in the later period of the primitive system. The mass of the minority people in these areas were vassals of big feudal lords, nobles, temples or slave owners; they had no personal freedom and could be sold or bought or given as gifts by their owners at will5. In Tibet the Thirteen-Point Law and Sixteen-Point Law formulated in the 17th century and used for more than 300 years, divided the people strictly into three classes and nine grades: the people of the upper class were big nobles, Grand Living Buddhas and high officials, the people of the intermediate class were ordinary clerical and secular officials, junior officers and stewards of upper class people, and the people of the lower class were serfs and slaves. According to these Laws the value of the life of a top-grade person of the upper class was measured by the weight of his body in gold, while the life of a lowest-grade person of the lower class was as cheap as a straw rope. However, the people of the lower class exceeded 95 percent of the total population of Tibet6. It is obvious that without the reform of the backward social and political system in minority areas the various equal rights of minority peoples stipulated in the Constitution and the law could not be realized.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government adopted different measures to institute democratic reform successively in the minority areas at the will of the minority of the people in these areas, and completed the reform in the late 1950s. This reform abolished all the privileges of the privileged few--feudal lords, nobles and tribal chiefs--and the old system of exploitation and oppression of man by man. As a result, tens of thousands of the minority people won emancipation and personal freedom and became masters of their homelands and their own destinies. The democratic reform which took place in Tibet in 1959 eradicated the feudal serf system marked by the combination of government and religion and the dictatorship of nobles and monks, thus tens of thousands of serfs and slaves under the old system got their personal freedom and became masters of the new society.

All Ethnic Groups Participate in State Affairs Administration on an Equal Footing

In China, the minority and Han peoples participate as equals in the management of affairs of the state and local governments at various levels, and the rights of the minority ethnic groups to take part in the management of state affairs are especially guaranteed. Elections to the National People's Congress(NPC)--the highest organ of state power--fully reflect respect for the rights of ethnic minorities. In accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Law of the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses of the People's Republic of China, the minority peoples shall have their own deputies to sit in the NPC, and the ethnic groups whose population is less than that prescribed for electing one deputy are permitted to elect one deputy. From the first session of the First NPC, held in 1954, to the present day, the proportions of deputies of ethnic minorities among the total number of deputies in every NPC have been higher than the proportions of their populations in the nation's total population in the corresponding periods. Of 2,979 deputies elected in 1998 to the Ninth NPC, 428 deputies were from ethnic minority, accounting for 14.37 percent of the total, which was about five percentage points higher than the proportion of their total population in the nation's total population at that time.

In areas where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, each of them may have its own deputy or deputies sit in the local people's congresses. Ethnic minorities living in scattered groups may also elect their own deputies to the local people's congresses and the number of people represented by each of their deputies may be less than the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to such congresses.

The state has made great efforts to train ethnic minority cadres and enlist their service. To date, there are well over 2,700,000 minority cadres throughout the country. The ethnic minorities also have a fairly large appropriate number of personnel working in the central and local state organs, administrative organs, judicial organs and procuratorial organs, taking part in the management of national and local affairs. Today, among the vice-chairpersons of the Standing Committee of the NPC, those of ethnic minority origin account for 21 percent; among the vice-chairpersons of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), those of ethnic minority origin account for 9.6 percent; of the leading members of the State Council, one is of ethnic minority origin; among the leaders of the component departments of the State Council, two ministers are from ethnic minority groups; and the heads of the governments of the 155 ethnic autonomous regions, prefectures and counties (or banners) are all from ethnic minority groups.

Identification of Ethnic Minorities

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, it had never been made clear how many ethnic minorities there were in China. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, to implement the policy of equality among ethnic groups in an all-round way the state has organized large-scale investigations since 1953 to identify the ethnic groups. Proceeding from conditions both past and present and in accordance with the principle of combination of scientific identification and the wishes of the given ethnic group, every group which accords with the conditions for an ethnic group is identified as a single ethnic group, regardless of its level of social development and the sizes of its inhabited area and population. By 1954, the Chinese government had identified 38 ethnic groups in all, after careful investigation and study. By 1964, the Chinese government had identified another 15 ethnic groups. With the addition of the Lhoba ethnic group, identified in 1965, and the Jino ethnic group, identified in 1979, there are 55 ethnic minority groups which have been formally recognized and made known to the public. Now, in New China many ethnic minority groups which had not been recognized by the rulers of old China have been recognized as they should, and they all enjoy equal rights with other ethnic groups in China.

Opposing Ethnic Discrimination or Oppression of Any Form

Under the system of ethnic discrimination and oppression in old China, many ethnic minorities did not have proper names or names given in the spirit of equality. The names of certain minority-inhabited areas even carried the implications of ethnic discrimination or oppression. In 1951 the Central People's Government promulgated the Directive on Dealing with the Appellations, Place Names, Monuments, Tablets and Inscriptions Bearing Contents Discriminating Against or Insulting Ethnic Minorities, and such names, appellations, etc. were resolutely abolished. Some ethnic appellations not implying insults were also changed at the wish of the given ethnic group, for instance, the appellation of the Tong ethnic group was changed to Zhuang.

In China any words or acts aimed at inciting hostility and discrimination against any ethnic group and sabotaging equality and unity among peoples are regarded as violating the law. Any ethnic minority subjected to discrimination, oppression or insult, has the right to complain to judicial institutions at any level, which have the duty of handling the complaint.

China has joined international conventions such as The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and has conscientiously performed the duties prescribed in these conventions and made unremitting efforts together with the international community to realize ethnic equality and oppose racial segregation and ethnic oppression and discrimination in all countries of the world.

Upholding and Promoting the Unity of All Ethnic Groups

To safeguard equality among ethnic groups and enhance their unity, the Constitution contains provisions on the need to combat big-ethnic group chauvinism, mainly Han chauvinism, and local ethnic chauvinism. The state also educates all citizens in the unity of all ethnic groups. In literary and art works, films and televisions programs, news reports and academic research, China vigorously advocates the equality and unity of ethnic groups, and opposes ethnic oppression and discrimination, and especially big-ethnic group chauvinism. Besides, to prevent and eliminate big-ethnic-group chauvinism and inequality in the ideological field, the relevant departments and organs of the Chinese government have worked out special provisions to strictly prohibit contents damaging ethnic unity in the media, publications, and literary and art works.

Since the 1980s, the Chinese government and the relevant departments have held meetings to commend ethnic unity and progress, at which those units and individuals who uphold the equal rights of ethnic groups and promote harmonious coexistence and common progress and prosperity of ethnic groups are praised and encouraged.

Following the launching of a nationwide in-depth movement for the unity and progress of ethnic groups, in 1988 the Chinese government held the first national meeting to commend and give awards to units and individuals distinguished in this regard, at which the commendation involved 565 advanced collectives and 601 advanced individuals. At the second national meeting, held in 1994, a total of 1,200 model units and individuals were cited, and the third national meeting is scheduled to be held in Beijing in 1999. The holding of this kind of meetings has gone a long way toward inspiring the advanced, encouraging healthy trends and making ethnic unity become a powerful part of public opinion and a fine moral conduct in society. It has not only pushed forward the cause for unity and progress among ethnic groups, but it has also exerted a far-reaching influence on the maintenance of stability in ethnic minority areas and the nation at large.

