Nation-Building and Multiculturalism in China

Dr Minglang Zhou
University of Maryland, US

The accommodation of multiculturalism in China has been a serious challenge since 1949. This chapter examines, in terms of the concept of citizenship, how China entertained multiculturalism in the Soviet model of multinational-state building between 1949 and the 1990s and how China has accommodated multiculturalism in its new Chinese model of one nation with diversity since the late 1990s. Coupled with the communitarian approach to citizenship, the Soviet model selectively practiced citizenship and created more particularism than universalism, resulting in uncompromising conflicts between ethnic identities and the unitary national identity. On the other hand, the Chinese model in association with the cultural pluralist approach to citizenship appears to be a viable alternative to the Soviet model in bridging minority cultures and the mainstream culture and in coordinating ethnic identities and the inclusive Chinese national identity if China improves its practice of citizenship.

Keywords: Nation-state building, multiculturalism, citizenship, minorities

Representations of Chinese Minorities

Professor Louisa Schein
Rutgers University, US

This chapter makes the case that a rigorous examination of how minorities have been portrayed in Chinese public culture must be driven by attention to the effects of such portrayals. Undertaking such an analysis entails introducing historical specificity, political economy and a contingent approach to social hierarchy. Such hierarchy is arguably undergirded precisely by discourses of superiority – or what I will call “supremacism” - within the Chinese social field. Commonly analysts have amalgated the symbolic counterpart of minorities into the monolith Han/state/urban/intellectual elite/masculine/modern/civilized/center, etc. This implies that we could identify a complementary signifying chain in which representations of the non-Han would bundle the feminine, the natural, the primitive and myriad other associated attributes. But when these characteristics appear constant over time, what keeps them in place and why? And who is interested in them remaining in place?

When I first wrote about it in 1990, I described a process of “internal orientalism” that arose out of the perceived void at the core of Chinese national identity that had developed in reaction against the suppressions of the Cultural Revolution combined with the import of Western culture in the reform era. The 1980s-1990s was heavily colored by a high-velocity modernizing zeitgeist which in turn began to spur nostalgia on the part of urbanites witnessing the transformation of their material lives and spaces. How might this imaginary have morphed in more recent eras, especially in tandem with the transformations wrought by marketization, tourism, ecological and heritage preservation, and China’s burgeoning superpowerdom, etc.? Through keying minority representation to specific social shifts in the last several decades, this chapter additionally asks: Who, exactly, is doing the othering at given periods in time and in specific instances? Posing questions about the role of minority intellectuals and cultural producers in relation to what has been called auto-orientalism, I query: When minorities represent themselves, what is reworked and what is reiterated from dominant culture? The chapter proceeds by considering two case studies of minority self-representation and then goes on to entertain the possibility of what I gloss as a “post-alteric” social imaginary that may be on the rise in the public culture of China’s 21st century.

Minority Languages and Cultures

Professor Colin Mackerras
Griffith University, Australia

This chapter discusses minority languages and cultures. It defines culture in terms of attitudes to life and values, and in behavioural terms. Cultures are learned and passed on from generation to generation, and subject to change. The chapter describes government policy towards ethnic minority languages and, with some focus on the twenty-first century, discusses the situation for minority languages; suggesting that minority languages are not doing well among the gathering pace of the spread of Chinese and modernization. The chapter also covers topics such as the use of minority languages in the education system.

It discusses minority religions, especially Islam, which is prevalent among ten ethnic minorities, and Tibetan Buddhism. It takes up some historical factors but focuses on the present era, finding that both Islam and Tibetan Buddhism are very much alive and possibly even strengthening. It also contains material about the state of Christianity among the minorities and some other traditional faiths such as shamanism.

