China's Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation

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China's Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation

China’s Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation China’s fifty-five officially recognised ethnic minorities form over 8 per

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China’s Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation

China’s fifty-five officially recognised ethnic minorities form over 8 per cent of the Chinese population, with over 100 million people, and occupy some 60 per cent of China’s territory. They are very diverse, and the degree of modernisation among them varies greatly. This book examines the current state of China’s ethnic minorities at a time when ethnic affairs and globalisation are key forces affecting the contemporary world. It considers the fields of policy, economy, society and international relations, including the impact of globalisation and outside influences. Colin Mackerras is Foundation Professor in the School of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Australia. A leading China specialist, his research work focuses on two main areas: China’s ethnic minorities, and its regional theatre, especially Peking Opera.

China’s Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation

Colin Mackerras

First published 2003 by RoutledgeCurzon 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by RoutledgeCurzon 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” RoutledgeCurzon is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group © 2003 Colin Mackerras All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Mackerras, Colin China’s ethnic minorities and globalisation / Colin Mackerras. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Minorities – China. 2. China – Ethnic relations – Political aspects. I. Title. DS730 .M33335 2003 305.8⬘00951–dc21 ISBN 0-203-18046-1 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-34420-0 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0– 415–30901–8 (Print Edition)



Preface Abbreviations 1 Introduction

vii viii 1

2 Historical background, 1949–1989


3 Minorities politics, 1989–2002


4 The economies of the minorities


5 The realm of the mind, religion and education


6 Population, women and family


7 International relations


8 Conclusion


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities Notes References Index

182 196 199 209


It is a truism to say that changes in the world at large, and in China in particular, have been enormous since the early 1990s. These changes have affected China’s ethnic minorities and necessitated a reconsideration of many matters relating to them. Some of the particular aspects of China’s minorities are covered in two earlier works that I completed in the early 1990s. These aspects are also treated in the present book, such as policy, international relations, economy and population. The material and interpretations come from a time period reflecting these recent changes. The term ‘globalisation’ was already in widespread use, yet it had not yet assumed the status of ‘grand narrative’ for interpreting the state of the world that it has come to occupy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Although I take full responsibility for any weaknesses or errors this book may contain, I should like to offer thanks to the many people who have helped me write it. The first to mention are the members of the minorities themselves, who have offered me friendship and cooperation in giving me the material that forms the basis of the book. Several Chinese organisations have made it possible for me to visit the ethnic areas of China, some of which are situated in places that are difficult to access, by making travel arrangements and offering necessary assistance. The Australian Research Council has given me several research grants that have enabled me to spend time in China and its ethnic areas, to buy books and other materials about China’s minorities, and to undertake other research activities necessary for writing this book. My own university has been generous in granting me necessary leave and providing excellent research conditions, and my colleagues have always been supportive of my research and shared their ideas generously. In the last few years I have taught a course at Griffith University entitled ‘Minorities Questions in Asia’, which has included quite a lot of material on China. I would like to thank the students who have taken this course; quite a few of them over the years. They have helped me frame my ideas on minorities’ issues, commented on lectures, taken part in discussions and given me insights of value to formulating and thinking through ideas and interpreting information. Finally, I should like to thank my family, who have offered criticisms and comments, given unstinting assistance and shared many ideas with me. Colin Mackerras Brisbane June 2002



Asian Development Bank Bharatiya Janata Party Chinese Communist Party China News Digest gender-related development index human development index Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region Mongolian People’s Republic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation National Bureau of Statistics New China News Agency National People’s Congress People’s Liberation Army People’s Republic of China State Development Planning Commission State Statistical Bureau Tibetan Autonomous Region United Nations Development Programme World Trade Organisation Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region



Among issues with the greatest impact on the world as a whole at the turn of the twenty-first century two of particular importance are ethnic relations and globalisation. The collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 produced a spectacular flow-on effect all over the world. Among many other factors, it saw a dramatic increase in ethnic wars and conflicts in many parts of the globe, while ethnic tensions intensified in a range of other countries. Globalisation, or at least the less total form we might call internationalisation, has been important for a very long time. However, it gathered momentum greatly towards the end of the twentieth century. Its increasingly controversial nature became crystal clear at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Seattle in November 1999, when demonstrators protesting against unchecked globalisation forced a postponement of a new trade round. The reasons for the protests will be taken up later in this chapter. At the time China was in the late stages of active negotiations to join the WTO, having signed an agreement on entry with the United States earlier the same month. Negotiations had been lengthy and at times acrimonious. For China this success seemed a crowning achievement, since the United States was by far the most important and powerful of those countries with a say in whether China could join. There was considerable irony in the fact that China, which on many issues had once stood alongside ordinary people and against the power of governments, should now find itself aligned with powerful states against protestors. Quite a few hurdles stood in China’s way to WTO membership, but its efforts were eventually crowned with success in December 2001. China is a country with fifty-five state-recognised minority nationalities, plus a majority nationality called the Han, the ethnic group whom we associate most closely with China and ‘the Chinese’. Although the 2000 census put the proportion of the minority population in China’s total at 8.41 per cent, the areas where they reside take up about 60 per cent of the territory of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and many live near sensitive borders. For this and other reasons, China’s minorities are actually considerably more important for China than their population would suggest. This book aims to describe developments among China’s minorities between the end of the 1980s and 2002. Several significant events took place in 1989,



marking it out as very significant. A large-scale crisis rocked China, followed by the appointment of Jiang Zemin as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in June 1989. Later the same year crises erupted in Eastern Europe, leading to the overthrow of the great majority of ruling Marxist–Leninist parties there, and 2 years later the Soviet Union itself collapsed. The second date is when the typescript of this book was completed. It also saw the retirement of Jiang Zemin as CCP General Secretary, and his replacement by Hu Jintao. The book aims to take up the minorities’ economies, their politics, their education, and their societies, including gender and population issues and in some cases religion. It also aims at preliminary explorations on how globalisation and its concomitant modernisation have affected China’s ethnic minorities during that time. In addition, the book considers the ramifications of secessionist activities at the turn of the century, and their implications for China as an integrated state. No account of globalisation can avoid international relations, and the book aims to cast further light on the way in which China’s minorities affect the international relations of the country as a whole. Finally, I am aiming through this book to contribute to theoretical discussions about the nature of globalisation in the contemporary world and its effects on ethnic groups, especially minorities.

Some background What is a minority nationality? Just who are we discussing when we talk of China’s ethnic minorities or minority nationalities? The answer is those fifty-five ethnic groups the Chinese state recognises as its ‘minority nationalities’. The Chinese state follows a definition of nationality laid down by Stalin in 1913 (1953: 307). It runs that a nationality (Chinese minzu) is ‘a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture’. There are problems in applying any definition involved in anything so controversial as ethnic matters, including this one. The Chinese Muslims who are termed Hui do not have their own language nowadays and their territory is so dispersed throughout the country that it is very difficult to claim that they have a common territory. Hardly any Manchus still speak Manchu. And there are other anomolies. However, the reality is that the Chinese state and its scholars have given a great deal of attention to ethnic identification based on this definition, especially in the 1950s. There was a substantial break owing to the Cultural Revolution of 1966– 1976, but the work of identification then began again. By 1979, the number of fifty-five had been reached. For various reasons, all other claims to being classified as a ‘nationality’ since then have been rejected. By far the largest group who could be, but is not in fact, considered a ‘nationality’ is the Hakkas. These are a south Chinese people who, although culturally, linguistically and socially quite distinct in the late imperial period of Chinese history, nevertheless played a significant role in twentieth-century Chinese nationalism,



especially in the early period. Among smaller groups, one people that stands out is the Mosuo, a matrilinear people still living near the Lugu Lake which straddles the Yunnan-Sichuan border in the southwest of China. For various reasons, mainly political, the state does not recognise either of these peoples as a ‘nationality’. It still considers the Hakkas as part of the majority Han, and the Mosuo as a branch of the Naxi, and is unlikely to change its mind. This is despite the fact that there is still some ethnic pride in both peoples, including those who are quite convinced that they are indeed separate peoples. The Chinese state has published numerous official statistics based on its classifications. They cover a great many of the fields of relevance to this book. Moreover, Chinese scholars and officials have put out enormous amounts of information and insight, virtually all of it using the state-recognised classifications of the minority nationalities. Although the official figures can be subjected to criticism, they are on the whole the best available, and international bodies use them. Moreover, although some of the classifications are open to question, most are reasonably valid. Ethnic boundaries are rubbery at the best of times, and the fact remains that every Chinese has a ‘nationality’, which is included in a registration card using the official classifications. It is my overwhelming impression that the great majority of members of the minorities agree with, or at any rate accept, the classification in which they are placed. For these reasons, it is sensible and appropriate to adopt the Chinese state classifications for the purposes of this book. This does not mean that they should never be questioned. In the West many scholars have challenged the Chinese state categories and terminology. One eminent scholar of the Hui, or Chinese Muslims, argues that ‘Marxist–Stalinist nationality theory’ has placed limitations on official Chinese portrayals of the Hui (Gladney 1991: ix–x), and he is not alone in offering criticisms of this kind (e.g. Tapp 1995: especially 195–9). In the West there has been an enormous amount of thought and literature on questions relating to ethnic minorities terminology. The term ‘race’, which was once the most fashionable, has gone out of date because of its popularity with people now regarded as racists, such as nineteenth-century imperialists. A much more recent term than race is ‘ethnicity’, the first dictionary appearance of which was in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1972 (Eriksen 1993: 3). This term is preferable, since it lacks the judgemental overtones of ‘race’ and implies more cultural than biological concerns. Despite the relative novelty of the term, the corresponding adjective ‘ethnic’ has a much longer pedigree. One authority has written that ‘the term ethnic group is now widely used both within and without academic discourse’ (Fenton 1999: 58). A definition of an ‘ethnic group’ would appeal to ancestry, a shared history, and a common language and culture, possibly including religion. Schermerhorn (1970: 12) claims that ‘A necessary accompaniment is some consciousness of kind among members of the group’. This need places this definition on a much more subjective level than that of Stalin, who took no account at all of consciousness. The definition offered avoids the issue of whether ethnicity is primordial or socially derived, a debate over which much controversy has raged. On the other hand, Stalin’s definition, by



calling a nationality ‘historically constituted’, suggests that it is socially based, an impression confirmed by the trend of Marxist thinking generally. One of the advantages of the term ‘ethnic group’ over ‘ethnic minority’ is that in some countries, such as Indonesia, there are no ethnic groups with populations making up the majority of the people, meaning that all groups belong to minorities. However, that is certainly not the case in China. The aim of this section is to clarify precisely who is the subject of this book. The theory of ethnicity is an enormous topic and well outside my scope. But given these background comments, it seems to me legitimate to refer to the peoples of concern to this book as ‘ethnic groups’, ‘ethnic minorities’, ‘minority nationalities’ or simply ‘minorities’. I intend to use those terms more or less interchangeably, making it clear if there is a reason for avoiding one or the other. The sources There has been a considerable amount of work carried out over the last 20 years or so on China’s minorities in contemporary times, both in Chinese and European languages. Chinese works are too numerous to mention here, but many are cited in the notes and bibliography. Works in English are much more limited in number, although not necessarily in distinction. Some particularly deserving mention are Dru Gladney’s work on the Hui (1991), Stevan Harrell’s on the Yi,1 Louisa Schein’s on the Miao (2000), Ralph Litzinger’s on the Yao (2000), Katherine Kaup’s on the Zhuang (2000) and Tsering Shakya’s history of modern Tibet (1999). Obviously it is appropriate that this book should base itself at least in part on what others have written. I note that one issue separating the present book from the great bulk of other work, either in Chinese or a European language, is that it attempts consideration of the minorities as a whole, rather than approaching one only. The advantage of this approach is that it allows for global coverage and draws attention to differences, comparisons and contrasts between and among ethnic groups. It allows for consideration of how the Chinese state and the minorities who live within its territory impact upon each other. In addition to written sources, I have made use of numerous visits to minority areas, especially in the 1990s, and these have formed my main material for this book. Minority areas visited include Tibet in 1985, 1990, 1997 and 2002, Xinjiang in 1982, 1994 and 1999, Guizhou in 1990, western Sichuan in December 1996 and January 1997, the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in 1986 and 1990, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia in 1990, Qinghai in 1995, and minority areas of Yunnan in 1996, 2000 and on other occasions. With but few exceptions, visits to these minority areas have involved going to see schools and other educational institutions, families, factories, farms, performances and art troupes, and monasteries, temples, mosques and/or other religious sites, among other places of interest. In all places I have tried to interview relevant people, finding out not only details of their lives and work but also their views about what matters to them, their role as members of an ethnic minority and their attitude



towards life in contemporary China. The great majority of these interviews have been conducted in Chinese, but with a few in English or through interpreters familiar with minority languages such as Uygur and Tibetan. History Some background history of the period of focus in this book is necessary to make sense of developments among China’s ethnic minorities, and the mutual impact of globalisation on China and its minority nationalities. Since there is a considerable amount in other chapters about the history and conditions of individual minorities, it is Chinese background history that is of concern here. After a period of radical revolution known as the Cultural Revolution (1966 –1976) and led by Mao Zedong (1893–1976), China entered a period of reform, in which the principal goal was economic development under the continued leadership of the CCP. The main architect of this policy was Deng Xiaoping (1904 –1997), a towering figure in modern Chinese history who, though never the formal leader either of the Chinese government or CCP, in fact wielded gigantic power during the last quarter of the twentieth century, far more than any other single individual. The influence of Mao Zedong was so strongly eclipsed and the evaluation of his role so severely negated at that time that one eminent authority on Chinese politics has entitled his book on the age of Deng Xiaoping ‘burying Mao’ (Baum 1994). The period of reform was introduced by the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CCP Central Committee, which lasted from 18 to 22 December 1978. What this full session of China’s top Party body did was to set the parameters of a new revolution based not on radical ideology but on a quest for modernisation, economic development, national strengthening and a drastic rise in the standard of living. More than any other it was at this meeting that Deng Xiaoping asserted himself and laid the groundwork for his future power. Openness to the outside world was a primary aim of the reform policies. Overseas trade boomed and foreign expertise poured into the country. Chinese students went overseas in large numbers and, although many never returned, enough did so that their training and expertise made a difference to the economy and society. China changed from an isolated country to one that was highly susceptible and open to world influences. China’s joining the WTO in 2001 was a major spur to globalisation, but in fact the country had been subject to those good and bad trends we associate with globalisation somewhat before then. This incipient globalisation had profound implications for China. Finding out about what was happening outside the country, people began to demand far more in the way of freedoms and outside knowledge and techniques. Western, especially American, influence became incomparably more widespread than had been the case under Mao Zedong. One result was a rapid decline in the impact of Marxism–Leninism among ordinary people, and a concomitant growth in that of Western liberalism.



During the 1980s there were several major student movements, the main ones being at the end of 1986 and in the middle of 1989. The first of these brought about the downfall of the CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang, appointed to that position in the middle of 1981 and, after a break, the appointment of Zhao Ziyang to the position. The second developed a momentum so powerful on behalf of democracy that Deng Xiaoping came to believe that the CCP was about to be overthrown. He reacted by suppressing the student movement brutally through a military action on the night of 3– 4 June, with substantial casualties among the students and others. Later the same month a CCP Central Committee Plenum dismissed CCP General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, replacing him with Jiang Zemin, who also became state president in March 1993. The period following the suppression of the student demonstrations of 1989 was much more stable politically than most Western observers had expected. Jiang Zemin remained the CCP General Secretary until the Sixteenth CCP Congress towards the end of 2002. On the other hand, the plague of corruption, which had worsened significantly in the 1980s by comparison with the earlier period, continued to intensify its attack on China’s body politic. To be fair to him, Jiang Zemin appears to have done his best to counter this corruption, and authorities tracked down some extremely high-ranking corrupt officials. These even included former Guangxi Governor Cheng Kejie, executed on 14 September 2000. For a former provincial governor to be executed for corruption was completely unprecedented in the history of the PRC. Despite the efforts of authorities to stamp out corruption, they are most unlikely to solve the problem and are unlikely to do better than contain it. The opening up, indeed globalisation, of China has brought tremendous changes to its society and culture. There is very much more freedom than there used to be. There has been a religious revival, which has affected virtually all parts of the country, especially the minority areas. On the other hand, the authorities did not hesitate to suppress religious activities they thought were a threat to the state, the most important example being the Falungong, a quasi-religious sect drawing on martial arts, meditation and healing. On 25 April 1999 this body suddenly and unexpectedly announced its presence in society with a large-scale demonstration outside the residences of the top leadership. The authorities took fright and banned the Falungong in July 1999. This did not prevent further demonstrations by the Falungong, with authorities arresting practitioners. In 2001 the Falungong leader Li Hongzhi, who had lived in the United States since 1992, was actually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but made no headway. Mao Zedong’s regime laid considerably more weight on gender equality than Deng Xiaoping’s, with the slogan that ‘women hold up half the sky’. This was never reality under Mao, but observers generally saw a decline in the status of women in the period of reform. Certainly, the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995 brought forward some very negative Western images of the fate of women under Deng, with emphasis laid on the abduction and sale of girls and the poor treatment of female orphans (see Mackerras 1999: 160–3). On the other hand, there was a brighter side to the story.



The United Nations 1998 Human Development Report (cited ‘Monitor’ 1999: 12) ranked 174 countries according to such criteria as the number of women in parliament and the percentage of female administrators and professional and technical workers in the workforce. In general Asian countries fared very badly, but China came in the first in Asia and number 33 in the world. Women’s share of earned income was 38 per cent. This compared with 45 per cent in Sweden (the highest ranked country in the world for all criteria combined), 37 per cent in Thailand and 34 per cent in Japan. Economically, China went ahead spectacularly in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It was, for a start, not affected nearly as severely by the financial and economic crisis that afflicted much of East and Southeast Asia in 1997 and following years; so that the balance between China and its neighbours shifted in its favour. China’s economic growth over the entire period from 1979 to 2000 was officially given as 9.6 per cent per year, the highest of any major economy over those years; while between 1990 and 1996 the average real growth rate per person in the gross national product was 11 per cent, the highest in the world after Equatorial Guinea (Turner 2000: 434). The result was that China changed from an extremely backward country to one in the early stages of modernity in an astonishingly short time for so huge a country. In the eastern seaboard and in some other urban centres there were places that could definitely be called ‘modern’, even by world standards. It is true that poverty remained, being very serious in many places, but the number of people regarded as ‘impoverished’ was drastically reduced. An official Chinese white paper claimed that, in the rural areas, the number of people under the poverty line had fallen from about 250 million in the late 1970s to 34 million at the end of 1999, with even those impoverished people having ‘basically achieved adequate feeding and clothing’ (Information Office 2000a: para. 7).2 Western observers tend to be sceptical of the Chinese figures, arguing that the boundary of precisely what constitutes absolute poverty is set too low, but accept that poverty has been greatly reduced. On the other hand, some parts of the country developed much more quickly than others, while some people did much better than others in all regions. The result was that inequalities were far more serious at the beginning of the twenty-first century than they had been in 1978. The economic growth of China was accompanied by a spectacular political rise. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the rise of China internationally was one of the most important developments in the history of the world of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Moreover, by the end of the century it was actually getting on better both with its neighbours and the world as a whole than had been the case for a long time. The very poisonous Sino-Soviet relations of the 1960s to mid-1980s gave place to quite a warm friendship valued by both sides. Relations with Vietnam, which had been very bad during the 1980s, were more or less repaired in the 1990s. Although China’s relationships with Japan and the United States were rather unstable by the end of the century, they could hardly be described as bad, both countries maintaining cordiality with China strong enough for cooperation in a great many international endeavours.



Globalisation We now turn to a much more detailed discussion of the concept that is one of the cores of this book: globalisation. What is globalisation? Since the 1980s a substantial literature has developed on this concept and scholars are not in full agreement over just what globalisation means and entails. Afshar and Barrientos (1999: 1) write that the term has come into use ‘to define various aspects of global expansion in the past decade’. It is certainly true that the term gained considerable currency in the last decade of the twentieth century by comparison with the preceding period. Yet, it was as early as 1960 that the eminent theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase the ‘global village’.3 Moreover, there is nothing new about global expansion or internationalisation. One thinks of the dramatic expansion of religions in the distant past, for example, the rapid and spectacular spread of Islam over much of the Eurasian continent and North Africa in the decade or so before the death of Muhammad in 632 and the century or so following it. Nineteenth-century colonialism spread modernising influences, ideas and Western economic patterns through much of the world and led on to expanded global penetration from the main Western powers to countries elsewhere. Yet despite these earlier movements, globalisation has gathered momentum since the end of the Second World War, and especially since the ongoing computer revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. It has become more and more difficult for any of the world’s regions to escape influence from elsewhere, so that internationalisation has become more genuinely global. The ability of people to move around the world in very large numbers and extremely quickly through air travel, and above all the instantaneous transfer of news, information and ideas through radio, television and the Internet have transformed world society and culture in a way, at a speed, and to an extent which previous generations could hardly have imagined. Anthony McGrew has put forward a definition that to me seems very appropriate to the contemporary era. He writes (1992: 65–6):4 Globalization refers to the mutiplicity of linkages and interconnections that transcend the nation-states (and by implication the societies) which make up the modern world system. It defines a process through which events, decisions, and activities in one part of the world can come to have significant consequences for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe. Nowadays, goods, capital, people, knowledge, images, communications, crime, culture, pollutants, drugs, fashions, and beliefs all readily flow across territorial boundaries. Transnational networks, social movements and relationships are extensive in virtually all areas of human activity from the academic to the sexual.



There is clearly a tight connection between modernisation and globalisation. In his now famous essay on ‘the consequences of modernity’, British New Labour ideologue Anthony Giddens (1990: 63, 177) rightly stresses that modernity ‘is inherently globalising’. It was the Industrial Revolution that led to colonialism, a factor which spread modernising economies, cultures and ideas throughout the globe. The advance of technologies of various kinds has been of crucial importance in the development both of modernisation and globalisation. One thinks of the advances from the sailing ship to the steamship, from propellor-driven aeroplanes to jet aircraft, from telegraph to the digital telephone, from radio to satellite television, and above all the development of the computer. On the other hand, there are aspects in which the modernisation and globalisation point in opposite directions. Probably the main one is the role of the nationstate. Giddens (1990: 1) associates modernity with ‘modes of social life or organisation which emerged in Europe from about the seventeeth century onwards’, obviously including the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which saw the beginnings of the rise of the nation-state. But by ignoring borders globalisation is in some ways inherently hostile to the nation-state and challenges the way it operates at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As it happens, many of China’s minorities live near borders which globalisation appears to undermine. Globalisation seems to reduce the control most governments exert over the economies of their own countries, and it allows influences from outside which may damage the independence of societies. One specialist (Beck 2000: 21) believes that globalisation implies ‘the breakdown of the basic assumptions whereby societies and states have been conceived, organised and experienced as territorial units separated from one another’ (italics in original). The term ‘modernisation’ appears to emphasise time, while ‘globalisation’ puts the stress on space. But it may be features that define both. Arif Dirlik’s summary of the process from the discourse of modernisation to that of globalisation appears to me apt and worth quoting. He writes (2000: 248): What we may describe as the replacement of the paradigm of modernization by a paradigm of globalization has many dimensions that range from the recognition of new groups, the empowerment of others, and questions about the nation-state as an appropriate political, economic, and cultural unit, to the disappearance of socialist alternatives to capitalism accompanied by, ironically, an erosion of a Eurocentric teleology of modernity. In McGrew’s list of items which can so easily cross borders in the contemporary world some are clearly good, notably knowledge, and some can be either good, bad or indifferent, such as goods, culture or people, though an optimist would expect that all three are predominantly good. But some are quite clearly bad, such as crime, pollutants and drugs. Certainly, criminals take major advantage of globalisation, among them drug-traffickers being prominent. And drugs are among factors that imply the spread of disease. Although there is absolutely nothing new about global epidemics – indeed, what is remarkable is the extent to



which globalisation has spread the prevention and curing of disease – the spread of the HIV virus and AIDS since the 1980s has been among the most disastrous developments of our time. Environmentalists have often pointed out that ecosystems, wild animals and pollutants attach absolutely no importance whatever to national borders. Globalisation, democracy and human rights The example of Islam mentioned above emphasises the importance of beliefs and ideas in globalisation. To this writer two related ideas appear to have been pre-eminent in the globalisation processes accelerating in the late years of the twentieth century. These are democracy and human rights. Both are relevant to the topic of this book, especially since one of the most important forms of human rights is ethnic rights. As one globalisation theorist has put it (Scholte 1997: 26 –7), ‘there is a broad and fairly solid consensus in today’s world that good governance means democratic governance’, and many people see globalisation and democratisation ‘as two sides of the same coin’. Liberal theorists, among others, have drawn attention to the large-scale spread of democracy across the globe in recent times, from the fall of the Soviet bloc like a row of dominoes late in 1989 to that of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1990s. And meanwhile in East Asia, South Korea and Taiwan saw the expansion of democratic values, with Taiwan holding its first elections for president in March 1996. There are of course many remaining undemocratic factors in the world. Few people are consulted when world bodies make decisions that affect populations all over the world in the most direct ways. The protestors in Seattle in November 1999 and in Prague in August 2000 were very vocal in demanding greater popular participation in bodies such as the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And one does not have to look far to find places where democracy actually retreated, a prominent example being the military takeover in Pakistan in October 1999. China was the most important among the world’s countries that failed to overthrow its communist party, nor did it introduce popular elections for its top leaders. However, this did not mean that there was no progress towards democratic governance. In November 1987 the government introduced a law allowing for village elections. By the end of the twentieth century more than a million village elections had taken place throughout the country, only about 60 per cent of them resulting in village heads who were members of the CCP. At the end of 1998 an open election took place to elect the head of a township, a level higher than the village. Although it is most unlikely that the election of non-CCP members will lead quickly to a multi-party system, the long-term trend appears to be in the direction of greater democratic participation. The democracy movement of 1989 had not revived by the middle of 2002, but there does not appear to be any fundamental reason why China should not eventually adopt a more democratic system of government.5



The fact that Taiwan holds regular democratic elections suggests most strongly that democracy is not inherently contrary to Chinese culture. Issues of human rights have become a focus for considering globalisation because, whereas law concerning individual rights once belonged to the national arena, it became definitely international after the Second World War. The main starting point was the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. But since then a whole series of international laws and conventions has developed, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1965. One of the central debates over human rights has revolved around the issue of whether they are universal or communitarian. The former position holds that human beings have rights simply by being human; and that they are given by nature or God and cannot be taken away. The communitarian view emphasises ‘the formative role of the community in constituting individuality’ (Brown 1997: 480); rights did not exist before societies and it is particular societies that bestow rights on individual people. Since the 1990s, the international community has focused far more on human rights than it ever did before, which means that they are much more a global issue than in earlier times. On the other hand, some scholars claim that the end of the Cold War meant a challenge to the universalist view of human rights ‘by critics who stress the western, masculine, intolerant nature of this universalism’ (Brown 1997: 471). In this view, human rights theory is based largely on Western notions of rights, ignoring other civilisations’ contributions to humanitarian values; and the articles both in the Universal Declaration and the various covenants assume traditional gender roles. As far as China is concerned, however, the year promoting human rights in world consciousness was most certainly 1989, and the debate over universalist and communitarian values has raged ever since. Following the crackdown of mid1989, China came under severe criticism, especially from the United States and other Western countries, for its abuse of human rights in suppressing protestors peacefully demonstrating on behalf of democracy and democratic values. The Chinese state, on the other hand, saw things quite differently. In its view, it was merely suppressing a rebellion which, had it succeeded, would have brought down the CCP and thrown the country into chaos, as has happened in the Soviet Union. This would have meant far more suffering for far more people than in fact happened. Based on the communitarian view of human rights, to suppress this movement with so much potential for instability was a far better course of action than simply standing by and waiting to be overthrown, which is what the West seemed to be asking for. Or so argued the Chinese authorities.6 For Western countries, the issue of human rights in developing policy towards China has remained a crucial one since 1989. They have consistently criticised China for human rights abuses, even while taking steps to deal with China both in commercial and strategic matters. The Chinese state has been more than willing to deal with the West, but has been clear that relations in the area of human



rights must be between equals, not the West as teacher lecturing the naughty boy. On 1 November 1991, the Chinese government issued a document on human rights in China (Information Office 1991: 8–45), which was the first of a series in what marked a major push in human rights diplomacy. Focusing on the right to subsistence as the primary right, the paper argued that China had done very well in this realm, and also covered such diverse topics as the rights of ethnic minorities and the disabled, religious freedom, and cultural and social rights. Later papers followed similar themes, with some focusing on such individual items as women and minority nationalities. By the end of the century, Western governments seemed less enthusiastic about acting as international police on human rights in the case of China, and many had developed a human rights dialogue with the Chinese government. They had decided that this was a far better, more productive and less dangerous and provocative way of tackling the human rights issue with China than direct confrontation. Authorities are generally quite happy to leave the main running in the field of human rights to self-appointed, non-governmental activists. Why is globalisation so controversial? The proponents of globalisation include most of the world’s main power-holders. The reason for this is that the globalised world has allowed a faster and more widespread expansion of wealth than ever experienced before in history. More food and other life necessities are produced, housing is better, more people are able to travel, lifestyles have become more varied, news travels faster, more people have the opportunity to watch television, more are hooked up to the Internet, and freedoms have spread to include more people than has ever been the case before. Why then should anybody complain about globalisation? Some observers charge globalisation with being too set on a single course of action and ideas, despite its show of freedom and liberalism. In an avowedly radical critique Ulrich Beck (2000: 129) denounces globalisation for ‘its economic one-dimensionalism, its one-way-street linear thinking, its world-market authoritarianism’. Critics of globalisation accuse it of promoting inequalities and even of increasing poverty, at the same time as it expands wealth. The ‘world-market authoritarianism’ of which Beck speaks is central here. The critics believe that the emphasis of the WTO on free trade and reduction of tariffs is a factor spreading inequalities in economic and social terms, because it allows the products of the richer countries to flood the markets of the poorer. Certainly the late years of the twentieth century saw a rise in economic inequalities throughout most of East and Southeast Asia, being worst in Thailand and China (Islam 2000: 322). The latter country had come out of a period in which economic equality was touted as one of the major benefits of a radical revolution. And although the realities belied the ideology, most people saw the slide towards inequality as one of the prices that had to be paid for the greater wealth of the reform period, especially since the overwhelming majority of people benefited from the new policies introduced from 1978 (see also Wang 2000: 378–9).



One point about globalisation is that influences can move in any direction. They can move either from the developed countries to the developing, or the other way around. In the West, Tibetan Buddhism has become very fashionable in the ‘new spirituality’ popular among young Westerns since the late years of the twentieth century. However, influences do not move equally in all directions. Western, and especially American, influence all over the world is incomparably greater and more deep-seated than is Asian influence in the Western countries. The domination of the world economy by that of the United States and other major Western powers, and the concomitant impact on ideas and culture make the United States look still very hegemonic among the world’s countries. Indeed, some observers have even regarded globalisation as equivalent to Americanisation, with the advance of global capitalism destroying communities everywhere. The November 1999 protests at the WTO meetings in Seattle and later demonstrations against globalisation in other parts of the world addressed a range of issues, including labour standards, environmental norms, women’s and ethnic rights, and the tendency, as they saw it, for globalisation to undermine local and ethnic cultures. On the subject of labour and the environment, Asian governments have on the whole been keen to prevent the WTO from interfering, arguing that it is precisely the low cost of labour in their own countries which makes them competetive. Then United States President Bill Clinton supported the view of protestors that the WTO had an obligation to consider the connection between trade and labour standards, and take a stand against child labour and bad labour conditions found in some Asian countries. And on the environment, Asian governments have wanted the WTO to keep out, because too great an emphasis on the environment risks holding back their economic growth, while protesters and many Western authorities see a direct relationship between trade and the environment. In all these matters, China has come over as one of the targets of protestors, because it stands on the side opposite to them on so many globalising issues. Exiled labour activists have painted an extremely grim picture of labour conditions in China, trying to argue that trade with China should depend on attempts to improve such conditions radically. And China’s environment is recognised by virtually all people as shockingly bad. It is true that progressive and stringent laws have been introduced to improve the situation, and the Chinese authorities should, in my opinion, be given credit for them. Yet the improvements are not nearly enough to counter the impression that in any competition between economic growth and environmental protection it is the former that will prevail. One of the most controversial features of globalisation lies in the perception that it eliminates cultural difference and cultural identities. One hears a great deal in the contemporary world about big developers who destroy the habitat not only of wild animals but even of small ethnic communities, eradicating their culture in the process. There is of course some truth in this charge. Globalisation does tend to spread a global culture everywhere, and indigenous cultures frequently suffer, or even go under, as a result. Yet it is important not to exaggerate the destructive effects of globalisation on cultural identities. Indeed, in some ways it can even strengthen cultural



consciousness. Two specialists have expressed this tension between globalisation and identity as follows (Meyer and Geschiere 1999: 2): There is much empirical evidence that people’s awareness of being involved in open-ended global flows seems to trigger a search for fixed orientation points and action frames, as well as determined efforts to affirm old and construct new boundaries. For students of globalization it is therefore important to develop an understanding of globalization that not only takes into account the rapid increase in mobility of people, goods and images, but also the fact that, in many places, flow goes hand in hand with a closure of identities which often used to be much more fuzzy and permeable. Nick Knight (2000: 242) is, in my opinion, quite right to point out that ‘the technologies that make a global culture possible also facilitate the dissemination and hence revival of distinctive local cultures’. His emphasis on technology in the context both of creating the global culture and maintaining or reviving the local ones is well placed. In his thoughtful essay on cultural identity in the contemporary world, Stuart Hall (1992: 304) draws attention to the fact that ‘globalization is very unevenly distributed around the globe’. And in a country like China, it is ‘very unevenly distributed’ even within a single nation-state, being already highly influential in the large cities of the eastern seaboard but very much less so in the unmodern villages of the west, including in the minority areas. Hall (1992: 304) also comments on ‘a fascination with difference and the marketing of ethnicity and “otherness” ’, which coexist with globalisation. He continues: There is a new interest in ‘the local’ together with the impact of ‘the global’. Globalization (in the form of flexible specialization and ‘niche marketing’) actually exploits local differentiation. Thus, instead of thinking of the global replacing the local, it would be more accurate to think of a new articulation between ‘the global’ and ‘the local’. … [I]t seems unlikely that globalization will simply destroy national identities. It is more likely to produce, simultaneously, new ‘global’ and new ‘local’ identifications. Hall is quite right to suggest that globalisation can actually assist cultural identities through its emphasis on the local. The dichotomy between the global and the local has even led to the adoption of a new term: glocalisation. In the 1980s the word had been used in Japanese business jargon for ‘global localisation’ but in the 1990s entered the sociological lexicon in a very different sense (for instance Robertson 1995: 28–32). China has clearly been a site of this ‘glocalisation’. One writer argues that, especially since the early to mid-1990s, Chinese preference for local consumer products has involved resistance to foreign or global counterparts. She claims (Hooper 2000: 441) that ‘an alliance of Chinese commercial interests, the government and media’ has appropriated both nationalism and culture, ‘alleging



the greater “suitability” of their products for Chinese consumers’ in a largely successful bid to secure a good share of the market against foreign competition. One excellent example of this lust for otherness is in tourism. Although not new to the second half of the twentieth century, it certainly accelerated and grew exponentially at that time, to become one of the largest and most important spinners of wealth in the world economy. Millions of people came to enjoy both prosperity through higher standards of living and the opportunity through better and faster means of transport and more holidays to travel all over the world. Backpacking became extremely fashionable among younger people, while older ones joined organised tourist groups to visit places ordinary people in previous generations could hardly have dreamed about. At the height of the tourist season many cities of Europe have as many visitors as residents, and a few even more. And of course tourism is a vital component of the economy well beyond Europe. The number of international tourists visiting China, including those from Hong Kong and Macao, rose from 5.7 million in 1980 to 17.83 million in 1985, and then from 43.68 million in 1994 to 63.48 million in 1998. Earnings from international tourism grew enormously over the same period. In American dollars the rise was from $617 million in 1980, to $1.25 billion in 1985, and from $7.2 billion in 1994 to $12.6 billion in 1998.7 Although North America and Europe provide the greatest numbers of tourists, the people of Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan have entered the tourist market in a very big way, travelling not only in their own and other Asian countries but in Europe, America and elsewhere. Domestic Chinese tourism also grew during the 1990s, with 5.24 million in 1994 and 6.94 in 1998 (NBS 1999: 609). And for the first time, significant numbers of Chinese began to go abroad for the purposes of tourism in the 1990s. Globalisation, sovereignty and the state It was earlier pointed out that one of the respects in which modernisation and globalisation differ in their effects is in the power of the nation-state and in the concept of sovereignty, both of them central to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. And the rise of the nation-state and the demands of sovereignty have made for clearer and more sharply demarcated borders throughout the world. But the acceleration of globalisation has reversed this trend, with borders becoming challenged and in some cases more porous. Migrations of people in significant numbers to distant countries have become common, with authorities finding great difficulty in controlling them. One writer (Scholte 1997: 21) goes so far as to say that ‘the core Westphalian norm of sovereignty is no longer operative; nor can it be retrieved in the present globalizing world’. This is a very strong statement with which some would not agree, especially governments striving to control their own territories. Crucial among such governments is that of China, which has made very clear its insistence that it has the right to exercise sovereignty over all those territories it claims as within the PRC, including the minority areas of Tibet and Xinjiang. Indeed, numerous accusations



of human rights abuses from Western organisations have been ritually and uniformly greeted by requests to keep out of China’s internal affairs, implying that China intends to maintain its rights of sovereignty in those areas. The controversy over sovereignty came to a head in March 1999, when the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) began a major bombing campaign against Serbia, mainly on the grounds that it had been carrying out ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. For China this bombing campaign was outrageous, because the NATO powers had, without reference to the United Nations, taken the matter into their own hands and intervened in the sovereign affairs of an independent nation-state against the wishes of its government. For the Chinese leadership, the whole episode suggested that the Western powers or some other regional grouping might bomb China’s own capital if they decided that the human rights situation in Tibet or Xinjiang had descended into a situation of ethnic cleansing. If, against the wishes of such states as China and Russia, sovereignty is in decline, then what of the nation-state itself. According to McGrew (1992: 92), ‘A powerful argument can be made that globalization is compromising the authority, the autonomy, the nature and the competence of the modern nation-state’. When one considers the growing influences of transnational bodies and the declining authority which many governments command within their own countries one can see the point of this contention. However, there are differing points of view. One of them, challenging the theory of the decline of the state, argues that ‘the generic “state” persists as a crucial actor in the world economy’ (Smith et al. 1999: 1), but in changing contexts and with new functions. The point is made in the political realm through the terrorist attack that brought about the total collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001. While the terrorists who hijacked and flew the planes into the towers had no obvious state allegiance, it was a coalition of American-led states that retaliated with war, and against a state, Afghanistan. It is also striking that by the growth and improvement of computer and other technology, states are able to intervene in the affairs of their citizens more effectively than ever. Moreover, states are able to cooperate with each other to serve common interests. Examples include the NATO intervention over Kosovo. In my opinion, the nation-state may have declined in some ways, but in others it is stronger than ever, albeit with different functions. I do not expect its demise in the foreseeable future. China as one of the world’s more statist countries will be struggling to maintain this institution for a long time. Of all the countries around the globe it is among the oldest to have a recognisable state power exercising effective control over a significant territory. Specialists argue over when China first saw the emergence of ‘the state’, but it was certainly no later that the first unification of China in the third century BCE under the Qin dynasty led by the powerful tyrant Qin Shihuang. The Qin state certainly had a powerful army, and a powerful bureaucratic apparatus exercising control over the people. It controlled a significant territory and, perhaps most important of all, it laid down the idea of the unity of the Chinese nation which proved so effective that it has lasted ever since. Of course China’s territory has not always been the same as it is at present, but the ideal of



a single China governing all Chinese territory has, on the whole, held sway more or less since that time. In recent years the power of the CCP and the Chinese government has become more dispersed. They are much less able to exercise full control over the activities of the citizens of China than they were during the reign of Mao Zedong. Outside influences, especially those from the United States and other Western countries, were able to create a greater impact on what people knew, on their fashions and lifestyle, and on the arts they enjoyed than had once been the case. Since joining the WTO in 2001, China has had to take much more notice of international laws governing trade, investment and the environment, and even such social matters as human rights. This process is likely to accelerate in the coming years, further increasing international influence on China and inevitably reducing the control the Chinese state can exert in its own territory. Yet it is important not to exaggerate this claim. The state, as one specialist has pointed out, was closely involved in the rise of the Chinese economy that was one of the most important processes characterising the last decades of the twentieth century (Friedman 1999: especially 252–62). The CCP, or whichever group dominates the government of China, will hardly give up all its authority. And it is most unlikely that external governments or international bodies will require the authorities in China to give up more than a modicum of its power. Bodies such as the International Monetary Fund have on occasion made extreme demands on governments in return for loans. But the Chinese economy will have to decline enormously before it gets remotely near such a position. The relevance of globalisation for China and her ethnic minorities So what has globalisation to do with China and her minorities? In essence, globalisation is relevant because of its implications for the state and because minorities are a kind of case study of ‘the local culture’ threatened by globalisation. Clifford Geertz (1963: 108) puts the contradiction very well in his discussion of new states. He writes of ‘two powerful, thoroughly interdependent, yet distinct and often actually opposed motives – the desire to be recognized as responsible agents whose wishes, acts, hopes, and opinions “matter”, and the desire to build an efficient, dynamic modern state’. For China to function as an efficient, dynamic and modern state, it is of crucial importance that the country should be integrated well enough to act as a single and coherent whole, and at least to avoid national disintegration. This fate which did so much damage to the economy, politics and society of the once powerful Soviet Union is one the Chinese leaders wish at all costs to avoid following. Globalisation has the potential to weaken or even undermine the Chinese state. It certainly has the potential to effect the overthrow of the CCP. The way in which the Chinese state relates to its ethnic minorities carries implications of the most enormous importance for China, because at least two of China’s most populous minorities, the Uygurs of Xinjiang and the Tibetans of Tibet, have already undertaken secessionist movements. As will be shown in later



chapters, at least the first of these two grew more confident in the last decade of the twentieth century, as the Chinese state strove harder to check and suppress them, being sharply criticised for human rights abuses in the process. On the other hand, concepts like that of nation-state, globalisation and modernisation look very different to ethnic minorities within large states. Some of China’s minorities value their identities very deeply and are willing to struggle, or even fight against heavy odds, to keep them thriving. The issue of how the cultures of China’s ethnic minorities have fared under the impact of the thrust towards modernisation and the trend towards globalisation since the late 1970s is of great significance, globalisation having affected virtually all the minorities to a greater or lesser extent. Many of the minorities have diasporas able and prepared to wield influence outside China on behalf of their co-nationals at home. The most outstanding example is of course the Tibetans, who have a leader in the form of the Dalai Lama with a status and reputation high enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1989). There are, however, others with diasporas which, if they are not particularly influential as the twenty-first century dawns, are certainly doing their best to become so. Although the diasporas are not the subject of this book, they have a relevance for their impact, or potential impact, on foreign images of China and on China’s foreign relations. In Western countries it has become fashionable to support ethnonationalist movements, even including independence and the founding of new nation-states. The Basques of Spain are among the few counter-examples, but among others with strong popular sympathy in the West one thinks of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Chechens, the Kurds and several peoples in Indonesia. And of course before its foundation as an independent state in May 2002, the aspirations of East Timor enjoyed enormous popular support in Australia and elsewhere. A range of factors has created this sympathy for ethnonationalists, including the oppression states have forced on them. But ironically, globalisation has assisted greatly, because it has quickened awareness in all countries of what is happening elsewhere. The relevance of globalisation is wide-ranging in the contemporary world. It certainly matters greatly both for China and for its ethnic minorities. And it matters for people outside China as well. With this ‘big picture’ in mind, some details should become clear in the following chapters.