Respecting and Protecting the Freedom of Religious Belief of Ethnic Minorities

China is home to many religions, mainly Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. Most people belonging to ethnic minorities in China hold religious beliefs. In the case of certain ethnic groups religions are followed on a mass scale, for instance the Tibetans have Tibetan Buddhism as their traditional religion. In accordance with the Constitution's provisions on freedom of religious belief of citizens, the Chinese government has formulated specific policies to ensure respect for and safeguard freedom of religious belief for ethnic minorities and guarantee all normal religious activities of ethnic minorities citizens. In China, all normal religious activities, such as those of Tibetan Buddhism, which is followed by the Tibetan, Mongolian, Tu, Yugur and Moinba ethnic groups, Islam, followed by the Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Salar, Bonan, Kirgiz, Tajik, Ozbek and Tatar ethnic groups, and Christianity, followed by some people of the Miao and Yao ethnic groups, are all protected by law. To date, there are more than 30,000 mosques in China, of which 23,000 are in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. In Tibet there are over 1,700 places for Tibetan-Buddhism activities.

Use and Development of Spoken and Written Languages of Ethnic Minorities

All ethnic groups in China have the freedom and right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. In the 1950s, China organized specialists to make investigations of the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities, and established special organizations involved in work connected with the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities as well as institutions to research these languages, to train specialists in these languages, help minority people create, improve or reform their written languages, and promote the use of spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in every field.

Now, all the 55 national minorities, except the Hui and Manchu, who use the Chinese language, have their own languages: among them 21 use 27 languages, and more than ten ethnic goups, including the Zhuang, Bouyei, Miao, Naxi, Lisu, Hani, Va, Dong, Jingpo (Zaiva language family) and Tu, use 13 languages which have been created or improved with the help of the government.

The spoken and written languages of national minorities are widely used in judicial, administrative and educational fields, as well as in political activities and social life. In the political activities of the state, such as important meetings held by the NPC and the CPPCC, and national and local important activities, documents in Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Kazak, Korean, Yi, Zhuang and other ethnic minorities, and language interpretation to or from these languages are provided. The organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas all use one or more languages of their areas when they perform their duties. In the educational field the organs of self-government, in accordance with the educational principles of the state and the law, work out their local educational programs and decide on the languages to be used in teaching in the local schools. In schools with minority students as the main body and other educational institutions the languages of the ethnic groups concerned or languages commonly used in the locality are used in teaching. China publishes about 100 newspapers in 17 minority languages and 73 periodicals in 11 minority languages. The Central People's Broadcasting Station and local broadcasting stations use 16 minority languages, and regional, prefectural and county broadcasting stations or rediffusion stations use more than 20. As many as 3,410 feature films have been produced and 10,430 films dubbed in minority languages. By 1998, 36 publishing houses specializing in publishing for national minorities had published more than 53 million copies of 4,100-odd titles of books in 23 minority languages.

III. Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

In China regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is a basic policy adopted by the Chinese government in line with the actual conditions of China, and also an important part of the political system of China. Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities means that under the unified leadership of the state regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities; in these areas organs of self-government are established for the exercise of autonomy and for people of ethnic minorities to become masters of their own areas and manage the internal affairs of their own regions.

Autonomous areas for ethnic minorities in China include autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties (banners). 1) Autonomous areas are established where people of one ethnic minority live in concentrated communities, such as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; 2) autonomous areas are established where two ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, such as the Haixi Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province; 3) autonomous areas are established where several ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, such as the Longsheng Ethnic Minorities Autonomous County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; 4) autonomous areas are established within a larger autonomous area where people of an ethnic minority with a smaller population live in concentrated communities, such as the Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; 5) autonomous areas are established for people of one ethnic minority who live in concentrated communities in different places, such as the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province and the Dachang Hui Autonomous County in Hebei Province. For places where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities but where autonomous areas and organs of self-government are not fit to be established because the areas and populations of the ethnic minorities are too small, ethnic townships are established so that the minority peoples there can also exercise their rights as masters of their homelands. Ethnic townships are a supplement to the system of regional autonomy.

By the end of 1998, five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners) had been established, as well as 1,256 ethnic townships. Among the 55 ethnic minorities, 44 have their own autonomous areas, with a population of 75 percent of the total of the ethnic minorities and an area of 64 percent of the area of the whole country. The number and distribution of the autonomous areas are basically the same as the distribution and composition of the ethnic groups nationwide7.

The following are the three reasons for China to practice the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities: First, it conforms to the conditions and historical traditions of China, because China has been centralized and united country over a long period of time. Second, over a long period of time China's ethnic groups have lived together over vast areas while some live in individual concentrated communities in small areas. The Han population accounts for the majority of the total population of the country, while the populations of ethnic minorities are in the minority. In the early period of the People's Republic of China, ethnic minorities only accounted for six percent of China's total population. In most multi-ethnic group areas the population of the national minorities is less than that of the Han people except in Tibet, Xinjiang and a few other regions. The national minorities are distributed over large areas, in more than half of the total territory of China. Economic and cultural contacts over long periods have evolved among them a relationship in which cooperation and mutual assistance, rather than separation, is the best choice for them. Third, following the outbreak of the Opium War in 1840, all the ethnic groups of China were faced with the common task and destiny of struggling against imperialism and feudalism and striving for national liberation. In the long-term revolutionary struggle against foreign enemies and for national independence and liberation, the various ethnic groups have developed a close interrelationship characterized by the sharing of weal and woe, and the common political understanding that the Han people cannot go without the minority peoples nor can the minority peoples go without the Han people or one minority people can go without another minority people. So a solid political and social foundation for the establishment of a united New China and the practice of regional autonomy in minority areas was laid in that period.

Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities conforms with the national interests and the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups in China. The practice of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities has ensured their equal footing and equal rights politically and satisfied the desire of all the ethnic minorities to take an active part in nation's political activities to a large extent. According to the principle of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities, an ethnic group may establish an autonomous area in a region where it lives in concentrated communities, or it may establish several autonomous areas at different administrative levels in other parts of the country in line with the distribution of the ethnic group. The practice of regional autonomy not only ensures the rights of the ethnic minorities to exercise autonomy as masters of their homelands, but also upholds the unification of the state. It enhances the combination of state policies and principles and the concrete conditions of the ethnic minority areas and the integrated development of the state and the ethnic minorities, the better for each to give free rein to its own advantages.

The system of regional autonomy in China has two distinguishing features. First, regional autonomy is under the unified leadership of the state, and the autonomous areas are inseparable parts of China. The organs of self-government of the autonomous areas are local governments under the leadership of the Central Government, and they must be subordinated to the centralized and unified leadership of the Central Government. The concrete conditions and requirements of the various minority areas must be taken into full consideration and assistance and support solicited from all quarters when policies and plans are formulated and economic and cultural construction is conducted by the organs of state at higher levels. Second, regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in China is not only ethnic autonomy or local autonomy, but is the integration of ethnic and regional factors and the combination of political and economic factors. The practice of regional autonomy in China should be beneficial to the unification of the country, social stability and the unity of all ethnic groups; it should also benefit the development and progress of the ethnic group that practices autonomy and assist in national construction.