The chapter also takes up the situation for the arts among the minorities, including the way they functioned in society and, under the People’s Republic, became politicized and a form of propaganda for the government. The focus is mostly on architecture and the performing arts, mainly folksongs and dances, but also two specific forms, namely the Twelve Muqam of the Uyghurs and the ache lhamo of the Tibetans. The ache lhamo is probably the most important genre of theatre not only among the Tibetans but among all China’s ethnic minorities. It is noted for its melismatic style of singing and for the masks worn by the gods and demons. Both the Twelve Muqam and ache lhamo have been inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The chapter takes up the complex interrelationships between minority cultures and politics as well as issues of cultural survival. It argues that there is no deliberate government attempt to destroy or undermine minority religions, languages or cultures. On the other hand, the process of modernization is gathering momentum everywhere in China, and is inimical to traditional cultures. This is especially the case in a context where state policy and realities are dominated by one ethnic group with a strong population majority and cultural tradition.

Keywords: minority languages, Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, minority arts, politics and ethnic culture, minority cultural survival.

The State of Research on Urban Chinese Ethnicity: Urban Mongols

Professor William Jankowiak
University of Nevada Las Vegas, US

China's ethno-politics are grounded in two contradictory philosophies that often give rise to competing policies: the upholding of the ethnic group as well as the individual right to achieve prominence within the established social order. The degree to which these ideals — individual achievement verses group interests — are internalized impacts an individual's sense of ethnic belonging and national identification. The issue of the relevant strength of Chinese nationalism as opposed to minority nationalism within a given group is largely an unexplored territory. In this chapter, I provide an overview on trends and findings taken from research on a variety of Chinese ethnic groups living in its cities. I then focus specifically, on the diversity found in urban Mongols life-orientations as it is organized around notions of ethnic integrity, friendship, ethnic interaction, and historical remembrance. Finally, I explore the criterion Mongols use to often, albeit tacitly, signal Mongolian identity in a fluid market society.

Gender Norms among Ethnic Minorities: Beyond “Chinese Patriarchy”

Dr Shanshan Du
University of Tulane, USA

In mainstream academia and popular discourses, gender norms in China are erroneously intertwined with “patriarchy,” which also serves as a vital social category in contemporary analysis of gender relations. In this chapter, I will challenge the erroneous concept of “Chinese patriarchy” by examining the diversity and dynamics of gender norms among ethnic minorities in China. The main body of this chapter is divided into three sections. The first section offers a sketch of gendered cultural heritages of ethnic minorities in the context of the invasive influence of the patriarchy during their interactions with the Han and the Chinese state. I will demonstrate that minority peoples have always been actively appropriating, negotiating, contesting, and resisting the powerful encroachment of Han patriarchy. Accordingly, diverse gender systems of minority heritages have sustained to varying degrees, and continue to compete with Han patriarchy, amidst radical socio-cultural transformations across China since 1950s. The second and third sections will examine the gender norms among the Lahu and the Mosuo, respectively. I will demonstrate the ways by which the cultural heritages of both societies effectively promote gender egalitarianism, which is grounded in very different social structures and gender ideals. By exploring the socio-cultural principles underlying the Lahu and Mosuo model of gender-egalitarianism, I will conclude this chapter by highlighting the theoretical significance of embracing an ethnic dimension in the study of gender norms in China, and cross-cultural studies of gender relations in general.

Ethnic Inequality in Education

Dr Yangbin Chen
La Trobe University, Australia

Ethnic inequality in education between China’s ethnic minorities and the mainstream Han has long been a research interest attracted educational researchers and policy makers. This chapter extensively reviews Chinese language and English language literature around this topic since the early years of reform in the 1980s. It adapts an analytical framework based on Buchmann and Hannum’s (2001) on interpreting education and stratification in developing countries. It then respectively elaborated and discussed the ethnic inequality in Chinese education from four main perspectives. First is the macro-structural forces that shape the inequality, such as national conditions, geography, history, and policies. Second is the system of family-school-ethnic community, where the ethnic inequality takes place as an everyday setting. Third is minority cultures with a focus on minority bilingual education. The last stage regards the output of the ethnic inequality process in education, where the disparity of educational attainments between minorities and Han Chinese is discussed.

The chapter suggests that a better understanding of ethnic inequality in education in Chinese context shall grabble three essential aspects. First, the formation of this inequality is in a process and not isolated from other social, economic and cultural inequalities along China’s transformation to the market economy. Second, the attention of the examination of ethnic inequality in education has shifted from basic education before 2000 and to higher education after 2000. Last, ethnic inequality in Chinese minority education is a relative designation that needs to be perused carefully and by individual ethnic groups.