Historical background, 1949–1989

The government of Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975), which lasted from 1927 to 1949, cared a great deal about China’s national unity, and was aware how important minorities could be in border affairs. However, he was not particularly concerned about minority affairs from any other point of view. The Japanese had attempted to woo over the Mongolians to their side and part of the Mongolian population, as well as other ethnic groups of northeast China or Manchuria, had belonged to the Japanese puppet state of Manchukoku in the 1930s and down to their defeat in 1945. The succeeding civil war had done nothing to improve the situation in the country as a whole either economically or socially, either for the majority Han people or the minorities.

The minorities, 1949–1976 Given China’s recent history it was not surprising that ethnic issues imposed themselves on the CCP right from the moment it established itself in power at the head of the PRC on 1 October 1949. Mao Zedong and his CCP had already had occasion to develop ideas about the minorities during their time as revolutionary opponents of the government, and they had gained some support from the ethnic areas through which they passed during their famous Long March of 1934–1935. But actually being the government of the whole country raised different problems the CCP had never really had to face. Early policy on minorities The PRC laid down its policy on minorities in Articles 50 –3 of its interim constitution called the ‘Common Programme’, adopted on 29 September 1949. Article 50 ran: All nationalities within the boundaries of the People’s Republic of China are equal. They shall establish unity and mutual aid among themselves and shall oppose imperialism and their own public enemies, so that the People’s Republic of China will become a big fraternal and cooperative family composed of all its nationalities. Greater nationalism and chauvinism shall


Historical background be opposed. Acts involving discrimination, oppression, and splitting of the unity of the various nationalities shall be prohibited.1

The CCP summed up its policy on minorities as ‘unity and equality’. The Common Program also included a degree of regional autonomy for minorities in areas where they were concentrated. In addition, it stipulated the ‘freedom to develop their dialects and languages, and to preserve or reform their traditions, customs, and religious beliefs’ (Article 53). For the CCP, the first priority was to carry out a social revolution among the minorities, as indeed it was doing among the Han. At the time, the social systems prevailing among the minorities were extremely diverse. However, the majority of them involved fairly extreme social and economic inequalities. Most had landowning aristocracies, and many featured clergies with very great power among the people. These clergies themselves were unequal: among some ethnic groups monks resident in monasteries were themselves ranked according to a strict hierarchy, while monastic estates concentrated wealth in very few hands. One of the most uneven societies of the minorities was that of the Nuosu, a people living in Liangshan (literally ‘cool mountains’) in the southwest of China straddling the border between Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. The Nuosu were – and still are – regarded as a branch of the Yi nationality, formerly called Lolos. Nuosu society featured a rigid hierarchy of slaves, in which slaves could themselves own slaves of an even more wretched order. One reporter, Alan Winnington, actually visited Liangshan in the late 1950s, the first European to do so under the PRC, at a time when the suppression of slavery was nearing its conclusion. He interviewed numerous former slaves and had the following to say about what he found: House-slaves are the most abject of all humans in the Cool Mountains and maybe anywhere in the world. They possess nothing at all, not even the tatters they wear. Unable to ‘cheat’ to any greater extent than growing a little opium secretly, they live at bedrock subsistence level, eating only what they are given by the master and that is very little indeed. Their normal diet is the coarse siftings of the grains they have ground for the master’s family, mixed with swill from his table and wild vegetables collected by themselves, served in a wooden trough on the floor. While they remain in their master’s home, generally until they are able to produce children, they are treated like animals – actually rather worse than animals – work all available hours, tend the fire at night and are beaten for the least hint of fault or at the whim of their ill-tempered and opium-sodden master or mistress. They are unimaginably ignorant. (Winnington 1959: 35–6) Winnington gained a very good impression of the ways in which the CCP had wiped out slavery among the Nuosu. He knew that social change was frequently violent, including in China in the 1950s, but marvelled at the fact that in the case of the Nuosu it had been peaceful. The Nuosu slave-owners had actually agreed

Historical background


to the abolition of slavery, even though it meant the loss of their wealth and privileges (Winnington 1959: 210). During the 1950s, the government began the process of identifying ethnic groups. The central government sent out social scientists to determine which groups were nationalities according to the Stalin’s definition, mentioned in Chapter 1. The 1964 census recognised fifty-three minorities, with two more being added later, the last being the Juno of Yunnan in 1979. The establishment of autonomous places was an early priority of the CCP’s government. They had already set up the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR) in May 1947, and during the 1950s many others followed. By the year 1990 there were 157, with several levels (listed Mackerras 2001a: 254–6). The largest was the autonomous region, equivalent in status to a province. There were five of these: the IMAR, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR, set up in 1955), the Guangxi Zhuang and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regions (1958), and the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR 1965). In addition, there were 30 autonomous prefectures, the earliest set up being the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province in 1952, and a series of autonomous counties and banners. The principal aim of autonomy at this stage was nationalisation, ‘defined as “national in form of autonomous organs, languages, and cadres” ’ (Dreyer 1976: 105). What this meant was that members of the minority groups should take over their own administration as far as possible, using their own languages. Another implication was that the state should train as many cadres as possible belonging to the minorities themselves. The term ‘cadres’ in the PRC means administrators, CCP members and professionals. In the specific case of Xinjiang the leadership was more cautious, no doubt because of the history of violent secessionism from the 1920s to the 1940s. One author states that ‘Han predominance and authority’ were sought throughout the 1949–1956 period, but with Han cadres instructed to cooperate with minority counterparts (McMillen 1979: 89). In addition, they were asked to respect minority customs and beliefs, ‘implement Party policies according to local conditions’, and promote a mood of tolerance. This training of national cadres was initially a very slow process, because most of the minorities were not interested in the CCP or its ideology. There were exceptions, of course. Minorities relatively responsive to the CCP were mainly those that had been directly affected by Japanese aggression before 1949, especially the Koreans, Mongolians and Manchus. To effect more central control of the training of minority cadres, the government approved the establishment of a Central Nationalities Institute in November 1950. By 1957 there were about 700,000 CCP members among the minorities, that being about 5.5 per cent of the total of 12.72 million (Mackerras 1994: 157). Relations between government and minorities deteriorated in 1958, largely due to the more radical policies of the Great Leap Forward, including the establishment of people’s communes. ‘Local nationalism’, that is the wish to promote the nationalism of the local ethnic groups not that of China as a whole, came to the fore as a serious crime, replacing the policy of denouncing great Han chauvinism.


Historical background

In Xinjiang several high-ranking minority cadres were publicly denounced as ‘local nationalists’ (McMillen 1979: 94), and there were similar developments in other minority regions. Territorial unity and Tibet Right from the start of its rule, the issue of China’s territorial integrity and unity loomed extremely large, just as it had done for the Nationalist Party government of Chiang Kai-shek. Although the CCP had allowed for the possibility that certain minorities would secede from China in the early 1930s, the need to deal with the Japanese invasion forced Mao Zedong and the other CCP leaders to renege on this concession. From the beginning, the CCP was clear that almost all those territories which had formed part of China under the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) were also part of the PRC, and that included the ethnic areas of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. There was one exception, namely the territory known to the Chinese as Outer Mongolia, which had declared independence with a Constitution calling itself the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) in 1924. The Soviet Union had been heavily involved in MPR affairs, and as a result the CCP had recognised its independence. The new PRC Premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976) cabled agreement to establish diplomatic relations with the MPR on 16 December 1949, in other words hardly more than two weeks after the CCP came to power. Although relations between the PRC and Mongolia have been unstable, the CCP has never gone back on its recognition of the MPR as an independent territory. The policy of autonomy was definitely a significant advance on what the minorities had experienced under the previous Republican government of Chiang Kai-shek. However, at no stage did autonomy make any pretence to being remotely equivalent to independence. An editorial in the main official newspaper on 2 October 1951 (cited Dreyer 1976: 94) dubbed any minority movement wishing to secede from the PRC as ‘reactionary since, objectively considered, it would undermine the interests of the various nationalities, and hence would work to the advantage of imperialism’. The 1954 Constitution declared that ‘National autonomous areas are inalienable parts of the People’s Republic of China’.2 Inner Mongolia was controlled by the CCP even before the PRC was established. Although separatist movements had wracked Xinjiang during much of the first half of the twentieth century, it fell quite easily to the CCP, with the provincial head Burhan cabling his surrender on 26 September 1949 and being appointed as Chairman of the Xinjiang Provincial Government on 17 December. There was resistance to CCP rule in some ethnic areas in the 1950s, but on the whole the process of communist takeover of relatively peaceful. The major exception to this pattern was Tibet. The Nationalist Party government of Chiang Kai-shek considered Tibet to be a ‘special territory’ within China, but the local Tibetan authorities did not accept Chinese rule. In fact, the extent of Chinese influence in Tibet during the period 1912–1950 was minimal. The CCP was clear right from the start that Tibet was part of China. Troops of the People’s

Historical background


Liberation Army (PLA), led by General Zhang Guohua, advanced towards Tibet in 1950, the first skirmishes taking place in May. After a fierce battle, they captured the eastern Tibetan city of Chamdo, then in Xikang Province, on 19 October 1950. The Chinese government demanded that the Tibetan local authorities negotiate, the bottom line being that they should recognise Tibet as an integral part of China. After an unsuccessful appeal for help to the United Nations, a Tibetan delegation signed an agreement in Beijing on 23 May 1951. Among the seventeen points of the agreement, two stand out as most important. ●

In Clause 1, it is stated that ‘the Tibetan people shall return to the family of the motherland – the People’s Republic of China’. Clause 4 declares that ‘The central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet’.3

Intensive debate ensued within the Tibetan government itself and there were discussions with the Americans. Then, on 24 October 1951, the young Dalai Lama cabled his acceptance of the seventeen-point agreement. It was only after the central government received the cable that General Zhang Guohua arrived in Lhasa on 26 October, with PLA troops following shortly afterwards. Yet the period from the Dalai Lama’s acceptance of the 1951 agreement to the late 1950s was a relatively good one for the minorities in China, with the standard of living rising significantly. In 1955, the central government established a committee to prepare to set up the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and placed the Dalai Lama at its head, with the Panchen Lama, the second most influential of the Tibetan lamas, and Zhang Guohua as deputies. On the whole, the Chinese allowed the old system of government and society to remain in Tibet, even though it was extremely unequal and featured a kind of serf system with extreme clerical influence and large monastic estates. In March 1959 full-scale rebellion against Chinese rule broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. The Tibetans blamed Chinese oppression and cultural suppression, but the Chinese saw things differently, castigating American intervention and the old ruling clerical and serf-owning classes for provoking the uprising. Chinese troops suppressed the rebellion very quickly but with considerable bloodshed. The Dalai Lama fled to India, taking up residence in Dharamsala, where he has remained ever since as the head of a government-in-exile. Meanwhile in Tibet itself, the Chinese carried out a ‘democratic reform’, which in effect uprooted the old political system and replaced it with the socialist one prevailing in the rest of China. Both sides appeared to recognise that the two main planks of the seventeenpoint agreement were no longer relevant. The Cultural Revolution, 1966–1976 Although the early 1960s saw a relaxation of policy towards the minorities, this was but a prelude to a period most commentators and minorities have seen as the most repressive and destructive in the PRC, namely the Cultural Revolution,


Historical background

lasting from 1966 to 1976. In the latter year Mao Zedong, the architect of the Cultural Revolution, died on 9 September and within a month his main supporters had been overthrown and his political legacy was on the way out. The most important feature of the Cultural Revolution was an ideological narrowness of almost unbelievable dimensions. Only Mao Zedong’s thought was allowed currency, and his works were the almost exclusive reading diet of the Chinese people from August 1966 until the end of the 1960s. On 25 December 1967, China’s official New China News Agency (NCNA) reported that the number of published copies of Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, which contained the gems of Mao’s sayings, had reached no less than 350 million. For ethnic affairs, a particularly vicious part of the ideology of the Cultural Revolution was the obsession with class struggle, which was dubbed ‘the key link’ on which all else depended. The implication was that ethnic struggle simply did not matter and was only a reflection of class struggle anyway. It was during the Cultural Revolution that Jiang Qing (1914–1991), Mao’s wife and leader of the radical faction known as the ‘gang of four’, reportedly asked her infamous question, ‘Why do we need national minorities anyway?’, answering by stating flatly: ‘National identity should be done away with!’ (See Gladney 1991: 138) Although the Constitution of January 1975 retained the concept of autonomy for minorities, a far lower status was accorded it, and in practice it meant nothing.4 The Cultural Revolution saw severe instability in many parts of China and periods of localised civil war, such as in Hubei province in August and September 1967. A case of full-scale, though brief, rebellion in the ethnic areas was the Shadian Incident. Following years of repression during the Cultural Revolution, the Hui (Chinese Muslims) of Shadian, a village in Mengzi County of southern Yunnan Province near the border with Vietnam, had wished to reopen a mosque closed due to Cultural Revolution persecution, but had been refused permission. As a result the local Hui established a militia group, leading authorities to accuse them of trying to found an independent Islamic republic. Late in July 1975, PLA troops moved into the village, razing it to the ground. Fierce fighting over the next week in Shadian and surrounding areas left over 1,600 Chinese Muslims dead, as well as several hundred PLA troops. In terms of casualties, this was certainly among the worst single incidents involving minorities in the history of the PRC. Not until February 1979, by which time the Cultural Revolution was over, were reparations and apologies made to the relatives of the dead, with the government building seven new mosques in the Shadian area.5 The Shadian Incident is a good illustration showing two related features of the Cultural Revolution: religious persecution and cultural destruction. In most minority areas religion was banned, with clerics being forced to return to lay life, harmed or even killed, and religious buildings closed, damaged or destroyed. With many minorities religion and culture are tightly linked. For instance, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are also major repositories of Tibetan traditional arts, paintings, masks for dancing, and religious statues. Many were damaged and some destroyed. The great Ganden Monastery outside Lhasa sustained damage that has to be seen to be believed. My visit to the great Muli Monastery in western Sichuan Province at the beginning of 1997 revealed ruined buildings alongside

Historical background


the restored ones. In addition, the traditional dramas of the Tibetans, Miao, Koreans, Dong and others were banned, as were their classical literature and poetry, with many books damaged or destroyed. It is not surprising that minorities look back on the Cultural Revolution as a nightmare. Moreover, it is hardly a consolation to know that the Han also suffered similar cultural destruction and religious persecution.

The period of reform No sooner had Mao died than his main followers, termed the ‘gang of four’ and including his widow Jiang Qing, were overthrown on 6 October 1976 and China began the long process of dismantling the system of government and society that Mao had installed. At the end of 1978, the CCP determined to lead China towards modernisation and economic prosperity in place of the revolutionary society to which Mao had aspired. The years since 1978 are generally known as ‘the period of reform’. The brief interregnum from 1976 to the end of 1978 was led by a nonentity called Hua Guofeng, but the man regarded as the chief architect of the reform policies was Deng Xiaoping, a towering figure who had been disgraced several times under Mao, but whose role in China’s twentieth-century history is probably equal to Mao’s. The revival of minority concerns, 1976–1990 It was not long after the fall of the ‘gang of four’ that moves began away from the extremist policies that quartet had instigated. In his speech to the Fifth National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 1978 Hua Guofeng laid some stress on equality and autonomy for minorities, and even called for Han cadres who worked in ethnic areas to learn the local language. Although few followed this prescription, the fact that he saw fit to make it showed a positive attitude towards minorities’ rights in their own areas. In 1980, progress towards a new policy gathered momentum. There were several signs of this, one of them specifically concerning Tibet and discussed below in the relevant section. What they all had in common was a thrust towards a much better deal for minorities. In March the highest-ranking member of a minority published an article in the CCP’s principal ideological journal. The author was Ulanhu (1906–1988), a Mongolian revolutionary of long standing who had joined the CCP as early as 1925 and become a member of that extremely powerful CCP body the Politburo in 1977, in other words somebody who could hardly be ignored. He denounced Cultural Revolutionary policies as reactionary coercive assimilation and likened them to the benighted practices followed under the feudal rulers. He called for immediate change in minority policy, including the strengthening of autonomy, far more expenditure of public money on the ethnic areas and increased training of minority scientific and technical cadres and skilled workers (Ulanhu 1980: 12–16). On 15 July 1980, China’s main newspaper People’s Daily published a long article on issues concerned with nationalities. It accused the ‘gang of four’ and


Historical background

others of having inflicted a ‘feudal fascist dictatorship’ in the ethnic areas (People’s Daily Special Commentator 1980: 17). However, its main point was to denounce the notion, which Mao and his followers had espoused during the Cultural Revolution, that ethnic issues boiled down fundamentally not to ethnicity but to class. ‘The existence of classes is of much shorter duration than that of nationalities’, it argued. ‘After the withering away of the former, the latter will remain in existence for a long time’ (People’s Daily Special Commentator 1980: 18). The special commentator argued instead (1980: 21) that ethnic problems in China should be solved by strengthening regional autonomy and by ‘gradually eliminating the political, economic and cultural inequalities among the nationalities’. One of the features of the 1980s was its revival of a legal system. Whereas the 1950s saw the introduction of a few formal laws, and the Cultural Revolution downgraded law almost entirely in favour of Maoist administration based on mass participation, the 1980s strove to encode numerous rules and regulations into law. One of the aspects covered was that of the minorities. The Constitution of December 1982 was quite a bit more expansive on the minorities than its 1975 counterpart had been. Article 4 outlawed discrimination against the minorities, and also any acts which might undermine ethnic unity or incite secession. It re-emphasised autonomy for the minorities, but also declared all minority area ‘inalienable parts’ of the PRC (National People’s Congress 1982: 12). The whole of Section VI (Articles 112–22) is devoted to the organs of selfgovernment in the autonomous areas. Among other provisions it declares that the administrative head of an autonomous place must belong to the ethnic group that exercises autonomy in the area concerned (Article 114). Another provision (Article 116) is that congresses in autonomous areas have the right to pass laws applying to the places under their jurisdiction. In such cases the Standing Committee of the NPC has the right to reject the law. But my explorations among minority officials and leaders suggest that it is actually very unusual for that to happen. Much more likely is that the autonomous places negotiate beforehand with the central authorities and make sure that the law is acceptable to the higher level before it is passed at the lower. Just as important as including ethnic affairs in the State Constitution was the fact that it was followed up by the Law of Regional Autonomy, which went into effect in October 1984. This is actually very similar in style and content to the relevant passages of the Constitution, in some places word for word. However, the 1984 Law expands considerably on the various specific aspects of autonomy, in such areas as administration, law, the economy, finance and budgeting, culture and education.6 Despite the very clear advantages of autonomy, it is very important to note major restrictions applying to the policy. The most important is that these autonomy provisions apply only to the government, not to the CCP. In other words, there is no provision that the Party secretary must belong to a relevant minority ethnic group nor that the CCP branch of the autonomous places may adopt rules different from the PRC’s law. The fact that the CCP is actually a much more powerful body in China than is the Chinese government diminishes the extent of autonomy enjoyed by the minority areas.

Historical background


Yet at both CCP and state level, policy was to increase minority representation in those bodies exercising influence. Success in implementing this policy during the 1980s was mixed. In 1990, minority membership of the CCP was 2.8 million, that is 5.7 per cent of the total of just over 49 million. Although the number was considerably higher than the 700,000 members in 1957, the proportion had gone up only marginally from 5.5 per cent (Mackerras 1994: 157). In terms of total numbers of cadres, however, the figures show a distinct rise. In 1980, less than 3 per cent of cadres belonged to a minority, but by 1990 the proportion had more than doubled to over 6 per cent, with absolute figures doubling from 1.03 million in 1982 to 2.06 million in 1990 (Sautman 1998: 116). It is to be expected that the ethnic groups vary from one another in the representation of cadres. In the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, the proportion of Korean cadres (51.2 per cent) outstripped the percentage of Koreans in the total population in the late 1980s (41 per cent). In 1990, more than half the police and judges and most unit leaders throughout the prefecture were Korean (Mackerras 1994: 158–9). In Xinjiang in the 1980s the proportion of cadres belonging to the minorities fluctuated slightly around 45 per cent (Sautman 1998: 117), although the minority ethnic groups constituted well over half the total population throughout the decade. The policy of training cadres belonging to the minorities is one of a series of ‘preferential policies’ (youhui zhengce) introduced in the 1980s. They included quotas for higher education, preference for certain kinds of employment, economic investments in ethnic areas and special measures taken to alleviate poverty there. One of the best known, and most important, ‘preferential policies’ is exemption from the requirement introduced at the end of the 1970s that each couple have no more than one child. In almost all areas restrictions developed in the 1980s affecting minority areas. But, with but few exceptions, they were considerably more lenient than among the Han. The policies of affirmative action do appear to have made quite a bit of difference. In many schools and universities I visited in the 1980s or in 1990 in ethnic areas, I heard that minorities found access easier than Han. The rise in the proportion of China’s minority population was less than 1 per cent between the 1964 and 1982 censuses (5.76 –6.7 per cent). However, it was considerably more than 1 per cent over the much shorter period between the 1982 and 1990 censuses (6.7–8.04 per cent) (Mackerras 1994: 237). The impact of the policies was notable also in the particularly difficult region of Xinjiang which, as noted above, was among those areas where the minority cadres failed to reflect population as a whole. The veteran observer A. Doak Barnett (1993: 377), who had explored China’s far western regions in the late 1940s and revisited the area 40 years later, was impressed by the ‘much larger role than in the past’ that Xinjiang’s minorities were playing both in the leadership and bureaucracies, and even in the intellectual scientific elite. He also quoted a particularly knowledgeable Han Chinese friend as saying to him that the Uygurs in high positions ‘are by no means mere figureheads now; they do have real influence’.


Historical background

The greater autonomy for minorities and the generally better deal for them in the 1980s brought about massive revivals in traditional culture. Books started to be published in the local languages. Famous traditional buildings were restored and properly maintained. The old performing arts, theatre, dances and music, came back like a flood, not only in their modernised and professionalised forms, but even as part of the old rituals which had sustained them in the old days. And most important of all for many of the minorities, the old religious beliefs, practices and clergies revived very strongly, so that by the end of the 1980s Islam and Tibetan Buddhism had regained a great deal of the social influence they had lost due to the CCP’s revolution. Tibet revisited This last comment brings us to the controversial issue of Tibet. No minority area had suffered more severely due to Chinese rule than this one. The 1959 rebellion had already shown the difficulties China would face in integrating Tibet into China. The Cultural Revolution had been particularly devastating for Tibetan culture. The commitment of its people to religion had made Tibet among the principal targets of the fanatical zealots of the Cultural Revolution, both Han and Tibetan. One of the principal events marking a change in policy towards China’s minorities as a whole was a visit a group led by Hu Yaobang (1915–1989) made to Tibet in the last week of May 1980. At the time Hu was General Secretary of the CCP and second in command after Hua Guofeng, whom he was to replace as CCP chief in the middle of the following year. Hu was shocked by what he found in Tibet and determined to bring about radical change. His ideas were outlined in a major speech he made to 5,000 cadres in Lhasa on 29 May 1980. There were two main thrusts in the content. One was a strategy for improving the situation. He outlined six main tasks, including: ●

● ●

implementing autonomy in Tibet fully and letting the Tibetans be the real masters of their own lives; a commitment to relieving the people of taxation, by exempting them from agricultural and animal husbandry taxes over the following three to five years; the adoption of a special policy to revive the Tibetan economy; and an undertaking to increase the number of Tibetan cadres, sending many of the Chinese cadres back east, and to try to improve relations between the Tibetan and Han cadres.

The other main content of Hu’s speech was tantamount to an apology for past actions and policies. ‘We feel that our party has let the Tibetan people down’, he said, adding ‘We feel very bad!’ ‘We have worked nearly thirty years, but the life of the Tibetan people has not been notably improved. Are we not to blame?’ (quoted Wang 1994: 287–8). Many of the Han cadres were privately furious that they were being asked to take some responsibility for policies they had supported, though not devised. But the fact of the matter was that the CCP as a body was admitting that its policies had failed and that it must shoulder the main part of the blame.

Historical background


The situation certainly did improve in Tibet after Hu’s visit, though probably not as much as he had hoped. The economy was bullish, especially in the countryside that had been the focus of Hu Yaobang’s policy. In the autumn of 1984 the government approved over forty major construction projects in the TAR, designed further to raise economic production and to broaden the scope of development. One problem with this new policy was that it required the introduction of more Han technicians and economic experts, who did not necessarily get on well with the Tibetans or like life in Tibet. Population issues in Tibet and among the Tibetans have been clouded with controversy, with accusations including forced birth control being levelled against the Chinese authorities. These have been discredited in a highly scholarly study (Yan 2000: 11–36), and there seems little reason to doubt that during the 1980s the Tibetans and other minorities of the TAR were generally exempt from the onechild-per-couple policy, which prevailed among the Han almost everywhere in China from the beginning of the 1980s. Two scholars concluded from on-the-spot surveys in the TAR from 1986 to 1988 that the region was ‘actually experiencing high population growth rates rather than suffering a policy of coercive and restrictive birth control’ that was ‘causing population decline and threatening the continued existence of Tibetans’ (Goldstein and Beall 1991: 300). The population of Tibet and of Tibetans in the TAR rose sharply during the 1980s. The 1982 census, taken in the middle of the year, showed the total population of Tibet at 1,892,224, of whom Tibetans numbered 1,786,544, or 94.4 per cent. Another national census, in 1990 and also taken in the middle of the year, showed that the total TAR population had risen to 2,196,010, an average of 1.45 per cent growth per year, much higher than the average annual 0.84 per cent rise between the 1964 and 1982 censuses. In 1990 Tibetans were 2,096,346, or 95.5 per cent of the total, their population rising at an average annual 1.47 per cent since the 1982 census. The Han population sank over the 1982–1990 period from 91,551 to 81,217 with quite a few returning east and only a portion being replaced. In addition, both censuses counted small numbers of other minorities, such as the Moinba and Hui.7 Following Hu Yaobang’s speech, social life became much more relaxed in Tibet. Religion revived very quickly and to a remarkable extent, with the TAR government investing money in the rehabilitation of monasteries. Former monks who had left the monasteries for the laity during the Cultural Revolution resumed their clerical life and even took on disciples to train a younger generation of monks. Another area affected by the more liberal policies of the 1980s was the nationalisation of the Tibetan bureaucracy. Figures suggest a quite dramatic rise in the number of Tibetan cadres, from 29,406 or 54.4 per cent of the total in the TAR in 1981, to 33,000 or 61.35 per cent of the total in 1989.8 However, Shakya (1999: 390) is quite right to point out that the Tibetanisation of the bureaucracy was focused more on the lower than the upper levels. The Chinese government had no intention of relaxing its grip on CCP power in Tibet, nor of letting Tibetans be masters of their own lives to the extent of trying to secede from China. In contrast to the 1950s, they were not prepared to countenance a separate and non-CCP government in Tibet. Still the fact that it was Tibetans who were exercising power at the lower levels definitely made a difference to the way people felt and


Historical background

gave the impression that the improvements in living standards were due to their own efforts. In 1985 a man who was a member of China’s minorities and not a PLA leader took up the position of CCP Party Secretary in Tibet. This was Wu Jinghua, an Yi, who went out of his way to adopt Tibetan habits and took a liberal line on encouraging Tibetan language and culture to flourish. Moreover, shortly after arriving in Lhasa, he appointed many Tibetans to senior CCP posts. There seemed a good possibility that a Tibetan might become Party Secretary at some stage. A small number of tourists began to visit Tibet in the 1980s, with numbers of overseas tourists controlled within the range of 1,500 to 2,000. After much discussion, authorities decided that more tourism would benefit the region, and in December 1984 the TAR government established a tourist company. Numbers expanded dramatically, with 15,402 in 1985, 30,000 in 1986 and 43,500 in 1987, the highest in history to that point (Duojie and Jiangcun 1995: 534–5). One point of great importance is that the new tourists were very different in kind from those who had gone before. Many were young backpackers from Europe, North America, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia who wanted to taste the Tibetan spirituality that had for long been famous in the West. These young tourists wandered around completely freely, especially in Lhasa and its surroundings, and found no difficulty in hiring bicycles. There were a limited number of hotels, and they were not particularly clean or comfortable. But they were perfectly adequate for the backpackers. Most of the backpackers were solid supporters of Tibetan independence, and a few I met while in Tibet in September and October 1985 told me proudly of their view that it was quite proper to make things difficult for the Chinese. One told me that stirring up trouble was the reason he had come to Tibet. By 1986 the situation was much better in TAR than it had ever been before. ‘This was still China’, writes one authority, ‘but great strides had been made in permitting Tibetan culture and religion to flourish in a region that was still overwhelmingly Tibetan in demographic composition’ (Goldstein 1997: 74). Moreover, policy did not change when Hu Yaobang himself was disgraced and demoted at the beginning of 1987. This was despite the fact that there was a strong faction within the Chinese government that remained suspicious of Hu Yaobang’s and Wu Jinghua’s liberal policies and was very nervous indeed of giving too much freedom to the Tibetans. In the autumn of 1987 events in Lhasa gave reinforcement to the hardline view. On 27 September monks demonstrated in favour of independence for Tibet, leading to some arrests. On 1 October, further demonstrations occurred on behalf of independence but also for the release of the monks arrested 4 days earlier. This time the demonstrations led to a full-scale riot. Police, including Tibetans, fired at the crowd, and casualties resulted. Further unrest followed in Tibet. On 5 March, the last day of a large-scale ceremony for the Great Prayer Festival, a violent riot erupted, which the police forcibly suppressed. However, the riot had two results of long-lasting significance. One was that the clampdown ‘further drew the mass of people to the side of the radical nationalists’ (Goldstein 1997: 83). The other was that film footage

Historical background


was secretly taken of police beating monks in Lhasa; this was smuggled out of China and has been frequently shown on Western televisions since. From 5 to 7 March 1989 anti-Chinese demonstrations again took place in Lhasa in preparation for a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the 1959 uprising. Serious violence erupted between police and demonstrators, with looting of Han Chinese houses and shops and quite a few casualties, making the trouble the worst since 1959. The Chinese authorities in Beijing declared martial law on 7 March, to take effect from midnight the same day. Martial Law Decree 1 (reproduced in Harris and Jones 2000: 55) commanded that ‘assemblies, demonstrations, strikes by workers, students and other people, petitions, and other get-togethers are strictly forbidden’ during the time martial law remained in force. This was the first time in the PRC’s history that the government had declared martial law anywhere in China.9 Observing these events from 1987 to 1989 the hardliners on Tibet within the Chinese government were feeling themselves more and more vindicated. Already in December 1988 the Han leader Hu Jintao, destined for leadership of the whole country in 2002, replaced Wu Jinghua as CCP secretary, and his line had proved more decisive in suppressing disorder. Meanwhile, Beijing was itself wracked by demonstrations from April to June 1989. Martial law was again declared, this time in the capital of China itself, and the demonstrations were forcibly suppressed in the terrible Beijing Massacre of the night of 3–4 June 1989. The result was that the central government rethought its attitudes, including on Tibet. Late in 1989 the Politburo formalised the new policy, which was based on an attempt to step up modernisation under the clear political assumption that separatism would be totally banned. Strands of policy included sending better educated Han to Tibet, educating young Tibetan cadres better with focus on loyalty to the PRC, strengthening the CCP structure at all levels in Tibet, and stepping up the security apparatus significantly with enhanced surveillance equipment (see Goldstein 1997: 92–3). There was no hint of a return to the Cultural Revolution days, and Tibetans could continue to practise their religion and culture and speak their own language. But the proviso was clear that anybody who used religion to destabilise the political situation or urge independence for Tibet would be trodden on immediately and firmly. Martial law was lifted in Lhasa on 1 May 1990.