The establishment of the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities has undergone long period of exploration and practice. Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the first provincial-level autonomous region--the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region-- was founded in 1947. The Common Program of the CPPCC, adopted at the first CPPCC session on September 29, 1949 and serving as the country's provisional constitution, defined regional autonomy for ethnic minorities as a basic policy and one of the important political systems of the state. The Program for the Implementation of Ethnic Regional Autonomy of the People's Republic of China, issued on August 8, 1952, embodied overall arrangements for the implementation of regional autonomy for national minorities. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China adopted in 1954 and later amended and promulgated defines such autonomy as an important political system of state. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, promulgated in 1984, contains systematic provisions on the political, economic and cultural rights and duties of ethnic minority autonomous areas. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, four autonomous regions were established successively: the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, founded in October 1955; the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, founded in March 1958; the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, founded in October 1958; and the Tibet Autonomous Region, founded in September 1965.

The Constitution stipulates that the organs of self-government of autonomous areas are the people's congresses and people's governments of autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties. The establishment and organization of organs of self-government of autonomous areas are based on the basic principles of the people's congress system, but these organs are different from ordinary local state organs. The Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy stipulates that all ethnic groups in autonomous areas shall elect an appropriate number of deputies to take part in the people's congresses at various levels; among the chairman or vice-chairmen of the standing committee of the people's congress of an autonomous area there shall be one or more citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned; the head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned, and the other members of the people's governments of these regions, prefectures and counties shall include members of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy as well as members of other ethnic minorities as far as possible.

While exercising the functions and powers of a local organ of state, organs of self-government in autonomous areas at the same time exercise other functions and powers as stipulated by the Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy. These include legislative power, the power to flexibly carry out, or halt the carrying out of, some decisions, the right to develop their economics and control the local finances, the power to train and employ cadres belonging to ethnic minorities, the power to develop education and ethnic culture, the power to develop and employ the local spoken and written languages, and the power to develop technological, scientific and cultural and undertakings.

--The people's congresses of the autonomous areas have the right to enact regulations on the exercise of autonomy and separate regulations in light of local political, economic and cultural characteristics. By the end of 1998, 126 regulations on the exercise of autonomy and 209 separate regulations had been enacted by the autonomous areas.

--If resolutions, decisions, orders and instructions from the higher-level state organs are not suited to the actual conditions of the autonomous areas, the organs of self-government of these areas may be flexible in carrying them out or may decide not to carry them out after approval by the higher state organs. According to Article 36 of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China, supplementary regulations have been worked out for carrying out the Marriage Law by the five autonomous regions and some autonomous prefectures in line with their own actual conditions. They changed the legal marriage age from ``not below 22'' to ''not below 20 for men'' and from ``not below 20'' to ''not below 18 for women.''

--Organs of self-government of autonomous areas may independently arrange and manage local economic construction within the guidance of state planning, and formulate policies, principles and plans for their economic construction according to their local characteristics and requirements. Owing to the adoption of a series of policies and measures suitable for the concrete conditions of local economic development, the economy of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has seen rapid development. In 1998, its GDP had reached 119.202 billion yuan, with a per capita average GDP of 5,067 yuan, and its revenue was 13.12 billion yuan, with per capita average incomes of 4,353 yuan and 1,981 yuan in urban and rural areas, respectively--increases of 9.6 , 7.5, 17.9, 10.4 and 11.3 percent8.

--The organs of self-government in the autonomous areas have trained a large number of minority cadres, technicians, management personnel and other specialized personnel and skilled workers in line with the needs of national construction and brought their roles in work into full play. There were 372,900 minority cadres in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 1998, accounting for 35 percent of the total cadres in Guangxi. The chief leaders of the governments of the 12 autonomous counties of this region are from the ethnic minorities exercising regional autonomy and the heads of the region's 62 ethnic townships are also from the ethnic minorities that have established such townships. Minority Party and government leaders of prefectures (cities), counties and townships in this region account for 26.92 percent, 39.71 percent and 48.03 percent of the total Party and government leaders of this region, respectively. Among the reserve cadres at the provincial, prefectural and county levels, minority cadres account for 46 percent, 32 percent, and 35 percent, respectively. In 1998, Tibetan cadres accounted for 74.9 percent of the total in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and at the regional, prefectural and county levels Tibetan cadres and cadres from other local ethnic minorities accounted for 78 percent, 67 percent and 62 percent, respectively. At the same time, cadres from the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities account for more than 60 percent in the scientific and technological departments.

--Organs of self-government of autonomous areas may decide their own local education programs, including the establishment of schools, the length of study, the forms of school running, course contents, language of instruction and procedures of enrollment and develop independently their own type of education based on their ethnic minority characteristics and within the state education policies and relevant laws (see Table 1). Before 1949, the illiteracy rate was upwards of 95 percent in Ningxia, and there was not a single institution of higher learning. But today, a rational multi-level educational system embracing different types of school that complement each other for coordinated development is in place in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. By 1998, there were 6,100 different kinds of schools in Ningxia, with a total of 1.3 million students. Among them there were five institutions of higher learning, with 11,000 students. As a result, in this region 89.5 percent of the people are literate. In old Tibet, there were no schools in the modern sense, and the illiteracy rate was 95 percent. But by 1998, there were 4,365 schools of all levels in the Tibet Autonomous Region. About 81.3 percent of school-age children now attend school, and the illiteracy rate has been reduced by 47 percentage points

Table 1 Educational Development in National Minority Autonomous
Areas in 1952 and 1998

Item


1952

1998
institutions of higher learning
11
94
students in institutions of higher learning (10,000 persons)
0.45
22.64
secondary schools
531
13,466
students in secondary schools (10,000 persons)
20.94
529.64
primary schools
59,597
90,704
students in primary schools (10,000 persons)
467.31
1,240.90
 

The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province has made considerable progress in its education in the past 50 years, proving itself worthy of its time-honored reputation as ``home of education.'' According to the latest statistics, 99.97 percent of school age children in this prefecture were in primary schools in 1998, 99.98 percent of them have entered secondary schools of all types and 95.2 percent of them have entered regular junior middle schools, with a graduation rate of 96.8 percent. Nine-year compulsory education is virtually universal in this prefecture. Higher education, vocational education and adult education have gradually got onto the track of coordinated development. The proportion of graduates from universities and secondary specialized schools and intellectuals of the intermediate rank and above in the population of Yanbian exceeds the average number in the country.

--Organs of self-government of autonomous areas make their own decisions concerning medical and health work. Modern medicine and traditional ethnic minority medicine are promoted, prevention and cure of endemic diseases and maternal and child care have been improved, with the result that the health standards of the ethnic minorities across the country have markedly improved ( see Table 2).

Table 2 Development of Medical and Health Service in National
Minority Autonomous Areas in 1952 and 1998


Item


1952

1998
medical and health institutions
1,176
16,700
hospital beds
5,711
393,000
medical technicians
17,877
605,255
one medical institution per
47,619 people
10,139 people
number of hospital beds per thousand people
0.10
2.32
one medical technician per
3,132 people
341 people
 

It took only three years for the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region after its founding to check the spread of the plague. The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region controlled the spread of the plague in 1963. In 1961, smallpox was eliminated throughout the whole country, including minority areas. The life span of Tibetans has increased to 65 years from 36 in 1959, the year of the democratic reform started. The infant mortality rate shrank to 3.7 percent in 1998 from 43 percent 40 years previously in Tibet. The life span of the people of Ningxia has increased to 69 from 30 before 1949.