Keywords: Ethnic inequality, ethnic minorities, social stratification, educational attainment

Ethnic Disparities in Economic Well-being:
A Survey on the Literature on China

Professor Björn Gustafsson
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Research which addresses issues on the existence and magnitude of ethnic dispersions in economic well-being in China is surveyed. It also surveys efforts to throw light on reasons for gaps in economic well-being between ethnic minorities and the Han. Dong so it deals with for example the importance of location as well as of the ability to communicate in Putonghua for understanding ethnic income gaps. Given that more than 100 million persons in China belong to one ethnic minority and that ethnicity is recognized in policymaking the issue of ethnic gaps in income, poverty and broader types of well-fare in China appears to be an underresearch field.

In rural China does income differ much between locations and most of Chinas rural minorities live in places with low average income. This is one background why most China’s rural ethnic minorities lag behind the Han majority in terms of average per capital income and in poverty rates. In addition in some, but not all, rural locations do ethnic minority households receive lower income than majority households. The issue of ethnic dispersions in economic well-being is in some important respect different in urban China. Ethnic minorities make up a considerably smaller proportion of the population in urban areas than in rural areas. Policies of affirmative actions have given urban ethnic minority workers priority to employment in jobs funded by public resources. However, Chinas’ transition towards a market economy has resulted in that much of recent job growth has taken place outside the public sector and SOE:s. In this sense has the development in urban China been less favorable for several of the ethnic minorities than for the majority.

Chinese various ethnic minorities differ from each other when it comes to economic wellbeing. For example members of the Korean minority in urban China receive higher wages than their Han peers. On the other hand many ethnic minorities living in the rural south west of China are disadvantaged compared to all rural inhabitants in China and in case also compared to Han persons living in the same location and having the same characteristics.

The literature suggests some situations in which efforts to remove ethnic gaps in household income are difficult to motivate as the gaps might originate from differences in preferences between an ethnic minority and the Han majority. However, in other cases are ethnic differences most likely due to differences in opportunities and motivates policy action. Examples include that due to history a relatively large fraction of China’s ethnic minority persons live in remote areas, many at high altitude and in several cases do the ethnic minority households have more limited access to land than Han households. Furthermore research indicates that still today are some ethnic minorities disfavored treated compared to their Han peers when applying for a job.

Ethnic Tourism in China

Professor Tim Oakes
University of Colorado at Boulder, US

In this review essay, I present several key issues and approaches concerning the study of ethnic tourism in China today. These are both conceptual/theoretical and methodological, and they collectively seek to suggest that there remains a great deal of room for critical research on Chinese ethnic tourism. After an introductory description of changes in Chinese ethnic tourism from the perspective of two case study sites in Guizhou, the paper considers the rise of domestic tourism and, in particular independent Chinese tourism, before moving to a sustained discussion of the issues and approaches more specifically. These include political economies of ethnic tourism development examining questions of inequality, alienation, and neoliberalism. They also include questions of ethnic tourism’s role in nation and state building, state territorialization of ethnic borderlands, tourism as a process of social ordering, and different ways of considering the agency of ethnic groups and individuals within all of these issues. The final section of the essay explores in greater detail what might be termed an ‘aesthetic turn’ in Chinese ethnic tourism, in which a greater focus on ethnicity as appearance and display now characterizes the industry.

While Chinese-language tourism scholarship has exploded since the mide-2000s, very little of it addresses critical theoretical or methodological issues. I argue that these critical issues need to be addressed within a dynamic context of rapid transformation in Chinese tourism more broadly. That context has been dominated by the rise of independent tourism and leisure consumption in China, and raises significant questions about the appropriateness and analytical utility of the category ‘ethnic tourism.’ The rise of independent travel and the expansion of leisure consumption have rendered ethnic tourism increasingly diffuse, while tourism more generally has broken out of those spaces typically thought of as tourist sites. In light of these changes, I suggest that Chinese tourism can increasingly be approached and understood as a kind of urbanization. In particular, the infrastructure space of expressways, zones, and ‘new town’ developments can be viewed as a medium through which ethnic tourism is increasingly integrated with urban China.