The minorities in China’s foreign relations, 1949–1990 In the 40 years or so from the establishment of the PRC, minorities contributed to improving or worsening relations between China and foreign countries, especially with the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. However, except in the case of Tibet and the Tibetans, minorities were not actually causal factors in China’s foreign relations. The Koreans were a factor in China’s participation in the Korean War (1950–1953), but not the reason why China sent troops to Korea. China’s relations with the MPR in the PRC’s first four decades were largely a function of relations with the Soviet Union, and the Mongolians in China were hardly a primary factor. The fact that relations deteriorated rapidly in 1963–1964, not long after China


Historical background

and the MPR signed their Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance in May 1960, was due mainly to the state of Sino-Soviet relations at the time, and although the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia were involved in the dispute they were a peripheral factor in a relationship which would have deteriorated anyway. The recovery of relations with the MPR in the 1980s was also linked with the mainly simultaneous improvement in those with the Soviet Union. Xinjiang’s border with the Soviet Union made the region important for SinoSoviet relations. The fact that minorities on the Chinese side of the border were co-nationals with those on the Soviet side affected the relationship, but not usually centrally. The most important incident involving minorities and contributing towards a worsening Sino-Soviet relationship took place in 1962. From April to late summer a crisis erupted in Yining (which the Uygurs call Gulja), very close to the border with the Soviet Union. About 50,000 people, mostly Kazaks and Uygurs, fled across the borders to the Soviet Union. Chinese attempts to prevent them resulted in serious riots which troops were finally despatched to suppress, with casualties and arrests following. These events certainly worsened SinoSoviet relations, especially since each side was moved to make hostile statements about the other’s motives and actions. But the crisis took place at a time when other factors had, since the late 1950s, made the relationship take a decisive turn for the worse anyway. They were as much a result as a cause of bad relations. Sino-Soviet relations remained very bad indeed until the mid-1980s. But the factors making them so hostile had more to do with the Cultural Revolution, the role of Mao Zedong, and the general world geopolitical balance of power than with Xinjiang’s minorities. It is true that Xinjiang’s border with the Soviet Union was an extremely sensitive one, and even on occasion the site of armed clashes (notably on 10 June and 13 August 1969). However, these had nothing to do with the minorities. The minorities of Xinjiang were relatively quiescent during the 1970s and 1980s, even though there was quite a bit of instability there due to factors such as Han youths sent from the east during the Cultural Revolution. The point to emphasise is that by 1989 both China and the Soviet Union wanted better bilateral relations. In sharp contrast to the situation in the early 1960s, neither wished to take advantage of the other’s woes for its own benefit. If anything ethnic issues added to an already improving relationship, but they were not focal in determining the direction it would take. Tibet and the Tibetans, 1949–1989 Alone among the ethnic areas of China, Tibet was a primary cause for disintegration of relations in two instances: with India in the late 1950s and early 1960s; and with the United States in the late 1980s. The Indians were never happy with the Chinese takeover of Tibet in the early 1950s. Indeed, as Dawa Norbu (2001: 291–2) notes, India remained emotionally and culturally involved in Tibet throughout this period. However, India was the first non-communist country to recognise the PRC, at the end of 1949, and from then until the end of the 1950s the two countries enjoyed very good relations indeed. They shared important interests in terms of a shared resistance to imperialism

Historical background


and colonialism, among other matters. Both were keen exponents of the ‘five principles of coexistence’ and were proud to take part in the Conference of Afro-Asian states held in Bandung, Indonesia, in April 1955. Indian Prime Minister Nehru visited China in October 1954, while China’s Premier Zhou Enlai had been to India earlier the same year and made further trips there in 1956 and 1957. On the debit side was a border dispute left over from the days of the British Raj in India. While relations were so good, this dispute did not matter, though it tended to worsen from 1956 on. It was the flight of the Dalai Lama to India following the rebellion of March 1959 which gave the border dispute ‘a new dimension and therefore qualitatively a new character’ (Ojha 1969: 160) at a time when both sides were still trying to maintain friendly relations. Following the rebellion, the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa on 17 March 1959, entering India 2 weeks later. His representatives immediately began interceding with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on his behalf. On 16 April the Dalai Lama issued a statement very condemnatory of China and met Nehru himself later the same month. Nehru was caught in a no-win situation. He was under serious pressure from most political forces in India to turn against China. He issued a statement in which he tried to show sympathy both for the Tibetans and the Chinese. China was in no doubt about its position. It denounced various forces for the rebellion, including Nehru’s India, and condemned Nehru himself as counter-revolutionary. Later developments are well known and need no recapitulation here. The Dalai Lama was granted asylum in India and set up a government-in-exile there. SinoIndian relations deteriorated to the point where the two countries fought a bitter border war in October and November 1962. Their relations showed but very little improvement until the 1980s, the Dalai Lama’s residence in India being one of the causes of the deep freeze. Great improvements in bilateral relations were signalled when, in December 1988, Rajiv Gandhi became the first Indian prime minister to visit China for 34 years, even meeting with Deng Xiaoping. However, the Tibetan issue and the Dalai Lama’s continuing residence in India remained a thorn in the side of the two countries’ mutual relations. Tibet has also played a role in China’s relations with the United States. One book, devoting a full chapter to Tibet in Sino-American relations over the period 1948 to 1998, adds the subtitle ‘from secret service to public pressure’ (Norbu 2001: 263–82). In the 1950s and 1960s, when Sino-American relations were at their worst point in history, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) actively supplied training, money and weaponry in support of a guerilla war against the Chinese, with many thousands of casualties (Sarin and Sonam 1998). A report in the Los Angeles Times of 16 July 1998 claimed that the CIA provided the Tibetan independence movement with US$ 1.7 annually from the early 1960s, reducing to $1.2 million in 1968, the Dalai Lama receiving $180,000 per year. China held the United States partly responsible for the uprising of 1959 in Lhasa. Hardly anybody other than the United States President and the CIA Director knew what was going on at the time, certainly not the public (Norbu 2001: 271). The end of the 1960s and early 1970s saw a spectacular improvement in SinoAmerican relations, leading to the formal establishment of diplomatic relations at the beginning of 1979. In response, the CIA reduced its support for Tibetan


Historical background

resistance, stopping it completely in 1974. The period from then until 1987 represented the acme of bilateral relations under the PRC. However, it was the issue of Tibet that marked the first major point of deterioration. Before dealing with this subject in detail, it is necessary to note that the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile took the cue from the beginnings of reform in China to launch its own diplomacy aimed at reconsidering the status of Tibet and effecting the Dalai Lama’s return home. From August 1979 onwards several delegations visited Tibet from Dharamsala and, to the surprise and dismay of the Chinese authorities, received a rapturous welcome from the people there. There were also two delegations sent to China in 1982 and 1984 representing the Dalai Lama, which held formal negotiations with the Chinese over Tibet. The main demand of the Tibetan side, at least at the second meeting, was the ‘creation of a demilitarized Greater Tibet with complete internal political autonomy’ (Goldstein 1997: 73), with Greater Tibet meaning not just the TAR, but also all Tibetan areas in China.10 The Chinese negotiators were not interested in such demands, and the negotiations got nowhere. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama began travelling more actively throughout the world. In 1973 he had made his first visit to the West and in 1979 went to the Soviet Union and the MPR for the first time. In the second half of the 1980s, the Dalai Lama strove quite consciously to step up the pressure in what one author (Shakya 1999: 412) has termed the ‘internationalisation of the Tibet issue’. Western countries, including governments, were quite receptive to this campaign because moral issues like human rights, the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples were starting to take priority over the ideological divide between Marxism–Leninism and liberal capitalism. In June 1987 the American Congress passed a bill declaring Tibet an occupied country and endorsing many of the claims about Tibet’s history and the situation there made by the Dalai Lama’s followers. Even more provocative, the Dalai Lama himself made his first political speech in the United States on 21 September 1987. Speaking before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, he called for Tibet, including not just the TAR but all Tibetan areas, to be transformed into a ‘zone of peace’, from which all Chinese troops and military installations should be withdrawn. He also asked for earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples (Goldstein 1997: 77). It is not surprising that when the pro-independence demonstrations began in Lhasa just 6 days later, the Chinese blamed them directly on the Dalai Lama and American interference in their affairs. One Tibetan account alleges that it was ‘the Chinese denigration’ of the speech, rather than the speech itself, which sparked off the demonstrations (Wangyal 1994: 202). In my opinion, this formulation shifts blame but does not change the fact that the speech was the primary immediate cause of the demonstrations. When the Dalai Lama was stirring up trouble for them in Washington, it was simply not an option for the Chinese to do nothing, or to do other than forcefully disagree with him. Sino-American relations declined further after the riots, with the American Administration under President Ronald Reagan taking the side of the Tibetans

Historical background


against the Chinese on human rights grounds, but nevertheless stopping short of withdrawing recognition of Tibet as part of China. At the end of the year Reagan endorsed the view from Congress that the treatment of the Tibetans should be an important factor in American relations with the PRC; and that the United States should urge the PRC to establish constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet. American attitudes towards developments in Tibet continued to remain condemnatory as the disturbances of 1988 and 1989 unfolded. The crisis and crackdown in Beijing itself in 1989 brought human rights even more decisively to centre stage in China’s relations with the West, especially the United States, and greatly hardened feeling in the West against China. But Tibet had preceded it and, in any case, retained an indefinite and high priority as a determinant in relations. The Dalai Lama continued his attempts to internationalise the Tibet issue in the late 1980s and may have thought that continued pressure at this stage would yield concrete results in terms of his wish for a change in the status of Tibet. His next major move was a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 15 June 1988. He proposed that the whole of the TAR and all other Tibetan areas should become a self-governing democratic political entity in association with the PRC, with the Chinese government retaining responsibility for Tibet’s foreign policy. This was not exactly independence, but much closer than the Chinese were prepared to accept. After some deliberation, they rejected the proposal as an indirect form of independence. The Dalai Lama’s Strasbourg proposals also came up against strong resistance from among his own supporters and in 1991 he withdrew them. In January 1989, the Panchen Lama died of a heart attack in Tibet. This was a considerable blow to the Chinese, since he had been generally supportive of Chinese policy and, as the most authoritative of Tibetan lamas after the Dalai Lama, he had played a role extremely useful for Chinese policy. The Chinese Buddhist Association invited the Dalai Lama to Beijing for the funeral, ‘letting it be known that this would be a good time for him to discuss the political situation informally with top Chinese officials’ (Goldstein 1997: 90). However, on the advice of the exiled Tibetan leadership, he declined the invitation. Events over the rest of 1989 spelled the end of dialogue with the Chinese authorities, at least for the time being. The riots in Lhasa and imposition of martial law hardly pointed to an atmosphere in which constructive dialogue would be possible. Finally, it may have been a triumph for Tibetans in exile that the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of the year. But for China it was a humiliation and major setback of the kind that foreclosed dialogue.

Conclusion The Cultural Revolution was politically the worst period the minorities suffered in the twentieth century. Yet economically it was certainly no worse than the years 1958–1962. Other years of the PRC down to 1989 were definite improvements on the first half of the century politically, socially and economically, and, even in


Historical background

Tibet, the first years of the reform period witnessed unprecedented prosperity and social and political promise. It seems to me fair to argue that domestically the PRC was overall an advance on the period that preceded it. In terms of the difficulties the minorities occasioned for China in its foreign relations, the first 40 years of the PRC were far from easy ones. Many of the border areas were quite unstable. The most serious problems were along the borders with the Soviet Union and in Tibet. The obsession with the Soviet threat from the 1960s to the early 1980s made Xinjiang a very sensitive area for China. And of course the problems in Tibet and the perception of American and Indian involvement could not but be very damaging to China’s relations with Western countries. Yet if we compare the PRC with the first half of the twentieth century in the way minorities impacted on China’s foreign relations we again see improvement. In Xinjiang Soviet intervention was more serious during the 1930s and 1940s than at any time in the second half of the twentieth century. And at least none of China was occupied by a foreign power under the PRC. This was in contrast with the preceding period when Japanese troops occupied many of the Mongolian regions and the Korean areas, not to mention those of the Manchus and other minorities of the northeastern regions of China. Globalisation is certainly not a word we can associate with the minorities in China during the period 1949 –1990. It is true we see strong Soviet influence in the 1950s. On the other hand, what is most striking is local isolation, the precise opposite of globalisation. Moreover, the Cultural Revolution decade probably saw the minority areas more tightly cut off from the rest of the world, and in some cases even the rest of China, than any other period in the twentieth century. In other words, if globalisation is the measure there was scope for immense expansion from 1989 on. Yet the last few years of this period definitely see some signs that a process of globalisation was beginning. There was reference in this chapter to the ‘internationalisation’ of the Tibet issue in the second half of the 1980s. In addition, I have suggested above that the Dalai Lama’s speech before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington in September 1987 was a major spark for the independence demonstrations occurring shortly afterwards. The influx of tourism into Tibet in the mid-1980s certainly exercised some influence on developments in Tibet itself. And at the same time the beginnings of tourism into minority areas elsewhere, not to mention scholarly visits there, both features of the 1980s, can be seen as representing an early stage of internationalisation after the isolation of the Cultural Revolution. So when does ‘internationalisation’ become globalisation. The latter can be understood as a more extreme and widespread, a later and more highly developed form of internationalisation. Already in the late 1980s the West and India were both involved in Tibet, as well as several other countries. However, on the whole, international involvement was still at a fairly low level and very patchy in its impact. Certainly it was to gather momentum enormously over the following years. It was ‘internationalisation’, but it was not yet globalisation.


Minorities politics, 1989–2002

China has become noticeably more nationalist since the early 1990s. This trend is both reactive and proactive. The reactive process has developed in response to outside pressures, especially from the United States. From the point of view of ethnic minorities, the most important source of this nationalism is the constant criticism over China’s human rights record, notably that over Tibet and other minority areas. However, the growth in nationalism results also from internal factors like the continuing growth in the Chinese economy, its resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong in mid-1997 and Macau at the end of 1999, and its strategic power in the world. It seems evident that Chinese nationalism is in tension with any rise in minority identities. This is because the state will give even less space than formerly to any form of ethnonationalism, such as is quite likely to flow from ethnic consciousness. One scholar has even coined the phrase ‘essentializing the Han’ (Gladney 1994: 98), highlighting how the majority Han have represented China’s minorities as exotic as a means of marking out their own identity and promoting their own nationalism. The tension between ethnic identities and Chinese nationalism may mirror that between globalisation and localisation. Chinese markets will open further because the country has joined the WTO, and China will be even more subject to ideas and social trends from outside than it was beforehand. But Chinese nationalism is likely to remain strong, and could even strengthen. The increased globalising influences that have followed China’s entry into the WTO could inspire a strengthening of a wish among the ethnic minorities to maintain their own differences in political, economic, social and cultural terms.

Overall policies and realities China underwent a major crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The main event for the country as a whole was the suppression of the student movement early in June 1989; but for the minorities the independence movements in Tibet from 1987 to 1989 and the Muslim uprising in Akto County, Xinjiang, in April 1990. These disturbances inevitably produced some effect on policy, and there is some discussion of these changes for Tibet and Xinjiang in later sections of this chapter.


Minorities politics

However, what is most striking for the country as a whole is not how great the policy changes but how little. For a tense period of over 18 months from June 1989, many people wondered if the reform policies might be reversed, despite disclaimers to the contrary. Then in February 1992 Deng Xiaoping came out of retirement to make his ‘southern journey’ to Shanghai and various places in Guangdong, including the successful first ‘special economic zone’ Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong. During his visits he emphasised his support for the open economy and pushed reform as hard as he could. The message was crystal clear. There could be no further doubt that, despite the crisis of 1989, reform in the direction of free enterprise was not only to continue but accelerate. Just before Deng made his pronouncements affecting the country as a whole, CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin gave a major speech on ethnic affairs. His forum was the opening session, on 14 January 1992, of the First National Conference on Ethnic Affairs, co-sponsored by the CCP Central Committee and the State Council, in other words an occasion with a great deal of political clout. Jiang made it quite clear that the CCP and government were determined to maintain national unity and had no intention of yielding to any demands for independence from any minority area. On the other hand, he intended to keep to the policies of ethnic autonomy and helping all minorities to develop themselves. He also emphasised the importance of economic development in the ethnic areas, so that they could keep pace with the rest of the country, and social welfare for minority peoples (‘Party Chief’ 1992: 5). In essence, Jiang Zemin was telling the minorities that they would get preferential policies and treatment if they opted to stay within China, with plenty of economic and other incentives and an improving standard of living. However, the government would not tolerate separatism and would immediately suppress any attempt at secession on the part of any ethnic group. This set of policies has remained essentially unchanged into the twenty-first century. In his last report to the Ninth National People’s Congress, delivered on 5 March 1998 just before stepping down as premier in favour of Zhu Jongji, Li Peng claimed that ethnic unity and social stability had been consolidated throughout the country. Despite the troubles that had occurred only about a year before in Xinjiang, which he did not mention, Li went on to assert (1998:12) that ‘socialist ethnic relations’ had improved due to the guaranteeing of equal rights for ethnic groups and autonomy for ethnic minority areas. Notwithstanding his relatively optimistic assessment, it seems that in 1999, the Chinese government decided to upgrade ethnic issues, by focusing more strongly on improvements both in the economy and in the social life of the people of a kind that would make them more content with life in the PRC and hence less prone to rebellious movements. One major sign of this upgrading of ethnic affairs was the reconvening of the irregular Central Ethnic Work Conference late in September and early in October 1999. Both CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji attended, and both called for better handling of ethnic issues. The media highlighted Jiang Zemin’s mention of other countries as warnings that poor treatment of ethnic issues can lead to war and foreign intervention. He was referring

Minorities politics 39 of course to Kosovo and East Timor, both of which had exploded on the world earlier in the year, East Timor only a matter of weeks before the meeting (Sautman 2002: 98–9). In both cases, brutal oppression by the current sovereign power had led to foreign intervention. Serbian ‘ethnic cleansing’ provoked NATO intervention in Kosovo, while an Australian-led United Nations force moved to restore order in East Timor following rampages by pro-Indonesian militia. Within a few months of this Conference, the government decided to shift the focus of economic construction from the eastern coastal provinces to the western regions. This will be considered in Chapter 4. Because most of the ethnic areas, including especially Tibet and Xinjiang, lie in the western areas, and because it is so important to policy, it requires at least a mention here. Another result of the Central Ethnic Work Conference of autumn 1999 was the Chinese government’s February 2001 adoption of an amended version of the Law on Regional National Autonomy, originally passed in 1984 (see Chapter 2) (Sautman 2002: 99). The amended version is slightly longer than the original, with 74 articles in the new as against 67 in the old and clauses added to several of the existing articles. There are no differences in substance, and in particular Article 2 of both versions is equally insistent that ‘all national autonomous areas are integral parts of the People’s Republic of China’. Still, it is worth noting that the additions in the new version are all in the direction of strengthened autonomy. Some examples are noted elsewhere in this book. One illustration relevant here is in Article 20, which concerns the ability of autonomous governments to deviate from those state instructions that do not suit the conditions of a particular autonomous area. The 1984 version (given Kaup 2000: 188) stipulates that the autonomous government may simply cease implementing such instructions after receiving approval from the higher state organ. The 2001 version (pp. 8–9, 41) imposes a time limit of 60 days on the higher state organ to give such approval. The reason for this addition is that experience showed some state organs simply did nothing, leaving the autonomous government in a bind on how to proceed. Chinese bureaucracy is – and has always been – expert at the technique of delaying and refusing to give answers. The implication of the addition is that delay of more than 60 days is equivalent to approval. Since 1990, the government appears to have strengthened its insistence both that China’s borders shall remain unchanged, and that autonomy for ethnic minorities should become more meaningful. Obviously there is some tension between these two demands, because some ethnic groups prefer outright independence to autonomy, however great its extent. But the two demands in some ways balance each other, because some people do in fact see advantages in remaining part of a comparatively successful state where their lives have indeed greatly improved. Some realities of autonomy The practice of autonomy has led to a strong sense of ethnic identity among many, perhaps most, of the minorities. In later sections of this chapter several prominent examples of the most intense forms of ethnic identity or nationalism will come


Minorities politics

under discussion. However, the expressions of this ethnic identity vary significantly from place to place and from group to group. In very few does it lead to major problems for the state. The privileges extended to minorities under the autonomy policy have resulted in a push for recognition of additional groups by the state, though so far all such attempts have failed, and the number of acknowledged minorities has remained at fifty-five since 1979. A prominent example of a potential extra ethnic group is the Mosuo, who straddle the Yunnan-Sichuan border, most of them on the Yunnan side, and are currently categorised as a branch of the Naxi. During a visit to the Mosuo area in January 1996 I found quite a strong feeling that they were separate from the Naxi. When I interviewed a village head during a visit to their territory in January 1996, he told me that he would be better able to bargain with authorities if he represented a ‘minority nationality’, rather than simply a branch of one. Harrell (2001: 219) reports being asked by a prominent Mosuo member of the Ninglang County CCP Committee, and hence hardly a dissident member of society, to apply foreign pressure on the Chinese government to have the Mosuo recognised as a separate nationality. His argument was that the Mosuo were completely separate from the Naxi, and had ‘mistakenly got lumped in with them’ due to errors in the identification process in the 1950s (Harrell 2001: 218). One example of prominent ethnic identity comes from the Hui, who live scattered over most of China and are recognised mainly through their adherence to Islam. One major work on the Hui has it that ‘the Hui people, once members primarily of religious communities, through interacting with changing social contexts and state policy now very much see themselves as a bona fide ethnic group’ with a pronounced ethnic identity (Gladney 1991: 323). The Hui have all along insisted on their right to practise Islam, including abstaining from pork. Since 1975, the year of the Shadian Incident mentioned in Chapter 2, the Hui have been quite loyal to the Chinese state and serious disturbances involving them have been quite rare. The worst one occurred on 12 December 2000. Somebody placed a pig’s head outside a mosque in Yangxin County, Shandong, intended as and certainly seen as an absolute insult to the Islamic faith, and, when Muslims protested, a clash ensued with police resulting in the deaths of six people. What is important in this context is that the authorities came down on the side of the Hui over this incident. According to People’s Daily (22 August 2001), six local officials were held responsible and investigated for criminal proceedings, having made ‘inappropriate decisions’ in dealing with the protest. Obviously, the state does not see its interests as best served by inciting discontent among the Hui when there is no question of separatism. Some ethnic groups do not care very much about their ethnicity. I have myself interviewed heads of ethnic villages in western Hunan and elsewhere who are quite open about their interest in being counted as ethnic only because of the privileges it brings in terms of such matters as family planning. Another factor is loyalty not so much either to one’s own ethnic group or to China, as to one’s own locality. Based on research among China’s most populous minority in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, one specialist argues that localism still overrides nationalism among the Zhuang. By that she means that ‘villagers tend

Minorities politics 41 to have a stronger sense of loyalty to their locality than to their ethnic group’ (Palmer 1997: 284). She regards this triumph of localism over nationalism as one important factor restricting further Zhuang mobilisation and preventing it from ever leading to a viable secessionist movement, despite the recent growth of Zhuang ethnic consciousness (Kaup 2000: 174). I believe these comments would apply with equal validity to a wide range of ethnic minorities in China. Yunnan’s ethnic groups appear on the whole to be quite happy to remain part of the PRC, even while they are active in maintaining and developing their own ethnic cultures and may have complaints against the Han-dominated society. Based on research among the Dai, Bai and the Muslim Hui of Yunnan Province, Susan McCarthy (2000: 108) has argued that ethnic minority cultural activism, including linguistic promotion and religious education, is quite capable of expressing a belonging to the Chinese nation, not just to minority consciousness. In her words, it can represent ‘claims derived from a Chinese political identity, a conception of minority membership in the Chinese national community’. She argues that such activism can become subversive depending in part on the reception it gets from ordinary people, and on the stance of the state, but it does not necessarily do so (McCarthy 2000: 116). She found extensive cultural activism among the three ethnic minorities, most of it leading more to feelings of being part of China than to any separatist feelings. Ethnic CCP members and cadres One of the issues that bears on a sense of ethnic importance is participation in such bodies as government, Party and the professions. Certainly, the wish to give ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples more power to control their own destiny has become a global trend at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is true that not many countries have realised anything approaching what the ethnic groups themselves regard as ideal. But the effort is recognisably part of globalisation. One of the clauses the February 2001 amended Law on Regional Autonomy added to the original version was to improve recruitment opportunities in the government for members of local ethnic minorities. Although the earlier version had stipulated training cadres at various levels and enjoined preferential treatment for specialised ethnic personnel and professionals in various kinds of construction in the autonomous areas, the requirement of affirmative action for government positions is new.1 The difference may not be great, but the new provision cannot harm the sense of self-empowerment of ethnic minorities. The NPC is the highest level of government in China, though not of the CCP. A new NPC is chosen every fifth year, the Seventh holding its first session in 1988, the Eighth in 1993 and the Ninth in 1998. The percentage of ethnic participation reached its height in 1988, with 15 per cent of membership. In 1993 and 1998 the proportion declined slightly to 14.75 and 14.37 per cent, respectively. The CCP is China’s main power-holding group, and the inclusion of ethnic minorities is therefore important. The record shows that since 1990 ethnic representation has increased, both in absolute numbers and proportionately. In that year there were 2.8 million CCP members among the minorities, accounting


Minorities politics

for 5.7 per cent of the total membership of about 49 million. By 1995 the comparable figures were 3.19 million ethnic members, 5.8 per cent of the total of 55 million CCP members. The figures for mid-2001 were that the CCP had grown to 64.5 million members altogether, among whom 4 million belonged to ethnic minorities, in other words 6.2 per cent of the total.2 Still, given that the census of November 2000 showed the minorities at 8.41 per cent of China’s total population, their membership in the CCP still does not reflect their proportion among the people in the country as a whole. Xinjiang is an ethnic region with particular sensitivities and is worth special mention. Figures from Xinjiang show that in 1997 there were altogether some 958,000 CCP members, among whom about 358,000 were from the minorities, that is 37.37 per cent (XUAR 1998: 49). On the other hand, the percentage of the minorities in the total population of Xinjiang at the same time was about 61.6 per cent (XUAR 1998: 9), meaning that the proportion belonging to the CCP was very much lower than that in the population as a whole. The great majority of the ethnic population is Muslim, and many of them are disaffected with the CCP and its rule in Xinjiang anyway. Under these circumstances, what is surprising is not that the CCP membership is so low, but that it is as high as it is. Turning to all categories of cadres in China, not just the CCP members, we find that the numbers are actually somewhat lower. This is because to become a cadre usually requires more professional qualifications than political reliability, though the latter is always important in China. The number of ethnic cadres in 1990 was 1.02 million, or about 6.6 per cent of the total (see figures in Mackerras 1994: 157). A work conference of June 2000 specifically dedicated to the issue of minority cadres gave further relevant national figures. It claimed that at the end of 1999 there were 2.824 million minority cadres, representing 6.9 per cent of the total national figure of just less than 41 million. The increase in the number of minority cadres since 1993 had been altogether 452,000, that is an average 3 per cent a year (Zhai and Zhang 2000: 1). The proportion of ethnic cadres to the total has thus not risen much over the 1990s, though the absolute number increased significantly. Moreover, it remains lower than their percentage in the total population. In Xinjiang, the reflection of ethnic cadres among the Region’s total rose from 240,000 or 46 per cent in 1990 (Sautman 1998: 117) to 312,000 or 48.83 per cent in 1997 (XUAR 1998: 49). The proportion may have risen but remains well below the 61.6 per cent the ethnic minorities take up of Xinjiang’s total population. The Tibet Autonomous Region shows a more rapidly rising pattern but still with Tibetans not even nearly reflecting their proportion in the total population. The number of Tibetan cadres rose from about two-thirds of the total in the early 1990s (Mackerras 1994: 158) to 74.9 per cent in 1998 (Information Office 1999: 23). In Inner Mongolia in 1996, there were 137,000 Mongolian officials, representing nearly 19 per cent of all officials (Cui 1997: 13), whereas Mongolians were only 3.65 million of the total population of Inner Mongolia of 23 million, or 15.9 per cent (Wuliji 1997: 10). In the late 1990s, the proportion of ethnic cadres in the whole country who were members of the CCP was 37.7 per cent. More than 40 per cent of ethnic cadres were aged below 40, while three-quarters had graduated from senior

Minorities politics 43 middle school or above. About two-thirds were engaged in professional and/or technical work (Chen 1999: 13). What do all these statistics mean? One factor on which these figures are comparatively silent is the locus of political power. Are the cadres and CCP members mainly at the bottom of the heap, simply doing what they are told? Perhaps most of them are, but one could ask precisely the same question about the Han majority. The figures suggest, I believe, that the ethnic minorities have gone some way towards gaining influence within their own communities. There appears to be some kind of self-empowerment process going on, and central authorities seem keen to promote it, as long as they do not have to sacrifice their own power. It is important that the number and proportion of CCP members has grown since 1990. However, there are still serious shortcomings in the extent to which ethnic people truly run the affairs of their own regions, which means that autonomy has a way to go before it can be said to be truly genuine.

The human rights issue Human rights are among the most important of those discourses that we can associate with globalisation. They are also an area of international concern that has already necessitated concessions from China and especially since its accession to the WTO. Though far from new in the early 1990s, human rights concerns have accelerated since then to assume a dominant position in global discussions of the state of the planet. Certainly they remain controversial, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century, few power-holders can ignore issues such as how minorities, women or workers are treated in areas or enterprises under their control. Human rights activists and organisations have grown enormously in the influence they are able to wield, including on governments. As explained in the Introduction, the year 1989 was a very important one for human rights discourse in China, because of worldwide horror over the Beijing massacre of June that year. The document that began China’s human rights diplomacy in 1991 included a section on minorities, presenting a very bright picture of conditions in ethnic minority areas against the background of the misery the CCP found when it came to power (Information Office 1991: 32–6). It was glowing about the success of regional autonomy and the equal rights minorities enjoyed with the Han, adding (p. 33) that ‘the minority nationalities enjoy some special rights accorded to them by law’, a reference to the preferential policies dictated by the government. Some of these preferential policies are covered both in this and other chapters. As in many other countries, minorities have been increasingly prepared to show anger at behaviour showing insensitivity towards their cultures, customs and other aspects of their ethnicity. Chinese society is not short of racists and my own and others’ impressional evidence shows many signs of conduct that minorities find insulting and degrading. On the private level, it is as difficult to cope with such behaviour as in other countries. On the public level, however, the law is in theory prepared to step in to protect the equal rights of minorities. This is a trend that appears well in accord with globalisation processes.


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One area of concern is the media and publications. On 7 June 1994, various senior government bodies, including the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Ministry of Culture, issued a notice expressing alarm at the offence given to the minorities through the lack of sensitivity shown in some publications, media outlets and literature and art works. The notice mentioned several specific items, including the book Sexual Customs, which had caused a furore and widespread Muslim protests in 1989 by several comparisons insulting to Muslims, such as likening the structure of a mosque to male genitalia.3 Some of the content in the above books and articles has seriously hurt the feelings of the minority nationalities and aroused righteous indignation and strong protest from the relevant ethnic minorities. It has given rise to serious consequences, and become an untoward factor impacting on current ethnic relations and social stability in our country. Some have had an unfortunate influence outside China, damaging our country’s international reputation. If we do not give such matters our most earnest attention and take necessary preventative measures, similarly serious, or even more serious, phenomena are bound to recur. This could even go to the extent of affecting our country’s reform and opening up to the outside world and the smooth conduct of economic and social construction, and of influencing our country’s social stability. (Economic Department 1995: 45) The notice contains a number of provisions for correcting these harmful trends. It calls for outlets to publish material more likely to improve ethnic relations and forbids the publication of material insensitive or insulting to any ethnic minority. The case of the media and publications raises the very thorny issue of censorship. In Western countries people argue strongly over where it is legitimate to defend minority rights in entertainment, the media and publications by forbidding certain types of material, and where such bans cross the border into unjustifiable censorship; and different countries and territories within them have different laws governing such matters. Comparing the early twenty-first century with the 1960s and 1970s, however, there has been a swing back towards more acceptance of censorship in many parts of the world, and it is partly associated with demands from ethnic minorities for sensitivity for their cultures. In China, this debate is much less pressing than in the West. Censorship is far more pervasive, even to the extent that many people in the West regard it as a human rights abuse. The Chinese state is not reluctant to take measures to suppress publications it believes will harm ethnic unity. If an argument or legal case ensues regarding minority rights, it will normally side with the ethnic party. The case of the Yangxin riots of December 2000 is a good illustrative example. In April 1996 authorities decided against screening the Australian film Babe in China, in which the star is a talking pig, because of fear of upsetting Muslims. The major exception is when there is a question of secession or perceived threats to the state, a matter on which the Chinese authorities have been very concerned, even obsessed, since the late 1980s.

Minorities politics 45 Among the succession of ‘white papers’ the PRC State Council’s Information Office put out on human rights issues was one published in September 1999 dealing exclusively with the treatment of ethnic minorities (Information Office 1999). Covering political, economic, social demographic and cultural issues and full of facts and figures, the document presented a picture of enormous progress and improvements in the livelihood of the ethnic minorities. One of the claims put forward in the document was respect for the ‘folkways and customs’ of the ethnic minorities, and preservation of their cultural heritage (Information Office 1999: 30–3). This account could hardly be more different from the claims put forward by human rights activists, especially those in the West. One of the most striking things about these activist groups is that they take their information and perceptions largely from diasporas, groups of people who have themselves taken refuge from China and are keen to increase their influence in their new homes. Given that worldwide refugee movements and diasporas are among the notable features of globalisation, it is obvious that this process has ordained a selection in favour of particular ethnic groups. Human rights: Tibet and Xinjiang Among the diasporas, by far the most important is the Tibetans’, that ‘steady flow of refugees into Nepal and into a Tibetan diaspora that has rooted exiles in foreign lands around the world’ (Schell 2000: 273). There are other groups, which include the Uygurs, the Mongolians and the Miao, but their influence in human rights terms is minimal by comparison with the Tibetans. The reason is largely to do with the figure of the Dalai Lama, there being no comparable figure among the other ethnic groups, either inside China or outside. I return to this question in Chapter 7, and it requires no further coverage here. Bodies such as Amnesty International, Asia Watch (renamed Human Rights Watch/Asia) and the United States State Department have issued regular reports on human rights in Asia. Accusations of human rights abuses against China’s ethnic minorities since before the early 1990s have focused almost entirely on the Tibetans and, since the late 1990s, the Uygurs as well.4 Human rights activists and bodies such as Amnesty International have issued many criticisms that arbitrary arrests have taken place among both peoples, with condemnations but no fair trials. Other frequent bases for accusations of human rights abuses are excessive Han immigration into Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as religious persecution on the pretext of suppressing separatism. As regards the case of Tibet, human rights activists regarded issues like the Chinese determination on the identity of the Eleventh Panchen Lama in 1995 and the ban on pictures of the Dalai Lama in 1996 (see Chapter 5) as infringements of human rights. The boy the Dalai Lama nominated as the Eleventh Panchen Lama became regarded as the world’s youngest political prisoner. Human Rights Watch (1998: 180) claimed that he ‘was under house arrest or some other form of custody’. It added that Chinese authorities had refused all requests for access to him, even to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary


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Robinson. Basically, human rights activists regarded Chinese actions on these matters as abuses, because they involved infringements on religious freedom. On the other hand, the Chinese authorities saw the same matters as suppression of separatism and hence lying within their legitimate state jurisdiction. Any government would do the same, they argued. Activists regard Chinese claims of separatism merely as a smokescreen masking human rights infringements. One representative of the Tibet Information Network has stated that, at the end of 1998, the average sentence for political prisoners, said to number about 500 –600, was just over 7 years, with many detainees suffering torture, beating and degrading treatment during interrogation (Marshall 2000: 144). Drapchi Prison in Lhasa is the most famous in Tibet. Sometimes shown to foreigners to delude them into a positive image of prison life in Tibet, it has also been the site of many protests against harsh conditions. Despite the claims of cultural preservation in Chinese government publications, the Dalai Lama has been prepared to make a charge of ‘cultural genocide’ (see Chapter 7) and his supporters around the world have shared his view, many demanding guerrilla warfare against the Chinese. My own view on this matter, based on four visits to Tibet since 1985 and several to other Tibetan areas, is somewhat different. It is true that the Cultural Revolution saw massive cultural destruction. However, what strikes me most forcefully about the period since 1980 or so is not how much the Chinese have harmed Tibetan culture, but how much they have allowed, even encouraged it to revive; not how weak it is, but how strong. What is true is that there is a modernisation process going on in Tibet, carried on in the context of Tibet as part of China, which may dilute tradition. But everywhere there are still many signs of Tibetan lifestyle, culture, religion and traditions. Chinese authorities have also found themselves under very strong criticism for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and against its Uygur population. For instance, Amnesty International (2001: 72) claimed that in 2000 Xinjiang had been ‘the only region of China where political prisoners were known to have been executed in recent years’. Even more serious was the allegation that executions of Uygurs for separatism or terrorism followed ‘secret or summary trials where convictions were based on confessions extracted under torture’. In March 2000, Rebiya Kadeer, whom many had pointed to as an example of a Uygur woman who had got to the very pinnacle of business in Xinjiang, was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment for threatening national security, Amnesty International (2001: 72) being among many bodies to issue condemnations.

Inner Mongolia In July 1990 reports appeared in Hong Kong (cited in Kaup 2000: 2) of Mongolian organisations in Inner Mongolia bent on securing Inner Mongolia’s secession from China to form a single Mongolian republic with the then MPR. The reports claimed that clashes between Mongolian activities and the government in May 1990 had led to the deaths of some 200 people. I happened to meet a Mongolian professor in Hohhot within a few months of these alleged clashes. He claimed to be very interested in the history of such Mongolian separatist activities in Inner Mongolia, but

Minorities politics 47 denied absolutely that the reported clashes had taken place, let alone any resulting in deaths. Certainly, however, people in Inner Mongolia were following closely what was happening on the other side of the border, where the MPR collapsed at the end of the next year. There were no doubt some who wished to link up with co-nationals over the border, but how strong their organisations were is very unclear. It is likely that any such activism weakened in the course of the twentieth century’s last decade and into the new century. A study by Uradyn E. Bulag, a partly Western-educated Mongol living in the West, argues that any resistance among the Mongols of China presupposes acceptance of the Chinese state; ‘it has not questioned the state’s legitimacy in ruling the Mongols, only its methods of rule’ (Bulag 2000: 178). Bulag suggests that preferential or affirmative action policies have indeed won over major portions of the Mongol people to accept that they are part of China, while at the same time the firm suppression of any secessionist movements instils fear into them. Many Mongols have taken quite readily to doing business and making money as part of China. The new ideology of ‘opening up and development’ targets the ever-shrinking pastureland in Inner Mongolia. By the end of the twentieth century, this ideology had ‘apparently charmed people into ethnic cooperation’. It is not just Han who conduct agricultural expansion, ‘for Mongols have also become active developers’ (Bulag 2000: 195). The creation of the Handominated multi-ethnic China, according to Bulag, ‘is not just a state project; it is also, in this and many other instances, one that is enthusiastically embraced in diverse ways by the minzu [ethnic] subjects or fractions thereof’ (Bulag 2000: 195). The reasons for this trend are an interesting question. Bulag’s comments imply that the ideology of development is a major cause. I agree with this interpretation. Another factor is that the Inner Mongolian economy has been doing much better since at least the early 1990s than in the Republic of Mongolia over the border, leaving little incentive to join up into a single state with people there, even though they may be co-nationals. I would also add my impression from visits to Inner Mongolia that Mongolian ethnic consciousness there is not particularly strong. It has been, with some variations at particular times, in long-term decline since the early years of the twentieth century.

Tibet This situation contrasts very strongly with that among the Tibetans and certain ethnic groups in Xinjiang. These two cases are by far the most difficult for the Chinese state, illustrating policy since 1990, and require separate treatment. In Tibet the pro-independence riots of 1987–1989 caused a shift towards a harder policy, as explained in Chapter 2, and the new policy remained in place into the twenty-first century. As Shakya (1999: 432) puts it, the new policies ‘meant that the region would no longer be treated as a special case and that the concessions that had been made to the Tibetans would be reined in’. They can be summed up as much greater emphasis on economic development, combined with absolute prohibition on separatism in all forms and under any guise. Though this is actually the overall policy carried out in all the ethnic areas of the PRC, the situation in Tibet is special because of the intensity of Tibetan ethnic and cultural consciousness.


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In political terms one of the main prongs of the policy was a tightening up in attitude towards Tibetan members of the CCP. ‘There were repeated calls for Party members and cadres to demonstrate their loyalty and to eschew nationalistic sentiments’ (Shakya 1999: 433). CCP members were still allowed to attend religious ceremonies, but authorities took much more active steps to ensure that they were not believers in religion. A much firmer attitude was adopted towards displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama at home, as many CCP members had done in the laxer spirit of the 1980s. Demonstrations continued after 1989, but much more infrequently and on a smaller scale. The largest was in Lhasa on 24 May 1993 when up to 3,000 Tibetans took part in attacks on government and public security organs, followed by smaller demonstrations on following days. Authorities had improved their methods of crowd control since 1989. Police were reported to have ‘kept their distance’ until ‘slogans changed into calls for Tibetan independence’ and even then used tear gas, not lethal weapons, to disperse the crowds (‘Clashes in Lhasa’ 1993: 23202). When the riots of the late 1980s were suppressed, not even the Chinese authorities were denying that some people were killed. But in May 1993 authorities acknowledged no deaths, though a later Kyodo report (cited ‘Quarterly Chronicle’ 1993: 638) quoted two Japanese tourists as saying that casualties may have seen up to nine people killed. There have been further disturbances in Tibet since these 1993 demonstrations, and pro-independence feeling is not dead. This is evident from the material on human rights above and suggested strongly by the controversy over the Panchen Lama in 1995 and the banning of pictures of the Dalai Lama in 1996 (see Chapter 5). In April 1996, the authorities again began a ‘strike hard’ campaign to eliminate separatism, which took the form of arrests of dissident political activists and ‘political re-education campaigns’ in the monasteries the authorities most suspected of separatism (see Amnesty International 1997). However, it appears that the Chinese government has indeed succeeded in integrating Tibet more closely into China than was the case in the 1980s. Many of the signs of this are apparent in the economy, and will be considered in Chapter 4. Goldstein notes (1997: 93) that the Chinese authorities accomplished this strengthened control ‘without restricting the day-to-day life’ of the inhabitants of the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Provided Lhasans were not engaging in anti-government political activities, he continues ‘they were free to go where they wished, meet with friends, invite monks for religious services, have parties, and so forth’. These comments accorded with the impressions I have gained in travelling in Tibetan areas of China. Two important anniversaries occurred at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. The first was in March 1999, marking both the fortieth anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule and the tenth year since the independence demonstrations that led to the imposition of martial law in 1989. The other was the fiftieth anniversary of the signature of the 1951 agreements, falling in May 2001. Nobody thought the Chinese would mark March 1999, but the Tibetan diaspora and its supporters predicted there could be anti-Chinese incidents within Tibet itself. The fact that nothing untoward occurred signalled that the Chinese had

Minorities politics 49 succeeded in establishing control better than most people expected. On the other hand, the Chinese certainly did hold large-scale celebrations in May 2001 as a mark of half a century since the Dalai Lama’s regime had signed its agreement that Tibet was part of China. Again, the lack of overt opposition to the celebrations showed how tight Chinese control had become. No doubt many Tibetans were unhappy about this, but none was prepared to demonstrate open disapproval.