IV. Promoting the Common Development of

All Ethnic Groups


Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, agriculture and animal husbandry, the main economies in China's minority areas, developed very slowly. Some areas still remained in the primitive ``slash-and-burn'' stage of agricultural production, and in some areas, iron farm tool were not in use. In addition, water conservancy facilities were inadequate. In 1949 the average per-hectare yield of grain in minority areas was only 1,125 kg, and the total agricultural output of those areas was only worth 3.12 billion yuan. Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, there were almost no modern industries in ethnic minority areas. In 1949, the total industrial output value of these areas was only 540 million yuan. Communications, posts and telecommunications were also very backward; goods were transported mainly by animals and people. There were very few automobiles or highways, and more often than not, it took one month or longer to deliver a letter. Many people had never seen an automobile or a telephone, and there was not a single road in Tibet.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the state has spared no effort to promote the common development and progress of all ethnic groups. In accordance with the actual conditions in the ethnic minority areas, the state has worked out and adopted a series of policies and measures to assist these areas in developing their economies, and mobilize and organize the developed areas where Han people live to support them. In the Law of the People's Republic of China on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, 13 articles specify the duties of the state organs at higher levels to help the ethnic autonomous areas with their development. While working out the plan for the national economic and social development, the state arranged some important projects in the national minority areas in a planned and conscious way to readjust their single-product economic structure, develop diversified industries and improve the comprehensive economic strength of those areas. Especially along with the constant deepening of China's reform and opening to the outside world in recent years, the state has increased its investments in minority areas to speed up their pace of opening-up, thus making the minority areas show new vitality for economic development.

Strengthening the Construction of Infrastructure Facilities and Promoting the Development of Basic Industries in Minority Areas

During the First Five-Year Plan period (1953-1957), the state started to construct a number of key projects in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, such as the Baotou Iron and Steel Base in Inner Mongolia, the Qingtongxia Hydropower Station in Ningxia, petroleum exploration in Xinjiang and the development of the Hinggan Mountains Forest Area in Inner Mongolia. In the 1950s and 1960s, China completed the Sichuan-Tibet, Qinghai-Tibet, Xinjiang-Tibet and other main highways in minority areas, and built the Baotou-Lanzhou, Lanzhou-Xining, Lanzhou-Urumqi, Guiyang-Kunming, Chengdu-Kunming, Chengdu-Guiyang, and Changsha-Guiyang trunk railways leading to the minority areas in northwest and southwest China. In addition, a large number of large and medium-sized industrial enterprises were set up one after another in minority areas, and a total of more than 1,400 industrial enterprises were set up in the five autonomous regions and the places where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities in Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai provinces.

The state has shown great concern for infrastructure facilities construction and basic industries development in minority areas, giving priority to the arrangement of water conservancy, power, communications, environmental protection and natural resource development projects in central and western China where ethnic minorities are comparatively concentrated. A preferential policy on investment has been adopted so as to guide more foreign investments to those areas. In 1998, of the total increased financial investment by the state, 62 percent was used in central and western China, and the investment made by the central authorities in fixed assets in central and western China increased by 31.2 percent, or 14.9 percentage points higher than that in eastern China and the highest figure since the founding of New China. These policies and measures have greatly promoted the economic development of ethnic minority areas (see Table 3). According to statistics, in 1998 railway traffic mileage in these areas totaled 17,300 km, or 4.6 times the 1952 figure, and the highway traffic mileage, 374,100 km or 14.4 times the 1952 figure. The postal routes and total rural delivery distance came to 1.1354 million km, or 8.6 times the 1952 figure.

Table 3 The Development of Major Industries in National Minority Autonomous Areas in 1952 and 1998


Item


1952

1998
total industrial output value (100 million yuan)
5.4
5,313.0
output of pig iron (10,000 tons)
0.90
701.73
output of steel (10,000 tons)
0.06
632.80
output of raw coal (10,000 tons)
178.0
17,568.6
output of crude oil (10,000 tons)
5.20
2,047.24
generated energy (100 million KWH)
0.8
1,323.1
 

In recent years, thanks to huge state assistance, Xinjiang has completed a number of modern, technologically advanced large and medium-sized industrial projects, such as the Urumqi General Petrochemicals Factory and the ethylene project of the Dushanzi General Petrochemicals Factory, as well as a number of large communications facilities, such as the Southern Xinjiang Railway, the Tacheng Airport and the high-grade Turpan-Urumqi-Dahuangshan Highway. According to statistics, during the 20 years from 1978 to 1997, Xinjiang completed and put into operation more than 50,000 projects, including 64 large and medium-sized ones, with fixed assets totaling 190 billion yuan. These investments have greatly improved Xinjiang's water conservancy, communications, posts and telecommunications and other infrastructure facilities. Xinjiang has become the fourth-biggest oil producing and processing area in China, as well as an important cotton and woolen textile base and a fur processing base9.

The Central Government has extended special support to the construction of infrastructure facilities and the development of basic industries in Tibet. In 1984, the Central Government organized manpower and material resources from nine provinces and municipalities to help Tibet build 43 projects in just over a year, covering energy, communications, construction materials and municipal works and involving a total investment of 480 million yuan. In 1994, the Central Government also decided that the central authorities and the provinces and municipalities throughout the country should help Tibet construct 62 projects without compensation, with the total investment exceeding four billion yuan. So far, 60 of them have been completed. In 1997 the Yamzho Yumco Water Pumping and Energy Storing Power Station, built with state investment totaling 2.014 billion yuan, was completed and began to generate electricity. According to statistics, from the 1950s to 1998, the Central Government invested more than 40 billion yuan in Tibet, and transported a great amount of materials to it. The aid offered by the Central Government and other provinces and municipalities has greatly improved the construction of infrastructure facilities and basic industries in Tibet. Now Tibet has power, mining, construction materials, forestry, woolen textile, printing, food and other modern industries.

Developing Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Ethnic Minority Areas

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the governments at all levels, from the central to the local, have actively led ethnic minority farmers and herdsmen to start capital construction on farmland and grasslands, and have adopted various measures to develop the rural economy and improve the agricultural production level. Through various measures, such as providing free farm tools and production capital, reducing and exempting agricultural and animal husbandry taxes, and issuing interest-free or low-interest loans, the Chinese government has made remarkable achievements in supporting the rural economic development of the areas inhabited by minority peoples (see Table 4). In 1998, the net income per farmer in ethnic minority autonomous areas reached 1,633.11 yuan, or 21.5 times the 1980 figure.