My account is not meant to offer a comprehensive overview of scholarship on ethnic tourism as much as critical reflection on where the field has been and where it is going. Much of my review is influenced by my own long-term experience studying ethnic tourism in one particular region of China, Guizhou Province.

Minority Affirmative Action Policies in the People’s Republic of China

Dr Jim Leibold
La Trobe University, Australia

China has arguably the world’s most extensive regime of minority affirmative action policies, far more extensive than the more widely discussed and debates policies that exist in the United States of America and other liberal democracies. Generally known as “preferential policies” (youhui zhengce 优惠政策) in Chinese, these policies provide China’s nearly 120 million ethnic minorities with tangible material and other benefits across many aspects of daily life in the People’s Republic of China, even if they are not fully implemented as originally intended.

In this chapter, I first review the evolution and scope of these positive action policies before discussing recent debates inside the Chinese policy and academic community about the efficacy and implications of these policies for Chinese society. Concern is growing, and leading CCP members are now openly warning about the detrimental effects of these policies on social cohesion and the ongoing processes of reform; yet the centrality of minority preferences to the processes of governance and social control in the PRC mean they are unlikely to be repelled anytime soon.

I argue that in contrast to the moral and ideological underpinnings of the affirmative action debates in the West, minority preferences in China are an act of statecraft—a set of pragmatic and instrumental strategies for protecting territorial sovereignty, preserving social stability and ultimately protecting the power of the Han dominated elite. In principle, minority preferences do not seek to usher in a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive society in China; rather they seeks to maintain the status quo through a system of ethnic clientalism and territorial segregation with a group of co-opted minority elites/middle class at its core.

Response to Ethnic Marginalization in China:
The Case of the Lahu Minority

Dr Jianxiong Ma
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

The Lahu is an ethnic group in south Yunnan province, mainly inhabiting the mountains area on the borderland between Yunnan and Burma. Since 1953, the Lahu has been identified as the official Lahu nationality and a Lahu autonomous county was established. However, due to the lack of educated elite and the transformation of the state ethnic working style to be mainly based on poverty reduction projects, the Lahu’s political position of ethnic autonomy has been 'hijacked' by native Han elites and the latter's civil service examination for official recruitment further narrowed the way to the Lahu’s participation into local and state political affairs. Meanwhile, because of the influential discourses of the Han and Lahu dualism about modernity and backwardness, the young generation of the Lahu is facing the intolerable pain of being the Lahu though the endless poverty reduction projects, activities and schooling. In the last three decades, through the pressure of modernization and ethnic identity, more and more Lahu women have left to become wives of Han peasants, and the rate of cases suicide, in order to move to the world of the dead in the Lahu religious belief, is continuing to increase. Also, more and more people have become addicted to alcohol to escape their painful lives, being the Lahu. This chapter analyzes how and why these cultural responses to ethnic marginalization happened in the last several decades in the southwest frontier of China.

Tibet in China? China in Tibet: An Historical Overview

Dr Benno Weiner
Carnegie Mellon University, US

Today’s People’s Republic of China (PRC) considers itself to be a unitary state composed of fifty-six distinct nationalities or minzu—fifty-five minorities and one majority—the Han Chinese. This composite nation is said to have coalesced over centuries of common struggle to form one big socialist family. However, in spring of 2008, one family member—Tibetans—rose in a widespread and at times violent uprising, an insurrection that continues to this day in the form of sporadic protests and a distressing epidemic of self-immolations. Depending on how one counts, the events of 2008 marked at least the third major Tibetan uprising against the Chinese state in the last fifty years. This intermittent but consistent display of resistance, as well as escalating interethnic violence and state repression in the historically Turkic Muslim region of Xinjiang, raises serious questions about the efficacy of the state’s pluralist vision of the Chinese nation.