Xinjiang There are some commonalities between the situations in Tibet and Xinjiang since 1990. Both have been the focus of disturbance against the Chinese government. Both are ethnic areas in which the tradition is profoundly religious. In both cases, the Chinese government has adopted policies of suppression of separatism, combined with economic development and affirmative action towards minorities. In both cases, Chinese harshness towards separatism has made the leadership the target of severe international criticism on human rights grounds. Both are associated with the global trend towards minority rights and in that sense are influenced by the globalisation trend so important in the world today. There are also very important differences. The Islam of Xinjiang is very different from Tibetan Buddhism in doctrine and influence, and in international relations. Islam has its own internationalisation or globalisation process, which is in many ways hostile to the dominant liberal form of globalisation, especially since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center of 11 September 2001. Xinjiang is much more multi-ethnic than Tibet. There is no international leader in Xinjiang corresponding to the Dalai Lama, either inside or outside China. What is striking is that, since 1990, Xinjiang has actually presented far more difficulties to the Chinese central government than Tibet. This is in sharp contrast to the 1980s, when Xinjiang was rather free of disturbance, especially when compared with Tibet. Ethnic clashes and terrorism The first of the troubles occurred in April 1990, the month before martial law was lifted in Tibet. According to Xinjiang Television on 21 April, public security personnel were attacked in a government building in Baren Township, Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, not far from Kashgar in the southwest of Xinjiang. The following day the authorities sent in troops of the People’s Armed Police and the People’s Liberation Army and successfully inflicted a devastating defeat on the rebels. The number of casualties overall is open to question. The official version acknowledged twenty-one dead, but one account (Dillon 1997: 137) has it that the foreign press quoted over sixty. Precisely who had organised and led this uprising? According to Michael Winchester (1997: 31), who interviewed a participant in the underground group that led the uprising, the leader was Zahideen Yusuf, a strong Muslim from a poor Uygur village south of Kashgar with a long-standing history of anti-Chinese unrest. The Islamic side will be considered in Chapter 5. Winchester claims ( p. 31) to have been told that Zahideen had smuggled and stockpiled weapons and


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it was a police sweep on the village in search of such arms that sparked off the initial attack, which turned out to be premature. Official Chinese sources described it as an ‘armed counter-revolutionary rebellion’, and attributed it to the Islamic Party of East Turkestan. According to the 21 April broadcast, the disturbances were directly separatist in intent, and flowed from the activities of ‘extremely reactionary political forces whose aim was to undermine the motherland’s unification and unity among nationalities and practise splittism of nationalities’ (quoted from ‘Quarterly Chronicle’ 1990: 583). Subsequent official reports also put some of the blame on efforts to revitalise Islam, ‘paralysis’ among local CCP organisations and the indifference of ‘grassroots leading bodies’ towards the interests of the people (‘Quarterly Chronicle’ 1990: 583). In other words, authorities could not heap all the responsibility on their enemy for the disastrous trend that had produced this uprising, but had to take some of the blame themselves. There is actually a good deal in common in these reports. There is general agreement that the aim was separatism, with one side supporting it, but the other strongly in opposition. This was, moreover, the first time since 1949 that anybody had taken serious action on behalf of political independence for Xinjiang as an East Turkestan Republic. The Chinese were quite easily able to produce many leaders and ordinary people who simply hated this renewal of what could be viewed as terrorism. But this may not have been the impact on everybody. A Uygur friend told me in 1994 that he knew of many different reactions from people who had seen the television footage of the defeated Uygur uprising. Some people were full of admiration that anybody should dare to defy the mighty Chinese state, others were terrified or horrified over what might happen to anybody who got involved in such activity. It is also clear that the uprising produced serious flow-on effects. Uygur opposition surfaced outside China itself, as discussed in Chapter 7. Even though Zahideen Yusuf himself was killed, followers fled to the mountains to organise further unrest, and many of them continued their activities, including some whom the Chinese had arrested but then released. The smuggling of weapons continued, despite added official vigilance. A series of bomb blasts began. The first of them took place on 5 February 1992, timed to coincide with the Chinese New Year. It exploded on a parked bus in Ürümqi, killed six people and injured twenty others (Winchester 1997: 34). There were also reports of bomb attacks in widely scattered parts of Xinjiang in March 1992. There appears to have been serious unrest involving up to 150,000 people in rallies and strikes in April 1995 in six towns in the area around Gulja (Yining in Chinese), capital of the Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture in the northwest of Xinjiang. Demonstrations included petitions to local officials and demands for an end to Chinese rule. Although the accounts of these disturbances are unconfirmed, and a Chinese official at the Xinjiang Foreign Affairs Bureau in Ürümqi, Liu Yusheng, is reported to have denied that any unrest occurred, most Western scholars accept that there is some basis in the reports (e.g. Dillon 1997: 138–9, 147). The same year a vice-chairman of Xinjiang’s Political Consultative Conference was assassinated.

Minorities politics 51 Further serious disturbances erupted in Gulja on 5 February 1997. Exactly what sparked them off is unclear, but some sources claim that police had entered a mosque to arrest two religious students but met with resistance. However, the incident certainly developed into riots involving demonstrations on behalf of independence, mostly by Uygurs, assaults on Han people and vandalisation of vehicles, and continued into the next day. Although soon quelled, the riots resulted in the deaths of about sixteen people, with nearly 150 wounded. Summary arrests and execution of Muslim separatists, almost all Uygurs, followed over the next days (see Mackerras 1998: 290). Moreover, arrests, trials and executions following from those times have continued into the twenty-first century. On 25 February 1997, terrorists planted four bombs in buses in Ürümqi. Three of them exploded in the evening, an official source (cited by Reuter in Mackerras 1998: 292) giving casualty figures of nine dead and seventy-four wounded, mostly school children on their way home. What added further poison to an already horrific incident was that 25 February 1997 happened to be the day of patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s funeral service. He had died 6 days before and the country was in mourning. Virtually everybody recognised the enormous achievements he had made to China, but what the bomb blasts seemed to be saying was that the separatists cared nothing at all for him and were happy to add insult to injury through a terrorist attack targeting civilians, even children. Yet another bomb exploded on a commuter bus on 7 March 1997, this time in Beijing. Mayor of Beijing Jia Qinglin put the blame on criminal elements, not on Uygur separatists, and called for calm. However, the Organisation for Turkestan Freedom, based in Turkey, claimed responsibility for the incident, arguing through Taiwan’s Central News Agency that such an explosion was the only way the Uygur people could take revenge against China-inflicted oppression. It appeared that, for the first time, Uygur separatist activity was making itself felt outside Xinjiang and in China’s own capital. Terrorist incidents such as the ones discussed continued into the following years. In January 2002, the Chinese government released a long report quoting ‘incomplete statistics’ as showing that terrorist forces fighting for an independent Uygur state had been responsible for over 200 terrorist incidents in Xinjiang. These had resulted in the deaths of 162 people and injuries to over 440 (Information Office 2002: 15). The report divided the incidents into six categories. These were (Information Office 2002: 15–18): ● ● ● ● ●

explosions; assassinations; attacks on police and government institutions; crimes of poison and arson; establishing secret training bases and raising money to buy and manufacture arms and ammunitions; and plotting and organising disturbances and riots, and creating an atmosphere of terror.


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The authorities are subject to two counter-pressures, especially since 11 September 2001. On the one hand, they are very keen to be regarded as part of the international war against terrorism. The list of categories, as well as the 1997 bus explosions mentioned earlier, suggests strongly that some terrorists have targeted civilians. At the same time, the reference to secret training bases and purchase and manufacture of arms and ammunitions points towards preparations for open warfare or rebellion. On the other hand, the governments of China and Xinjiang are both very keen to attract investors to Xinjiang. To achieve that purpose, they need to play down the extent of terrorism and disturbance in Xinjiang. On 8 March 2002, in a new conference focusing on attracting investors, Xinjiang Governor Abulahat Abdurixit declared that the preceding year had been free of major violent terrorist activity (Bodeen 2002). It is true that the January 2002 report has only one death from the preceding year, together with an incident in which police uncovered and confiscated explosives and equipment for making arms, so the two accounts are not necessarily in contradiction with each other. But there is certainly a different emphasis. Government reaction The revival of ethnic separatism in Xinjiang, just when it had come under better control in Tibet, obviously caused concern in Beijing. The Marxist–Leninist parties in Eastern Europe had been falling from power like ninepins, adding to the CCP’s worries, and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 strengthened their belief that the Americans and others would like China to follow the Soviet Union into disintegration. In a speech in September 1995 to honour the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a senior Xinjiang CCP leader Wang Zhaoguo blamed hostile forces for the revival of separatism in the 1990s and for trying to split China. By suggesting that these forces were hoping that their actions would ‘lead to China “breaking up” and becoming Westernised’ (quoted China Daily, 25 September 1995), Wang seems to have been highlighting the Americans as the main ‘hostile force’. However, it was 1996 that marked the main policy turning point. That year saw two major events on the domestic front, and one on the international, which is considered in more detail in Chapter 7. First was a confidential message from the CCP Central Committee to the authorities in Xinjiang, dated 19 March. This message, which has become known generally simply as ‘Document No. 7’, required the local authorities to take firmer action to stop the burgeoning threat of ethnic separatism and conflict. It charged that ‘Groups are fomenting trouble, assaulting Party and government structures, bombing and committing terrorist attacks. Some organizations have already turned from underground to semi-public, to the point of openly confronting the government’ (quoted from Becquelin 2000: 87). Document No. 7 went on to claim that the chaos and turmoil would, if not checked, affect stability in Xinjiang and eventually in the whole country.

Minorities politics 53 The second event was a major work conference the Xinjiang CCP held in the capital Ürümqi from 3 to 6 May 1996 to discuss the stability of the region. Delegates repeated the arguments that separatists were organising riots, terrorist activities and bombings, and that many were being fomented from outside China (Macartney 1996). The meeting called for several measures to move towards solving the problem, the main ones being to improve the economy and to strengthen CCP control by reorganising ‘weak and lax’ branches, especially those dominated by Muslims, and training cadres better.5 The attempt to oppose separatism and terrorism in Xinjiang has developed into an ongoing campaign. Moreover, the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 gave the Chinese authorities an additional reason for cracking down even more severely. After all, Islamic fundamentalism, which they claimed as one of the roots of Xinjiang’s problems, was now shown to be a source of terrorism. The obvious question is how successful the various initiatives of the Chinese authorities have been. On the situation in 2002, my view is that the policies have been successful in some ways, but not in others. The separatist movement is no nearer its goal of full independence than it was in 1990. Gladney’s view (1997: 288) was as valid in 2002 as when he wrote it: Though many portray the Uyghur [Uygurs] as united around separatist or Islamist causes, they continue to be divided by religious conflicts (Sufi and non-Sufi factors),6 territorial loyalties, linguistic discrepancies, commonerelite alienation, and competing political loyalties. On the other hand, the separatist movement shows no signs at all of giving up. An improved economy does not necessarily weaken opposition to Chinese rule. The fact that the authorities found it necessary to imprison the rich businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer in 2000 even suggests that one could find the rise of a class of ‘rich people who agitate for change’ (Gilley 2001: 27). One study of Xinjiang in the 1990s found widespread Uygur resistance to Chinese rule on the level of complaints about the conditions of their lives, including criticism of the system of autonomy and the Uygurs who implement it and open wishes for independence. While recognising that ‘drastic political gains’ are unlikely under present circumstances, he contends that ‘this record of grumbling, joking, and wishing indicates the depth of feeling and the potential for change’ if the Chinese state were to falter or a new leader were to usher in a period of political openness (Bovingdon 2002: 68). Moreover, relations between Uygurs and Han appear to have worsened noticeably since the early 1990s. A recent study suggests that one of the reasons for this reality lies in the fact that boundaries between the lives of the two nationalities have weakened over this period, making contact commoner between them. For instance, Han have gone to work more in the Xinjiang rural areas than used to be the case. At the same time, the Uygurs ‘have themselves begun to move into Handominated sectors, lured by new opportunities in education, employment, and


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trade’ (Smith 2002: 157). Han immigration has increased and the Han dominate in the cities to the extent that Uygurs often find themselves marginalised. Knowledge of the Chinese language is more necessary than ever. Yet despite actual and perceived discrimination against Uygurs in employment, there are quite a few Uygurs who have done very well from the increased economic prosperity since the early 1980s. Ben-Adam (1999: 205) considers that this ‘has resulted in positive sentiments of the Uighur peasantry towards the Chinese government and Han Chinese in general’. The overall conclusion to flow from this material is that policy may have tightened Chinese rule over Xinjiang against a fragmented opposition. Most people might even accept the current order for the time being, devoting energies more to individual and family matters than to politics. But hatred of the Han and their rule is still very widespread and government policy has not succeeded in deflecting ethno-nationalists from their struggle. The reaction of the authorities since 11 September 2001 may even have exacerbated the tensions. Gladney’s late twentiethcentury view (1997: 290) remains apt at the dawn of the twenty-first: ‘As they have in the past, the Uyghur will support a policy that benefits them even as it contributes to the rest of the country. Few believe, however, that the current two-pronged policy of economic development and political repression will satisfy these demands’.

Conclusion There appears to have been a general process of Chinese national integration going on in the past decades in China. If anything it has accelerated since 1990. There are exceptions to this pattern, of which by far the most important is the situation in Xinjiang. Is this general integration of China since 1990 a product of globalisation? And has it accelerated since China joined the World Trade Organisation in December 2001? I suspect that in fact globalisation promotes a more fragmented society rather than a more integrated one. Its impact is to tie ethnic societies in China more to worldwide trends than to those specific to China. The Chinese government wishes to take advantage of the many benefits that go with further dealings with and influence from world capitalism. But that does not mean it will abstain from doing everything it can to strengthen national integration in China and keep the country together. Diasporas are an important part of globalisation. In world terms, diasporas tend to move towards the Western countries, such as those of North America and Western Europe. There is an increasing number of people belonging to ethnic diasporas who have left China for what they expect to be better conditions in these Western countries. They also bring with them perceptions of ethnic identity. And it is part of the globalisation process that these should find enormous sympathy in the West. The effect they have exercised both in their new and old homes tends to be strongly hostile to the Chinese and their rule. By far the best example is the Tibetan diaspora, but it is not the only one. The impact of such globalisation tendencies in Tibet and several other ethnic areas has promoted that kind of Tibetan ethnic consciousness that wants full independence for Tibet, and has thus been

Minorities politics 55 very hostile to the form of Chinese national integration that insists on the maintenance of the present borders. I expect the dichotomy between a strengthened ethnic identity and an enhanced Chinese national integration to persist, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang. There are two kinds of globalisation at work in China, and especially in Xinjiang. One is the liberal mainstream globalisation that is associated mainly with culture, values and fashions emanating from Western countries, especially the United States, and spreading outward towards China. The other is that contrary, but also important, sub-stream associated with Islam, and above all the radical version that requires the victory of Muslims over the infidel. The Chinese authorities are fiercely hostile to any separatism that appears to them associated with this sub-stream, and the resultant oppression has further exacerbated ethnic feelings, especially among the Uygur Muslim communities of Xinjiang. What some Uygurs, including the majority among the Uygur diasporas, regard as religious persecution and oppression looks very different to authorities. They have even coined the term ‘the three evil forces’ to denote the terrorism, separatism and extremism (that is extreme and fundamentalist Islam) they believe is behind the troubles in Xinjiang (Gao 2001: 8–9). One may ask if there is any room at all for the concept of localisation amid an overall globalisation in the context of the politics of China’s ethnic minorities. In some ways, one could answer positively. The globalisation that is taking phenomena associated with world capitalism – tall buildings, foreign commodities and investments, freeways, consumer tastes – is beginning to spread to the ethnic areas. And in reaction local culture is strengthening in some places, notably in some parts of southern Xinjiang. But it may be that it is not only globalisation that is spawning this reaction but also Chinese attempts to form an integrated multinational state by suppressing separatism and those forms of ethnic consciousness that threaten the state. The ethnic identity growing both in Tibet and Xinjiang may be, at least in part, responses to globalisation, but they are hardly reactions against it. China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation could easily end up promoting the kind of reactions against globalisation that some scholars have termed ‘glocalisation’ (see Chapter 1), but that process had not gone far by 2002. The Introduction flagged the likelihood that globalisation would lead to a diminution of control of Chinese authorities over their own territory. Has this in fact happened since the 1990s? I believe that it most certainly has in parts of China, and that is one of the reasons why the CCP believes it more necessary to fight against separatist movements. It is less able to control the revival of inimical traditional forces and the upsurge of new ideas that could ultimately threaten even its very survival. The fact that it still cracks down on threats to the current Chinese authorities merely shows that it is not prepared to sacrifice power either to alternative internal or external forces and is struggling to retain sovereignty and the control that goes with it.


The economies of the minorities

The economy has been among the most successful aspects of China’s development since 1990. Industry, agriculture, pasture and infrastructure have all improved dramatically, and the standard of living of most people has risen very rapidly and significantly, with poverty being greatly reduced. China has been welded far more closely into the world economy than ever before and its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December 2001 has not only been a culmination of this process, but a means to accelerate it even faster. These successes have not been without problems, especially in terms of environmental degradation and widening inequalities, but they have radically improved the livelihood of the great majority of China’s people. The minorities have participated in this economic improvement. However, they have tended strongly to be at the poor end of the widening disparities. In the uneven and imbalanced economic growth, the eastern seaboard has advanced far faster than the rest of the country. And almost all the minorities live in the western part of the country, which includes the poorest provinces and autonomous regions. Moreover, the minority areas have not been exempt from the environmental damage the economic growth has inflicted, with Xinjiang hit with special severity.

The background The economic trends since the early 1990s have definitely been in the direction of linking the Chinese economy with world capitalism. Although the suppression of the student movement in 1989 cast doubt on whether the reform policies would remain in operation and introduced a period of political and economic tension, Deng Xiaoping’s ‘southern journey’ of early 1992 removed this uncertainty and set the country on the path of greatly accelerated reform (see Chapter 3). Four further steps pointed towards free enterprise and capitalism. The first was the emphasis on the ‘socialist market economy’. The idea was central to General Secretary Jiang Zemin’s speech opening the Fourteenth CCP Congress on 12 October 1992. In March 1993, the NPC actually changed the Constitution of the PRC to declare that ‘The State has put into practice a socialist market economy’. Though the Constitution still had ‘socialist public

The economies of the minorities 57 ownership’ and economic planning as the basis, it strengthened the role of ‘regulation by the market’ (Constitution of PRC 2000: 22). The importance of the market became very clear with the corporatisation of the state-owned enterprises. Again it was Jiang Zemin who suggested this move, using his report to the Fifteenth CCP Congress on 12 September 1997 for the purpose, the move being confirmed by the NPC early the next year. There were profound implications in this move, since the state-owned enterprises are the bedrock of the planned economy. The state-owned share of gross industrial output value had already fallen from 77.6 per cent in 1978 to 28.2 per cent in 1998 (Mackerras 2001a: 191), and the corporatisation of the state-owned enterprises merely accelerated the power of the market and the trend towards collective and privately owned enterprises. The government took some measures to cushion the effects on the unemployment that resulted from the process, but could not prevent resentment and protests from retrenched workers. One particularly severe case of prolonged protests was in Liaoyang, Liaoning Province in China’s northeast, in March 2002, when workers protested over a range of matters, including the closure of their factories and their retrenchment without compensation. The third step towards capitalism was to allow private business people and entrepreneurs to become members of the CCP. In a speech of 1 July 2001, Jiang Zemin urged this move, praising the honesty and social contribution of the majority of people working in the private sector. The next CCP Plenum, held late in September, duly adopted his suggestion. The importance of the decision, which overturned years of looking down on the entrepreneurs as exploiters, was great enough to make one journalist remark: ‘When the world looks back to the moment when the Chinese Communist Party finally embraced capitalism, this may be it’ (Lawrence 2001: 36). The fourth step is one that was brewing during nearly the whole period under discussion in this book: China’s accession to the WTO. However, the fact is that it actually came to fruition at the end of 2001, which is why it is located after the decision to allow entrepreneurs into the CCP. The total impact of the flow-on effects is not clear as this book goes to print, but is likely to be highly significant and point in the direction of China’s incorporation into global capitalism. Two specialists have aptly observed: ‘Perhaps more than any other industry, tourism is closely associated with globalisation, of which it is both a cause and effect’ (Harrison and Price 1996: 6). However, in the isolationist time under Mao Zedong, the Chinese leadership considered tourism unproductive and was not committed to its growth, even stifling domestic travel to a large extent (Wen and Tisdell 2001: 5). Tourism also struck a major obstacle with the suppression of the student movement in mid-1989. Yet despite this setback, it has still seen unprecedented growth since 1990. I believe a focus on tourism is appropriate here. There is no doubt that tourism is among the top money-spinners in the world today. Just how much money depends precisely on what items one includes in tourism. If the term were taken to encompass all the aviation industry, all international travel and all hotels, then it would be far larger than if only a portion of such enterprises were included. But whatever way one looks at it, tourism


The economies of the minorities

is extremely significant in the world economy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Global tourism suffered a serious blow due to the terror attacks on New York’s World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. The Fourteenth General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation, which concluded in Osaka, Japan, on 1 October 2001, issued a press release on the impact of the disaster (carried by various agencies), ‘reporting that tourists are postponing holidays and switching to destinations that are closer to home’. Many people no longer considered air travel as safe as they used to do, and an atmosphere of fear grew in some parts of the world. The Organisation also reduced its short-term forecast for tourist arrivals in 2001 from 3 per cent growth to 1.5 per cent growth. What is perhaps striking is that it could still predict growth at all, given the enormity of the calamity that had happened and the effect the incidents were all but certain to create on the enormous American market. Tourism is going to remain a major factor in the world economy, despite the war on terrorism. Only recently has China become a major force in international tourism, but its rise in the 1990s has changed all that. The World Tourism Organisation estimated that the number of international tourist arrivals in China in 1999, not including Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, was 27.047 million, up from 25.073 million the preceding year. The 1999 figure put China fifth in the world behind France, Spain, the United States and Italy, but ahead of the United Kingdom, which it had overtaken between 1998 and 1999 (Wen and Tisdell 2001: 3). The World Tourism Organisation also predicted at the end of the twentieth century that China would overtake France to become the top destination for tourists by 2020 (Turner 2000: 440), a prediction the deputy chief David de Villiers repeated at a one-day Cyprus International Tourism Conference in Nicosia on 19 October 2001, in other words after the 11 September 2001 calamity. Chinese earnings from international tourism rose from US$ 2,218 million in 1990 (SSB 1996: 603) to US$ 14,099 million in 1999 (NBS 2000: 625), thus multiplying more than six times in 9 years. It is also worth noting that Chinese domestic tourism also increased greatly at the end of the twentieth century, the total number of tourists rising from 629 million in 1995 to 719 million in 1999 (NBS 2000: 625).

Basic economic indicators Government policy has been to get the minorities to share in the economic growth that China has experienced since the early 1990s. It is clearly in the interests of political stability that all people should feel some stake in the current order of things. However, there have been two additional prongs to the policy. One is to ensure that economic growth should assist in the political integration of China. The other is to pursue a preferential policy based on the general poverty of minority economies and attempt to give them an economic boost. There have been clear overall successes in both policies, but also some significant failures. Table 4.1 indicates some of the basic economic indicators of China’s ethnic autonomous areas. These figures generally indicate economic growth in the

The economies of the minorities 59 Table 4.1 Major economic indicators 1985





Cultivated area (million hectares) 17.47 17.67 15.08 20.69 21.28 Grain (millions of tons) 40.06 53.73 53.60 72.95 68.62 Cotton (thousands of tons) 190 470 946 1,481 1,361 Large livestock (millions) 47.49 52.86 56.18 56.69 56.89 Sheep and goats (millions) 97.57 113.62 119.06 128.74 130.36 Pigs (millions) 45.33 56.65 72.40 76.15 72.92 Steel (millions of tons) 2.33 3.68 7.00 6.33 6.43 Pig-iron (millions of tons) 2.58 4.17 5.55 7.02 6.96 Raw coal (millions of tons) 85.97 120.77 166.39 175.70 153.61 Crude oil (millions of tons) 18.05 12.65 16.10 20.47 20.58 Electricity (millions of kwh) 38,900 73,880 118,650 132,310 142,890 Timber (million cu. m.) 18.26 17.61 32.57 16.37 12.30 Railways (thousands of km) 12.5 13.1 17.0 17.1 17.5 Roads (thousands of km) 254.1 293.7 332.1 374.1 402.6 Source: NBS 2000: 39.

ethnic autonomous areas, and suggest better integration with the national economy. The increases in grain production and in the numbers of livestock point to a generally better and more varied diet in the ethnic areas. Sheep are animals of particular cultural importance to minorities such as the Mongolians and Kazaks, among whom they play many roles that include providing both food and clothing, the larger numbers suggesting more prosperous life among pastoralists. The great expansion in the production of electricity can only help towards modernisation and a more abundant lifestyle for the mass of people. Industry has never been particularly important among the ethnic minorities of China. Despite efforts to expand industry in the minority areas, only a few of them have given it much attention. One of them is Inner Mongolia, where Baotou is home to a major iron-and-steel works. However, this particular example illustrates a highly significant point about industry in China’s ethnic areas, namely that the state perceives it very definitely as China-wide, not ethnic. Baotou is a new Han city, even though in an ethnic area. There is a certain homogenising effect of industry and industrialisation, wherever they occur, and China is no different from other countries in this respect. The figures given in Table 4.1 on railways and roads are examples showing a great improvement in infrastructure in the ethnic autonomous areas since the early 1990s. In Yunnan, many ethnic areas previously very difficult indeed of access now have airports. The years since 1990 have witnessed the opening of several railways with considerable importance for communications in the ethnic areas. September 1990 saw the opening of the newly constructed railway linking the Xinjiang capital Ürümqi with the Alataw Pass on the border with Kazakhstan in the Soviet Union, opening a complete Eurasian ‘rail bridge’ from Lianyungang on China’s eastern coast to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In December 1997 communications for the southwestern minorities took a step forward with the


The economies of the minorities

opening of an electrified single-track line linking the Guangxi capital Nanning with Yunnan’s capital Kunming. And in May 1999 the 1,451-km South Xinjiang railway linking Turpan to Kashgar began taking traffic. Tibet remained the only province-level unit without railways, its topography being considered too difficult to build tracks the benefits of which would in any way make the enormous costs worthwhile. However, in 2001, the government announced its intention to complete a railway in Tibet, despite the cost. Even before this move, communications in Tibet had begun to make impressive progress. During the 1990s, highway mileage greatly increased, as did the length of postal routes and the number of post offices and satellite stations. Telephone services improved enormously, and Tibet started such modern phenomena as mobile phones, the Internet and email. To make previously isolated places more easily accessible is part of globalisation. It allows for domestic and foreign commodities and services to reach these places, meaning that consumption patterns from outside can exert influence. As we shall see below, tourists enter and with them new ideas and lifestyle patterns. A better infrastructure opens the possibility of improved links not only with other parts of China, but also with the world more generally. The expansion of cotton and crude oil production are very important, especially in Xinjiang. Oil has a much longer pedigree there, but the large-scale introduction of cotton dates only from the late years of the twentieth century. There are great political implications in the dual strategy of promoting oil and cotton production in Xinjiang, which is in essence part of a long-term strategy to enrich Xinjiang in order to weld its economy into that of China as a whole, and hence integrate the region more tightly into China. Both the Eighth and Ninth Five-Year Plans, which ran from 1991 to 1995 and 1996 to 2000 respectively, placed weight on cotton production in Xinjiang, declaring that the autonomous region should become a national cotton-producing base. Indeed, cotton produced in the ethnic autonomous areas rose from about 10 per cent of the national total in 1990 to about 35 per cent in 1999 (see national totals in NBS 2000: 24–5). Almost all the expansion of cotton production in the ethnic autonomous areas noted in the figures in Table 4.1 was in Xinjiang. The state opened up new land through reclamation, but took over some land previously devoted to grain for cotton production. However, according to one scholar, grain is more profitable in Xinjiang than cotton for ordinary people. He claims that it is the state that reaps the financial benefits of the cotton industry, while the income of many local farmers actually fell. His research in the dominantly Uygur areas of southern Xinjiang led him to the conclusion that ‘quotas for cotton production are imposed on households in terms of acreage that must be sown’. The reason for this is ‘to ensure that farmers grow cotton even though profits are doubtful’ (Becquelin 2000: 82). It is hardly surprising that this causes resentment among the Uygurs. The Chinese policy of economic enrichment of Xinjiang does benefit many Uygurs and other minorities, though far less so than the Han. Journalist Bruce Gilley (2001: 27) claims that ‘a central aim of the development drive in Xinjiang

The economies of the minorities 61 is to bolster ethnic incomes in order to dilute allegiance to Islam’. But it is far from clear how successful this will be. In my impression, many Uygurs resent the Han Chinese whatever they do and there are some who say they would rather stay poor than accept a prosperity bestowed on them by the Chinese. Gilley (2001: 26) goes as far as to argue that ‘the handful of newly enriched Uighur [Uygur] businessmen could even be a source of new funding for nationalists’. My own view is that the Chinese government deserves some credit for trying to improve Xinjiang’s economy and the alternative of leaving it poor would be much worse than the present policy. However, that does not mean that the Uygurs will respond with gratitude. Policies in many respects similar to those in Xinjiang have also prevailed in Tibet, but it appears to me that they have been somewhat more successful there since the early 1990s. In July 1994, Premier Li Peng convened a Tibet Work Forum in Beijing, which determined to push economic development with far greater vigour than ever before. It also decided to undertake sixty-two major infrastructure and other development projects of various kinds, with considerable government investment and support from the eastern provinces, all of them completed by the beginning of the twenty-first century. There seems little doubt that this emphasis on development in Tibet ‘propelled Tibet further towards the mainstream trends prevailing in the rest of China’ (Shakya 1999: 438). Many activists in the West and elsewhere charged that this process would undermine Tibetan culture, and benefit Han more than Tibetans. In an immensely detailed study of Tibet’s economy at the end of the twentieth century, two scholars conclude that Tibetan culture is indeed weakening. However, this is not because the territory is part of China, but because it is undergoing a modernisation and commercialisation process in the context of globalisation (see Sautman and Eng 2001: 74). What is very clear is the Tibetan economy has grown greatly since the early 1990s, Tibetan standards of living rose and Tibet was increasingly dragged into the modern world. Interethnic resentments persisted, but the relative lack of protest incidents by comparison either with Tibet in the 1980s or Xinjiang in the 1990s suggested that the threat they posed to Chinese rule was on the wane.

Urbanisation The point about the urban bias in Tibet leads us on to one of the most dramatic processes going on in China, namely urbanisation. Official figures show that only 10.6 per cent of the total population lived in towns or cities in 1949. The 1990 census put 26.23 per cent of China’s people in the urban districts, while that of 2000 indicated an increase to 36.09 per cent (see figures in Mackerras 2001a: 209, 211–12). While the notion of precisely what constitutes a city changed significantly with the period of reform, it was roughly constant between 1990 and 2000. It is evident that the nearly 10 per cent jump in just 10 years indicates an accelerating process towards urbanisation in China. While the ethnic areas of the western regions of China are still generally much less urbanised than the eastern seaboard, the process affects the whole country. It is certainly globalising and can only have accelerated still more since China’s


The economies of the minorities

accession to the WTO. Lifestyle has changed, with very large numbers of people, whether Han or minority, moving into apartment blocks which are the same all over China stylistically, and have strong similarities with similar places in other parts of the world. Ürümqi, capital of Xinjiang, is mainly Han in its architecture, and the 1990s saw the construction of globalised tall buildings and modern roads and freeways. In the 1990s, Lhasa, capital of Tibet, became very much more modern than it had ever been before. Modern hotels expanded in number. Just below the Potala Palace an enormous modern square was built, in a style similar to those found elsewhere in China or other countries. In Jinghong, the capital of the Sipsong panna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, the roads became incomparably more modern, and the number of hotels, shops and commercial and other enterprises housed in buildings with globalised architecture expanded greatly in number. Yet despite this trend, it would be a mistake to claim that the ethnic style has vanished altogether. In Lhasa and Ürümqi there are still areas not much affected by modernisation. In both cities there are still very large numbers of buildings in traditional ethnic architectural style. Traditional buildings have been renovated, including the Potala Palace in Lhasa, rightly regarded as one of the wonders of the world and listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Smaller cities, such as Shigaze in Tibet or Kashgar in southern Xinjiang, retain far more ethnic flavour than the biggest ones, even though they also are undergoing modernisation. Han people tend to congregate far more heavily in the cities than in the countryside and Han migration to minority areas focuses on the cities. Consequently, Han migration is part of the urbanisation of society. Its economic effects are profound. The businesses Han people establish provide jobs for local people and expand the range of consumer products available in the ethnic areas. Some have criticised this process on the grounds that it spreads Han culture to minority areas, diluting or even destroying local culture, but it is also arguable that the Han themselves are usually taking part in a globalisation and modernisation that they do not fully control. There seems no doubt at all that this expansion of commerce helps raise the standard of living of the great majority of people in the cities of the ethnic areas, though it is true that the Han are generally better off than the minorities.

Standard of living, poverty, inequalities The standard of living of the great majority of minority members has risen greatly since the early 1990s. Although inequalities have widened, as will be discussed in more detail below, the livelihood of most people has improved enormously. In virtually every minority area I have visited since 1990, I have seen and heard evidence of an improvement in the standard of living and, in the cities, of a modernisation process with the potential to enhance the quality of life. Figures bear out this suggestion. For instance, in the ethnic autonomous areas, the average annual wage of employees rose from 2,040 yuan in 1990 to 6,822 yuan

The economies of the minorities 63 in 1999 (there are about 8 yuan to US$ 1). In the rural areas, the average annual per capital net income of households rose from 402 yuan in 1990 to 1,653 yuan in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 538, 541). In the two very poor but ethnically important provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, the average per capita net income of rural households rose, respectively, from 472 yuan and 495 yuan in 1994 (Economic Department 1995: 321) to 1,227.69 yuan and 1,287.96 yuan in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 542), in both cases well over doubling in 5 years. Although all these figures are extremely low by comparison with industrialised countries, the direction is right and the increases substantial. However, it needs to be pointed out that the figures apply to the ethnic autonomous areas, not specifically to members of ethnic groups. In most ethnic autonomous areas, there are substantial Han populations and they are frequently in the majority. It is in this context that the figures for rural Yunnan and rural Guizhou are most relevant. In the ethnic areas of these two provinces, as opposed to the whole of the two provinces, the concentration of ethnic groups is very substantial and in the countryside they are in the great or even overwhelming majority, because of the way Han people living in ethnic areas tend to concentrate in the cities. The extent to which the figures may show much better conditions among the Han than the minorities is discussed below. Another caution is that the figures may not take account of inflation, which averaged 7.1 per cent per year between 1990 and 1998, but was generally lower in the second half of the 1990s and actually negative in 1998–1999 (Mackerras 2001a: 201–3). The figures are not as impressive as they seem, but they are still significant. One aspect of living standards is ownership of durable consumer goods, and they are interesting in that interpreting the data avoids the problem of inflation. The figures in Table 4.2 show the number of durable consumer goods owned by 100 rural households in Xinjiang. The countryside is more important in measuring ethnic standards of living, because of Han concentration in the cities. They show a very impressive improvement in the livelihood of rural people. Table 4.2 Durable consumer goods per 100 rural households in Xinjiang Commodity




Bicycles Sewing machines Clocks, watches Radio sets Black-and-white televisions Colour televisions Washing machines Cameras Electric refrigerators Motor bikes

100.97 54.27 160.72 26.37 25.0 3.79 10.81 0.73 0.4 1.61

143.03 64.19 179.74 45.29 51.74 12.13 16.17 1.97 1.16 3.42

147.4 66.33 196.13 61.07 62.2 28.27 20.87 2.53 8.53 17.73

Source: Liu et al. 2000: 253.


The economies of the minorities

The general situation in terms of public health has improved enormously since the CCP came to power. However, if the measure is since 1990, then it has improved in some ways, but in others, such as the numbers of hospitals and doctors, has seen relatively little change. And there are some alarming signs of deterioration. The process of the privatisation of health delivery has accelerated, which has meant that health outlays have grown for ordinary people. This has allowed the return of some diseases once thought eradicated. Only in Tibet do basic medical services remain free as the twenty-first century dawns, and what is available is actually so minimal that it often makes very little difference towards solving health problems. One of the diseases to stage a comeback is tuberculosis. ‘From the polluted, bleak streets of its urban ghettoes to the soft, lush hills that are home to its minorities, 250,000 people a year are dying of TB’ (Jiang 2000: 84). A group from the French-based group Médicins sans Frontières and the World Health Organisation worked in some of the worst affected areas, including some ethnic Miao villages in Gongdong County, Guangxi. They found that many of those afflicted with the disease simply could not afford the necessary medical treatment or sometimes not even the bus fare to get to the nearest hospital. A World Health Organisation adviser on tuberculosis in China reached the conclusion that ‘the key is to get the Chinese government to consider healthcare. … A programme can’t depend on external funds and be viable’ (Jiang 2000: 87). However, there are some signs of improvement in the countryside. In the rural ethnic autonomous areas, the number of rural doctors and other medical personnel rose from 135,424 in 1990 to 169,759 in 1999. Over the same period, the number of village health stations in the ethnic autonomous areas rose from 68,843 to 82,023, while the proportion of villages with such stations increased from 75.6 to 83.3 per cent (Economic and Development Department 2000: 625, 623). The number of rural doctors and other medical personnel in Tibet rose from 3,304 in 1994 to 4,533 in 1999, while the comparable figures in the ethnic autonomous areas of Yunnan were 15,739 and 20,473 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 626 and Economic Department 1995: 405). One area of interest in terms of ethnic health is the extent of the use of traditional ethnic medicines. Figures show that the number of ethnic full-time health care personnel rose from 170,738 in 1990 to 185,458 in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 621), but only a minority practised their own traditional medicine. In fact, several of the ethnic groups have a distinguished traditional medicine, notably the Tibetans, the Mongolians, the Uygurs and the Dai, and all these are very active in the villages, though less so in the cities. During an interview with specialists on Dai medicine in Jinghong, Sipsong panna, on 25 September 2000, I learned that there are traditional Dai doctors in virtually all Dai villages, and two in some. Some of these doctors are hereditary, but it is also possible for doctors to train people other than their sons. Most Dai doctors are male, and only a small minority female. They are folk practitioners and so practise medicine only part-time, carrying out duties as peasants or monks as well as being doctors. Their services are not free, but payment can be either in

The economies of the minorities 65 the form of money or a gift, such as a chicken. In contrast to the past, when payment was usually through a gift, the trend nowadays is towards monetary fees, reflecting the growing strength of the cash economy in Dai villages. Dai medicine is preventative, rather than curative, and most medicines are actually natural herbs and other such foods. It is based on the idea that good health is best preserved through good foods, especially green vegetables and fruits. However, traditional medicine does not conflict with modern, and my informants told me that the government is taking proactive measures to try and prevent the spread of infectious diseases through improving hygienic facilities and practices. The revival of the old ethnic medicines is not only part of the renewed emphasis placed on Chinese traditional medicines, but also in line with a global appreciation for indigenous medicines. In some places they may prevent the adoption of more modern forms of medicine that came originally from the West, but the example from the Dai suggests that this is not the case in China. Indeed, both forms appear to coexist quite well among China’s ethnic minorities. Both have a contribution to make to good health. Both are part of globalisation, as defined in this book, because they exemplify the spread of global practices alongside the retention of local customs. Concrete medical improvements since 1949 include the control of major diseases such as plague and smallpox in the minority areas in the early years of the PRC. Life expectancy at birth in Ningxia rose from 30 before 1949 to 69 in 1998, the latter figure being just below the national average of about 70. In Tibet, life expectancy rose from 36 in 1959 to about 65 in 1998. Infant mortality in Tibet fell from about 43 per cent in 1959 to 3.7 per cent in 1998 (Information Office 1999: 24). One writer (Kwan 2001: 8) claims that by 2001 life expectancy in Tibet had risen to about 67. In the remote ethnic areas of Guizhou and Yunnan, among other provinces, life expectancy is almost certainly somewhat lower, probably no more than the low sixties. However, there are parts of Yunnan with better health, and I was told in an interview in Luxi, capital of the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, at the end of September 2000 that life expectancy in the prefecture was 68, with just over half the population members of ethnic minorities. The general reduction in poverty and rise in living standards since 1990 has probably meant that health standards have improved. China as a whole has gradually moved up the scale in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) measure of overall human development index (HDI), a figure measuring longevity, educational attainment and real gross domestic product per capita. Although the measure gives no specific place to health standards, the inclusion of longevity would suggest that a rise would point towards improved health standards. On the other hand, there seems little doubt that the ethnic minorities’ rate of improvement has been well below that of the country as a whole. Moreover, this section has taken no account of one catastrophic disease that is already spreading in China, including some of the minority areas, as part of a global pandemic, namely HIV/AIDS. There is some discussion of this frightful disease in the ethnic areas of Yunnan in Chapter 7.