Table 4 Main Items of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Development in National Minority Autonomous Areas in 1952 and 1998


Item


1952

1998
total agricultural output value (100 million yuan)
31.2
3,210.5
grain output (10,000 tons)
1,581.5
7,295.43
total number of big livestock (10,000 head)
2,439.2
5,564.7
 

In the early 1980s, the Central Government decided on two policies toward Tibet that would not be changed for a long time to come -- ``The land will be used by households, and will be managed by them on their own,'' and ``livestock will be owned, raised and managed by households on their own'' --and offered exemption from taxes to farmers, thus greatly rousing the enthusiasm for production of the farmers and herdsmen, who make up over 80 percent of the total population of Tibet, and resulting in bumper harvests in agricultural production year after year. In 1998, the total grain output of the Tibet Autonomous Region stood at 850,000 tons, or 5.6 times the 1959 figure. To further improve the conditions for agricultural and animal husbandry production, in the 1990s the state has invested more than two billion yuan to comprehensively develop and improve the agricultural infrastructure facilities in the valleys of the Yarlungzangbo, Lhasa and Nyangqu rivers. It is planned that 40 projects will be constructed. After the completion of these projects, 45.6 percent of the existing cultivated area in Tibet will benefit from them. Thanks to the support of the state, since 1989 the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has completed the first and second phases of the comprehensive agricultural development in the Hetao Irrigated Area, reclaimed 40,000 ha of wasteland, and ameliorated more than 100,000 ha of medium- and low-yield fields, enabling an additional production capacity of nearly 400 million kg of grain10.

To accelerate the development of the townships, in 1993 the Chinese government formulated the Regulations on the Administrative Work of Ethnic Townships, specifying that the governments at higher levels should adopt special policies and measures concerning finance, banking, taxation, the construction of infrastructure facilities, and other fields to help ethnic townships to develop their economies. During the Eighth Five-Year Plan period (1991-1995), the Chinese government offered discount-interest loans totaling 100 million yuan every year to assist minority areas in developing township enterprises.

Increasing the Momentum of Reform and Opening-Up in Minority Areas

Since the adoption of the policy of reform and opening-up by China at the end of the 1970s, minority areas, like the other areas throughout the country, have undertaken, along the line of establishing a socialist market economy system, a series of reforms concerning rural areas, state-owned enterprises, taxes, finance, investment, foreign trade, circulation, social security, and housing. Fundamental changes have taken place in their economic systems and operational mechanisms; and the level of marketization and socialization of the local economies have been remarkably improved. Meanwhile, along with the formation of the state omni-directional, multi-level and wide-ranging opening pattern, ethnic minority areas have brought into full play their respective advantages of lying along the coasts, the rivers and the country's borders to actively develop border trade and foreign economic and technological cooperation; and their opening to the outside world has entered a new stage. Their status and role in the nation's overall opening pattern is also becoming daily more pronounced.

Since the end of the 1970s, while adopting various preferential policies, such as extending financial subsidies to minority areas and establishing development funds, the state has encouraged minority areas to actively start the introduction of foreign investment and technology and domestic cooperation, and develop frontier trade according to local circumstances. It has supported minority areas in their efforts to promote the readjustment of their social and economic structures, and strengthen their self-development ability through active and stable reform measures.

In 1987, the state defined that places with right conditions in frontier minority areas should be selected to learn the international experiences of setting up inland development zones and frontier free trade zones, to speed up the opening there. To enliven economy in frontier areas, bring prosperity to frontier residents and promote economic and trade cooperation with adjacent countries, the state decided, in 1992, further to open a number of inland border cities with large minority populations, including Manzhouli and Erlianhot of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Hunchun of Jilin Province, Yining, Bole and Tacheng of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Pingxiang and Dongxing of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In 1993, the state selected seven ethnic localities--Hulun Buir League, Wuhai City, Yanbian Korea Autonomous Prefecture, Southeast Guizhou Miao-Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Golmud City, and Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, as areas for pilot projects for reform and opening-up.

In the 1980s, Beihai City in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was listed as one of the country's 14 coastal open cities; another one city and five counties were named as national coastal economic open zones; Urumqi, Nanning, Kunming, Hohhot, Yinchuan, Xining, Guiyang and other capital cities of ethnic minority autonomous regions and provinces which have fairly large minority populations, were listed as inland open cities; the state also gave approval to Guilin, Nanning, Urumqi and Baotou cities, which are four large and medium-sized cities in minority areas, to establish new- and high-tech industrial development zones.

So far, Xinjiang has established stable economic and trade relations with more than 70 countries and regions worldwide. From 1992 to 1997, Xinjiang's total import and export volume reached 6.99 billion US dollars-worth, with an average annual growth rate of 21.1 percent. The six open cities, the economic and technological development zones, and the frontier economic cooperation zones in Xinjiang have made great achievements in construction and investment solicitation. Xinjiang has opened 15 trading ports, and the completion of the multiple tracking of the Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway and the opening of the second Euro-Asia Continental Bridge has resulted in the basic formation of a modernized northwest international thoroughfare.

Since Guangxi adopted the policy of openingto the outside world, its foreign capital has constantly increased. During the Eighth Five-Year Plan period (1991-1995), Guangxi actually utilized 3.24 billion US dollars of foreign capital (including loans from foreign governments), or 6.6 times the figure of the Seventh Five-Year Plan period (1986-1990). By the end of 1997, Guangxi had accumulatively approved 8,505 foreign-invested projects, involving 13.79 billion US dollars of contracted foreign capital, and had actually utilized 6.71 billion US dollars of foreign capital. So far, more than 30 countries and regions have invested in Guangxi11.

Preferential Financial Policies for Minority Areas

The state set up ``ethnic region subsidies'' in 1955, and the Flexible Ethnic Region Fund in 1964, and adopted the preferential financial policy of raising the proportion of the financial reserve fund of the ethnic regions to help minority areas develop their economies and improve the local people's livelihoods. According to statistics, in terms of the above-mentioned three preferential policies, the state had offered 16.8 billion yuan of subsidies to minority areas by 1998. Since 1980, the central financial authorities have adopted a quota subsidy system for the five autonomous regions and the three provinces with large ethnic minority populations--Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces. The above-mentioned three preferential policies have also been included in the quota subsidy system. From 1980 to 1998, the autonomous areas received more than 140 billion yuan of quota subsidies from the central financial authorities. In 1980, the state set up a fund to aid the development of economically underdeveloped areas, of which a large part was used in minority areas. In 1986 the state set up the help-the-poor discount-interest loan and capital for providing employment as a form of relief, of which a large proportion was used in minority areas. In 1994 China began to reform the ``revenue-sharing-scheme'' financial management system. In the meantime, all the original subsidies and special financial allocation policies for minority areas were preserved. With respect to the transfer payment method for the transition period which China adopted in 1995, the state specially added the policy-related transfer-payment contents for the five autonomous regions, including Tibet, and the autonomous prefectures in Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai and other provinces, offering preferential policies to the ethnic minority areas. The policy-related transfer-payment sum has constantly increase along with the growth of the state's financial capacity. In 1998 the ordinary transfer-payment sum by the central authorities to the five autonomous regions and Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces where ethnic minorities are fairly concentrated was nearly 2.9 billion yuan, making up 48 percent of the nation's total transfer-payment sum.

Encouraging the Development of Trade in Minority Areas and Guaranteeing the Production of Articles Used by Minority Peoples

The state adopts preferential policies toward ethnic trade. For instance, since 1963 it has adopted a threefold policy in this regard. This ensures a portion of reserved profits, self-owned capital and price subsidies for minority peoples. To respect the folkways, customs and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities and satisfy their needs for special articles of daily use, the state guarantees the production of more than 4,000 varieties of ethnic articles, which fall into 16 categories, such as garments, shoes, hats, furniture, silks and satins, foodstuff, production tools, handicrafts, ornaments and musical instruments. It has also extended some preferential policies, such as setting up special production bases, giving priority to the guarantee of production capital and the supply of raw and processed materials, reduction of and exemption from taxes, low-interest loans, transportation subsidies, etc.