In this chapter, I provide an historical overview of 'Tibet's' position within 'China,' and 'China's' within 'Tibet.' As suggested by the quotes, this will entail questioning narratives that assume that both ‘Tibet’ and ‘China’ are self-evident historical entities and presuppose a linearity in which political relationships of the past are not only relevant but also determinant of their rightful statuses today. In the first section, I outline the ethno-cultural dimensions of the Tibetan-speaking world, with a heavy emphasis on those regions within today’s People’s Republic of China. Secondly, I review the Tibetan Plateau’s historical relationship with China-based states, stressing the ways in which both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and advocates for Tibetan independence employ ‘history’ as a tool to make claims about Tibet’s current international position. I then examine the Tibetan Plateau’s incorporation into the PRC during the Maoist period (1949-1976), focusing on the CCP’s parallel but incomplete efforts to integrate Tibetans into the multinational, socialist Chinese nation. Finally, I investigate conditions in Tibetan regions during the Reform era (1976-present). Over the last four decades the ideological demands and policy prescriptions of state socialism have largely been jettisoned. However, in light of major disturbances that erupted in the late 1980s and again in 2008, the CCP’s shift to more developmental approaches of state building and national integration—even while maintaining the mechanism of state repressions—has failed to convince many Tibetans that they have an equal stake in the Han-dominated, multi-nationality Chinese nation-state.

Integration Policy and South Asian Minorities in Hong Kong

Dr Kam Yee Law
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong

Despite the fact that non-Chinese ethnic groups have been in Hong Kong (HK) for over 170 years, and the growth rate of this population is at 31.8 percent over the past 10 yeas, both the colonial and HK Special Administrative Region government did not have any integration policy for them until about a decade ago. The main objective of this paper is to provide an updated evaluation of the overall performance of integration policies by focusing on South Asians (i.e., Indians, Pakistanis, and Nepalese) who had been in HK for the longest number of years but continue to live under very disadvantaged conditions. In fact, South Asians are the main service targets of policies. Furthermore, this paper also examines the implementation of integration policies, focusing on the experience and constraint of the non-government organizations (NGOs) as implementing agents of the policies, especially in terms of social service provision. We used official statistics, findings from other studies, and our qualitative study findings to assess whether integration policies can help South Asians in the dimensions of discrimination, employment and education.

This project finds that in general the integration policies seem to be working, but not enough to integrate ethnic groups into the HK society. Racial discrimination in HK has been reduced, though many South-Asians are still confronted with various forms of discrimination in their daily life. The economic situations of Pakistanis and Nepalese have been improved and those of upper-strata Indians are even better than most HK Chinese. Nevertheless, many South-Asian lower-strata people are still locked in low-paid elementary jobs. Nepalese also face with unfavourable immigration policies that affect their life chances. Although the educational attainment of Pakistanis and Nepalese has been significantly raised, they still have fewer chances to enter universities because of their command of Chinese language. Without post-secondary education, they have difficulties improving their living through getting better-paid jobs in the post-industrial HK economy. On the other hand, the social interactions between HK Chinese and South-Asians remained at a very low level. The government seemed to adopt a more assimilation-oriented approach to enable South-Asians to cross the racial boundary and enter the mainstream society by enhancing their Chinese language ability and human capital without making mainstream Chinese to understand and respect the South-Asians’ cultures and lifestyles. Moreover, the policies failed to tackle with structural inequalities between Chinese and South-Asians. This project also identifies five types of NGOs that serve ethnic minorities, however, all of them (particularly the mainstream ones) have limited functions that could help them advance social integration.

Ethnic Autonomous Regions — A Formula for Unitary Multiethnic State

Dr Hongyi Lai
The University of Notthingham, UK

There are 55 officially-recognized ethnic minorities in China. To appease ethnic aspiration while securing national unity, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) practices so- called regional ethnic autonomy (REA) (minzu quyu zizhi). In this book chapter the origins and development of Ethnic Autonomy Areas (EEAs) will be reviewed, and its revival and development in the reform era will be documented. An emphasis will be laid on the five provincial-level autonomous regions (zizhiqu) (ARs). It is argued that since 1949 by granting ethnic areas limited administrative autonomy and ethnic minorities favorable economic and social treatments, the CCP aims to maintain an unitary multiethnic state. The end of the chapter contains an update on the official stance toward REA and the EEAs and on the prospects of REA and EEAs in light of dramatic political events related to ethnic minorities in China since 2008.