The economies of the minorities

Poverty and poverty alleviation The very broad outline of poverty and its alleviation in China shows the following trends: ●

Poverty was greatly reduced between the beginning of the reform period in the late 1970s and the mid-1980s. From the mid-1980s, the adoption of what two scholars term a ‘coastal development strategy’ (Khan and Riskin 2001: 144) led to a fall in the rate at which rural poverty declined and an increase in the rate of urban poverty (Khan and Riskin 2001: 147). From the early 1990s the government was increasingly concerned by the incidence of poverty and in 1994 formalised a plan to eliminate absolute poverty by the year 2000 (UNDP 1997: 50). The result was that by 1998 the number of rural poor had halved by comparison with 1990. Although the official Chinese figures show much lower absolute figures than the World Bank estimates, both agree that the reduction was very substantial.1 Although absolute poverty persists as of 2002, its incidence is very much less than it was in the late 1970s, let alone in 1949.

Because poverty is very much more serious among the minorities than among the Han, the 1994 project to alleviate poverty gave a high priority to members of ethnic groups. This policy was translated into law in the 2001 amendments to the Law of the PRC on Regional National Autonomy. Article 69 stipulates that the state shall provide greater support to poverty-stricken ethnic areas ‘in the financial, monetary, material, technological and trained personnel fields’ with the aim of helping poor people there ‘shake off poverty as soon as possible’ (Zhonghua 2001: 65). There is no corresponding article in the 1984 Law. What this suggests is that, at least in policy terms, there was considerable advance in the 1990s in poverty alleviation among the minorities. Official figures reported to a conference of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission on 21 October 2001 and carried in a front-page article in People’s Daily (23 October 2001) claimed that large government investments and World Bank aid since 1994 had reduced the impoverished population in areas of ethnic poverty from 45 million in 1994 to 14 million in 1999. These figures are based on the Chinese government’s official boundary for what constitutes poverty and would certainly be much larger if the World Bank’s higher borderline were adopted. However, the sharp downward trend of poverty is perfectly credible. On a less positive note Director of the State Council’s Poverty Alleviation Office Lü Feijie revealed in a speech to the conference that among China’s total population suffering from absolute poverty, 36.5 per cent belonged to minority nationalities, who were only 8.41 per cent of China’s total population in 2000 (see Chapter 6).

The economies of the minorities 67 Lü explained the context of poverty among the minorities, including some reasons why it was so much worse than in the general population. He said: Natural disasters are frequent, and the ability to fight natural disasters and the hazards of the market is not very good. The annual rate of reversion to poverty is always above 15 per cent. Because local production and livelihood conditions are poor, outlays for consumption are quite high. Basic facilities are weak and there are still quite a few places without electricity or roads. Culture and education lag behind, and the level of social development is quite low. In some villages, proportions of illiteracy and semi-literacy among laborers go higher than 30 per cent. (People’s Daily, 23 October 2001) Another reason for the high incidence of poverty among the minorities is that many ethnic group members live on very poor land. In some areas they have been more or less hunted over many generations to poor, remote and infertile places deep in the mountains. According to the UNDP (1997: 50), most of the minorities ‘live in areas where the soil is too poor for even subsistence crop production, so they are net buyers of food and have been hit hard by higher prices’. The UNDP’s comment actually elaborates on the issue of what Lü Feijie calls ‘the hazards of the market’. Of course both the government and the World Bank are to be commended for their efforts in reducing poverty in the minority areas, and China’s record stands up well in international terms. However, the impact of globalisation may well leave behind those minority villages without the economic strength to compete. It is hardly surprising that even Lü acknowledges that such villages are net consumers. Poverty is very uneven throughout China, including among the minorities. There are minorities that are actually quite well off, the primary example being the Koreans, most of whom live in Jilin Province. There are also class divisions within the ethnic groups, just as there are among the great majority of peoples. However, the worst poverty in China is in the western regions and there is considerable overlap between the areas with the lowest standards of living and those that are home to minorities. Three province-level units show poverty in different ways. One is Yunnan, which of all China’s provinces had the highest number of rural poor people in 1996 (7.7 million), as well as the largest number of ethnic groups, accounting for over one-third of the total provincial population, according to the 1990 census (Economic and Development Department 2000: 434). Moreover, as many as 22.9 per cent of the total population was living in poverty (ADB and SPDC 2001: 5-4). Topography certainly does not help the elimination of poverty in Yunnan. It is extremely mountainous and many of the villages are very difficult of access, even in days when the infrastructure has greatly improved. Globalisation trends are likely to leave them behind. The province-level unit where the highest proportion of the population was poor in 1996 was Xinjiang (27.4 per cent, ADB and SPDC 2001: 5-4).


The economies of the minorities

There is, however, great variation in Xinjiang in poverty terms, with conditions being much better in the north than the south, where it is the great Taklamakan Desert that dominates the landscape and many people live in quite small oases. In my explorations in Xinjiang generally in the 1990s, I found housing to be quite good, even among the poor, or at least better than in provinces like Yunnan. On the other hand, the climate is very diverse, with very much wider variations between the cold and hot seasons than one finds in Yunnan. In addition, there is a very real political imperative in overcoming poverty in Xinjiang, because disparities in living standards and income between Han and members of minorities bear very directly and negatively on relations among different ethnic groups. Another area where poverty is potentially explosive politically is Tibet. Here again, poverty has been drastically reduced, but remains a serious problem. Daniel Kwan (2001: 8) cites Bureau of Tibetan Poverty-Relief Leading Group Director Zhao Xianzhong as claiming that there were 480,000 poor people in the TAR in 1994 but only 70,000 in 2001. However, his definition of the poverty line was special to Tibetan circumstances. A farmer who earns less than 600 yuan (about US$ 75) a year, or a herdsman less than 700 yuan a year, is considered poverty stricken. However, Zhao acknowledged that if the boundary were set at 1,300 yuan a year, then there were would be 1.2 million people below the poverty line in Tibet. It is worth pointing out in this context that 1,300 yuan per year works out at about US$ 0.45 per day, as against the US$ 1 per day that the World Bank takes as its boundary mark for poverty. Thus, although the government deserves credit for poverty alleviation since 1994, the fact is that those who have succeeded in escaping what the official line regards as poverty are still very poor. It is hardly surprising that many of those who have ‘shaken off ’ poverty revert to it when the markets shrink or the weather turns bad. Still, the figures do represent improvements. Moreover, other indicators suggest significant rises in the standard of living. As we saw earlier, life expectancy has risen greatly. The government continued to allocate significant funds to poverty alleviation in the early years of the century. Despite controversy over Han immigration, Daniel Kwan (2001: 8) remarks that they do at least show one advantage for Tibetans, because Han migrants ‘have opened businesses and provide job opportunities for locals’ in the towns, especially Lhasa. Income and standard of living inequalities An intensively researched study, based on surveys taken in 1988 and 1995, found that inequalities in China grew significantly over those years. Using the Gini ratio for measuring inequalities, which typically finds industrial economies at 0.30 – 0.40 and developing economies at greater than 0.40, the study found that the ratio rose from 0.34 to 0.42 for rural incomes and from 0.23 to 0.33 for urban incomes over those years (Khan and Riskin 2001: 144 –5). The authors associate both increases with the era of globalisation, adding that by 1995 they had made China ‘one of the more unequal of the Asian developing countries’, with inequality in

The economies of the minorities 69 income distribution greater than in countries like India, Pakistan or Indonesia (Khan and Riskin 2001: 49). In 1997 measurements of China’s HDI by province-level unit showed great inequalities by unit. The top six were Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangdong, Liaoning and Zhejiang in that order, the worst six being (from bottom to top) Tibet, Guizhou, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Ningxia (UNDP 1999: 96). What is striking in these figures is that the top six includes not a single province with a high minority population (despite a small number in Guangdong), whereas the bottom six are, without exception, all places with high or very high numbers of ethnic group members. The inevitable conclusion appears to be that in general the Han are much better off than the minorities. An interesting illustrative example is Xinjiang, which ranks about middle among all China’s province-level units. Unfortunately, the HDI measurements by province do not record differentiations within provinces. However, official figures for household consumption in 1999 show very significant differences between regions, with the centre and north of Xinjiang generally far better off than the south. The two highest districts, in terms of consumption levels in yuan, were Karamai (8,846 yuan) and Ürümqi (6,837 yuan), in the north and centre respectively, while the two lowest were both in the south and far west, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture (1,214 yuan) and Kashgar (1,225 yuan) (Liu et al. 2000: 236). What is striking here is that Karamai, a famous petroleum city in central north Xinjiang, and Ürümqi are dominantly Han in population, while Kizilsu’s people are over 90 per cent Uygur or Kirgiz and those of Kashgar are over 90 per cent Uygur.2 What this suggests is extensive disparities between Han and minorities. In other words, the case of Xinjiang bears out, rather than contradicts, the general pattern that economically the Han are doing better than the minorities. In the case of Tibet there are also significant disparities between Han and Tibetan. However, a recent study has shown that this is not primarily an ethnic issue. Rather it is due to a strong ‘urban bias’ operating in Tibet, and elsewhere. This favours Han over Tibetans, simply because in Tibet the Han live overwhelmingly in the cities, whereas Tibetans are predominantly rural. For instance, in 1990, 83.5 per cent of Tibetans in the TAR were peasants or nomads, but the comparable figure for permanently settled Han was only 3.4 per cent (Sautman and Eng 2001: 21–2, 47). There are also inequalities among the various minorities and within each of them. The Manchus, whose homes are mostly in Liaoning, Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin, the Mongolians, concentrated mainly in Inner Mongolia, and the Koreans are among the most prosperous of China’s ethnic groups. Figures for the rural parts of the ethnic autonomous areas for 1999 show Jilin with the highest per capita annual net income (2,226.85 yuan) among those provinces with significant minority populations. The main ethnic populations in Jilin are Koreans and Manchus. At the other end are Gansu (1,040.33 yuan) and Yunnan (1,227.69 yuan) (Economic and Development Department 2000: 542). The main minorities in Gansu’s ethnic autonomous places are Hui, Tibetans and Dongxiang, while Yunnan is the most multi-ethnic of all China’s province-level units.


The economies of the minorities

The main disparities within ethnic groups are still urban versus rural. The findings of Sautman and Eng with regard to the TAR almost certainly apply generally throughout the country, even if not necessarily to the same extent. It is much easier to get a prosperous life in the cities than in the countryside. Many minorities have done quite well in business and in the professions. There are preferential policies favouring the hiring and promotion of minorities that have allowed many members of the ethnic groups to rise in society (for instance, see Sautman 1998: 94–7). The great western development strategy The Chinese government has for a long time been very concerned about the inequalities within society, including those relating to ethnic minorities. Conferences have given thought to how to reduce the disparities, or at least to prevent them widening still further. There are political reasons for this, because the CCP knows full well that social instability could result if inequalities become too wide. These disparities were one of the reasons for a change in economic policy, designed to shift the emphasis of economic growth away from the eastern seaboard, which had been the focus of economic development since the mid1980s, and towards the West, counted as including all five autonomous regions, plus the provinces of Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu. In February 2000, the central government took a decision to launch a long-term strategy to overcome the relatively poor economic development of the western regions. The government set up a leading group chaired by Premier Zhu Rongji and consisting of numerous ministries. Called the Great Western Development Strategy, this programme is broad-ranging and ambitious, and aims to reduce the economic disparities by accelerating the rise of the vast areas that were previously backward. The strategy faces many problems. Among the most serious are the shortage of water in the western regions and the need to develop without inflicting further devastation on an already damaged environment. There are labour issues, and the fact that educational levels are lower in the western regions, which may necessitate migration of skilled technical personnel. In the minority areas that are of concern to this book, such immigration could well exacerbate ethnic tensions unless very careful preventative measures are taken. In my opinion, Chinese authorities have given a great deal of thought to how to implement the strategy. However, as this book goes to print, it is far too early to say what its eventual impact will be.

Tourism Since the 1990s, ethnic tourism has expanded enormously in China. For a start the China Folk Culture Villages (Zhongguo minsu wenhua cun) in Shenzhen was opened in October 1991. Although this is actually in a Han area, it illustrates minority customs through showing off real minority people in a large park, together with their villages, clothes and performances. It is a ‘theme park’ based on the minority nationalities, rather like the many theme parks that have sprung up in many parts of China and other countries.

The economies of the minorities 71 What is even more important is the fact that many ethnic areas have opened up to tourism, both foreign and domestic. A large number of cities in ethnic areas that were formerly regarded as completely inaccessible to foreigners no longer require special permits and even those that do are much easier to get to than they used to be. Many members of the minorities have begun to cater for the tourists, both domestic and international. Some ethnic villages have made themselves into ‘theme parks’, hoping to attract tourists and make more money than they had ever been able to accumulate before. Tourism mushroomed in Yunnan and Guizhou. As we have seen in Chapter 3, Tibet was very tense politically as the 1990s dawned, but it still put a great deal of effort into tourism, and the Tibetans responded enthusiastically. Xinjiang has also seen a rapid expanse of tourism, although the political situation has inhibited even faster growth. The growth in tourism is corroborated by various figures. In Tibet the number of foreign tourists reached a peak of about 43,500 in 1987, but then experienced a very significant decline in the following years, owing to the political troubles in Lhasa and elsewhere and the restrictions imposed by authorities on travel to Tibet. However, there was a recovery in the early 1990s (Duojie et al. 1995: 535–6) and by the year 1999 the number of foreign tourists in Tibet had gone up to 100,800 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 528). The total number of tourists in 2000, including domestic travellers, was estimated at about 500,000 (‘Tibet’ 2000: 29). In Xinjiang the number of international and domestic tourists rose, respectively, from 79,833 and 1,672,200 in 1990 to 223,829 and 6,946,000 in 1999, while the cash inflow from international tourists rose from US$ 12,120,000 in 1990 to US$ 85,820,000 in 1999, with every year showing increases despite the political tensions (Liu et al. 2000: 594–5). The main ethnic provinces of China, especially Yunnan, show similar patterns of increase since the early 1990s in the numbers of both foreign and domestic tourists (for instance, see Wen and Tisdell 2001: 213, 231–3). Ethnic areas may have more to offer tourists than ethnic culture. There is spectacularly beautiful scenery in many ethnic areas. Ecotourism has become very fashionable worldwide since the late years of the twentieth century, and in some ethnic areas there are natural phenomena that are worth seeing and preserving. One scholar (Wen in Wen and Tisdell 2001: 229) surveyed over 100 tourists at Jinghong airport in 1995 to find out their rankings of the attractions of Sipsong panna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. She found that ethnic culture was most highly ranked, and that is significant, given that Sipsong panna boasts magnificent nature reserves and tropical forests and gorgeous scenery as well as being home to the Dai ethnic group. The acceleration of tourism since about 1990 has played a variety of roles among China’s ethnic minorities, some of them positive, some negative. It has gone hand in hand with a major development of the infrastructure of the ethnic areas. To take but one example, there may still be bottlenecks in the tourist routes of Yunnan (Wen and Tisdell 2001: 235) but tourism has led to the establishment of airports and air routes throughout Yunnan, so that it is now possible to reach in an hour or two ethnic areas that formerly required days or even weeks of arduous


The economies of the minorities

travel. Tourism requires reasonably comfortable buses that make it pleasant to visit the ethnic areas. This has been a major factor encouraging the Yunnan authorities to invest money and effort into improving the roads. Hotels have sprung up all over China, far more in the provinces along the eastern seaboard than elsewhere. Yet, the ethnic areas have also seen a mushrooming of tourist hotels. Table 4.3 shows the number of tourist hotels in 3 years in the province-level units where minorities are most important. Based on very extensive experience of staying in hotels of this sort over the years, I add that they have not only increased in number but also improved in quality and standards of service and comfort. What is important about infrastructure and service points like hotels is that they are available not only to tourists but to other people as well. Like counterparts in other countries, the great majority of the hotels provide meeting rooms, shops and restaurants as well as accommodation. People travel not only for leisure and tourist purposes, but also for business and work. More and more, Chinese travellers are demanding comfortable hotels, just like foreigners. It is true that there are still very bad hotels in China, but gone are the days when one assumed that while foreigners needed reasonably comfortable accommodation, Chinese were prepared to slum it. Overall, tourism has undoubtedly contributed to the modernisation and globalisation of the minorities. However, modernisation and globalisation both have their complexities. In his study of selected ethnic areas of Guizhou Province, Tim Oakes (1998: 229) has dubbed what has developed a ‘false modernity’. His basic reason is the serious contradiction between, on the one hand, trying to preserve ethnic cultures and, on the other, undermining them through cultural and economic development (Oakes 1998: 186–7). Oakes hints at a series of important and interesting questions. Is modernity necessarily desirable? What does it do to cultures, especially ethnic cultures? Does it matter if ethnic cultures disappear, as long as the minorities themselves are happy for this to happen? Table 4.3 Tourist hotels in selected provinces Province-level unit




Guangxi Guizhou Yunnan Tibet Qinghai Ningxia Xinjiang

57 13 40 12 7 13 49

95 38 138 23 10 17 79

190 48a 234a 65 15 37 176

Sources: SSB 1992: 649; SSB 1996: 606; NBS 1999: 612; NBS 2000: 628. Note a 1998 Figure.

The economies of the minorities 73 The establishment of ethnic villages as ‘theme parks’ commercialises ethnic culture. I visited an ethnic village of Li and Miao people in the centre of Hainan Province in January 2000. Set up specifically for tourists, one paid to enter and was shown the customs of the Li and Miao, such as their wedding practices, their courtship rituals, their religious ceremonies. Amateurs from the village put on a performance of local ethnic songs and dances. Of course all the people wore their ‘native’ costumes and everything was made to seem ‘authentic’. The people sold their ethnic clothes and commodities in a special shop and on the streets of the village. The ethnic culture demonstrated in such theme parks is false in the sense that it is a deliberate construction for tourists. Probably it has some relation with the authentic cultural practices that once obtained in the village, but it has been torn from its social roots and in that sense is more like a museum than an authentic ethnic village. On the other hand, it may be that the ethnic cultures are going to succumb to modernisation anyway, because they are not in accord with the global processes of development that are sweeping the planet, and especially China. In that case, the display of culture does indeed help it to survive, because it gives it a new reason for existence, namely to make money. And does the fact that it is like a museum make it bad? And one could reasonably ask, is this commercialisation such a bad thing if it helps raise the living standards of the people? There can be no doubt that tourism brings in a great deal of money. But for whom? In my observation, the minority people themselves get some of this money. But there is very little doubt that minority elites get more than ordinary people, that representatives of the Han-dominated state get more than minority elites, that private entrepreneurs in such cities as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney get much more than the Chinese tourist agents who arrange travel to the ethnic areas. I suspect that almost everybody benefits, but some benefit far more than others. It also has to be remembered that tourism can very readily spread social ills, and is certainly already doing so. Tourism gives opportunities for profit-making through prostitution and drugs, and can contribute to the spread of AIDS and other diseases. The effects such ills create on ethnic societies are obviously harmful and may turn out to be very extensive over the coming decades. On the other hand, the rising prosperity that tourism helps bring may also raise standards of medicine and health and the education that can help prevent AIDS. My own view is that, despite the seriousness of such evils, the positive impact of tourism outweighs the negative. My explorations leave me in no doubt that the minorities want tourism, because they believe – correctly – that it will raise their standard of living. I suspect that it is impossible to reverse the tide of tourism, just as one cannot reverse the globalisation of which tourism is an important part. However, it may be possible to take remedial measures that can reduce the damaging effects of tourism on the ethnic societies of China. I believe, for instance, that the minorities themselves should be given more control over the tourism of their area than is currently the case. And that implies training far more members of minorities in the hospitality industries, itself requiring a significant investment


The economies of the minorities

in education. Such measures have been tried in other countries. They may not solve all the problems. But they do give the minorities themselves more ‘ownership’ and control over the tourism that affects them most directly.

Foreign trade and Central Asia We turn now to another aspect of the economy with ramifications in foreign relations, namely foreign trade. In terms of value the minority autonomous areas account only for a minute proportion of China’s total foreign trade. However, combined exports and imports from the ethnic autonomous areas have risen very substantially since the early 1990s, reaching US$ 6,219 million in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 528). Tibet’s foreign trade rose from about US$ 100 million in 1994 (Shakya 1999: 436) to US$ 166.45 million in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 528). Much of the foreign trade is undertaken across international borders. Examples of this include Guangxi’s trade with northern Vietnam and that of Inner Mongolia with Mongolia. In 1999 Guangxi and Inner Mongolia were among the largest of the ethnic autonomous areas in terms of their trade with foreign countries. The single best-represented province-level unit in the foreign trade of China’s ethnic autonomous areas is Xinjiang, with the value growing from about US$ 1,400 million in 1996 to US$ 1,765 million (or 28.4 per cent of the total) in 1999 (Economic and Development Department 2000: 528). In both years neighbouring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were the best represented foreign countries, the former taking up 17.5 per cent of the total and the latter 10.7 per cent (XUAR 1998: 238). By 1999, however, the proportions of the trade had shifted very sharply, with Kazakhstan accounting for 52.4 per cent of Xinjiang’s foreign trade, but Kyrgyzstan only 7.5 per cent. In 1999, the largest single export commodity, in terms of value, was cotton products, while the largest import was steel products (Liu et al. 2000: 58–7). Early in 2002 sources in Kazakhstan reported the beginning of the development of a copper deposit in Xinjiang, signalling competition with Kazakhstan’s copper industry and an increase in China’s already powerful position in the Central Asian economies. One Kazakh observer wrote in April 2002 of expectations that other Xinjiang activities aimed at strengthening China’s economic impact in Central Asia would include ‘laying transport roads and railway routes from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to China and introducing its financial organizations in the region’ (Serov 2002). Possibly the most important commodities in Xinjiang’s imports from Central Asia in strategic and economic terms are those related to energy, such as gas, petroleum and coal. In the 1990s China began for the first time to play a major role in world energy diplomacy. At the same time the Central Asian region has grown greatly in importance as a world supplier of energy, especially in the oil and gas sectors. China’s economy has long been heavily dependent on coal, and produces most of what it needs itself. On the other hand, its oil and gas reserves ‘are modest by comparison to the potential future domestic demand for these sources of energy’ (Andrews-Speed and Vinogradov 2000: 385).

The economies of the minorities 75 As discussed in more detail in Chapter 7, China has already moved to strengthen its relationships with the countries of Central Asia, notably with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Economic and strategic factors are strongly interwoven in these multifaceted relationships, which for various reasons have grown in complexity since the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. For some time China has been keen to build gas and oil pipelines that would involve it more closely in the energy trade network of the Central Asian region. It has undertaken active negotiations for a pipeline that would facilitate the movement of oil from the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan to Xinjiang and for several gas pipelines as well. There are conflicting interests, and the United States is also actively involved and keen to expand its economic power in the region. The world’s only remaining superpower has also used the 11 September 2001 incidents as a mechanism for increasing its military and strategic power in Central Asia. However, there seems little doubt that at the beginning of the twenty-first century China ‘is set to become one of the world’s major importers of both oil and natural gas’ (Andrews-Speed and Vinogradov 2000: 388). The impact in terms of globalisation is potentially very significant not only for China but for the world. Already its influence in Central Asia is greater than at any time in recent history. With the onset of war in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 incidents, the energy and strategic diplomacy is likely to undergo change, with the growth of the American presence in Central Asia. China is likely to wish to reduce its oil dependence on the Middle East and on the United States as a way of enhancing its long-term oil security. This means that the extent of China’s economic dealings in the region is sure to grow and the process of globalisation to intensify, especially with China a member of the WTO.

Conclusion China’s economic performance in the ethnic areas has been reasonably successful, but has by no means been free of problems. It has seen prosperity of a kind probably never seen before in history in some areas, and general rises in the standard of living. The infrastructure has improved, economic growth has been impressive and tourism has generally added to lifestyle variety as well as contributing to prosperity. Absolute poverty is much less widespread than it used to be. On the other hand, the problems have not gone away, in some cases the very successes producing new ills. Inequalities have worsened. Tourism has contributed towards non-trivial social problems. Poverty has demonstrated a remarkable tenacity, remaining very serious in some places and generally more serious in the ethnic areas than in the country as a whole. Tuberculosis, once thought eradicated, has raised its head again. This chapter has focused mainly on Xinjiang and Tibet, with far fewer references to the many other minority areas in China. The reason for this is because it is these two regions that remain most controversial and difficult for the Chinese authorities. The other ethnic areas may have their problems, but in general seem quite happy to become integrated into China. One specialist (Palmer 1997: 284)


The economies of the minorities

claims that the ethnic areas are demanding more central government involvement in their affairs, especially economic affairs, because they believe that opens the way towards better sharing in the growing prosperity of China as a whole. The Chinese government’s policy is that economic development is the best way to solve political problems of separatism. On the whole it is probably right. But in the case of Xinjiang the evidence is very mixed, and at the end of the twentieth century seemed to be pointing more towards social disharmony and resentment than integration. The aftermath of the 11 September terror attacks in New York and Washington may change that situation, but there is no guarantee at all of that. There are elements of globalisation in the economic experience of the ethnic areas of China since the early 1990s. Paramount among these is the rise of oil and gas diplomacy that is linking China to countries further west in an area of crucial importance to all of the world’s main economies. But one can also identify several other major aspects of the world economy, such as tourism and the transfer of goods in international markets. And it is remarkable that for the first time a railway traverses China’s ethnic regions to link its eastern seaboard with Europe. And there are also important negative globalisation influences visible in the experience of China’s ethnic minorities since the early 1990s, such as drugs and certain diseases. Economic modernisation and globalisation have probably weakened cultural differences among the minorities. But they have certainly not destroyed them. The survival, even strengthening, of traditional medicines, which coexist with more modern counterparts, bears witness to this suggestion. Economic growth might even reinforce patterns of traditional lifestyle in the usage of crops and certain types of animals, which can become very closely linked with particular ethnic cultures. The economy might be more intolerant of difference than those other factors considered in this book, but its homogenising impact in China’s ethnic areas is very far from complete.


Plate 1 A statue of Mao Zedong in the central square of Kashgar, a Uygur city in the far southwest of Xinjiang. During the Cultural Revolution there were many statues of Mao like this one throughout China. Most have now been taken down, but this one remains. Taken in June 1999.


Plate 2 A Miao courtship dance at the Folk Customs Cultural Villages, which is a major tourist attraction in Shenzhen, a modern city very near Hong Kong. Traditionally, young Miao men play reedpipes to court ‘counterparts’, that is young women. Although the custom is still alive in some Miao areas today, the picture shows a performance put on for tourists. A modern building can be seen in the background. Taken in January 1993.

Plate 3 A Uygur performance by a professional song-and-dance company put on for tourists in Turpan, Xinjiang. The site is a space covered with traditional Uygur grape vines in the grounds of one of the main tourist hotels in Turpan. Many song-and-dance companies in China nowadays make most of their money through performing specially for tourists.

Plate 4 Mongolian dance in a restaurant in Beijing. The girls are in traditional Mongolian dress and probably most of them are Mongolians, but there is no guarantee of that. Taken in June 2001.

Plate 5 Open-air vegetable market in Menglun, Sipsong panna, Yunnan Province, not very far from the border with Myanmar. The vendors are Dai. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 6 This back street scene in Kashgar, southwestern Xinjiang, shows the old-fashioned method of donkey-drawn cart is still very much alive. Taken in October 1994.

Plate 7 A Uygur carpet-selling family in the main market of Ürümqi, capital of Xinjiang. The Uygurs are famous for their beautiful carpets, which belong more to the wall than to the floor. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 8 Uygur food stall in Kashgar. Taken in October 1994.

Plate 9 Uygur sellers of eggs in a market in Kashgar. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 10 Hardware stall in Kashgar, June 1999.

Plate 11 Uygur sellers of Uygur hats in a free market in Kashgar, June 1999.

Plate 12 Free animal market in Kashgar, June 1999. Mutton is eaten widely among the Uygurs, but as Muslims they do not eat pork under any circumstances. Sheep are useful for various other purposes as well.


Plate 13 A view of the Kumbum Monastery, which the Chinese call Taer Temple, near Xining, Qinghai Province. This is one of the most important of all Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Although it has become a tourist attraction, it still has an active religious life, with over 700 monks. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 14 A scene at the entrance of the Kumbum Monastery. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 15 A view of the Labrang Monastery, Gansu Province, one of the most important of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 16 Young monks at the Labrang Monastery. It is still very common for Tibetan boys to enter monasteries, and several I met at the Labrang Monastery told me they had been only 13 when they entered, and some had come in when considerably younger. Nowadays they are supposed to make a free choice when they reach adulthood to decide whether to return to lay life or stay in the monastery for the rest of their lives. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 17 A Tibetan Buddhist monk trains his disciple in the traditional arts at the Labrang monastery. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 18 The head monk of the Red Sect of Tibetan Buddhism with his daughter at the Labrang Monastery. Taken in July 1995. The main sect of Tibetan Buddhism is often known as the Yellow Sect and monks remain celibate all their lives. On the other hand, the monks of the Red Sect, who are far less numerous than those of the Yellow Sect, are allowed to marry.

Plate 19 Four Tibetan boys at the Red Sect Monastery attached to the great Labrang Monastery. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 20 A temple in a village of the Tu nationality in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County not far from Xining, Qinghai Province. The Tu are quite distinct linguistically and ethnically from the Tibetans, but practise Tibetan Buddhism. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 21 Two Tu women bowing down in reverence to the Buddha at the temple in the village in Huzhu, Qinghai Province. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 22 Young Tibetan women prepare to perform a ritual dance at a religious festival gathering in Maba Village, Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. The festival saw thousands of people, almost all Tibetans, come from all around the region to take part, some walking quite long distances. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 23 A young male participant in the Tibetan religious festival. One of the leaders of the festival has stuck a long pin through the young man’s cheek, a kind of sacrifice to the gods through the pain it inflicted.

Plate 24 Vultures come to eat a corpse at a ‘sky burial’, the most normal form of disposal for the common people in Tibet. The undertaker dissects the corpse from the back, cutting the flesh into small pieces. He also crushes the bones, feeding the entire corpse to the vultures. Taken by Tama Furuno at the Langmu Monastery outside a Tibetan village in central western Sichuan Province in May 2001.

Plate 25 A Tibetan monk chants sutras as the vultures consume the corpse in the background. Taken by Tama Furuno at the Langmu Monastery in central western Sichuan in May 2001.

Plate 26 A general view of the Tibetan village outside which the Langmu Monastery is situated. Taken by Tama Furuno in May 2001.

Plate 27 The Bodhi Temple in Mangshi, capital of the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, in far southwestern Yunnan just on the border with Myanmar. This is the oldest temple in the city, dating from the first half of the nineteenth century. Although it is the headquarters of the local Buddhist Association, there are only four monks living there. Taken in October 2000.

Plate 28 A Theravada Buddhist temple attached to a small Dai village in Sipsong panna called Jingmengyuan, set in mountains in the extreme south of Yunnan Province. Approximately every second village in Sipsong panna has its own temple and all are still used for celebrations, festivals and worship. However, some of them, such as the one in the picture, have no resident monks to look after them. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 29 Another view of the Theravada Buddhist temple above Jingmengyuan village. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 30 The long flight of stairs leading from the village up to the village temple, long dragons sculpted on either side of the staircase. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 31 Three old men look after the Wuyun Temple in Mangshi, Dehong, Yunnan Province. There are no monks resident here, but the temple functions quite actively and is well maintained. The statue of the Buddha is visible in the background between two of the men. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 32 Boy monks playing cards in a temple outside Ruili, Yunnan Province, a few minutes drive from the border with Myanmar. It is quite common for young Dai boys to become monks and live in the temple for a period. In this particular temple, built in 1983, there were eighteen monks, including twelve young boys. Taken in October 2000.

Plate 33 The main entrance of the great Idkah Mosque in Kashgar, southwest Xinjiang, which is the largest mosque in China. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 34 Scholars and worshippers inside the grounds of the Idkah Mosque, Kashgar. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 35 The courtyard in front of the old mosque in Yarkand, southwestern Xinjiang, with the complex of old buildings that include the tomb of the famous Uygur female musician Amanisahan (1526–1560). The mosque itself dates from 1533. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 36 Uygur worshippers in the old Yarkand mosque. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 37 The main mosque in Guanghe County town, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. Taken in July 1995.


Plate 38 A class in the Koran and Arabic language in the mosque in Guanghe County. The children stay there all day during their vacation from their secular education, their parents thinking it necessary for them to have grounding in their Islamic religion and in the language in which the Koran was originally written. Taken in July 1995.

Plate 39 Children at a secondary school for nationalities in Jinghong, capital of Sipsong panna, Yunnan Province. There are nearly 1,000 students here, about four-fifths of them belonging to the Dai and other minority nationalities. One of the students in the front row is a boy monk, wearing the traditional saffron robe. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 40 A Buddhist pagoda in Mangshi, Dehong, Yunnan Province. The special feature of the pagoda, which is covered with Buddhist images, is that there is a large bodhi tree growing out of it in such a way that the two seem inextricably linked. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 41 The picture shows the same bodhi tree, which is in the grounds of a primary school. Just beside it is a map of China. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 42 Teachers at the Aimudla Primary School in Turpan, Xinjiang. The School was established with money from local people. Aimudla, the old man in the centre of the picture, donated 80,000 yuan, by far the highest of any contributor, which is why the school is named after him. The school is for Uygur children and all the ten teachers are Uygurs. The main signs are first in Uygur and then in Chinese. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 43 A class prepares to give a performance at a school in the back streets of Kashgar, their teacher giving them last-minute instructions. Taken in October 1994.

Family and women

Plate 44 A Dai woman with a small child on her back. This street is a few minutes drive from the border with Myanmar. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 45 Girl with a baby on her back, taken in a Zhuang village in Guangxi in January 1992.

Plate 46 Girl with a baby on her back, taken in a Zhuang village in Guangxi in January 1992.

Plate 47 Two young Yao women in national clothes, taken in a Yao village near Jinxiu, Guangxi, in January 1992. The women put on their national clothes especially for the photograph. However, in general minority women wear their national clothes more than do men.

Plate 48 Older Yao woman in a Yao village near Jinxiu, Guangxi, taken in January 1992.

Plate 49 A group of Tu women and children, in a Tu village in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County, Qinghai. Two of the women are in their national dress, because this was a festival day. Taken in June 1995.

Plate 50 The back view of a Tibetan woman in a remote Tibetan village. Older Tibetans are far more insistent on wearing their national clothes than are most of China’s minorities nowadays. Although this applies to people of both genders, it is even more the case with women than with men. Taken by Miss Tama Furuno in Jiangda County, eastern Tibet in May 2001.

Plate 51 Two young Tibetans who have come as onlookers to a religious dance festival. Taken in Maba, Qinghai Province, in July 1995. They have dressed up well, and the one on the right has traditional Tibetan beads. But many young Tibetans are less enthusiastic about wearing the traditional clothing than their elders.

Plate 52 A young Hui (Muslim) couple having tea at a restaurant. The young man was 22 years old, and his wife was 17 at the time the picture was taken in July 1995, and they had already been married a few months. It is against the law for a girl to marry so young, but there are special exemptions for minorities. She wears the black veil of a married woman, even though she looks rather like a child.

Plate 53 People resting and chatting near the Idkah Mosque. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 54 A group of women near the Idkah Mosque. Some women wear veils that cover the entire head, including the eyes, especially when there are men about. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 55 A group of women and children in the back streets of Kashgar. The women wear head scarves but when they are near home they see no need to wear the veil. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 56 Kazaks in their yurt in the Baiyangou region of Xinjiang, near the capital Ürümqi. They are a man and wife, the woman on the right being the wife’s friend. Yurts are like large tents. They are mobile and enable the family to move to a different place depending on the needs of the season. On the other hand, they can be quite comfortable, as this one appears to be. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 57 Women and children in a Uygur village near Gulja (Yining in Chinese), which is in the far northwest of Xinjiang, near the border with Kazakhstan. The children all belong to the family of the woman with the small boy on her lap. In all she had nine children. Families of that size are fairly common among rural Uygurs. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 58 Six Uygur girls of a nine-child family in a village outside Khotan, southwest Xinjiang. One of the oldest brothers was training for the Muslim clergy. Taken in June 1999.

Plate 59 Abdulla Tursun, an ancient Uygur man living outside Khotan who claimed to be 115 years old when this picture was taken in June 1999. There is no way to check the accuracy of his claim, but the Pamir region is known for longevity. When I met him, Abdulla Tursun was quite able to walk without a walking stick and carried on a conversation quite readily.

Plate 60 A mulberry-paper producing Uygur family in Khotan. Production of mulberry paper is an ancient craft among the Uygurs, but is dying out now with the onset of modernisation. The manager of the factory is the man on the right. The young woman at the back and on the left is 18 and the daughter of the manager. Despite her youth and beauty, she had already endured much suffering. Her father had introduced her to a young man whom she married but who beat her, as a result of which she soon divorced him. Divorce is very common and easily obtained in southern Xinjiang. Traditionally, it is the man who asks for divorce, but this case shows that the woman readily does so in the present age. She had already had a child, who died of sickness. Taken in June 1999.

International relations

Plate 61 A young Dai boy playing table tennis at a school in a village on the road between Jinghong and Menglun, in Sipsong panna, Yunnan Province. Note that he has a T-shirt with the word Thailand written across it. The Dai are closely related culturally and ethnically with the Thais of Thailand and there is a great deal of good will towards Thailand among the Dai, especially Xishuang banna. Taken in September 2000.


Plate 62 Zhuang village scene in Guangxi. Taken in January 1992.

Plate 63 Newly built meeting hall, also usable as a stage for performances, in a Dong village in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County in northern Guangxi. Taken in January 1992.