Since 1991, in light of the new situation of reform and opening-up, the state has made appropriate readjustments in the preferential policies concerning ethnic trade and the production of ethnic articles for daily use. During the Eighth Five-Year Plan period (1991-1995), the state offered preferential treatment to commercial, supply and marketing and pharmaceuticals enterprises and more than 2,300 designated enterprises for producing ethnic articles for daily use in the 426 designated ethnic trade counties in terms of credits, investment, taxation and the supply of commodities, and offered special discount-interest loans for the construction of an ethnic trade network, and the technological transformation of designated enterprises for producing ethnic articles for daily use. As part of a new package of preferential policies offered for the same purpose by the state in June 1997, the People's Bank of China will offer 100 million yuan in a discount-interest loan a year during the Ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996-2000) for the construction of an ethnic trade network and the technological transformation of the designated enterprises for producing ethnic articles for daily use, and the state-owned ethnic trade enterprises and grass-roots supply and marketing cooperatives below the county level (excluding the county) shall be exempt from value-added tax.

Helping Impoverished Minority Areas Get Rid of Poverty

Although the minority people's life has witnessed tremendous improvement since the founding of the people's Republic of China, restricted by geographical conditions, a low social development level, bad production conditions, and lack of scientific, technological and cultural knowledge, western China, where minority peoples live in concentrated communities, is relatively backward as compared with the coastal areas in eastern China. In some minority areas, production and living conditions are fairly difficult, and the people's basic needs of some people are not assured. Since the mid- 1980s, when China started a large-scale help-the-poor drive in an organized and planned way, the state has always attached importance to helping the minority peoples and minority areas

During the help-the-poor efforts in the past decade or so, poverty-stricken minority areas have enjoyed the preferential help-the-poor policy offered by the Chinese government to other poverty-stricken areas, as well as a series of special policies formulated by the state: (1) Expanding the sphere of aiding the minority areas. In 1986, when identifying the most seriously poverty-stricken counties for the first time, the state raised the national unified standard for per capita subsidies in poverty-stricken counties from 150 yuan a year in 1985 to 200 yuan for ethnic minority autonomous counties, and 300 yuan for pastoral areas and certain other counties in minority areas. Of the 331 most seriously poverty-stricken counties designated at that time, 141 were inhabited by minority peoples, making up 42.6 percent of the total. At the start of the State Seven-Year Priority Poverty Alleviation Program (a program designated to lift 80 million people out of absolute poverty in a period of seven years from 1994 to 2000) in 1994, China readjusted the plan for the state's key poverty alleviation counties, and decided that 592 counties be the state's key poverty alleviation counties, of which 257 were ethnic minority counties, making up 43.4 percent. (2) Giving priority to poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties in terms of the distribution of help-the-poor capital and materials. While distributing the help-the-poor capital and materials, the Chinese government put the five autonomous regions on the same footing as western China, placing them all on the priority list. Some provinces and autonomous regions allocate special funds to help the poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties while distributing the help-the-poor funds. According to incomplete statistics, from 1996 to 1998 the state allocated 16.95 billion yuan from the Central Government's help-the-poor funds to the 257 poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties, making up 45 percent of the total. (3) Arranging special help-the-poor funds for the poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas. Since 1983, the Central Government has allocated a yearly 200 million yuan of special funds for the agricultural construction of the arid ``three Xis'' (Dingxi and Hexi prefectures in Gansu Province, and Xihaigu Prefecture in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region), where ethnic minority people live in concentrated communities; and it will continue to do so up to the year 2002. In 1990, the state set up the ``basic need fund for the poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas,'' putting stress on helping the 143 poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties throughout the country. (4) Actively conducting cooperation with international organizations in poverty alleviation and development in the poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas. Since 1995, the World Bank has implemented three phases of a help-the-poor project in China, involving a total loan of 610 million US dollars, and covering 43 poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties in Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and other places. (5) Organizing the provinces and municipalities in east China to start help-the-poor cooperation with the minority areas. In 1996 the Central Government decided to organize nine developed coastal provinces and municipalities and four cities with economic planning directly supervised by the State Council to help 10 poverty-stricken provinces and autonomous regions in western China. In the past three they have donated money and materials valued at 1.04 billion yuan, and carried out 2,074 cooperation projects, involving a total investment of nearly four billion yuan.

Thanks to the help-the-poor efforts in the last decade or so, the production and living conditions of the people of the minority areas in China have improved remarkably. From 1995 to 1998, 257 poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties had solved the drinking water problem for 10.92 million people and 15.14 million head of livestock; the poverty-stricken population of the five autonomous regions shrank from 8.35 million to 4.73 million; the poverty rate dropped from 12.4 percent to 6.9 percent; and the net annual income per farmer in the poverty-stricken counties increased from 833 yuan to 1,395 yuan. Meanwhile, the construction of infrastructure facilities in minority areas has been further speeded up. Between 1995 and 1998 about 667,000 ha of basic farmland were constructed, newly built highways and rough roads extended 69,000 km, and transmission and transformer lines totaled 117,000 km.

Implementing a More Lenient Childbirth Policy with Minority Peoples Than with the Han People

To improve the quality of the ethnic minority population and accelerate the economic and social development of the ethnic minority autonomous areas, the people's congresses of these areas have formulated their own family planning policies toward the ethnic minorities in light of the spirit of the state's regulations concerning the need also for minority peoples to practice family planning. These policies are more lenient than those with the Han people. Under these policies, an ethnic minority family generally may have two or three children; in frontier areas and areas with adverse geographical conditions, families of ethnic minorities with very small populations may have more than three children each; and Tibetan farmers and herdsmen in the Tibet Autonomous Region may have as many children as they like. As a result, ethnic minority populations have been able to increase at a higher rate than the rest of the population. The population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was 4.54 million, according to the first national census, taken in 1953, and it increased to 9.46 million in the fourth census, taken in 1990. By 1998, the total population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was 10.4601 million, accounting for 62 percent of the total population of the autonomous region. In 1952, the Tibetan local government, headed by the 14th Dalai Lama, reported to the Central Government that the population of Tibet was one million. By the end of 1998, the population of Tibet had increased to 2.52 million, of which the increase of Tibetan population was 1.2 million. At present, the Tibetan population accounts for 94 percent of the total population of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Helping the Minority Areas to Develop Education

Education among national minorities is an important part of the education of China. The development of education among national minorities is of paramount importance to the improvement of the quality of the minority population and the promotion of economic and cultural development in ethnic minority areas. In conformity with the needs of the modernization drive and the policies of educational development, the state persists in proceeding from the characteristics of minority peoples and the reality of minority areas and gives active support and assistance to minority peoples in their efforts for educational development.

The state has adopted many policies and measures to support the development of education among minority peoples. For instance, it respects the autonomous areas' right to develop ethnic education on their own, attaches importance to teaching in minority languages and bilingual teaching, strengthens the building of the ranks of minority teachers, offers special care in terms of funds, runs ethnic institutes, schools and classes that enroll students for future service in specific areas or units, actively starts counterpart educational support between inland provinces and municipalities and minority areas, and mobilizes the whole nation to support education in Tibet.

