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The Reform and Opening-up and Development of Policies toward Ethnic Minorities in China
2009-11-25 source:China.org.cn
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State Ethnic Affairs Commission

July 21, 2009

China is a unified multi-ethnic country founded jointly by all ethnic groups. To achieve reunification, prosperity, stability and harmony of the nation and bring about national unity and rejuvenation, it is imperative to address properly ethnic issues, which is done mainly through formulation and implementation of policies toward ethnic minorities in the country.

1. The system of policies toward ethnic minorities in China

In the course of steady development and improvement over the last sixty years, particularly since the start of reform and opening-up, China has developed a relatively complete system of policies toward ethnic minorities that fits the national conditions and carries unique characteristics.

1) All ethnic groups, regardless of their population, history and level of development, are equal. The state creates more opportunities and better conditions for the development of ethnic minorities and safeguards their legal rights and interests. All ethnic communities have the obligation to protect the sanctitude of the Constitution and laws.

2) Regional national autonomy is a basic policy of China in handling ethnic issues and is a fundamental political system that tallies with the national conditions and an important component in developing socialist democracy and socialist political civilization, and therefore should be implemented and improved in the long term. The Law on Regional National Autonomy is a legal guarantee for the system of regional ethnic autonomy and should be implemented in letter and in spirit.

3) Equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony represent the fundamental feature of socialist ethnic relations in China. The Han people and other ethnic groups are indispensable from each other just as ethnic minority groups are indispensable from one another. People of all ethnic backgrounds should respect, learn from and cooperate and help with each other, with a view to consolidating great unity among all ethnic groups and building a harmonious socialist society.

4) To achieve common unity and progress and common prosperity and development is the core theme of current work managing ethnic affairs. The priority for now as well as the fundamental solution to address ethnic issues is to speed up the economic and social development in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. We should adhere to the concept of scientific development and support and assist a more rapid development in ethnic minority regions.

5) Culture constitutes an important feature of ethnic identity and the culture of ethnic minorities is an important component of the culture of the Chinese nation. The state respects and protects the culture of ethnic minority communities and supports the inheritance, development and innovation of fine ethnic minority culture, encourages stronger cultural exchanges among ethnic communities. Great efforts have been made to the development of various social affairs like education, science and technology, culture, health, sport and other undertakings, purposing in upgrading the ethical, scientific, cultural and physical quality of the people of all ethnic groups.

6) The training and selection of ethnic minority cadres is the key to addressing ethnic issues and is a work of long-term and fundamental importance. It is necessary to build a large pool of ethnic minority cadres of both integrity and competence. The development of human resources in ethnic minority regions is a strategic task and it is imperative to train professionals of all categories and at various levels to meet the needs of modernization in these regions.

2. Continuous enrichment and improvement of policies toward ethnic minorities in the reform and opening-up process

The reform and opening-up practice has unleashed unprecedented vitality to economic and social development in China and promoted the development of policies toward ethnic minorities in the country.

First, greater priority is given to economic and social development of ethnic minorities and in ethnic minority regions. Ethnic issues, in China today, are mainly shown in the form of a stronger quest for more rapid economic and cultural development by minority peoples, in the ethnic minority regions. The state, in the course of reform and opening-up, has adopted a series of policies to help and support greater development in these regions. These measures include, among other things, fiscal, financial, taxation policies as well as policies on opening-up, training of professionals and development of resources. In carrying out the strategic initiative of Developing the West, for instance, the state implements the "Prospering Frontiers and Enriching the People" projects, whereby ethnic minority trade and producers of special ethnic commodities enjoy preferential interest rates for loans, fiscal discount for technical renovation loans and reduction in taxation. Ethnic minority development funds are earmarked for poverty relief practices featured in achieving Whole-Village-Progress in poor villages inhabited by ethnic minority populations. Special plans are formulated and implemented to support the development of ethnic minorities of smaller population sizes and of social affairs for ethnic minority communities. Policy documents are disclosed to promote economic and social development in Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, Yunnan and other ethnic minority regions and paired-aid-partnerships have been established between ethnic minority regions and their related counterparts in the more developed regions, organized by the Central Government.

These policies prove to be productive. Over the past 30 years of reform and opening-up, the economic growth rate in ethnic minority regions was higher than the national average. Fixed asset investment increased to RMB1.8 trillion in 2008 from RMB7.6 billion in 1978. Economic aggregates rose to RMB3,062.6 billion from RMB32.4 billion, an increase of more than 17 folds on comparable terms.