Plate 64 Entrance to a Dong village in Sanjiang, Guangxi. Taken in January 1992.

Plate 65 The wind-and-rain bridge is a traditional feature of Dong architecture. These wind-and-rain bridges are covered and, apart from their beauty, very useful for a variety of social purposes. People hold meetings there, court, or chat. And they can also be used for performances. Taken in January 1992 in a Dong village of Sanjiang, Guangxi.

Plate 66 A wind-and-rain bridge in a Dong village in Sanjiang, Guangxi. Taken in January 1992.

Plate 67 People, mainly Dai, crowd for an outing near Mangshi in Dehong, Yunnan. The outing is the Dragon Boat Race of the Mangshi District. Although this is not a specifically Dai festival, they take it very seriously and dress up in their best clothes for it. Taken in October 2000.

Plate 68 Dai participants at the Dragon Boat Race of the Mangshi District. The older women have more traditional headgear and clothing than the younger couple or the children. Taken in October 2000.

Plate 69 General view of a Dai village in Sipsong panna. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 70 General view of a Dai village in Sipsong panna. Taken in September 2000.

Plate 71 A general view of the town of Fenghuang in far west Hunan Province, a Miao and Tujia region. This town is known for its traditional remnants and charm. Taken in February 1992.

Plate 72 A performance of a traditional nuo drama on a very old stage built in very traditional style in Fenghuang, western Hunan. Nuo drama is still popular among some of the minorities, including the Tujia and Miao. Taken in February 1992.


The realm of the mind, religion and education

Early in 1992 Deng Xiaoping made a much publicised ‘journey to the south’. It was intended to revitalise policies of economic reform throughout China, and it succeeded brilliantly. It also led on to a period of unprecedented get-rich-quick mentality, which has survived into the twenty-first century. Few people outside the CCP were any longer concerned about socialist ideology. Within the CCP corruption continued to worsen, even at the highest levels, despite serious official attempts to prevent the trend. Of course CCP leaders worried desperately about these trends, fearing that they could lead to the Party’s overthrow in an age where ruling Marxist parties had lost power and gone out of fashion almost everywhere in the world. In October 1996, a full meeting of the CCP’s Central Committee discussed the issues, determining to find ways of reviving ‘socialist ethics’ through education and law. The Plenum still placed great emphasis on economic advance and on patriotism, and of course on Marxism. It also made moral demands, such as: to foster among all the people the spirit of serving the people and of collectivism, advocate respect and care of the people, loving the collective, caring for public benefits, assistance for those in need, or in trouble, performing more good deeds for the people and society, and oppose and resist the worship of money, hedonism and individualism. (‘Resolution’ 1996: 25–6) The actual impact on society of declarations of this kind has not been enormous. What is striking, however, is recognition at the highest level of just how serious the problem of moral decay is in the reformed China.

Religion To a large extent religion and comparable movements have filled the spiritual vacuum that has come along with the sharp decline in popular faith in socialist ideology since the mid- to late 1970s. Traditional religions of all kinds have revived. The CCP has permitted this, although as an atheist organisation it does not like it. It has, however, continued to rail against superstition and to demand some control over approved religious bodies. In particular, it has been as keen as ever to suppress any religious or quasi-religious activities it sees as threatening its own grip on power.


The mind, religion and education

The best illustrative example has been its suppression of the Falungong, mentioned in Chapter 1. The fact that the Falungong leader, Li Hongzhi, was a Chinese living in New York and hence outside PRC authority was a determining factor in the CCP’s anxiety over the Falungong, because it raised visions of a movement controlled from overseas bent on stirring up social instability in China itself. Chinese authorities have always been particularly resentful of Chinese who shelter under foreign citizenship or protection to harm what they see as Chinese interests, and it is my strong impression that ordinary Chinese do not care much for such people either. Since the banning order, the CCP has waged an unremitting struggle against the Falungong, condemning it as ‘an evil cult’ (xiejiao), which has even induced death and suicide among its practitioners. At the same time, the campaign against the Falungong has brought the CCP and Chinese government themselves under severe international criticism for persecution of religion, with accusations that the anti-Falungong campaign has itself led to torture, beatings and deaths. Some background Among those people to whom religion matters most in China many belong to minority nationalities. It seems to me a valid generalisation to claim that, by and large, the minorities are very much more religious both in belief and practice than are the Han, and this is especially so following the secularising influences of the twentieth century. The following observations written by a scholar at the Institute for Research on Religion of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences conform to my own views based on various explorations in minority areas of China since the early 1980s. He begins by emphasising that since the proportion of believers among the ethnic minorities ranges from fairly high to almost 100 per cent, one must regard religion as having a ‘mass nature’. Religious beliefs, minority group feelings, and customs are integrated into an organic whole among these national minorities. Religion sets the norms for their core culture and morality. … Today, while the situation of all religious believers has undergone certain changes, the fact is that religion and the national minorities are still intimately related. We must respect and take seriously their religious beliefs, or else it will affect the unity of the national minorities. (Luo 1991: 11) Religion affects all kinds of matters of lifestyle, including diet, festivals and marriage. The most famous aspect of the way in which religion impacts on diet is the Muslim prohibition of pork, the Koran specifically forbidding Muslims to eat ‘carrion, blood, and the flesh of swine’ (Koran 1995: 106). Shrines are found in the houses of most minorities I have visited, even those which are not especially committed religiously. When the CCP came to power in 1949 it first adopted the policy of toleration of religion, and freedom of religion was formally incorporated into the 1954

The mind, religion and education


Constitution. The CCP also set up various bodies to control religion, an early example being the China Islamic Association (Zhongguo Yisilanjiao xiehui), established in July 1952. However, during the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, Mao Zedong had minorities’ religions banned as harmful feudal remnants, with absolutely disastrous results, temples, mosques and churches being destroyed and clergy forced to return to lay life. The negation of the Cultural Revolution followed quickly on the heels of Mao’s death in 1976, with religions of all kinds soon reviving, including those of the minorities.1 The 1982 Constitution, still in force at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, includes freedom of religion. It also prohibits any religious body from being subject to foreign domination and declares that no person may ‘make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the State’ (Article 36 in ‘Constitution of PRC’ 2000: 7). The 1980s were a generally very positive period for religion in China. The aftermath of the Cultural Revolution witnessed great expansion and revival, like a wilting flower after watering. However, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw several events in Tibet and Xinjiang the effect of which was to make the CCP much more cautious about any kind of religion with foreign connections, and more condemnatory of any activities which threatened the state and CCP rule. These included independence demonstrations in Tibet in 1987, 1988 and 1989 and the Akto rebellion of April 1990 in Xinjiang, all discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. The more cautious view finds expression in an official account of religion written mainly by Gong Xuezeng with the express purpose of guiding CCP and government cadres in the treatment of religion (Gong 1999: 1). Originally published in December 1997 it was written very specifically in the shadow of the CCP Central Committee’s Plenum on reviving socialist ethics of October 1996 mentioned above. It proved important enough to go to a second edition as early as July 1999. In the section on religion among the minorities, Gong insists on the enormous importance of handling religion among minorities carefully and humanely, and allowing them the freedom of religious belief and practice so crucial to their lifestyle. This policy gains in importance from the fact that the majority of those most strongly committed to religious belief and practice live near borders. As a result they have the potential either to disturb or consolidate Chinese unity (Gong 1999: 304–5). Gong Xuezeng has a section on what he calls ‘new circumstances and new problems’ in religion in the minority areas (Gong 1999: 306–8). There are altogether seven of these, of which the first two are the most important and worth quoting directly for what they show about the globalising trends in minorities’ religion since the last decade or so of the twentieth century. Firstly, the infiltration activities of hostile external powers using religion in the minority areas are getting more intense day by day. They are using broadcasts to carry on missionary work over the airwaves. They are secretly bringing illegal religion propaganda items into the Chinese mainland. They


The mind, religion and education are taking the opportunity provided by tourists or people visiting relations and friends to indulge in missionary preaching, to find converts and win over our religious groups to their side with money. They are making use of economic, technical, cultural, educational, and other exchanges and cooperation for missionary activities. They are recruiting religious overseas students, and roping into their cause Chinese who go abroad to see relatives, for a pilgrimage or for trade. Secondly, national splittists are using religion to destroy the unity of the motherland and of its nationalities. They focus on the Dalai Lama’s clique to unfurl the banner of religion in an attempt to bring about the independence of Tibet. Splittists both inside Xinjiang and outside are using religion as a cover for trying to destroy the unity of the nationalities and of the motherland. (Gong 1999: 307)

The mention of tourists and educational or commercial exchange is particularly interesting. In Lhasa and other Tibetan areas, I have met quite a few tourists very enthusiastic to transmit information about the independence struggle from abroad to Tibet and vice versa. They are also keen to buy pictures of the Dalai Lama for local Tibetans; until this practice was banned in 1996 there were special shops where these pictures could be bought or reproduced very easily. In the Korean areas of China, it is no secret that Koreans from South Korea coming to see relations or for business bring in money to subsidise Christian activities. I have personally met several American teachers in minority areas of China who were quite open that their real purpose in coming to teach in China was to spread Christianity. There is a bit more discussion below on the charge against people who use religion as a cover to bring about the secession of Tibet or Xinjiang. What is most striking is that the people whom Gong attacks with his rather provocative language have a totally different attitude from the Chinese authorities. Christian teachers or businesspeople believe they are doing very valuable and virtuous work in trying to spread Christianity. Supporters of Tibetan independence take pride in doing what they can to help their cause. But for the Chinese authorities, with their very different interests and values, it is nothing short of criminal to attempt to overturn the rule of the CCP and throw the country into turmoil. This may be a question of religious freedom for foreigners who observe or visit China; for the Chinese authorities it has nothing to do with religious freedom but everything to do with politics. There is a linkage here with Chinese political tradition, which has always been secular in the sense that it does not allow clerics to hold state power. Probably none of the great world traditions has placed such weight on this kind of secular government as the Confucian, on which Han Chinese political culture is based. This contrasts strikingly with pre-modern Christian civilisation, as well as with several religious and ethnic traditions in China itself, which exemplify religious governance. Perhaps the best illustration is Tibet, where the Dalai Lama was both the spiritual and political leader and ruler. On the other hand, one of the main trends in the modernisation process beginning late in the eighteenth century was

The mind, religion and education


to reduce the power of clergies and of religion in politics. In the United States and elsewhere, a major legal issue was to keep the state and religion apart, with many jurists believing that the state should never favour one religion over another, let alone fund religious activities. An interesting issue in China in the relationship between politics and religion since the 1980s has been in membership of the CCP. Can a religious believer belong to the CCP and, if not, won’t that prevent minorities from joining the CCP, with implications for their loyalty to the Chinese state? Authorities have been very keen to win over influential members of the minorities to become members of the CCP precisely in order to strengthen their commitment to the PRC. In 1982 the CCP Central Committee put out an official communiqué on religion. It declared that members of the CCP could neither believe in, nor practise, religion, since it was based on an atheist philosophy, namely Marxism–Leninism. However, it allowed for flexibility for the minorities. It argued that since religion was often an essential part of social life and popular customs, it would isolate CCP members from their social group if they were forbidden to take part in such religious ceremonies as weddings, funeral rituals and traditional festivals (cited Pas 1989: 10). This policy forbids religious belief, but allows for religious practice of certain kinds. My observation is that minority CCP members abide by these rules, with some of them stretching the flexibility to belief. Two examples can illustrate this point. In the middle of 1999, I met a Uygur on the plane from Beijing to Xinjiang who told me that he believed in Islam despite being a member of the CCP. He said that he would not go to pray at the mosque until he was 60, because of his membership of the CCP. He also added that he knew of some Uygurs who were both members of the CCP and believing Muslims, and in Xinjiang I met several people who told me that they were quite able to combine CCP membership with belief in Islam. In an interview I held with a Dai professional woman in Jinghong, capital of Sipsong panna (Xishuang banna in Chinese), in September 2000, who was also a member of the CCP, it emerged that she still had a certain belief in Buddhism, the religion of the Dai, even though she denied being strongly committed. For her there was no absolute demarcation between CCP membership and religious belief, but declaring atheism would isolate her from her community and came close to denying her Dai identity, and she saw absolutely no need to do that. Despite official attitudes what I have found most striking in all my visits to minority areas since the early 1990s has been how strong religion appears to be, not how weak. This applies especially to the Tibetans, and the Islamic nationalities, above all the Uygurs. Moreover, I suspect that in some ways religion among the minorities has actually been growing since the early 1990s, at least in terms of adherents and probably clergy as well. Islam Islam is by far the most prevalent of all formal religions in China. Among its adherents, the three most populous nationalities are the Hui, the Uygurs and the


The mind, religion and education

Kazaks, but there are seven others with much smaller populations. The Hui have their own autonomous region, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, but in fact they are scattered throughout virtually all China, even including Tibet. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Prefecture is not only the province-level unit dedicated to the Uygurs, but is also the one with the most Muslims and the principal home of six of China’s Islamic nationalities: the Uygurs, Kazaks, Kirgiz, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Tatars. There is also a significant concentration of Hui in Xinjiang. The Hui are descended from Muslims who became integrated into Chinese society from about the fourteenth century, and are now hardly distinguishable from the Han Chinese, other than in their adherence to Islam. Most of the other Islamic nationalities are Turkic culturally and linguistically. The only people in China to speak an Iranian language are the Tajiks. The great majority of Muslims in China are Sunni, the prevalent form of Islam worldwide, other than among Iranians, who are Shiite. There are still adherents to the mystic Sufi sect of Islam, with its emphasis on direct personal experience of God. Since the 1990s, Sufis have been reclaiming land lost during the collectivization programme of the 1950s, a process sometimes leading to conflict (Dillon 1999: 182). Official figures claim that at the end of the twentieth century there were over 18 million believers in Islam in China;2 in Xinjiang 8.1 million people, that is 56.3 per cent of the total population, were religious believers, almost all of them being Muslim. There were about 30,000 mosques in China, about two-thirds of them in Xinjiang, and some 40,000 Islamic clergy, with about 29,000 religious personnel in Xinjiang, the overwhelming majority of them Muslim (Information Office 2000b: 48–9). In Xinjiang, Islam is considerably stronger in some places than others. According to Justin Rudelson (1997: 48), the strongest resistance to Chinese restrictions on religion is to be found in Kashgar and Khotan, both in the south of Xinjiang. At the same time, in Turpan in central Xinjiang and Hami to its east Islam has reacted less forcefully, ‘sometimes with seeming indifference’. In my opinion, the Chinese are more suspicious of Islam in southern Xinjiang, believing it will be used against the state there, but are more relaxed about the religion in Turpan and Hami. A survey carried out by the Centre for Religious Research, Xinjiang Social Sciences Institute, in 1983 and 1984, appears to bear out the greater strength of Islam in the south than the north. The team surveyed two Kazak villages in Yili, northern Xinjiang, and two rural communities and one urban in and near Kashgar. It found that among the people of Kashgar, who are Uygurs, over 90 per cent of villagers take part in Islamic religious practice, while among the Kazaks of Yili the relevant proportion was only about one in five. Not surprisingly, a far higher proportion of villagers practised fasting and recited the scriptures than among workers (He 1991: 225–6). These general conclusions were still valid in the 1990s. Indeed, impressional evidence from visits in 1994 and 1999 suggested to me that, if anything, Islam had grown in influence since the 1980s, especially among the Uygurs.

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The strength of Islamic culture among Muslims in China varies enormously. In Quanzhou, Fujian Province, there are Hui who do not believe in Islam or even follow Islamic dietary proscriptions, but consider themselves Hui because they can trace their foreign Islamic ancestry back to the seventh century through tombstones (Gladney 1991: 262–5). At the other extreme, many Uygurs adhere fiercely to their traditional Islamic culture. One researcher, noting that veneration of the dead has long been at the heart of religious practices among the Uygurs, claims that fieldwork data from the 1990s ‘point to the remarkable persistence of these practices throughout the socialist period’ (Bellér-Hann 2001: 9). Despite enormous variation, what has impressed me since the 1990s is how strong Islam and Islamic cultural influence remains among the Muslim minorities of China, not how weak. In many Islamic areas of China, clergy are trained in schools, which are attached to mosques, or even part of them. In some villages, Islamic clergy are said to exercise even more power than the local CCP branch. There have been since the 1990s a number of social disturbances due to clashes between Hui and Han, and even riots caused by Muslim anger at Han cooking pork. However, the Hui have traditionally been essentially loyal to the Chinese state, and there is no suggestion that they will wish to secede from China. On the whole, separatist moves among Islamic nationalities have been limited to the Uygurs, some of whom wish to set up an independent Uygur state. As noted in Chapter 3, Uygur separatist activities have posed quite a serious problem to the Chinese state since 1990. An interesting and important question to arise in the context of religion is whether these secessionist movements are inspired by Islam, or by another factor, for instance by strong cultural identity feelings, by repression from the Chinese state, or by forces outside China itself. This question has aroused very strong feelings on all sides. Chinese sources blame radical Muslims for the troubles, whereas Uygurs place responsibility firmly with Chinese repression. My own view is that there is a wide range of causes for Xinjiang separatism, with Islam being only one of them, though an important one. According to Michael Winchester (1997: 31), the Uygur leader of the 1990 Baren uprising took his inspiration from the idea of the ‘holy war’ practised in Afghanistan against the Soviet ‘infidel invader’. The reason why separatism intensified so dramatically from 1990 was the disintegration and collapse of the Soviet Union. Though it reached its climax at the end of 1991, this process had already spawned followon effects which have intensified since then, are still with us at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and unlikely to go away soon.3 The implication is that globalisation is affecting the development of Islam in China in a variety of ways. China is becoming part of the Islamic revival, which has become a global phenomenon over the last few decades. According to one specialist, ‘the floodgates of the Islamic revival’ in Central Asia opened in 1989 (Rashid 1994: 244), in other words the very year before the Akto disturbances. A certain kind of international Islam has become involved in strengthening Uygur identity, just as it has become enmeshed with ethnonationalist movements in various parts of the world. I noted in Chapter 1 that globalising tendencies do not


The mind, religion and education

exclude important local ethnic and other identities, which may actually gain strength in reaction against the pressures of globalisation. Trends in Xinjiang are a good example of this process, which some have termed ‘glocalisation’. Buddhism Buddhism is traditionally very widespread in China, both among the Han and the minorities. The great majority of Buddhist believers in China subscribe to the Mahayana tradition which, developing between the second century BCE and the second century CE, claimed to represent the Buddha’s most complete teachings. Following for the older Theravada tradition comes mainly from the Dai people of southwest Yunnan. But, for China’s minorities, by far the most important tradition of Buddhism is the esoteric Tantric form which became prominent in India in the seventh century, spreading quickly to Tibet. Although many Chinese know this religion as ‘lamaism’ (lama jiao), it is more accurately termed Tibetan Buddhism. These three traditions share such basic doctrines of Buddhism as reincarnation, but they differ in theologies and their styles are heavily influenced by the local cultures that embraced them. Buddhism among the minorities benefited from the religious revival affecting all of China from the 1980s, especially in its Tibetan and Theravada forms. Those minorities that traditionally espoused Mahayana Buddhism were less enthusiastic for revival. One example is the Koreans of northeast China, among whom Buddhism appears to be very weak, and verging on extinction, at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The present brief account will focus on Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddhism of the Dai people. It is very clear from Chapters 2 and 3 that Tibetan Buddhism has become an important part of the ‘new spirituality’ of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Exerting greatest influence in the United States and other Western countries, this has become part of globalisation, the Dalai Lama himself being one of the world’s main trendsetters (Mackerras 1999: 167). Tourists in Tibet bring both news about developments overseas and messages of support, as well as transmitting information about what is happening in Tibet itself and requests for support and assistance in their struggle. Independence for Tibet has also become a globalised cause, especially in Western countries and in India. Moreover, this cause is tightly bound up with the fashion for Tibetan Buddhism. The effect of the association has had its negative effects in the sense that it has attracted Chinese ire towards those religious centres they believe support independence. The best example is Tibet’s most important monastery, the Drepung. According to Melvyn Goldstein (1998: 42), every Drepung monk wants the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and ‘virtually all support his efforts to secure Tibetan independence’. He also adds (ibid.) that ‘some monks believe these efforts are not only unrealistic but also harmful to the monastery and the revival of religion’. Their reason is simply that they attract the very powerful and suspicious eagle eye of Chinese authorities, who are prepared to allow religious revival but certainly not attempts to use religion for Tibetan independence.

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Many of the main political controversies in Tibet have both revolved around religion and had some global content. One was around the selection of the Eleventh Panchen Lama, following the death of the Tenth in January 1989. Early in 1995, the Chinese authorities took advice from the head of a search team they had set up to find the Tenth Panchen Lama’s successor. This was Chatral Rinpoche, a highly respected religious and political figure from Shigatse’s Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama’s power. Chatral Rinpoche was keen for the Dalai Lama to be given a voice in the selection but, in May 1995, the latter announced it ahead of time, arguing that it was he and not the Chinese who should make such a choice. The Dalai Lama’s action embarrassed and annoyed the Chinese, who immediately set about looking for another boy through the traditional method of taking the name by lottery from a golden urn. The Chinese choice was enthroned in a large-scale traditional ceremony at the Tashilhunpo Monastery in December 1995. At the same time, that of the Dalai Lama disappeared from the scene, immediately becoming regarded by the Tibetan exile community and their supporters as the world’s youngest prisoner of conscience (for instance see Harris and Jones 2000: 160–3). In May 1997 Chatral Rinpoche was sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment for colluding with the Dalai Lama to find the Eleventh Panchen Lama and thus conspiring to split the nation and betraying state secrets.4 In 1996 another religious controversy arose, when the Chinese banned photographs of the Dalai Lama on the grounds of his separatist activities. Tibetan Buddhist clergy and many ordinary Tibetans reacted furiously. In one incident in May two monks threw stones at and injured two Chinese government officials as they tried to enforce the ban. Police intervened and shot at least three monks, seriously wounding one of them. During visits to Tibet in 1997 and 2002, I saw no pictures of the Dalai Lama, this being in marked contrast to visits in 1985 and 1990, when not even the most casual observer could avoid being struck by their prevalence. These moves against the influence of the Dalai Lama were accompanied by a series of ‘patriotic education campaigns’, which aimed to win over support to the Chinese among ordinary Tibetans. Authorities kept a very careful eye on what was happening at the main monasteries, including setting up ‘democratic management committees’. In theory these were designed to make monasteries more democratic, but they also had the effect of strengthening government control over the monks. Human Rights Watch (1998: 180) cites a government figure claiming that 76 per cent of Tibetan monasteries and nunneries had been ‘rectified’ by 1997. Yet it appears that the authorities did not consider either this proportion or the extent of control by the democratic management committees adequate. An official document dated 20 September 1997 (and reproduced in Harris and Jones 2000: 88–9) describes these committees in some monasteries as ‘powerless and inattentive’ and unable to exert the necessary energy. Issued in connection with a patriotic education campaign in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the purpose of the document was a further tightening of control. Despite these attempts, the Chinese government’s Tibet policy suffered a major reverse at century’s end. The 14-year-old Karmapa Lama, who happened to be the


The mind, religion and education

most influential of Tibet’s incarnate lamas after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, left China late in December 1999 to join the Dalai Lama and supporters in India. Early in 2001, to China’s anger and distress, the Indian government granted him formal refugee status. The Karmapa Lama had been enthroned in 1992 with China’s specific approval and was also regarded with genuine favour by the Dalai Lama. The escape of so significant a figure, with the respect he enjoyed both in Tibet itself and in the exile Tibetan community, was a serious propaganda blow to China. In terms of the global implications of Tibet, China has not done well since the late 1980s. And it has reacted by imposing tighter control over religious life in Tibet itself. It has also continued to allow the open practice of Buddhism in Tibet, provided it saw no threat to the security of the state. It was my impression from both my visits to Tibet in the 1990s and that in 2002 that the people remained generally very religious, and that Tibetan culture was very much alive. In 1997 I attended a ceremony at the Sera Monastery in Lhasa to mark the exposure of the Buddha picture on the large rock beside the monastery. Many thousands of Tibetans visited the monastery to view the picture, dressed in their best clothes, the majority in very traditional Tibetan style. Most Tibetan houses have prayer flags flying above them, and almost all those I have entered have a shrine or even a whole room set aside for religious purposes. Pilgrims still go in large numbers to the main monasteries. There is a general impression that more or less all Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism. That is certainly what virtually all informants claim. Almost all Tibetans whom I have asked if they were Buddhists have answered in the affirmative. The only exception I have found was a Tibetan family I interviewed in Kangding, western Sichuan, in December 1996, the members of which scoffed at religion. However, a more accurate account may have come from a team led by Professor Herbert Yee of the Baptist University of Hong Kong, which surveyed 586 Tibetan households in specific parts of the TAR, Gansu and Sichuan from June to September 1996. They enquired about belief in religion and among 2,758 individual respondents, 86 per cent replied Tibetan Buddhism, 10.5 per cent no religious belief, and the remaining 3.5 per cent the ancient traditional Tibetan Bon, Islam and other religions. In Lhasa, belief in Tibetan Buddhism was just over 76 per cent, with those answering ‘no religious belief’ being about 22.5 per cent. The team found, not surprisingly, that the non-believers were mostly members of the CCP and cadres (Yu and Guo 1999: 46–7). Traditionally, the proportion of Tibetans in the clerical estate was enormous, and each family was expected to give at least one son to the monasteries. This number declined to vanishing point during the Cultural Revolution, but revived very slowly in the 1980s. For the TAR, as distinct from all Tibetan regions, there are official figures covering the period since the 1990s. For 1992, there were 34,000 monks and nuns, about 1.5 per cent of the TAR’s population at the time. A 2000 count gave 46,000 monks and lamas, which is about 1.8 per cent of the TAR’s population or about 3.6 per cent of its males, and some 1,700 places for

The mind, religion and education


religion, temples and monasteries (Information Office 2000b: 49). These figures, which do not include nuns, are very similar indeed to what I was told during an interview with government officials in Lhasa in August 1997. They suggest that both the number and the proportion are rising, being very much higher than in the early 1980s, but very much lower than in the old days before the CCP revolution.5 The official figures may underestimate the actuality of the situation. When I visited the Tibetan areas of western Sichuan in December 1996 and January 1997, several people told me independently that about one in five young Tibetan men now go into the clerical life there. Many go to very small monasteries or temples and some actually stay at home. In one family house I visited in a remote Tibetan village in western Sichuan a room had been set aside for the young man of the family to live the monastic life. It is extremely doubtful if such a person is counted in official figures. While western Sichuan is not necessarily the same as the TAR, it would surprise if religious life were any less vigorous there. Other than the Tibetans, there are several minorities claiming adherence to Tibetan Buddhism. The most important group is the Mongolians, who converted to Tibetan Buddhism progressively beginning in the thirteenth century and gathering momentum from the sixteenth. However, Tibetan Buddhism among the Mongolians fared very badly through the revolutionary processes of the twentieth century and the Cultural Revolution dealt it a severe blow. Tibetan Buddhism is not nearly as strong among the Mongolians as among the Tibetans. Yet the fact is that there was a substantial revival in the period of reform, especially in the rural areas. Buddhism is once again part of the ethnic identity of Mongolian farmers and herders. Many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries have been reopened in Inner Mongolia. In 1995, the number of monasteries the State Council regarded as examples of ‘cultural heritage’, and hence as protected sites, was seventy-four (Charleux 1999). There are some very large and active Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Inner Mongolia, the most important being the Wudang zhao not far from the Autonomous Region’s largest city Baotou. During a visit to Inner Mongolia in November 1992 I was able to meet and interview several incarnate lamas, two of whom ran a school in the Inner Mongolian capital Hohhot to train novices. One of the incarnate lamas told me that there were 5,000 monks and lamas in Inner Mongolia at the time of my visit. Both were very positive about the role of the state in religion. Not only did they greatly admire Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping, but they claimed that his reform policies had been immensely beneficial to religion. They cited two specific benefits. One was the far greater freedom they enjoyed, but the other was that the ability to get rich had enabled monasteries to go into business, making money for the Buddhist religion and its clergy. These particular incarnate lamas received a salary from the government, but that did not prevent them earning additional money. I found an instance of this money-making activity at the Wudang zhao, where monks charge money to enter a parlour with vivid displays of the tortures those who do wrong will suffer after they die. Other minorities practising Tibetan Buddhism include the Tu of Qinghai and the Mosuo people of the border area of Yunnan and Sichuan, a branch of the Naxi.


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I visited a Tu village not far from Xining, the Qinghai capital, in the middle of 1995. Though quite small, the Buddhist temple there was the largest building in the village and very active with many lay pilgrims taking part in a large-scale fast preceding a festival. The Mosuo village I visited early in 1996 lay beside the Lugu Lake, a beautiful expanse of water separating Yunnan from Sichuan. The temple there was located on an island in the lake. There were only two monks in residence, the younger one, whom I interviewed, speaking very enthusiastically of his life in the clerical order and of the future of Buddhism among his people. Another devoutly Buddhist people is the Dai of southwestern Yunnan. In contrast to Tibetan Buddhism, however, they adhere to the Theravada Buddhism characteristic of Thailand and Burma. There are two main branches of the Dai people. The first is the Shui or Water Dai concentrated in Sipsong panna. These are very close culturally, linguistically and in religion to the Thais of Thailand. The second is the Han Dai, who live mainly in Dehong to the northwest of Sipsong panna and are identical both culturally and linguistically to the Shan people of Burma. I visited both Sipsong panna and Dehong in September and October 2000, interviewing Buddhist monks and laity, and visiting monasteries, temples and villages. Most Dai, both Shui and Han, still believe in Buddhism, and in the countryside most families have shrines in their houses. The Water Splashing Festival, with its religious significance of washing the Buddha statues and washing away personal disaster, is still very prevalent, although it has become much more secular than it once was. Overall, however, it was my general impression that Buddhism was much stronger in Sipsong panna and among the Shui Dai than in Dehong among the Han Dai. About half the villages in Sipsong panna still have temples, and the great majority of boys go into the temples as ‘little monks’ for a week or two. Some go for considerably longer periods, 2 or 3 years, but only a very small number remain as monks for life. The stage of life they enter the monastery is just after completing primary school, for apart from learning about Buddhism the aim is to master their own written language to a higher level than they can do in the schools, where the dominant written language is Chinese. At the same time, several schools I visited in Sipsong panna included some young monks among their pupils. They wear the saffron robes of the Buddhist monks and attend to their religious duties freely, but also go to class along with all the other students. The Han Dai are actually much closer to the Han majority than their Shui conationals. Government officials told me at the end of September 2000 that only about three in five of the over 520,000 Dai in Dehong were still Buddhist (1998 figures). The number of temples throughout Dehong was 642; monks were active only in 37, although religious activities still took place in all of them. The officials also told me that only about 0.7 per cent of boys become little monks, and the number appears to be in constant decline. I did not see or hear of any young monks among the students of the schools I visited, although I did hear indirectly that a few do take them in. Men often seek the monastic life as they grow older, but religion is losing its appeal among young Han Dai. Although Dai Buddhism is not particularly global in its effects, I learned from many of the monks I interviewed of their close relations with co-nationals across

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borders. The Water Dai monks were enthusiastic about Thailand, many had visited it or wanted to do so, and received visits from Thai monks. The Han Dai also have fairly close relations with co-nationals in Burma. At the time of my visit in 2000, all those with whom I discussed the relationship regarded the situation in Burma as both poorer and less stable than in China, even though Buddhism was recognised as much stronger. Many told me of relations who come to China during periods of instability in Burma, even though most return home when the situation improves. Other religions There are numerous other religions among the minorities and it is impossible to cover them properly here. One closely associated with the global expansion of the past is Christianity. There are quite a few surviving Christian communities among the minorities, such as that among the Miao in Shimenkan, Weining County, in the far central west of Guizhou. Ironically, such communities do not on the whole exemplify contemporary globalisation, because they are remnants from past missionary successes. There is a vast range of indigenous popular religions among the minorities, especially those that do not subscribe to the more universalistic religions like Islam and Buddhism. These are generally tightly associated with the popular ritual of the people and have revived in the period of reform since the late 1970s. At the turn of the century these popular rituals are still performed in many places during festivals and special occasions and may take the form of dramatic, quasidramatic or dance performances. In some respects popular religions can be similar to an insurance policy, in that one of their functions is to assist with the healing of the sick. In a Yao village I visited in Longsheng, Guangxi, in February 1992, several old and young people told me that the most effective treatment for minor illnesses was to worship the Gods. One 70-year-old woman expressed passionate support for the CCP because of the benefits it had brought the village, but she still wanted to worship the gods for the cure of minor illnesses. In many minority villages I have visited, male or female peasant shamans still exist who contribute to society mainly by curing everyday complaints. What does the CCP think of these revivals, given that its main emphasis is modernisation? On the one hand, it does not like them, because it perceives them as obstructive to socialist modernisation, which it sees as the wave of the future. But on the other hand, many CCP members, especially those belonging to minority nationalities, can see that it is ‘futile to try to control every aspect of religious belief and popular ritual’ (Litzinger 2000: 197). While this specific reference is to the Yao people, it would be equally applicable to many other situations in China at the turn of the century. It is better to avoid irritating people by abstaining from interference in such personal matters, as long as any impact on production is minimal. After all, in contrast to the situation in Tibet or Xinjiang, there is absolutely no question of secession among the overwhelming majority of minorities practising popular folk religions.


The mind, religion and education

In many ways the revival of popular religion and ritual is a return to isolationism. But there is another side to the story. In some minority areas ritual performances have become involved in the tourist industry and in my opinion this is likely to expand over the coming years. Tourism brings people from overseas or other parts of China to minority areas, and hence money, ideas and knowledge of the outside world. The rituals performed may lose some of their authenticity, but they also gain an economic rationale, helping them to survive longer. They are an example of how tourism encourages cultural survival, as mentioned in Chapter 4. For better or worse, tourism supports both modernisation and its corollary globalisation.

Education Although religion has its globalising aspects, it has generally operated as a conservative force among China’s minorities. Like religion, education bears closely on what people think. But in sharp contrast, it exerts influences crucial for modernisation. Education has aimed to bring minorities within the aegis of a united and modernising socialist China. In an age in which China has itself just joined the WTO, education has the strong potential to contribute to the globalisation of all of China, including the minorities. A secular state education system moving in the direction of being comprehensive was developed in China in the 1950s and 1960s, including for the minorities. The Cultural Revolution suspended many schools for a period, and those that continued to operate imposed an extremely narrow ideological line with virtually no space given to minority differences. But, to be fair, the Cultural Revolution also attached great importance to expanding education at secondary level. By the time the movement was over there were far more minority students than there had been before it began, with the rise in the number at secondary level being very dramatic (see Table 5.1). The Law of the PRC on Compulsory Education of 1986 laid down a timetable for achieving universal 9-year education, beginning with the cities and spreading to the remote areas. Although such places would include most of the minority areas, the law stated that there should be compulsory education almost everywhere by the end of the twentieth century. Policy since the late 1970s has emphasised that the education system must keep to the framework of modernisation and national integration, within which it should promote ethnic autonomy.6 Article 37 of the Law of Regional Autonomy of 1984 (as revised in 2001) lays down ( Zhonghua 2001: 12–13, 37–8) that the organs of self-government shall independently develop education for the nationalities by eliminating illiteracy, setting up various kinds of schools, spreading nine-year compulsory education, developing regular secondary education and secondary vocational and technical education in various forms, and developing higher education, where possible and necessary, so as to train specialized people from among all the minority nationalities.

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Table 5.1 Numbers of minority students enrolled (thousands)

Higher education Secondary schools Primary schools








2.9 73.0 1,474.0

21.9 36.03 94.1 177.9 217.0 247.7 371.8 2,468.0 2,245.0 3,242.0 4,039.0 4,632.9 5,219.0 7,686.0 9,548.0 11,492.0 12,482.0 12,142.0

Source: Economic and Development Department 2000: 564.

At the same time, educational fees were introduced. During the 1990s these became quite significant at senior secondary level and, depending on such issues as the place and status of the institution, very high at tertiary level. At primary school and junior secondary levels, there were no or much lower tuition fees, but various administrative and other moneys required were frequently enough to prevent very poor students from going to school. In January 2000 I was able to interview in Tongzha, in the middle of Hainan Province, two teachers from a remote village of the Li ethnic group. They told me that there were still quite a few children whose families could not afford to send them to school. But the teachers had taken the initiative to institute a project whereby Li children could get education first and pay later. And they have benefited greatly from Project Hope, mentioned below. Looking at the situation from the early twenty-first century, it is thus clear that nothing like 9-year universal education had been achieved by the end of the twentieth among the ethnic minorities. Yet this does not negate very substantial achievements. These are obvious from Table 5.1, which shows figures for minority students attending school from 1952 to the end of the twentieth century, including some from the 1990s. The last decade or so of the twentieth century saw the launching of three specific programmes aimed at boosting education in China, especially that of the ethnic minorities. ●

Project Hope was launched in 1989 and designed to encourage ordinary Chinese to contribute to helping poverty-stricken children, including those from minorities, to attend school. Project Spring Bud was launched at about the same time as Project Hope, assuming its current name in 1992. Similar to Project Hope, it is aimed specifically at girls. In 1993 the government launched a programme to encourage economically and educationally advanced provinces and municipalities to twin with povertystricken partners in ethnic areas, with the aim of assisting them in promoting compulsory education.

The preferential policies for minorities include certain areas of privileged access to education, such as special schools for ethnic minorities, preferential admissions,


The mind, religion and education Table 5.2 Numbers of minority teachers Year


% of total


% of total

1965 1978 1985 1990 1997 1999

133,200 310,200 397,800 458,700 527,900 545,100

3.5 5.9 7.4 8.2 9.1 9.3

14,635 112,261 125,560 182,991 246,900 271,400

3.2 3.5 4.7 6.0 6.9 7.1

Sources: Economic Department 1995: 340; Economic and Development Department 2000: 560–1; SSB 1998: 44.

reduced school fees or scholarships and remedial programmes (Sautman 1999: 173–4). Students from ethnic minorities are often given subsidies denied to Han students, even if their circumstances are not markedly inferior. Do these privileges make a real difference? My answer is that they do. Barry Sautman (1999: 196) has argued that preferential admission to higher education has ‘proven to be a success in creating minority education elites’. Research he has undertaken specifically for Xinjiang concludes that, by 1990, the preferential policies in education had reduced inequalities in employment by giving more students from ethnic minorities better access to upper middle school and university. He argues that ‘for minorities who manage to gain access to higher education, affirmative action plays its intended role of enlarging and diversifying the minority middle class’ (Sautman 1998: 94). In Inner Mongolia, the result of priority given to Mongolians in education has meant that, in the mid-1990s, 48 per cent of Mongolian students who completed high school went on to receive a tertiary education, a proportion higher than for any other ethnic group (Iredale et al. 2001: 118). A dean of education at a teachers’ training school I interviewed in Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, in mid1995 was shocked at my question whether the preferential policies for ethnic minorities really made a difference. Himself Han, he answered vehemently that they certainly had made a very big difference in his area of competence. He had seen the numbers of teachers from the Tibetans and other ethnic groups rise greatly over the years both in numbers and in professional skills. The official figures contained in Table 5.2 seem to bear out his view, confirming that the pace remained quick in the 1990s. Another question to arise from the preferential policies is whether they cause any acrimony to those who fail to benefit from them, especially Han students. Sautman (1999: 194) argues that, despite some anecdotal evidence of resentment, it has never been strong enough to be ‘publicly manifested by any social group’ and can therefore be claimed as relatively absent, given that grievances of various kinds have frequently been aired very publicly in China. In the case of Xinjiang, he argues that resentments do not translate into tensions, ‘in the sense of manifest discontent’, which would likely be higher than at present but for the preferential policies (Sautman 1998: 102–5).