The state has paid great attention to promoting universal compulsory education in poverty-stricken areas, especially poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas. In 1993, the relevant government departments proposed that counterpart support and cooperation between the economically and educationally advanced provinces and municipalities and the 143 poverty-stricken ethnic minority counties under government supervision should be started, and defined the cooperative relations and the main tasks of helping the poor through education. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance jointly organized the implementation of the state's compulsory education project for the poverty-stricken areas. In accordance with the project's plan, between 1995 and 2000, the central authorities will invest 3.9 billion yuan into this project, which will exceed 10 billion yuan if the supporting capital to be contributed by local authorities is added to it. The launching of this project will play an important role in promoting the popularization of compulsory education in poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas. The state encourages people to help minority areas to develop basic education through the ``Hope Project'' and other forms. For instance, the Western Hunan Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture has founded 136 Hope primary schools, thus enabling tens of thousands of poverty-stricken minority children to attend to school.

The state itself runs a number of ethnic institutes and schools. By the end of 1998, the state had independently founded 12 ethnic universities and institutes, 59 ethnic teachers' training schools, 158 ethnic secondary vocational schools, 3,536 ethnic middle schools, and 20,906 ethnic primary schools. Ethnic institutions of higher learning, secondary specialized schools and adult institutions of high learning and ordinary higher educational institutions, conduct quite a number of preparatory classes for minority peoples. In 1998, more than 80 institutions of higher learning in China held such classes, with a planned enrollment of 7,142 students. Preparatory education has played a great role in improving minority students' basic cultural knowledge, and enabling more minority students to continue their studies at secondary and higher specialized schools. It has become a unique way of developing education geared to the needs of minority students.

V. Preservation and Development of the Cultures of Ethnic Minorities

China's ethnic minorities have formed their unique cultures in the long process of historical development. China respects and preserves the traditional cultures of ethnic minorities, and all of the minority peoples are free to maintain and develop their own cultures.

Respecting the Folkways and Customs of Minority Peoples

The various ethnic minority groups in China differ widely in their folkways and customs. They have different modes of production and life styles, as displayed in dress and adornments, diet, residences, marriage, etiquette and funerals. The minority peoples have the right to retain or change their folkways and customs, which are respected by the state. The government protects such rights in every aspect of social life.

In China, about ten minority peoples have the tradition of eating Muslim food. Taking this into consideration, the state has established Muslim canteens or supplies Muslim food in state organs, schools, enterprises and institutions. In some work units where people eating Muslim food are few, Muslim canteens are jointly established by several units or Muslim food is specially prepared. Muslim food and beverage shops can be found in places where Muslim ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. In cities, communication hubs, restaurants, hotels and hospitals, and on trains, ships and airplanes, Muslim catering is provided. The state stipulates that ``Muslim food'' must be marked on beef and mutton sold to ethnic minorities which eat Muslim food at all the stages of slaughtering, packaging, transporting, processing and selling. In large and medium-sized cities where there are large numbers of ethnic minority people who eat Muslim food, the relevant state departments have established special beef and mutton wholesale departments or retail shops and given them preferential treatment.

The forms of burial vary among China's ethnic minorities, including cremation, inhumation, ``water burial'' and ``sky burial'' (exposure burial). The government respects minority peoples' burial customs, and has allotted land for cemeteries and established burial services departments specially for Hui, Uygur and other minority peoples that have the tradition of inhumation. Throughout the country, cemeteries can be found in large, medium and small cities where Hui and other minority peoples preferring inhumation live. The burial custom of Tibetans has also been respected; they can choose whatever form of burial they prefer--``sky burial,'' inhumation or ``water burial.''

Ethnic minorities have rich traditions of festivals, including the New Year and Shoton (Yogurt) Festival of the Tibetan people, the Fast-breaking and Corban festivals of the Hui and Uygur peoples, the Nadam Fair of the Mongolian people, the Water Sprinkling Festival of the Dai people and the Torch Festival of the Yi people. The various ethnic minority groups in China are free to celebrate their own traditional festivals, and the state gives them holidays and supplies special food for the holidays.

Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of Ethnic Minorities

To preserve the traditional cultures of the ethnic minorities, the state has formulated plans or organized specialists for work involving the collecting, editing, translating and publishing of their cultural heritage and the protecting of their famous historical monuments, scenic spots, rare cultural relics and other important items of the historical and cultural heritage.

A national planning section and office have been established by the state to organize the editing and publishing of ancient books of ethnic minorities. Currently, about 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, 130 autonomous prefectures, prefectures and leagues and other minority areas, and some ethnic colleges and schools have established institutions for the same purpose. By the end of 1998, more than 120,000 titles of ethnic minorities' ancient books have been collected, of which, over 110,000 have been edited and 5,000 published. More than 3,000 experts and scholars organized by the state have finished the editing and publishing of five series on ethnic minority issues, including A Brief History of China's Ethnic Minorities, Brief Records of Ethnic Minorities' Languages, and A General Survey of Autonomous Ethnic Minority Areas, comprising over 400 titles and 90 million words. Now each of the 55 minority ethnic groups has a brief written history.

The Chinese government has set up special institutions for the collection, editing, translation and research of the three major epics of ethnic minorities: Gesar of the Tibetan, Jianggar of the Mongolians and Manas of the Kirgiz. The three epics and treatises concerning them have been published in the appropriate ethnic minority languages, Chinese and foreign languages. The publishing of the Corpus of Gesar Studies in more than three million words brought many distinguished Gesar studies experts to the fore. In recent years, the state has earmarked tens of millions of yuan for the publishing of Zhonghua Dazang Jing, an encyclopedia of Tibetan studies in 150 volumes.

Beginning in the early 1950s, governments at various levels and culture and arts departments have organized tens of thousands of experts in anthropology, sociology and ethnology, and writers and artists to collect and preserve traditional folk cultures and arts in regions where minority peoples live. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Chinese government put in much capital and efforts into the collection and editing of the folk cultural and arts materials of the minority peoples. The compilation of ten collections of literature, music and dance of minority peoples, comprising 450 volumes in 450 million words, including the Collection of Chinese Folk Songs, Collection of Folk Instrument Tunes of China's Ethnic Minorities, Collection of Chinese Folk Tales, and Collection of Chinese Folk Proverbs have been completed, and 310 volumes have already been published.

In addition, in the past decade the state has invested a great deal of capital in maintaining cultural relics and historical sites, including the Drepung, Sera and Gandan monasteries in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, the Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai Province and the Kilzil Thousand-Buddha Cave in Xinjiang. Between 1989 and 1994, the state invested 53 million yuan and 1,000 kg of gold in repairing the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa. In addition, museums and cultural centers have been established in various places for the collection and preservation of cultural relics of ethnic minorities. Among them, the Tibet Museum cost nearly 100 million yuan to construct.