Second, great priority is given to protecting and safeguarding fundamental rights of ethnic minorities. Various measures were taken to safeguard, in accordance with laws, human rights of citizens of ethnic minority backgrounds and their equal rights in political, economic, cultural and social aspects. The State Council, for instance, formulated administrative regulations on the implementation of the Law on Regional National Autonomy and on improvement of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, training ethnic minority officials and professionals, safeguarding the right of ethnic minorities to use and develop their own oral and written languages, respecting and protecting their custom and tradition and prohibiting infringement of these custom and tradition. Special regulations were made to take care of the special culinary and funeral needs of ethnic minorities. Their freedom of religious faith is respected and protected. The lawful rights and interests of urban and scattered ethnic minority populations are safeguarded. Efforts are made to ensure proper services and administration of migrant ethnic minority population. These measures served to enrich China's policies toward ethnic minorities. They are adaptable to the changing needs and are manifestation of the concept of Putting People First in policies toward ethnic minorities.

Thirdly, greater emphasis is given on livelihood of ethnic minorities. To ensure that all ethnic communities enjoy the fruit of reform and opening-up, great efforts are made to address the most urgent issues of interest which have a direct bearing on the people and which people care most, so that they have access to eduction, remuneration, health care, pension and housing. Given the fact that ethnic minority regions are relatively underdeveloped economically and culturally, the state, in the course of reform and opening-up, has undertaken a series of strong and effective measures to improve the livelihoods of people in ethnic minority regions, e.g., supporting education, building boarding primary and middle schools, exempting pupils of compulsory education age from extras and textbook fees and providing them with boarding subsidies. Priority is given to the proper running of universities and colleges specializing in education of ethnic minorities, the number of which reached 15 with more than 200,000 students enrolled. Incentive policy is executed to ethnic minority students in their admission to higher learning institutions, and special classes and preparatory programs pertaining to ethnic minority students are opened in common universities. Tibetan classes and Xinjiang classes are opened in major cities in China. Programs are undertaken for the training of high-level professionals of ethnic minority backgrounds. Master degree and doctoral degree postgraduates are trained for ethnic minority regions. The state implements projects that provide radio and TV coverage across every village in ethnic minority regions and executes a project aiming in building a cultural-corridor of thousands kilometers long alongside the frontiers, amid other major projects that benefit people in ethnic minority regions. It supports press and publishing, radio and TV program production and translation in ethnic minority languages, protects their cultural heritage and presents and demonstrates fine traditional culture of ethnic minority groups. Regular ethnic minority cultural performance shows and traditional sport games are held. Minimum social security allowance system and new rural cooperative health care system are implemented while efforts are made to train medical and nursery professionals in ethnic minority regions. More job opportunities are provided with ethnic minorities.

All these policy measures have strongly promoted improvement in the livelihood of people in ethnic minority regions. Per capita urban disposable income, for instance, rose to RMB13,170 from RMB414 in 1980, an increase of 30 folds. Per capita net income for rural and pastoral regions has increased by 19 times to RMB3,389 from RMB168. Nine-year compulsory education is implemented by and large in ethnic minority regions.

Fourthly, greater emphasis is given on implementation of policies toward ethnic minorities. The state is working to ensure that ethnic policies are implemented effectively. To do so, it has intensified publicity and education of policies toward ethnic minorities and carried out supervision and inspection to redress problems in the course of their implementation. Since the reform and opening-up being exercised, various nationwide supervision and inspection campaigns have been carried out, in which good practices in implementing policies toward ethnic minorities were awarded and promoted, whereas inappropriate practices in implementation as well as behaviors identified as violations were rectified. Model institutions and individuals in implementing ethnic policies were awarded. Campaigns were carried out to promote national unity and progress. The State Council has held four national conferences to award model institutions and individuals that excelled in promoting national unity and progress and the fifth conference will be held this year. A long-term mechanism should be set up and improved in safeguarding national unity and social stability through policy formulation and implementation.

3. Adhering to and developing China's policies toward ethnic minorities

Polices toward ethnic minorities in China have proved to fit the national conditions of the country. They have withstood the test of the time, won sincere support from people of all ethnic communities and have been correct and effective. These policies are also well received and widely acclaimed internationally. Some scholars call them "China experience" in addressing ethnic issues across the world.

Policies toward ethnic minorities in China, while based on the fact that China has taken on a socialist road, have taken into consideration differences among 56 ethnic groups in level of development and cultural convention. They combine both principle and flexibility, summarizing experience and lessons in handling ethnic issues in the country while drawing experience of other countries, and therefore have a solid scientific foundation both historically and in practice.

China will unswervingly adhere to its policies toward ethnic minorities and principles that have proved to be absolutely correct. It will continue to study and formulate policy measures concerning ethnic issues based on the national conditions and reality, consolidate and develop socialist ethnic relations featuring equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony, and adhere to and improve the system of regional national autonomy. It will try to speed up economic and social development of ethnic minorities and in ethnic minority regions and take it as a fundamental way out in addressing ethnic issues. It will resolutely safeguard national unity, reunification, state security and social stability.

Changes are the rule of the times and there is no end to practice. China is now in an era of accelerated reform and opening-up. While continuing the existing policies and principles, we will update them in line with the changing situation and the aspiration of the people so as to develop and improve policies toward ethnic minorities in China and maintain their vitality.