The mind, religion and education


Literacy Naturally enough, literacy is one guide to extent of education. A major study by Jacques Lamontagne (1999: 145–6) predicted that disparities in literacy between Han and minorities would decline during the 1990s, but at very different paces and from very different levels depending on the ethnic group and the region. Provinces such as Jilin, home to the Koreans, would do very well indeed, with Tibet lagging very far behind. The 1990 census showed illiteracy and semiliteracy of people aged 15 and over at 15.88 per cent nationally, but falling to only 6.72 per cent in the 2000 census (see Mackerras 2001a: 272). The comparable illiteracy and semi-literacy rate in 1990 was 30.8 per cent among the minorities as a whole, but 21.5 per cent among the Han (Lamontagne 1999: 145). Figures for 1999 by province show very great differentials, and it is obvious that there are extreme disparities in literacy levels among all nationalities, including the Han. However, it is striking that the province-level units with the highest rates of semiliteracy and illiteracy all have comparatively high proportions of minority populations.7 On the other hand, Xinjiang does quite well in terms of literacy. Comparisons with the 1990 census show increases in literacy in all provinces with high minority populations, the rises being larger or much larger than the national average in most cases. They suggest that Lamontagne’s prediction has turned out correct. In the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture 96.8 per cent of children graduated from junior middle school in 1998, meaning that the aim of compulsory 9-year education had been virtually achieved. There was hardly any illiteracy among Koreans aged 15 and over, other than among very old people. In the TAR, on the other hand, the proportion of school-age children attending school was only 81.3 per cent, while those who graduated from 9 years’ school was considerably less than that. The literacy rate in 1998 for people aged 15 and over was only 52 per cent, and while this figure was much higher than the 5 per cent in old Tibet, it was still the lowest in the country (Information Office 1999: 23–4).8

Language and education Language is of extreme importance for the survival of the culture of any ethnic group, because it embodies not only the lifestyle and literature, but the legends and values of a people. On the other hand, there is no doubt at all that knowing the majority language is essential in any country to get a good job and play a respected role in society. As the Mongolian scholar Naran Bilik (1998: 51) has pointed out, proficiency in Chinese ‘is essential for upward social mobility and a privileged position in society’ with modern standard Chinese representing ‘the political-economic centre’. While it is perfectly possible for a spoken language to maintain strength in the home indefinitely without being used in the schools, schools can provide a major mechanism for the transmission of written languages from generation to generation.


The mind, religion and education

Article 37 of the Law of Regional Autonomy (Zhonghua 2001: 13, 49–50) also has something to say about language in education among the minorities. Schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the media of instruction. Classes for the teaching of Chinese (the Han language) shall, where possible, be opened for junior or senior grades of primary schools to popularize putonghua (the common speech based on Beijing pronunciation) and standard Chinese characters. China has a unified national curriculum, which means that children all over the country, whichever ethnic group they belong to, learn more or less the same at school. There is not much variation, especially at primary level. A few of the ethnic minorities have ensured that textbooks are published in their own languages, and in some areas these have become fairly widespread in use at the turn of the twenty-first century. These include especially those that are politically sensitive or influential, or those with their own scripts or significant literatures. Examples include the Tibetans, the Uygurs, the Koreans, the Mongolians, the Yi and the Dai. During a visit to Tibet in the autumn of 1997, I observed that bookshops stocked a range of textbooks in the Tibetan language. Schoolboys I met showed me textbooks for such subjects as history and science, all in Tibetan; even the textbooks for Chinese language are in Tibetan, although of course they include Chinese characters, just as an English-language textbook for Japanese includes much writing in Japanese. Most such textbooks are simply translations from Chinese-language counterparts. However, in some places special textbooks have been written for use in schools with a focus on the history and culture of the region. Such textbooks are on topics in addition to the standard national curricula, not instead. One such work is a history of Xinjiang in two versions, Uygur and Chinese, designed specifically for senior secondary and higher level. Written by a team of specialist historians from various ethnic groups, it is entitled History of the Xinjiang Region and both the Uygur and Chinese versions came out in 1992 (XUAR 1992), classes to instruct teachers on the use of the books beginning the same year. There is plenty about Uygur literature, religion and history in the book, but two points may be made about it. One is that it follows the Chinese official line closely. The second is that religion is presented as part of culture; there is certainly nothing that actually promotes Islam, even though the treatment aspires to be fair and to give a positive account of Uygur culture. Among the Tibetans and Dai the monasteries are still repositories of language and culture. In quite a few Tibetan monasteries I have visited both in Tibet itself and other Tibetan areas, I have found that one of the motivations for boys or young men to enter the religious life is to master their written script better. Dai boys enter monasteries in much smaller numbers, and generally for far shorter periods than Tibetan, but they share in common a wish to improve their knowledge of their own nationality’s script.

The mind, religion and education


Another important issue is the language of instruction. Under the law, bilingual education is desirable for ethnic minorities, the two languages being their own and Chinese. My own explorations over many years and in many minority areas of China suggest that efforts to maintain the use of ethnic languages in the classroom are very spotty and inconsistent. Although they may be improving in some regions at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it has been my impression that they may be getting worse in others. As in so many other ways, certain ethnic groups feel much more strongly about the retention of their own language and culture than others. In the case of classes that contain children from a variety of minorities, the language of instruction will almost always be Chinese, because there is no other common language and the teacher is often Han anyway. Minorities lacking their own script or textbooks in their own language are not in a strong position to maintain their language through the classroom. What happens in such cases is that mono-national classes at the first years of primary level are in the local language, because the children do not understand Chinese, but increasingly transfer to Chinese from then on. One scholar has observed cynically but aptly that both in China and the United States, bilingual education really means ‘transitional schooling in the native language(s) while students master the dominant language’ (Dwyer 1998: 78). It is my impression that the two ethnic minorities with the strongest insistence on the regular use of their own language as the medium of instruction in schools are the Uygurs and the Koreans, followed closely by the Tibetans, and more distantly by the Dai and the Yi. In Korean, Uygur, Tibetan, Dai and Yi primary schools, the use of the local minority language is very widespread, provided the children all belong to the same ethnic group. As one goes up the system, the language of instruction changes to Chinese, except in the classes teaching the relevant language. In Yanbian in 1990 and in Xinjiang in 1994 and 1999, I visited several secondary schools where there was hardly any evidence of Chinese. Harrell (2001: 76) reports that in the Yi areas of Sichuan, where the people are called Nuosu, the secondary schools often include ‘special classes composed only of minority students (minzu ban) or classes taught primarily in the Nuosu language (Yiwen ban)’. In 1988 a language commission was set up in the TAR with the task of protecting and promoting the use of Tibetan as the dominant language in Tibet (Stites 1999: 116), but secondary-school education is not well developed there. The year 1988 saw the establishment of a fully Tibetan-language secondary school in Songpan County, northern central Sichuan Province, which, in Janet Upton’s claim, receives a great deal of social support (Upton 1999: 299) and is thus worth close scholarly attention (pp. 299–306). According to Hansen (1999: 128), the only school in Sipsong panna that teaches Dai beyond the primary level is the Normal School. This has a bilingual Dai class each year, which aims to train teachers to give instruct in the Dai language and teach Dai scipt in primary schools. One nationality of particular importance because of the weight of its culture and history is the Mongolians. There has been a push among Mongolian intellectual elites to promote Mongolian-language education, but it has not got far. Naran Bilik (1998: 48), himself a Mongolian intellectual, writes that ‘Mongolian-language


The mind, religion and education

education seems to be losing out, despite efforts from ethnic elites and symbolic gestures from local governments’. Many Mongolian parents have lost interest in this elite-driven movement. They ‘see little benefit in sending their children to Mongolian schools and opt for a Chinese education for their children, hoping that this will lead to a brighter economic future’ (Iredale et al. 2001: 116). By the mid1990s, there was only one Mongolian-language school in the Inner Mongolian capital Hohhot. At tertiary level the city’s Inner Mongolia Normal University pushed Mongolian culture, including compiling curriculum materials in Mongolian and about Mongolian history and culture, but being virtually alone in such emphases was regarded as a ‘Mongolian language island’ (Iredale et al. 2001: 117). An aspect of language closely related with the issue of globalisation is the spread of English. The fact is that English is a language useful for virtually all peoples in the contemporary world. Never in the past has any language achieved the dominant place in the world that characterises English today. A minority group in China which wishes to maintain its own language will need to be trilingual if it wants to adopt English, because any ethnic group which is part of China must know Chinese to get on in the world. A Mongolian incarnate lama who felt strongly enough about Mongolian language to teach it in the schools told me: ‘there isn’t much use in knowing Mongolian in the modern world’, and it is an attitude I have found to be fairly typical, other than among Uygurs, Koreans and Tibetans. On the other handw, many people want to know English and if given the choice of two out of three among Chinese, English and their own language, there are many minority people who would leave aside the third. Globalisation will more and more encourage such an attitude, because it promotes the influence of Western countries, most of which are either mainly English-speaking or with a citizenry that largely or even mostly knows English to a very high level. Ethnic identity versus integration in education Being a highly significant marker of identity, the topic of language leads on to that of ethnic consciousness. Since the 1990s there have been two contrary trends in ethnic education. On the one hand, governments appear to have done quite significant work to increase aspects of ethnic identity in the education of the minority areas. But on the other hand, education has clearly striven to integrate China as a unified nation everywhere. One writer aptly sums up the situation as follows. Despite the authoritarian character of state schooling in China, a great deal of diversity continues to exit. This diversity derives from the vast variety of cultural traditions and practices, especially in religion and language, that continue to flourish. Yet, the diversity that exists among China’s ethnic minority population does not appear to be fully reflected in the content of schooling, even though minority languages are emphasized in many regions. (Postiglione 1999: 17)

The mind, religion and education


In other words there are limits to the degree of autonomy allowed or of identity encouraged. The fact is that the primary aim of education for the CCP is to integrate and modernise the country on the basis of a socialist ideology. This unity includes ethnic difference and the modernisation encompasses what one writer (Hansen 1999: 156) describes as ‘an atmosphere of ethnic brotherhood’. However, these phenomena cannot be more than secondary to Chinese national unity and the modernisation that will make China a strong and prosperous country. The question of teachers illustrates the point. In my opinion there are advantages for children to be taught by teachers from their own nationality. Such teachers can speak and write their background language and understand and sympathise with their culture. They can help strengthen and perpetuate ethnic identities. So it is a real achievement to train large numbers of teachers from the ethnic minorities, as shown in Table 5.2. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that the teachers will in fact be in charge of children from their own ethnic group. My travels and interviews in ethnic regions suggest that many minority teachers take care of non-Han children, but from an ethnic group other than their own. Moreover, by the very nature of their training the teachers have become more adapted to the Chinese state system, rather than to their own ethnic culture. The training schools certainly teach minority languages and culture, but their emphasis is on Chinese language and culture; and they certainly do not encourage the practice of traditional religions so important to many of the minorities, let alone give any quarter to secessionist feeling. This is hardly surprising: the Chinese state is not about to pay to have itself undermined. But the implication is that minority teachers have become more like Han counterparts; they operate more to integrate the nation that is China than to perpetuate the distinctive features of the minorities.

Conclusion What is most striking to me at the turn of the twenty-first century among the minorities is the retention of traditions as far as religion is concerned and, for education, the impact of the Chinese state. Of course there are areas which are beginning to become globalised, such as the mutual influences of Tibetan Buddhism and the ‘new spirituality’ so popular in the West. Tourism in China’s ethnic areas is beginning to create a globalising effect. That most globalised of languages, English, is beginning to spread, even in the minority areas, and in Tibet ordinary people very frequently address tourists in broken English. China’s accession to the WTO will increase both the impact of globalisation and probably also the manifestations of local identities. But the situation at the beginning of the twenty-first century is that the impact of globalisation is in its early stages in the religion and education of China’s ethnic minorities.


Population, women and family

The period since 1990 has been one of continuing rapid change both in the world at large and in China in particular. Although awareness of the need to control population growth was nothing new, it certainly remained centre stage as the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first. The United Nations chose 12 October 1999 as the day symbolising the arrival of the planet at a population of 6 billion, and designated a particular infant as the world’s 6 billionth inhabitant. There has also been increasing awareness of the need to stop the population growing too fast in order to be able to protect the environment better and at the same time enhance the prosperity of the world’s people. China has been in the forefront of action in this regard, even though some have attacked its policy as contravening human rights. Since 1980 it has had a policy restricting couples of the majority Han to one child only. China is still the world’s most populous country, but may not be so forever. In May 2000 India became the second of the world’s population billionaires after China and, since its population control programmes have been somewhat less draconian and less successful than China’s it will probably overtake China during the first half of this century. If trends of the last years of the twentieth century continue, this could happen as early as 2012 (Westlake 2000: 66). Globalisation has had two contrary effects on gender discourse throughout the world. On the one hand, it has helped the spread of consciouness concerning gender equality, and it is not too much to say that attempts to move in that direction have been one of the most significant features of the period. On the other hand, globalisation has exacerbated many inequalities, and these have included gender. Many observers talk of a feminisation of poverty that has spread through many parts of the world. China’s NPC adopted the PRC Law Protecting Women’s Rights and Interests in April 1992. The 1990s saw China as one centre of debate over the status of women, when Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995. The Conference adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which noted the gains that women had made over the previous decades and called for acceleration of the advancement of women towards full gender equality. The Chinese organisers did derive some credit for their handling of the Conference, but the country also came under criticism in some quarters for

Population, women and family


aspects of its treatment of women. Probably the most enduring statement of the Conference was that of the American President Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary Rodham Clinton declaring that ‘human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all’. There was nothing new in the idea that women’s rights were part of human rights, itself one of the main sites of discourse in world affairs, but Hillary Clinton’s statement was particularly forceful and brought unusual impact.

Population By the beginning of the twenty-first century, China’s one-child-per-couple policy had been in force long enough to affect China’s demographic structure. Premier Li Peng told an international population conference in Beijing in October 1997 that the population policy had resulted in 300 million fewer births from the mid1970s to the present than would have occurred without it (Mackerras 2001a: 213). In January 2000, the government announced that people who were themselves only children born under the policy would be allowed two children, with about 2005 being the time when large numbers of the first cohort would reach marriageable age. However, the government also stuck to its policy of population restriction. On 7 May 2000, NCNA (quoted Mackerras 2001a: 213) stated that ‘the country will continue to encourage marriage and childbearing at later ages and call for one child per couple while some couples will be allowed to have a second child in accordance with the law’. Population and ethnic minorities The population of China’s ethnic minorities has been growing since the mid1960s, as has their proportion within the total population. Table 6.1 shows the total number of the ethnic minorities as shown in the five censuses taken in the PRC so far, together with the percentages in the total population. The five censuses applied to 1 July in 1953, 1964, 1982 and 1990, and to 1 November 2000. The reasons for the rise in the proportion of the total population since the 1964 census are discussed elsewhere (for instance, Mackerras 1994: 242–5), and Table 6.1 Ethnic minority populations in the PRC’s five censuses Census

Ethnic population

Proportion of total (%)

1953 1964 1982 1990 2000

34,013,782 39,883,909 66,434,341 90,567,245 106,456,300

5.89 5.77 6.62 8.01 8.41

Source: Economic and Development Department 2000: 431, People’s Daily, 29 March 2001, p. 1.


Population, women and family

include factors like reregistration. That is the practice whereby communities with ethnicity similar to Han and registered as such change their registration to belong to a minority. An extremely important reason for the growth in minorities’ population is because of government policy, which since 1949 has always been more flexible in population matters for the ethnic minorities than the Han. When the authorities imposed the one-child-per-couple policy in 1980, they specifically exempted the ethnic minorities. This did not mean there were no restrictions, and the various autonomous governments have taken on policies specific to their own minorities in the period since then.1 One official statement summed up the policy laid down for ethnic minorities at the end of the twentieth century as follows: 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 natural conditions, families of ethnic groups 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. (Information Office 1999: 29) My very strong impression travelling in ethnic areas since the early 1990s is that two trends are operating, and both point towards smaller families. One is that authorities are encouraging fewer children, even while actually allowing more. Large slogan posters advocating the desirability of reducing the population, but improving the educational, health and moral level are visible everywhere. The statement above that TAR farmers and herdsmen may have as many children as they like does not mean that there is no birth control policy in Tibet. On the contrary, there have been official pressures to restrict the number of children born since 1983, and the Lhasa government ordered greater emphasis on rural family planning in the early 1990s (Goldstein et al. 2002: 27–9). The TAR Birth Control Commission Chair Purbo Zholma was quoted in 2000 as saying: ‘With regard to the Tibetan farmers and herders, we encourage them to have small numbers of healthy children. We also encourage those who already have three children not to have more’ (Namgyai 2000: 24). However, contrary to claims by the Tibetan government-in-exile, a detailed survey carried out in several parts of rural Tibet from November 1997 to August 2000 found that targets and fines for birth control were imposed only sporadically and lightly (Goldstein et al. 2002: 31–2). The second trend is that increasingly ethnic parents want fewer children than their parents did, and many will stop at numbers less than the state allows them.

Population, women and family


In an interview at the People’s Hospital of Jinghong, Sipsong panna, in September 2000, I was told that many Dai couples in the cities prefer to have only one child, even though they are allowed two. I have found similar comments made in many ethnic areas since the early 1990s and although the new trend is more pronounced in the cities than the countryside, it applies to some rural areas as well. A survey on family matters was undertaken in Tibet in 1996 covering 100 urban and 100 rural families, the urban ones in Lhasa, the rural ones in a village in Nedong County some distance to the south of Lhasa. One of the questions asked concerned how many children couples wanted. Their finding was that most couples, both urban and rural, consider the most desirable family to be one son and one daughter. So why have most couples had three or more? The leader of the survey (Wang 2001: 93) suggests two reasons. One is the great disparity among regions. Pastoralists in northern Tibet tend to favour larger families. The other reason is worth quoting directly: ‘The author learned from several clinics and drugstores in Lhasa that the Tibetan people were not accustomed to the use of contraceptive tools and medicines, and once the Tibetan women get pregnant they would not have an induced abortion on religious grounds’. The slightly later survey on rural Tibet mentioned above came to a similar conclusion on the number of children, namely that since the 1990s younger women want fewer children than had been normal in the past, and ‘a shift to lower fertility may already be in progress’ (Goldstein et al. 2002: 37). However, the reasons found were largely economic: too many children bring hardship to the household and form a barrier to greater prosperity. The survey authors also suggest that another reason for wanting smaller families may be that the drop in child mortality is bringing a voluntary decline in the birth rate (Goldstein et al. 2002: 37). A study of childbearing strategies among educated Uygurs in Ürümqi found that modernisation was beginning to exert a powerful influence over family preferences. The study found that Uygur couples have had fewer children over the past few decades. The reasons for this they share in common ‘with other modernising societies such as the late age of marriage, the increased power of women to regulate their births, the expense of raising children, and the difficulties of finding childcare’ (Clark 2001: 225). Education is a major factor that has helped foster receptivity to modern ideas, including a desire to have fewer children. It is by choice, not compulsion, that the couples have fewer children. Indeed, there is considerable pressure from grandparents for more (Clark 2001: 228). Quite a few couples stop at one child, but most consider one son and one daughter to be the ideal for contemporary young families. There is still a strong feeling that children are ‘a blessing from God’ and bring joy to the home. There is also a political motivation for a second child with some Uygurs, namely concern ‘that their numbers are declining in relation to the Han’ (Clark 2001: 236). There is another side to the story that merits some attention, namely the views and reports that come from sources hostile to the present Chinese government. A Uygur I interviewed in a mosque in Yining in 1994 told me that he believed the Han Chinese authorities were trying to wipe out the Uygur people with their population policy. This was because they were putting restrictions on population size,


Population, women and family

even if they were less stringent than those imposed on the Han. Given the quite significant rises in the Uygur population, as shown in the 2000 census, I find this charge somewhat hysterical. There are also many stories of abortions and sterilisations, forced especially on Tibetan women. Bodies such as the Tibetan government-in-exile and Tibet Support Group have made frequent charges along these lines. For instance, Tibet Support Group UK (1996–2001) claims first-hand reports by refugees of abortions. It gives the example of Tashi Drolma, whose second child was forcibly aborted. She was one of four Tibetan doctors at a hospital in Amdo (which the Chinese call Qinghai) who lost their jobs in obstetrics because they protested against the inhumanity of the birth control policies. How can one square such reports with the 1996 survey suggesting that many Tibetans were having more children than they wanted because their religion prevented them from having an abortion, even though this practice is not illegal in China? I have no reason to doubt the statement of Tashi Drolma. But the detailed survey carried out in rural Tibet from November 1997 to August 2000 found no evidence of widespread forced abortions or sterilisations and suggests most strongly that ‘there is no general program of forced birth control in rural Tibet’ (Goldstein et al. 2002: 24–5). The study even concluded with a warning against the dangers of using refugee reports and anecdotal evidence to interpret highly politicised situations (Goldstein et al. 2002: 39). To me the evidence of a highly scholarly and thoroughly worked out survey, one that is actually carried out on the spot, is far more compelling than the accounts of refugees that are used by action groups with specific political purposes. Migration Migration is an important phenomenon in contemporary China. Most of this migration is by the Han, but there are also members of minorities who move to other parts of China. Han people have been migrating to ethnic areas for many centuries, as a result of which almost all provinces now have dominantly Han populations. For instance, Yunnan province is noted for its large number of ethnic minorities, over twenty-five in all. Yet the minorities are actually only a third of total population.2 On the other hand, the Han tend to concentrate in the cities, as a result of which there are still many villages with very few or no Han. There are two province-level units where migration has been extremely controversial, and where the Han are still in the minority. These are Tibet and Xinjiang. When the Dalai Lama addressed the British Parliament in July 1996 (see Chapter 7), he claimed that ‘the destruction of cultural artefacts and traditions coupled with the mass influx of Chinese into Tibet amounts to cultural genocide’. He added that ‘the very survival of the Tibetans as a distinct people is under constant threat’. There certainly has been Han immigration, and it has increased since 1990. However, I argue that the Dalai Lama’s account is an exaggeration and a distortion of the actual situation.

Population, women and family


Table 6.2 Population of the TAR, ethnic breakdown 1990 Census

Tibetans Han Total

2000 Census





2,096,346 81,217 2,196,010

95.48 3.68

2,411,100 155,300 2,616,300

92.2 5.9

Sources: SSB Population Office 1991: 78, Yan 2000: 30, People’s Daily, 3 April 2001, p. 1.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was some immigration of Han Chinese into Tibet to fill government positions in Lhasa. However, from 1980, many returned to the East because, following Hu Yaobang’s visit to Tibet that year, government policy determined that Tibetans should take the lead in administering Tibet. In 1981, 30,567 people, mostly Han, left Tibet in accordance with that policy. From then until 1992 the number of people who left Tibet outnumbered immigrants by 61,953 (see figures in Iredale et al. 2001: 150–1). Only in 1984, 1987 and 1988 did the number of those moving to Tibet exceed the number who left. However, since 1992, the trend has reversed. Table 6.2 shows the totals and proportions in Tibet’s population for the Han and Tibetans according to both the 1990 and 2000 censuses. It will be seen that the Tibetan proportion has fallen, while the Han percentage has grown by nearly 38 per cent. Yet the Han are still less than 6 per cent of the total population of the TAR. When we remember that most of the Han are in the main cities, their significance in the overall population dwindles further. There are several major caveats that we need to make about these data. One is that the figures do not include the ‘floating population’, that is people who go temporarily to the TAR for a particular purpose and then return home. According to one journalist (Kwan 2001: 8), some critics have put the figures of this floating population as high as hundreds of thousands. Because it is difficult to find work elsewhere, these Han floaters stay mainly in the big cities, and it is true that Lhasa, especially, has become very Sinicised since the early 1990s. But even if the figure of hundreds of thousands were accepted, it would hardly amount to cultural genocide, because the Han would still be well below 50 per cent of the population and the floaters never stay longer than a few years, and mostly for much shorter periods. Since few of them go to the countryside, the overwhelming proportion of the population there remains Tibetan (Sautman 2001: 109). Actually, I doubt the figures are nearly as high as ‘some critics’ claim, because the census includes people who have lived in the area for 1 year. When the Dalai Lama spoke of ‘the mass influx of Chinese into Tibet’ in his July 1996 speech, he was probably referring not to the TAR, but to the Tibetan ethnographic areas. In addition to the TAR, he might have included the whole of Qinghai Province, and parts of Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. However, one recent


Population, women and family

study (Yan 2000: 29–31) has shown that, if one excludes the northeast corner of Qinghai from the figures, then in fact there were still far more Tibetans than Han in those areas according to 1990 census figures. The northeast corner of Qinghai includes the capital Xining and has been a Han and Muslim area for centuries. It seems to me a gross distortion to include this area in any discussion of Han immigration under the PRC. My overall conclusion on the TAR is that there has indeed been greater Han immigration since the 1990s than earlier. This is regrettable and the Chinese government should be very careful about allowing it to grow. However, I do not accept the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that Han migration into Tibet is a factor leading to cultural genocide, nor that the Tibetan people are under threat as a nationality. What the census data suggest to me, on the contrary, is that the Tibetans are more numerous than ever. We turn now to the case of Xinjiang. The Han population there in 1949 was very small, only 6.71 per cent of a total population of 4.33 million (Mackerras 1994: 253). However, there was intensive Han immigration to Xinjiang from the 1950s to the 1970s, partly to take part in construction work with the Production and Construction Corps. The proportion of Han reached its peak in 1978, when they accounted for 41.6 per cent of a total population of 12.33 million (Sun et al. 1994: 17, 25). In the 1980s, they began to withdraw. However, according to one specialist (Ben-Adam 1999: 206), from 1987 some 250,000 Hans have migrated to Xinjiang each year without official permission to look for work. The figures in Table 6.3 do indeed show that there has been substantial immigration into Xinjiang during the 1990s, but especially in the last years of the decade. The proportion of Uygurs in the population is falling, while that of the Han is rising, despite the fact that Han are far more constrained by the population control policy than the Uygurs. The reason for the rise is obviously immigration. One reason the Han are going is to take part in the burgeoning cotton industry (see Chapter 4). Bruce Gilley (2001: 27) claims that the 2000 census gave a figure of 7.5 million Han in Xinjiang, adding that the same census put the total population of the

Table 6.3 Population of Xinjiang, ethnic breakdown 1990 (census)

Uygurs Han Others Totals









7,194,675 5,695,626 2,265,477 15,155,778

47.5 37.6 14.9

7,800,000 6,318,100 2,495,400 16,613,500

46.9 38.0 15.0

8,250,300 6,871,500 2,628,200 17,750,000

46.5 38.7 14.8

Sources: SSB Population Office 1991: 78–86; Liu et al. 2000: 87, 89; People’s Daily, 3 April 2001, p. 1.

Population, women and family


Autonomous Region at 18.5 million. However, an official figure for Xinjiang from the 2000 census claimed the total population was 19,250,000 million (People’s Daily, 3 April 2001, p. 1). Given that a rise from 17,750,000 to 19,250,00 seems incredible, I am inclined to put more weight on Gilley’s figure, pending publication of more detailed figures from the 2000 census. If the 2000 census did indeed show 7.5 million Han in the XUAR, then the average annual number of Han immigrants over the decade 1990 to 2000 was about 175,000. This is a very substantial number, and will make a big demographic difference if continued over a long period. However, it is somewhat less than the 250,000 claimed by BenAdam. The possibility that his figures are inflated or that the official ones are undercounts cannot be overlooked. But I think it is more likely that there is a good deal of rotation, as in Tibet. In other words, many of the Han immigrants do not stay for more than a couple of years, and then return to the East. If those that have been in Xinjiang less than a year are not counted, then the actual number of Han may be even larger than the census shows. The impact on ethnic identity appears to vary significantly in different parts of China. According to one study, it has not watered down minority cultures such as the Uygur. On the contrary, the authors argue that Uygur migration may even be contributing to a strengthening of ethnic identity among the Uygurs (Iredale et al. 2001: 195). It is true that this view is directly at odds with a Human Rights Watch report of October 2001, which argues that the Uygurs ‘have struggled for cultural survival in the face of a government-supported influx by Chinese migrants’ (Human Rights Watch 2001: 1). My own observations in Xinjiang in 1982, 1994 and 1999 suggest that Chinese influence is increasing, but so are Uygur religion and culture strengthening, perhaps in reaction. What is striking is not the weakness of Uygur culture and religion, but its tenacity and strength.

Women and gender The link between this section and the preceding one is a general acknowledgement that the empowerment of women helps to control population growth. China has exemplified this quite well since the early 1990s. In the international arena it has done reasonably well in gender terms since the early 1990s. The UNDP has developed a gender-related development index (GDI). It is similar to the human development index (HDI) but differs in adjusting ‘the average achievement in life expectancy, educational attainment and income in accordance with the disparity in achievement between women and men’ (UNDP 1997: 123). The higher the ranking and the nearer the absolute value approaches towards 1, the better. In 1994, China ranked no. 108 out of 175 countries in its HDI, but its GDI was no. 90, with a value of 0.617 (UNDP 1997: 150). In 1999, its HDI ranked no. 87 out of 162 countries, but its GDI was no. 76, with a value of 0.715, representing quite impressive improvements over 5 years (UNDP 2001). For the sake of comparison we may note that India’s GDI ranking rose from no. 118, with a value of 0.419 in 1994 to no. 105 with a value of 0.553 in 1999, meaning that though India tended to catch up, China was still well ahead. In specific terms,


Population, women and family

what the figures for China mean is that women improved relative to men in life expectancy, literacy and income. I discussed China’s achievements in moving towards the eradication of poverty in Chapter 4. The UNDP has been very insistent that, on the whole, more gender equality means less poverty. ‘A creative commitment to gender equality will strengthen every area of action to reduce poverty’ (UNDP 1997: 7). So the improvements in gender equality can take some of the credit for the reduction in poverty. This positive spin does not mean that the problems are solved, or anywhere near it. Indeed, government sources are quite ready to admit ‘difficulties and resistance’ that have hindered women’s participation in such areas as ‘political and government affairs, employment’ and access to education (Information Office 1994: 9). There is a tendency in many places to value men’s work more than women’s and resistance to employing women in the first place, because of the likely costs of providing maternity leave and childcare. The privatisation of the state-owned enterprises since 1997 has differentially impacted on female employment (ADB and SPDC 2001: 12-15). This comment encompasses not only China in general, but more specifically the western provinces of China, where the minorities are mostly concentrated. The only province-level unit where the percentage of female employees exceeded the proportion of laid-off workers in 1999 was Ningxia (ADB and SPDC 2001: 12-15). We do not have breakdowns by ethnic group, but we do know that Ningxia has China’s largest concentration of Hui people, and it is possible that the figures reflect well on the ability of Hui women to move into and hold employment in various spheres. The proportion of female ethnic cadres did not move during the decade of the 1990s. Women cadres were 26.6 per cent of all ethnic cadres in 1992, and still 26.6 per cent at the end of the decade. However, the absolute numbers rose significantly, from 607,600 female ethnic cadres in 1992 to about 718,000 by the late 1990s (Information Office 1994: 16 and Chen 1999: 13). In Tibet, the proportion of female officials tended to rise, being 31 per cent of the total in 1998 (Jiang 1998: 20). In the educational attainment area that the UNDP rightly considers so important, gender differences remain among the ethnic minorities, with girls often staying at school for shorter periods than boys. However, these differentials have progressively narrowed in recent years. One study found that between 1982 and 1990, the difference between male and female illiteracy among the ethnic minorities narrowed in all province-level territories except Tibet (Lamontagne 1999: 151). It also predicted that in the 1990s the gender illiteracy gap would further narrow, but peaking in Tibet before narrowing. Although the gender gap would not disappear altogether, it would become very small in the northeastern provinces, which include the Koreans, Xinjiang, home to the Uygurs, Kazaks and other minorities, and a few other places (Lamontagne 1999: 155–6). By 1998, the Spring Bud Project, mentioned in Chapter 5, had begun to make some meaningful difference in Tibet, opening classes for girls who had dropped out of school, and paying all their tuition and living necessities (Jiang 1998: 21). My explorations in widely scattered minority areas since the early 1990s suggest that the gender differentials have indeed come down since then.

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The Spring Bud Project has made a substantial contribution to the education of girls in many minority areas. In a Hui village visited completely at random in an impoverished area of Qinghai in mid-1995, the local teacher told me that only a few years before there had been no girls at all in the class, whereas now the numbers were equal. It was Project Spring Bud that had enabled the girls of the village to go to school. Figures given to me in the Dai areas of western Yunnan in 2000, both at individual schools and by local government officials, pointed to a pattern in which both boys and girls received schooling equally. In visits to secondary schools for Uygurs in Ürümqi and Yining in 1994, and in 1999 to a teacher training school in Hotan, all in Xinjiang, I learned that girls actually outnumbered boys. In a remote Tibetan village I visited in Sichuan in January 1997, one family was allocating a very significant proportion of their income to give the elder daughter a secondary education. On the other hand, in one primary school I visited at random in a Tibetan and Yi village in Sichuan in January 1997, there were no girls at all in the small class. The number and proportion of female teachers has risen since 1990, both in the country as a whole and in the ethnic areas. The overall national figure put women teachers at 38.4 per cent in 1990, rising to 45.5 in 1999, a very significant increase (NBS 2000: 657). In Xinjiang the rise was from 52.6 per cent in 1990 to 58.5 per cent in 1999, also a large rise from a figure already representing a majority (Liu et al. 2000: 607). During my visit to the Dai areas in 2000, several school principals, most of them male, told me independently that they thought women made better teachers than men, because they were more patient. The 1990s saw more women from ethnic minorities achieve distinction in commerce and in professions other than teaching than was formerly the case. An example in the professions is Yangjin, a Tibetan herself and the first female lawyer in Tibet. In 1993 she launched the first cooperative lawyer’s office in Tibet. In 1999 she was named among the top ten lawyers in China (Sun and Liu 1999: 36). In business, the best-known single example is the Uygur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, who became not only the richest woman in Xinjiang, but the richest person. Unfortunately, she was accused of threatening national security and sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment early in March 2000. However, in the meantime she had shown that it was possible for a woman to overcome the still strong social prejudices of society and the ‘glass ceiling’, rising to the top of her chosen calling. On a much more general and widespread basis than the single case of Rebiya Kadeer, I have been very struck all over China, including in most ethnic areas, with how actively women promote business, especially small business. This has been a trend that has followed the opening up of the economy to the market and has gathered momentum since the early 1990s, in part because of Deng Xiaoping’s and the CCP’s overt and strong encouragement of the ‘socialist market economy’ in 1992. In many ethnic villages I have visited, I have found that it is a woman who runs the local village shop, and frequently women who sell things on the open market. Although this does not necessarily make them equal to men, it certainly does add to their sense of independence and status within society.3 Among the Buddhist Dai people, it seemed to me that women do quite well in terms of education and employment. Certainly, they are very active and generally


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successful in commerce. In villages I visited both men and women were insistent on gender equality in theory and, largely, in practice, certainly much more so than I found in most ethnic areas I have visited. Despite these advances, there is a very negative side to the gender issues among China’s ethnic minorities. Some of the worst poverty in China is to be found among ethnic minority women who, for various reasons, are probably poorer than their menfolk. The effects of globalisation may have made a few poorer just as it has made many better off. It is accurate to call some of these women ‘the poorest of the poor’ (for instance, ADB and SDPC 2001: 12–14). The advances also should not blind us to the tenacity of traditional opinions and attitudes towards women, and probably they are most pronounced among the Islamic and most strongly Confucianised ethnic groups. The attitude the Chinese call zhongnan qingnü (literally ‘regarding the male as important, the female as light’) is still very prevalent among most members of ethnic groups in China, including both Han and minorities. It is an attitude I have found almost everywhere, including among women themselves, even very confident ones, and seems to be even more dominant in the countryside than in the cities. It is probably due largely to tenacity of traditional thinking, but may have been in some ways even strengthened by the economic reforms, which gave better opportunities for advancement to men than to women. Despite advances in Xinjiang, I found attitudes in the countryside there during my 1999 visit to be still very conservative. I interviewed many people in areas as widely dispersed as Kashgar, Khotan, Ürümqi, Turpan and Yining and their surroundings. I found a clear difference between the strongly Islamic south and the somewhat more open north and centre. On the whole, men disclaim gender equality, especially in the south. In Kashgar many women wear full veils when in public, covering themselves so fully that one cannot see their eyes, though there is netting so that they can see out. I did not see this in Yining, Turpan or Ürümqi nearly as much as in the south, although Muslim women usually wear headscarves in public places. In Xinjiang, Uygur women are not allowed to enter mosques and there are no female Islamic clergy. There are special mosques for the Hui in Xinjiang and women are allowed to enter these, but must stay at the side or back. Conditions are a bit different in other parts of China. There are a few mosques especially for women in Henan, Gansu and elsewhere, with female clergy. As for the regular mosques, there are no female clergy there. Women may enter them, but only if they stay at the back or the side. Even among the Dai, who are Theravada Buddhists, religion seems more conservative than society at large. Several Buddhist monks I interviewed were quite clear in their view that, though women were equal with men in society, they were inferior to men in the Buddhist religion. One senior Buddhist monk I interviewed in October 2000 in Mangshi, capital of Dehong in far southwestern Yunnan, told me he did not think women were equal to men from a religious point of view, because they cannot become Buddhas. If they lead good lives, they can eventually be reborn as men, and only then can they become Buddhas.