Promoting Ethnic Minorities' Cultural and Arts Undertakings

The state and relevant departments devote great efforts to fostering literary and artistic talent among the minority peoples, and promoting the creation of literature and art by setting up literature and art organizations, art institutes and schools, cultural centers and mass art centers. In the early 1950s, the national-level Central Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble was established in Beijing. It is composed of performers from various ethnic groups, and performs ethnic songs and dances of its own creation both in China and abroad. To date, in autonomous areas, there are 534 art troupes, 194 sites for art performances, 661 libraries, 82 mass art centers, 679 cultural centers, 7,318 culture-dissemination stations and 155 museums. Furthermore, there are 24 art colleges and secondary-level art schools in the five autonomous regions and Yunnan, Guizhou and Jilin provinces specially for fostering artistically talented people among China's ethnic minorities.

The ``Twelve Mukams'' opera, a classical musical treasure of the Uygur people, which was on the verge of being lost, has been preserved. At the end of the 1940s, only two or three elderly musicians could sing it completely. But now it is flourishing, since the Mukam Art Troupe and Mukam Research Office have been established in Xinjiang. In addition, Tibetan opera, which has a history of over 500 years, is well preserved and flourishing. Every year, it is included in the Shoton Festival, together with other singing, dancing and drama performances.

The state regularly conducts the competition for the ``Peacock Award'' for ethnic minorities' music, dance and drama and the ``Stallion Award'' for films, television programs and literary works dealing with minority peoples. Beginning in 1992, the state started to carry out the ``Long Cultural Corridor Construction in the Nation's Border Areas'' projects in nine autonomous regions and provinces where minority peoples are concentrated, including Guangxi, Yunnan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang and Jilin. In the past few years, governments at various levels have also put large amounts of funds into the construction of many cultural infrastructure facilities, which have improved and enriched the cultural life of more than ten million ethnic minority people.

In the past decade or more, ethnic minority culture and art troupes have extended their exchanges with the outside world, and over 100 of them, national and local, have performed in other countries and regions.

The ranks of ethnic minority writers are continuously growing. A large number of such writers have come to the fore and created a great number of literary works. Nearly 600 writers belonging to ethnic minorities are members of the Chinese Writers' Association, constituting more than 10 percent.

The arts and handicrafts of minority peoples are a splendid legacy. The mural art of the Tibetans is continuously enriched with contents depicting the development history of the Tibetan ethnic group and the new lives of the Tibetan people. The Tibetan art of scroll painting, or Tangka, is well preserved. The carpets and wall hangings made by the Uygur and Mongolian peoples are very popular on the Chinese and overseas markets. The wax-printing art of the Bouyei, Miao, Yao and Gelo ethnic groups is growing in popularity, with great improvement in designs, patterns and varieties. And the brocade technique of the Tujia, Zhuang, Dai, Li and Dong ethnic groups has developed from small-scale family workshops to today's brocade mills, whose production scale has been on the increase.

Preserving and Developing the Traditional Medicine of Ethnic Minorities

The state has made great efforts to foster medical specialists for minority peoples. It has established medical colleges and universities of Tibetan, Mongolian and Uygur medicine in the Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang autonomous regions, respectively, which have trained 2,531 specialists. Of them, more than 500 have been trained by the Tibet College of Tibetan Medicine, founded nearly ten years ago. Nowadays, there are 127 hospitals of ethnic minority medicine all over the country, of which, 52 are Tibetan medicine hospitals, 41 are Mongolian medicine hospitals, 26 are Uygur medicine hospitals and eight specialize in the traditional medicine of other minority groups. Also, the state has provided active support for the development and application of ethnic minority traditional medicine. In 1992, the state gave permission for the setting up of centers for making of Mongolian, Tibetan and Uygur pharmaceutical preparations. They manufacture more than ten kinds of pharmaceutical preparations and over 100 kinds of traditional medicines with the combination of traditional and modern expertise.

Developing the Traditional Sports of Ethnic Minorities

The traditional sports of ethnic minorities originate from the daily life of the people and are rich in content and form, and have distinct characteristics and a long history. They call for skill of a high order, and most of them are accompanied with music, or singing and dancing. They include horse racing, archery, sheep-chasing on horseback, wrestling, swinging, springboard jumping, dragon-boat racing and mountaineering. Physical culture and sports institutions have been established in the various autonomous areas to train people in ethnic sports, develop traditional ethnic and modern sports activities and improve the health of minority peoples. To date, more than 290 kinds of traditional ethnic sports have been revived. In 1953, the first traditional ethnic sports show and competition was held in Tianjin, known as the First National Traditional Ethnic Minority Sports Meet. Beginning in 1982, such meets have been held every four years, and the sixth one was held in Beijing in September 1999, with some contests held in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Throughout the country, there are 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities that hold traditional ethnic minority sports meets every four years.

Fifty years of experience has proved that the policies toward ethnic minorities of the People's Republic of China are successful ones. China has blazed a correct way for handling ethnic problems and realizing the common prosperity of the various ethnic groups in conformity with China's reality. In the meantime, however, the Chinese government is well aware of the fact that, due to the restrictions and influences of history, physical geography and other factors, central and western China, where most ethnic minority people live, lag far behind the eastern coastal areas in development. In some ethnic minority areas, the people are inadequately fed and clothed, and while in some other areas sustained development has been adversely affected by poor production conditions. The Chinese government attaches great importance to these problems, and is taking measures to solve them. The Chinese government is convinced that, as the reform, opening-up and modernization drive develop, the various ethnic groups of China will develop in a still more rapid and healthy way, and the relations between ethnic groups marked by equality, unity and mutual help are certain to be further consolidated and developed in the coming 21st century.

Notes:

(1) For the population of China's ethnic minorities, see Theory and Practice of China's Ethnic Problems, compiled by Jiang Ping, Central Party School Press, 1994, pp.492-496

(2) For the distribution of China's ethnic minorities, see An Outline of Ethnic Problems, compiled by Wu Shimin, Sichuan People's Publishing House, 1997, pp. 383-385.

(3) For the formation of China as a united multi-ethnic country, see ``A Study of the History of China's Ethnic Groups and Border Areas'' by Dai Yi and ``Historical Characteristics of Ancient States in China'' by Zhang Chuanxu in the Eight Persons' Forum on the Historical Problems of China and Other Countries, Central Party School Press, 1998.

(4) For relevant laws, see A Selection of Laws and Regulations on Ethnic Policies of the People's Republic of China, China Civil Aviation Press, 1997.

(5) For social conditions of China's ethnic minorities before 1949, see A Brief Introduction to the Human Rights of China's Ethnic Minorities, compiled by Yang Houdi, Beijing University Press, 1997.

(6) For social and historical conditions of Tibet before 1959, see Social and Historical Materials Concerning China's Tibet, China Intercontinental Press, 1994.

(7) For the distribution of China's autonomous ethnic minority areas, see An Outline of Ethnic Problems, compiled by Wu Shimin, pp. 386-390.

(8) See the 1998 Statistics Bulletin of the National Economic and Social Development of the People's Republic of China, Foreign Languages Press, 1999.

(9) See China's The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, compiled by the Information Office of the People's Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China Intercontinenal Press, 1999.

(10) See The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China, compiled by the Information Office of the People's Government of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China Intercontinental Press, 1998.

(11) See The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, compiled by the Information Office of the People's Government of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China Intercontinental Press, 1998.




  
  





Information Office of the State Council
of the People's Republic of China


June 2000, Beijing


 


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