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One ethnic group to gain quite a bit of publicity in the West since the 1990s is that group of the Mosuo who straddle the Lugu Lake along the border area of Yunnan and Sichuan. I discussed them in Chapter 3 as an example of a potential extra nationality. The reason for the publicity is because their descent was traditionally matrilineal, in other words through the female, and remains so to this day. Matriliny has given the Mosuo the reputation as a society where women are equal or dominate. This is not a straightforward issue, and I abstain from the term ‘matriarchy’ to describe the Mosuo social system, with its implications of women’s power.4 I note that the elected village head of the Mosuo community I visited early in 1996 was a man. However, certainly the fact of female inheritance does suggest that women have a higher status than in most societies in China, including those of the non-Confucian and non-Muslim ethnic minorities. The Mosuo are among the many ethnic groups in China to have opened to tourism in the 1990s. First the sexually strait-laced Han came to wonder at this unusual society of relatively free women. Then came the Westerners with the added fascination of the potential feminist dream. In any case, the Mosuo lead us on to the gender aspects of tourism, a phenomenon that is already creating a profound effect on many ethnic women in China. Along with the added prosperity and modernising effects discussed in Chapter 4, tourism is bringing about some unwanted consequences. One of the most prominent is prostitution, even including overt sex tourism. In many countries authorities have become very concerned indeed over the rise of the abuse of women and children due to sex tourism. We cannot put all the blame on tourists by any means. And of course prostitution is not new in China, or anywhere else. Prostitution has increased enormously everywhere in China in the wake of the economic reforms and may get worse now that China has joined the World Trade Organisation. The better business opportunities of the economic reform period and globalisation, together with the female unemployment caused, are among factors leading to increase in the sex industry. Yet the fact is that both domestic and international tourism have promoted prostitution in China. Of course it affects primarily the Han areas, but is spreading to some of the ethnic areas with remarkable speed. One example to illustrate the tendencies comes from Jinghong, capital of Sipsong panna (which the Chinese call Xishuangbanna), an area that has opened up to tourism in a big way since 1990. As it happens, Dai women are often objects of sexual fantasy to Han men, and have the reputation for being sexually liberal, an image not generally confirmed in reality. Because of this, Han women sometimes go to Jinghong and take jobs in the sex industry, pretending to be Dai. One scholar wrote in the late 1990s: One aspect of tourism to Xishuangbanna is the development of a variety of sex tourism such as is seen in other parts of Asia, the growth of prostitution there, and the attendant problems of sexually transmitted diseases. It is estimated that Jinghong has around 500 prostitutes, most of them Han immigrants, some of whom pretend to be Dai, and a small number of Dai and other minority women. (Evans 2001: 170)


Population, women and family

Most of the tourists are domestic Han Chinese, but there are also some foreigners, mostly from Southeast Asia. It is also interesting that Dai and other minority girls from Yunnan are found in the booming sex industry in Thailand, which feeds on tourism probably even more than in China. These Dai girls tend to occupy the lowest rungs of sex workers there, along with minority girls from Myanmar and Thailand itself. Many are infected with HIV and are a conduit for the spread of the disease throughout the region (Feingold 2000: 187–9). Some family matters In family matters, there appears to me to have been a gradual rise in the position of women, but it is uneven and differs among the ethnic groups and by place. The PRC banned arranged marriages in 1950 and, while reality has been slow to reflect law, the change had become very significant indeed by the beginning of the twenty-first century. I asked if arranged marriages still survived in a great many of the villages I visited in various ethnic regions of China. Most said there were no longer arranged marriages, but in southern Xinjiang I found several village heads acknowledging that arranged marriages were still the norm in their area and elsewhere in the ethnic areas a few interviewees conceded some survivals. The survey taken in urban and rural Tibet in 1996 found a trend towards openness. Among Tibetan women 68.5 per cent reported that they had chosen their spouse by free choice and love, 5 per cent through introduction by other people, 13.5 per cent through parental arrangement, 0.5 per cent through the arrangement of their unit, and 1 per cent by other means. What is very striking, and probably contrary to trends elsewhere, is that mate selection through love was actually greater among rural respondents (75 per cent) than urban (62 per cent), while parentally arranged marriages were commoner among the urban respondents (16 per cent) than the rural (11 per cent) (Wang 2001: 90–1). It appears to me that both among Han and minorities there is a strong feeling that no marriage should go ahead without the consent of the parents of both bride and groom. One Yi professor I interviewed in Kunming early in October 2000 told me there were still some arranged marriages in Yi villages, but they were no longer the norm. He continued that ‘on the whole parents must agree to a marriage, even if the young people themselves love each other and agree to marry’. He also added that the custom of bride price was still quite prevalent and that polygyny was by no means extinct, even though in sharp decline. One of the many aspects of society in China to have seen change over recent years is the sensitive matter of interethnic marriages. In most places, the trend is towards greater openness and follows the overall modernising influences that have come with the policies of economic reform. In Inner Mongolia, Han–Mongolian marriages have become quite accepted, especially in Hohhot (Cui 1997: 15). One of the questions the 1996 survey among Tibetans posed was whether people of different ethnic groups might get married if they genuinely loved each other. Among 199 respondents, 9.5 per cent agreed strongly that they

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might, and 69.5 per cent agreed, with 8 per cent indifferent and only 1.5 per cent definitely opposed. Even more striking was that the country people were more open than the city, with no less than 98 per cent of rural respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposition (Wang 2001: 90). Stevan Harrell has carried out a major study of the ethnic groups of southwestern China, especially Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwestern Sichuan. This place is home to the people called Nuosu, whom the state regards as a branch of the Yi nationality. He sums up the intermarriage situation he found as follows: In general, Nuosu do not marry with other groups (even other groups classified as part of the Yi minzu) in the village context; they do not even intermarry among different castes of Nuosu. All other groups intermarry to a certain extent: Han will intermarry with anyone, anywhere, while other groups tend to be selective. In the cities and among educated people, all kinds of intermarriage are possible and frequent, with the possible exception of intercaste marriage among Nuosu. Any kind of intermarriage, of course, produces the problem of the minzu affiliation (and sometimes also the ethnic identity) of the offspring. In general, offspring of mixed marriages are classified as belonging to the non-Han minzu, because of the affirmative action benefits available. They may, however, acculturate to Han ways while retaining a minority identity. (Harrell 2001: 75) In my opinion, Harrell’s formulation could in some ways apply to most of ethnic China. I refer specifically to the differentiation of urban and rural areas, the way the children of interethnic marriages prefer to belong to an ethnic minority because of the preferential policies, and their tendency to acculturate to Han practices. There are still major social factors inhibiting intermarriage in the countryside. It is still the case that most villages in China are still dominantly or entirely monoethnic, which means that opportunities to meet and court members of different ethnic groups are limited. There is still a strong feeling among Islamic ethnic groups that it is unwise to marry non-Muslims. The reason is that nonMuslims are required to adapt to Muslim doctrines and customs and often find this impossible, with the result that marriage breakdown is frequent. Despite a general trend towards more openness, there are even cases where the trend in the last years of the twentieth century was against marriage between Han and minorities. One such example concerns a Muslim minority in Xinjiang. At one time it was reasonably common for Han and Uygurs to marry, but by the mid1990s, such intermarriage was definitely not favoured by Uygurs themselves, even though government policy continued to favour it. The chief reason for this is ‘differences in religio-cultural practices’ (Smith 2002: 162). But one senses that one reason may be the decline in relations between the two ethnic groups as well. I was informed by several people independently in Xinjiang that intermarriage between Uygurs and Han was much commoner in the 1970s and 1980s than during the 1990s.


Population, women and family

There is change in other family matters as well, mostly reflecting the rising status of women. One study of childbearing strategies among the Uygur educated elite of Ürümqi, capital of Xinjiang, found that Uygur families are increasingly making decisions with their private interests in mind, not those of the state. Most important for this chapter is that the more egalitarian environment in the home ‘has given women more power in the decision-making process in all the family strategies’, including childbearing decisions (Clark 2001: 237). Data showing female influence in childbearing strategies emerge from two surveys carried out in Tibet, respectively in 1993 and 1996. The former found that 72.91 per cent of urban families and 82.87 per cent of rural families decided on childbearing through mutual consultation, but that of those where one party decided, it was more often the wife than the husband, especially in the cities. The 1996 survey showed only 52 per cent of births were the result of mutual consultation, 31 per cent were decided by the wife and only 17 per cent by the husband. In other words, the surveys agree, though to differing extents, that mutual consultation is the most popular road to decision on childbearing, but the wife is more likely to be dominant in decision-making than the husband (Wang 2001: 93). Among Tibetans, the influence of women may be surprisingly dominant in childbearing matters, but in matters like who controls the family income, and whose words carry more weight on matters like buying a television set or the school of children, it is the husband who matters more. The 1996 survey found that among 185 respondents in urban and rural areas, 53.76 per cent said such household affairs were decided by the husband, only 21.51 per cent by the wife, 5.91 by the elders and 18.28 per cent jointly. Interesting but not surprising was the fact that husbands were even more dominant in the countryside than in the cities and the wife correspondingly weaker (Wang 2001: 94). On the other hand, the surveying team found that the number of families where decisions were made jointly by the husband and wife was ‘on the increase’ and regarded this as ‘an indication of the more democratic atmosphere in family life’ (p. 95). In Xinjiang, my own interviewing in 1999 suggested that men make the main family decisions in the south, but in the centre and north there is more of a trend towards joint decision-making. Just as in other gender matters, there is also a much more conservative trend in attitudes related to family matters. One such area is in the preference for sons over daughters. The idea that boys can perform more productive labour because they are muscularly stronger makes them more desirable to families not only among the Han but most of the minorities. Also, it is still the case among most ethnic groups, not only the Han, that it is the male who carries on the family line and property, not the female. There may be exceptions to this pattern, but there are not very many of them. One such exception is the Mosuo around the Lugu Lake, who have no formal system of permanent marriage arrangements. Instead they follow a practice of ‘walking marriages’, in which the man visits a lover at night and returns to his own family at dawn. It follows logically from the Mosuo matriliny, because it is theoretically possible that a child knows who his or her mother is, but not the

Population, women and family


father. The walking marriages, together with the system of matriliny, mean that the Mosuo are definitely among those ethnic groups who give no preference to sons over daughters. Indeed, it could be the other way around. Mosuo houses still have the woman’s room nearest the entrance, so that she can more easily welcome her lover. Though ‘walking marriages’ are still very much alive, nowadays it is always clear who a child’s father is. I got a strong impression during my 1996 visit that at least some men do take some responsibility for their children in financial and other ways. One man told me both he and his lover were very keen for their daughters to get a good education in a nearby town, so that they could leave the village and move up in the world. He said that both would share the considerable expenses involved in their education. Another interesting traditional survival is the Tibetan custom of polyandry, by which one or more brothers, or occasionally friends or even father and son, shared a wife. Polygyny usually took the form of sisters sharing a husband. The aim was basically to avoid splitting inheritance so, because property descended mostly through the male, polyandry was commoner than polygyny and more prevalent among the richer classes than the poorer. The Tibetan Marriage Law of 1981 banned both polyandry and polygyny. The practice had declined greatly since the rebellion of 1959 and even more due to the Cultural Revolution. However, it retained a great deal of currency as an idea, even among the educated elite (see Mackerras 1995: 175). It appears to have actually revived in the period of economic reform. In a random 1995 survey in a village with 113 families, 94 were monogamous, 5 polygynous and 11 polyandrous, mainly with sisters sharing a husband or brothers a wife, although one case of polyandry was found with friends sharing a wife (Wang 2001: 92). It is also found in Tibetan communities outside Tibet itself. For instance, in Yunnan, one account referring to 1990 said of polyandry and polygyny that ‘though they are not seen much, they still exist’ (Zhang et al. 1994: 124). The reason why these practices have come back is not at all clear. Wang (2001: 92) believes that the revival both of polygynous and polyandrous marriages in the rural areas of Tibet is ‘perhaps due to the increased need for more workers in the household after the initiation of economic reform’, or the need for more men or women around the house. It could be that the need to avoid splitting the inheritance still carries some weight, but almost certainly far less than was once the case. We finish this section with a brief discussion of divorce among the ethnic minorities. Though divorce in China is still very uncommon by comparison with such countries as the United States, it is a rising trend. The overall national figures for 1991 showed 9,509,849 couples married and 829,449 divorced, which means that the ratio of divorces to marriages in that year was 8.7 per cent (SSB 1992: 801). The corresponding figures in 1999 were 8,799,079 and 1,201,541, the ratio of divorces to marriages being 13.66 per cent, quite a substantial rise over 8 years (NBS 2000: 768). Although the statistics do not indicate ethnicity, it is striking that most province-level units with significant ethnic populations, such as Yunnan, Tibet and Ningxia, show increases, but the ratio of divorces to marriages actually fell in Guizhou.


Population, women and family

One place with a particularly interesting situation is Xinjiang. The figures for 1991 showed 59,755 divorces and 170,999 marriages, the percentage of divorces to marriages being 34.9 per cent, by far the highest in the country (SSB 1991: 802). By 1999 marriages were 174,267, while divorces were 58,341, or 33.5 per cent, the proportions actually being higher in Shanghai and Heilongjiang (NBS 2000: 768). Indeed, the figures suggest that while divorce has got considerably worse in China as a whole, it has slightly reduced in Xinjiang. Though no longer the highest in number in the country and with a slightly falling proportion to marriages, divorces in Xinjiang appear consistently so numerous as to demand explanation. The reason is a very unstable family life among the Uygurs in southern Xinjiang. Men very easily abandon their wives for others. Several informants both in 1994 and 1999 told me of this trend, adding that it was far from new (Mackerras 1995: 176). Figures from the 1990 census showed that the number of the divorced ethnic minority population in Xinjiang at that time was 3.28 times the figure for divorced Han (Sun et al. 1994: 90). A Chinese source (Sun et al. 1994: 89) claims that many men ignore the civil law, using instead the Islamic rules, under which it is comparatively easy for men to divorce their wives. However, this does not necessarily affect divorce rates among other Muslims in China as much as those in Xinjiang, and the explanation for the high rate may also include cultural factors. One Uygur living in Kaxgar with whom I talked about the subject in June 1999 told me that he himself was in the process of divorcing his wife at the time and finding it a very complicated and difficult process, certainly not the picture one imagines from the masses of husbands abandoning their wives for new lovers. It may be that civil law is coming more into force with the passage of time.

Conclusion There is a clear relationship between population control and the social status of women. Bodies like the United Nations Population Fund and World Bank insist that higher female status means lower population growth. Specifically, giving females ‘equal access to education, jobs, property and credit’ and getting more women into the public sphere ‘reduces child mortality, improves public health, slows population growth and strengthens overall economic growth’ (quoted from Westlake 2001a: 67–8). It seems to me to follow from the material in this chapter that China’s record in both fields since the early 1990s has been mixed but generally positive. If the aim is to reduce population growth, then that has occurred. It is certainly possible to challenge the methods, and human rights activists have indeed done that. But in the population area, the worst excesses belong to the 1980s, not the 1990s, let alone later. The material suggesting growing willingness to restrict the size of one’s own family as modernisation takes hold is especially compelling and credible. On the other hand, the pace of migration shows no sign of let-up and seems to be accelerating into the most sensitive areas, Tibet and Xinjiang. In neither case is the migration as extensive as exile communities’ and human rights activists’

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accounts allege, but it is quite serious all the same. My own view is that the Chinese government should not, and cannot, force the Han who already live in Xinjiang and Tibet to leave, since many have already made their home there. However, they certainly can, and should, try to restrict the scope of immigration from now on. What is obvious is that this immigration causes deep resentment among local ethnic minorities. It gives them the feeling that their home is being taken over. Migration of peoples from one part of a country or of the world to another is undoubtedly part of globalisation. However, it is striking that the West should now be opposing Han migration into China’s ethnic areas so vigorously. After all, the peoples of Europe have spread to many parts of the world, even taking over some of them and displacing the original inhabitants. What seems to have happened is that, as well as becoming part and parcel of globalisation, migration is also coming to be one of the targets of those forces that oppose globalisation. Issues of gender have resonances with various other aspects of society. They pit modernity against tradition with the globalising forces of the West squarely placed alongside on the side of modernity and the minorities themselves on the side of the tradition. One scholar has put forward a dichotomy in which being modern is ‘to consume or reproduce rather than to produce, to watch rather than to do, to be urban rather than rural, masculine rather than feminine’ (Schein 2000: 253). Schein is absolutely right to pose the dichotomy as being partly between urban and rural. In virtually all ethnic areas I have visited, the more modernised towns are rejecting traditional attitudes towards women more strongly than the countryside. I must add that I see significant change in the rural areas as well, and the stronger rejection of arranged marriages in rural than urban Tibet is very striking. But in general modernisation is probably far less thorough than in the towns and cities. Despite the appeal of Schein’s formulation, I prefer to see the dichotomy between modernity and tradition a bit differently. It seems to me that the last decade and more of the twentieth century ushered in a process in which ethnic youth were more and more attracted to modernisation and the global forces that came from the West, but at the same time there was a process that pulled back to traditions. It is true, as Schein implies, that the pressures on young women to return to traditions were somewhat greater than on the young men. However, I believe that the thrust towards that goal of modernisation affected both women and men. The material I have presented in this chapter shows some convergence between the experience of China’s ethnic minorities and global forces. That is evident in the halting progress towards empowerment and the incipient participation of ethnic women in commerce. At the same time, the material on Tibetan marriage practices shows the pull of tradition very clearly. Probably as time goes by, globalisation will increasingly favour the processes of modernity and oppose those of tradition. The effect is likely to be to increase the educational and empowerment levels of women in China, including among the minorities. There are likely to be exceptions. The fact is that there remains great diversity among the minorities. Already tradition had women with more social power in some ethnic groups than others. But I suspect the overall direction will be clear and promote modernity.


International relations

The minorities of China have increasingly become involved in China’s international relations since 1990. In the far northwest, the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 has imposed a very different texture of relations with the countries to China’s west, which has involved the minorities in a way much tighter and more direct than was the case during the Soviet period. On the whole, the minorities have exercised a beneficial effect on China’s relations with Russia and other bordering countries to its west. The Tibetan issue has become more internationalised and globalised since 1990. It has affected China’s relations with the Western countries, especially the United States, but also with India, Mongolia and other countries. It has increased in intensity, with ‘Tibet lobbies’ exercising significant public influence in Western countries and elsewhere. While the issue has never taken a priority at the top either of China’s or other countries’ foreign relations, and China is reasonably friendly with most of the countries concerned, the impact of Tibet on bilateral relations has been damaging.

The background The development of humankind since 1990 has been subject to several major events and trends. Possibly the most important of them has been the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 and its replacement by a commonwealth of independent states, of which four share borders with China. The Federation of Russia is by far the largest and most important of these states, but as a world power its status is very much lower than the Soviet Union’s had been. The period also saw a further spectacular rise both in the economy and power of China, which remained as the only country with the rank anything remotely approaching that of a world power still governed by a party espousing Marxism–Leninism. The fact that few people still believed in it did not alter the fact that Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought–Deng Xiaoping Theory was still the official ideology of the CCP. Russia’s woes left only one superpower: the United States, which continued to grow economically and exert mighty technological, military, economic, political, social and cultural influence throughout the globe. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was originally founded primarily as a defence grouping of North American and West European countries against the Soviet

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Union and its allies, not only continued in existence despite the elimination of its primary enemy, but even expanded in size and power. In March 1999, NATO actually added three countries of the former Soviet bloc to its membership: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; and at its meeting of December 2002 formally added another large group of countries, some of them actually republics of former Soviet Union. The break-up of Yugoslavia brought several major conflicts in its wake, radically expanding the extent of ethnic conflict in the Balkans. The most serious of them was the war between Serbians, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Hercegovina (1992–1995), which spawned ethnic hatreds and caused casualties and destruction on a horrific scale. From March to June 1999, NATO forces carried out a bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo, respectively a republic and province of Yugoslavia. Kosovo, where over 80 per cent of the population in the early 1990s was Albanian, wished to secede from Yugoslavia but was fiercely resisted by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose practice of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the Albanians NATO’s bombing campaign was trying to prevent. Milosevic was forced to give in to NATO, and fell from power in October 2000. In June 2001 he was handed over to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. These events were accompanied by a major thrust towards globalisation throughout the world, a trend discussed in detail in Chapter 1. Other than the spread of computer and other technologies, markets and economic investments, this trend included some important social trends of great importance for this book. The main one, especially affecting the West, was an international rise in the concern for human rights. A subcategory of this concern was worry over ethnic conflict, which seemed to spread and intensify in many parts of the world when the Soviet Union collapsed. Yugoslavia was the most obvious example, but possibly the worst was Rwanda, where in 1994 ethnic carnage and civil war reportedly took over 1 million lives (Turner 2000: 1300). There were political implications, with international bodies reaching the conclusion that they had not only the right but even the duty to intervene in cases of totally outrageous abuses of human rights. The intervention in Kosovo was a primary example of such intervention. Another social element associated with globalisation in the 1990s is the renewed triumph of certain kinds of religion. Two specific religions are of particular relevance to this chapter, namely Tibetan Buddhism and Islam. The youth movements of the 1960s and the revolutionary culture that accompanied the protests against American intervention in Vietnam led many people to the belief that religions in general were in decline and would eventually disappear. This has not happened. On the contrary, if anything, religion has strengthened. In some Western countries, especially Western Europe, traditional Christianity may exert less influence than it once did. Yet it is still a force to be reckoned with. It is also very important that other, non-Christian, forms of spirituality have increased dramatically in influence, among which Tibetan Buddhism and Islam have both ranked high. In the West, Tibetan Buddhism has become part of the ‘new spirituality’ that has become very fashionable with Western youth, filling a void the rampant materialism of daily life cannot satisfy.


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The destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington on 11 September 2001 produced a significant effect on global international relations. All the major governments of the world expressed themselves shocked by the incidents and enthusiastic to defeat the terrorism that had caused them. United States President George W. Bush accused the extremist Islamic Taliban government of Afghanistan of harbouring Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network that he held responsible for the 11 September incidents. As it happened the Americans and their allies launched a war to overthrow the Taliban about a month after the destruction of the World Trade Center. By the end of 2001, the American-led coalition had overthrown the Taliban and installed a new pro-American government. China’s foreign relations For China, with its rising economy and world status, there were two countries with which bilateral relations mattered above all others.1 These were, in order of importance, the United States and Russia. As the only remaining superpower and a country with which China had had a very unstable relationship since 1949, the United States was the country of greatest concern for China’s foreign policy formulators. Russia, though enjoying but a shadow of its former power, still has plenty of military hardware and technology, and an extremely long border with China. It shared with the United States a highly unstable and sensitive relationship with China in the preceding decades. In principle, both China and the United States want good relations with each other, with presidential visits having taken place both ways. Yet Sino-American relations were bifurcated in the sense that each country has had a very different priority in formulating policy towards the other. For China, the top priority is its own territorial integrity and the requirement that the United States should support its one-China policy, especially acknowledging Taiwan as part of China. For the United States, the main concern is that a rising China should cooperate with the United States, rather than challenge its global supremacy, the implication being that it must become democratic. The China policy of President Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party (January 1993–January 2001) was engagement. This meant that he wanted to cooperate with China in various kinds of economic, cultural, social and political exchange, which in his view would ultimately lead to a democratisation of China. However, Republican George W. Bush, who became American president on 20 January 2001, adopted a much more defiant line towards China. Not long after taking over he specified that China was a ‘strategic competitor’ and made it clear that any hint of ‘kowtowing to China’ was a thing of the past. The bottom line of China’s foreign relations is an acceptance of Taiwan as part of China. Every country which establishes diplomatic relations with China recognises the PRC as the sole legal government of China and, explicitly or implicitly, that there is but one China to which Taiwan belongs. Since the early 1990s a series of incidents has cast serious doubt on the long-term sustainability of these propositions

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as far as the United States is concerned. In particular, the question of whether the United States would intervene militarily in order to defend a democratic Taiwan against an attack from the mainland has, for the Chinese, cast serious doubt on whether the Americans share their concern for territorial integrity. The 1990s saw a definite rise in Chinese nationalism, especially in its relations with the United States. More reactive than assertive, what spawned this nationalism was essentially a fear that the United States was trying to stop the Chinese rise by bringing down the CCP and throwing the country into chaos and disintegration, just as had happened with the Soviet Union. Other factors behind the nationalism were resentment over criticism by the Americans of its human rights record, their response to the Taiwan situation, and their excessive demands in return for giving support for China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. In addition, there were several specific events that intensified anti-American nationalist feelings in China. Foremost among these was the bombing of China’s Embassy in Belgrade in May 1999 during the NATO intervention over Kosovo. American and other NATO spokespeople claimed this as a ‘tragic accident’, while Chinese on the whole found the greatest difficulty in believing that so sophisticated a military power could use wrong maps or mistarget in so crass a fashion as to strike the Embassy of a supposedly friendly country. During this period of tension in Sino-American relations, China got on extremely well with Russia, both under its earlier President Boris Yeltsin, who retired from the position on the last day of 1999, and his successor Vladimir Putin. When Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Moscow in April 1997, he and Yeltsin agreed that the two countries wanted a strategic partnership, representing, in the words of one Western specialist (Dittmer 2001: 412), ‘a stable and meaningful commitment to bilateral aid and support’. For most of the period since the early 1990s, Russia has had great difficulties with its republic of Chechnya, which declared independence in November 1991 against voluble protests from the Russian leadership. Russian attempts to suppress this secessionist movement have resulted in more or less continuous warfare since that time, and China has offered strong support for the Russian cause. The Chinese leaders’ reaction to the 11 September 2001 incidents was to express shock and support for the war against terrorism. There was a strong public sentiment that the Americans had brought the incidents on themselves through their high-handed policies around the world, and especially in the Middle East. Internet sites seemed even quite pleased at American humiliation (Niquet 2001: 4–5). But what mattered was what the government did. At a major international forum in Shanghai in October 2001, Jiang Zemin and Bush presented a strong united front over the evils of terrorism and the need to attack it in all its forms. One of the effects of the incidents was to bring the three major powers, the United States, Russia and China, together with common interests. It was the first time this had happened since the Second World War. One had the impression that only war could bring the three powers together, because only a shared war could create common interests for them. However, in some ways the war against terrorism was harmful to China’s interests. It saw the United States draw Pakistan


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more strongly into its orbit, with Chinese influence mattering less than before (Niquet 2001: 7). The years since 1990 have been very good ones in China’s relations with its neighbours. In 1991, it ‘normalised’ its relations with Vietnam after a period of extreme bitterness and in December 1999 the two countries signed two agreements settling their mutual borders. Although some issues of division remained, Chinese influence in Vietnam as well as trade and investment increased dramatically. Chinese visited Vietnam to an unprecedented extent, and China became Vietnam’s principal source of international tourism. China has also enjoyed very good relations with its neighbour Myanmar, rather too good for Western human rights activists, who regarded Myanmar with disgust and horror, especially before the release of democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2002. Several events of the early 1990s caused China to shift its ‘Western Asian focus … from the Middle East to Central Asia’ (Harris 1993: 126). These included the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War of 1991, which pitted the United Nations against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. China’s relations with the countries of Central Asia have been generally both good and improving since that time. China’s relationship with the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) improved greatly during the 1980s, along with that with the Soviet Union. However, the MPR fell at about the same time as the Soviet Union, and the Constitution of 12 February 1992 changed the name of the state from MPR simply to Mongolia. It has tried to maintain good relations both with Russia and China, while at the same time reducing dependence on them. In October 1994, Russia, China and Mongolia signed a protocol defining their mutual borders. To the dismay of both Russia and China, Mongolia has accepted military relations with various countries, including the United States. To the east of Mongolia is Korea, which was divided in 1945 into the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, and the southern Republic of Korea, or South Korea. During the Korean War (1950–1953), China fought in defence of North Korea, which was then, and is still, ruled by a Marxist – Leninist party called the Korean Workers’ Party. Ever since the Korean War, China has enjoyed good relations, on a reasonably stable basis, with North Korea. During the 1980s, Chinese relations with South Korea began to thaw, and a PRC team took part in the Olympic Games held in Seoul in the autumn of 1988. In August 1992, South Korea established diplomatic relations with China. North Korea was definitely displeased by the Chinese action, but chose not to highlight it by making its opposition too clear. Since that time relations between China and South Korea have developed quite well, especially in the trade area. After a very long period of hostility, relations with India continued a tendency to improve even though, as one writer has it, ‘India principally represents to China a budding regional rival’ (Roy 1998: 170). Visits at prime ministerial level resumed after a very long break. In September 1993 Indian Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao’s visit to China included the signing of documents concerning the maintenance of border peace, the reduction of troops along the border and expanded border trade. In May 1998, Defence Minister George Fernandes of the

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newly formed right-wing nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared China, not Pakistan, as the greatest potential threat to India. Later the same month Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee cited the Chinese threat as a primary reason for five nuclear tests. Relations appeared set for decline. However, since that time, both countries appear to have decided that ‘at least a modicum of warmth’ is essential for their own security and that of their regions.2

Tibet and the Tibetans In Chapter 2, I noted that Tibet was already an issue leading to a decline in SinoAmerican relations by the late 1980s. Since the early 1990s this trend has intensified, Tibet becoming one of those issues of concern to popular opinion in Western countries, especially the United States. Hand in hand with the religious influence of Tibetan Buddhism, noted above, has come the political influence of the ‘Tibet lobby’, which tends to support independence for Tibet and is solidly critical of more or less everything China does in Tibet. American sympathy for the Dalai Lama and his supporters is virtually synonymous with opposition to China. It is hardly surprising that this has brought about a sharp response in Beijing and contributed to a downturn in Sino-American relations. At the same time, neither the United States nor other countries have allowed the Tibet issue seriously to threaten their overall relationships. The general pattern in China’s foreign relations concerning Tibet has been that, in response to public opinion and lobbies pushing the Tibet cause, the United States and other countries have condemned China for its policy and human rights abuses in Tibet. Some members of the American Congress and the parliaments of other countries have demanded further diplomatic action against China. However, executive governments have stopped short of taking diplomatic measures with the potential to inflict serious damage on commercial dealings with China. And as for a major country actually recognising the Tibetan government-in-exile, that has never come into serious question. The Tibet issue may matter, but in the overall scheme of things, it does not rank at or near the top of the priorities affecting bilateral relations with China. For example, the United States has numerous other issues overshadowing Tibet in relating to China. These include a range of strategic issues, such as Taiwan and Korea, and economic relations. Unless the bilateral relationship were to deteriorate drastically due to other factors, it is quite out of the question that the United States would again provide military support on behalf of Tibetan independence, as it did from the mid-1950s to 1974, let alone send in troops. Right at the beginning of a major 1994 report on Tibet, the American State Department declared unequivocally that it recognised Tibet as part of China. It stated that it did not conduct diplomatic relations with the ‘self-styled “Tibetan government-in-exile” ’ (State Department 1995: 1), the terminology implying a suspicious, even mildly hostile, attitude. On 20 October 1999, Reuters reported a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair as saying that Britain recognises Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and that the PRC leaders were well aware of this (quoted Sautman 2000: 37). As far as concerns diplomatic relations, the


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governments of other countries have adopted similar positions. Moreover, one scholar suggests that several countries friendly to the Dalai Lama, including the United States, Denmark and Britain, actually moved closer to China’s position in 1999 and 2000 (Sautman 2002: 92–3). Yet, as we shall see in more detail below, government leaders have frequently met with the Dalai Lama and offered him sympathy. Moreover, on 31 October 1997 President Bill Clinton announced the appointment of a special coordinator on Tibet, with functions that included encouraging the Chinese government to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The announcement was a calculated insult to China. Jiang Zemin was actually in the United States at the time, and the Chinese government had declared since 1979 that any dialogue with the Dalai Lama depended on his accepting that Tibet was an inalienable part of China. Certainly the International Campaign for Tibet was delighted at the news of Clinton’s appointment of the special coordinator, regarding it as a victory for their cause, even though the United States government was at pains to deny that the appointment implied an American recognition of an independent Tibet. On 27 June 1998, during Clinton’s return visit to China, the two presidents held a joint news conference in Beijing. Clinton again urged closer dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Jiang Zemin’s response was that he would do so as soon as the Dalai Lama acknowledged that both Tibet and Taiwan were part of China. This was nothing new, but Jiang abstained from attacking the Dalai Lama and his tone was unusually conciliatory. However, hopes that this might portend a movement towards a slackening of tension over Tibet came to nothing, with both sides deciding against dialogue late in 1998 (Sautman 2002: 79). China exuded confidence in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the 23 May 1951 Agreement which had sealed Tibet’s return to China (see Chapter 2), while overseas commentary was remarkably muted. The American Congress has generally been much more forthright on the subject of Tibet than have Administrations. Congress has on occasion gone far beyond condemning China for human rights abuses in Tibet. It has referred to Tibet, specifically including the Tibetan areas of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, as ‘an occupied country’. It has described the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile as ‘recognized by Congress as the true representatives of the Tibetan people’. There is no doubt that many in Congress would like to recognise an independent Tibet (see Goldstein 1997: 118–19). There are many supporters of the same cause in other Western parliaments, including that of Australia. When Jiang Zemin visited Australia in September 1999, a Tibetan attended a lunch in his honour at the invitation of one of Parliament’s supporters of Tibetan independence and handed him a letter demanding that he allow the Tibetans to determine their own future. The international role of the Dalai Lama The international relations bearing on the issue of Tibet are strongly dominated by the individual person of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Leading his government-in-exile

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in Dharamsala, India, his influence mushroomed throughout the world after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Although, among non-Tibetans, he enjoys greatest following in the West, especially the United States, his popularity is global. One specialist on Tibetan affairs claims that the Dalai Lama has ‘in some senses become a pop-culture icon’ (Goldstein 1997: 119) in the United States. Early in 1998 the magazine Asiaweek included the Dalai Lama among the top twenty-five ‘trend-makers’ in Asia, calling him ‘the Patron Saint of the “Tibet Chic” phenomenon that is sweeping the planet’ (Seno and Morgan 1998: 42). The same magazine’s 2001 list of Asia’s fifty most powerful people ranked him twenty-first. Appropriate to the age, the ability to communicate was the main criterion. Justifying the Dalai Lama’s inclusion, Asiaweek called him ‘Tibet’s global operator’ and declared that ‘in the public-relations battle for the world’s sympathy, Beijing is losing the fight with the Dalai Lama. The question is whether the messenger is becoming bigger than his message’ (Hornik 2001: 56). This seems to me a very perceptive comment, especially the last sentence. It is by no means obvious that the international acclaim accorded the Dalai Lama means that the causes of the Tibet lobby are moving towards triumph. In the second half of the 1990s, Hollywood took up the Dalai Lama and his cause in a big way, contributing greatly to what one scholar has described as ‘virtual Tibet’ (Schell 2000). What Hollywood presented was an unreal Tibet, one that had never existed and does not now. Film stars such as Richard Gere and Brad Pitt were active in promoting the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence and denouncing China for its role in Tibet, which they saw as simple occupation of a foreign country. The year 1997 saw the screening of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet. Based on the experiences of the Austrian Heinrich Harrer in Tibet in the days before the 1950s, it focuses on his friendship with the young Dalai Lama, whom it shows in an extremely positive, saintly, light, with Brad Pitt in the role of Harrer. Another film on Tibet, Kundun, came out the following year. The Dalai Lama as a child is the central character and again comes across with a saintly image. Although the Chinese do not loom large in either film, especially the second, any appearances show them as demons akin to the Nazis, whom Heinrich Harrer had supported during the War (see also Schell 2000: 31–41). Ironically, the Nazi link was a major factor the Chinese used in an attempt to discredit Hollywood’s attempts to deify the Dalai Lama. A former Nazi was using Hollywood to advertise himself, they charged, and Hollywood was happy to help him, because it was bent on prejudicing the world against China on the Tibet issue (Schell 2000: 296). In the 1990s, the Dalai Lama continued and intensified his international mission from his base in Dharamsala. He made numerous visits to cities in various parts of the world. He became, just as Asiaweek rightly called him, a global operator. Of course the Chinese government protested against the visits, accusing him of being a ‘splittist’ determined to split the motherland, a political leader rather than a religious one. Their protests were especially loud when the Dalai Lama’s itinerary involved meetings with political leaders, which it very frequently did. They became more voluble and severe with the passage of time, corresponding to


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the expanding reputation and influence of the Dalai Lama and of China’s increasing nationalism. For relations with the United States two of the Dalai Lama’s meetings deserve particular mention. Both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush met with the Dalai Lama very early in their terms of office. Clinton received him at the White House in April 1993, Bush following suit on 22 May 2001. The latter visit gained added political sharpness in terms of relations with China in that it corresponded exactly with celebrations in China itself to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the agreement of 23 May 1951. Among the most important trips the Dalai Lama has made outside his new home country of India from the point of view of politics was to Great Britain. There, in mid-July 1996, he addressed the British Parliament in the Palace of Westminster on the subject of Tibet and its relations with China. He made several points. One was to attack Chinese rule in the most forthright terms, as we saw in the section on population in Chapter 6. On the other hand, he also said very clearly that what he wanted for Tibet was not full independence of China, but instead ‘genuine’ self-rule. He did not spell out the exact nature of this autonomy, but it was certainly a retreat from an earlier insistence on total independence. In contrast to the similar proposal put forward at Strasbourg in 1988, the Dalai Lama has never withdrawn from his 1996 British statement. On the contrary he repeated his demand for ‘genuine’ self-rule in many forums and in many places, emphasising his wish for ‘a high degree of autonomy’ along the lines found in Hong Kong since 1997. One place of considerable importance where he repeated his ‘genuine self-rule’ formula was Taiwan. He visited the island for the first time in March 1997, even meeting with President Lee Teng-hui. Considering that the PRC regards Taiwan as part of China, this visit was like a red rag to a bull from the mainland’s point of view. To assuage the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama insisted that he was seeking to pave the way for a closer understanding between Taiwan and the mainland, and stressed that what he wanted for Tibet was autonomy not independence. In an interview with the Taipei-based China Times in Ladakh in mid-1998 the Dalai Lama stated that it was ‘my consistent position that I don’t support nor encourage the movement of Taiwan’s independence’. He also conceded that he had postponed a planned visit to Taiwan because of opposition from Beijing (CND, Global News, no. GL98-102 (20 July 1998), item 55). For the PRC, Taiwanese independence is even more sensitive than Tibetan. What the Dalai Lama was doing was to emphasise that visiting Taiwan was not designed to irritate the PRC government. Mainland reaction to these initiatives of the Dalai Lama was very negative. Asked his response to the Dalai Lama’s statement in Taiwan of his willingness to abandon independence for Tibet, a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman, Cui Tiankai, retorted in a regular news briefing (1997: 12): China will never tolerate any attempt to split the nation. China attaches great importance to national unity. The Dalai Lama always claims not to seek an

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independent Tibet, but this is actually what he does wherever he goes. The fact is that he has never given up his separatist scheme. PRC authorities believe that the Dalai Lama’s is a two-step approach. This means that he will first secure a ‘high degree of autonomy’, then proceed towards demanding full independence later. As Barry Sautman points out (2000: 59–66), this is by no means a ridiculous concern. The Dalai Lama’s own brother Tenzin Chogyal (quoted Sautman 2000: 59) has said ‘Let us first of all achieve autonomy. Then we can throw out the Chinese!’ In a ‘genuinely autonomous’ Tibet, there could be no restrictions on secessionist activity aiming towards full independence, and it would be almost certain not only to succeed but also to gain international recognition. As the Dalai Lama’s new home, India was inevitably wound up in the Tibet issue. Defence Minister George Fernandes of the BJP-led government was known for his strong feelings on Tibet, having run a campaign against China for its role there. The Dalai Lama visited BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee only a few months after the latter came to power in March 1998. The Chinese predictably reacted quickly and caustically. Their foreign affairs spokesman Tang Guoqiang (1998b: 8) denounced the Dalai Lama as a politician in exile, not a religious figure, and charged that the Indian Prime Minister’s meeting with him was a violation of ‘India’s promise not to allow the Dalai Lama to engage in anti-Chinese activities’. Human rights, cultural survival If governments are reluctant to recognise the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile for fear of repercussions from the Chinese, they are less reticent about attacking human rights abuses in Tibet, including religious persecution and the destruction of culture. Among governments putting forward such severe condemnations, the most important are those of the West, especially the American. On the whole, Asian governments are less inclined to condemn China. In the hierarchy of Western images of Chinese human rights abuses, Tibet is certainly less important than the Beijing Massacre of 1989. Yet images of Chinese behaviour in Tibet are negative in the extreme. There are five main such images: ●

● ●

China is destroying Tibetan culture in a process leading towards cultural genocide. The Chinese are persecuting and suppressing Tibetan Buddhism, practising ghastly human rights abuses in the process. Over a million Tibetans have died as a result of Chinese occupation. The Tibetan areas of China are becoming ‘swamped’ by Han Chinese to such an extent that they have become a minority in their own country. China has despoiled the Tibetan landscape, especially through deforestation.3

It may be clear from other chapters of this book that I do not entirely share these images, regarding them generally as simplistic or exaggerated or even false.


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However, some of the reports certainly contain some accuracy. Moreover, there is no doubt at all of their currency in Western countries or of the passion with which many people hold them, including some in government or parliamentary positions. It is also important that the images of cultural despoliation and, in the context of Tibet, its subset religious persecution, have tended to dominate discussions over Tibet between Western leaders and those of China or the Dalai Lama. Although these images were certainly not new to the 1990s, they have gathered momentum since that time, because of the increasing globalisation of the Tibet issue and the acceleration of economic modernisation and development there. Agencies such as the Tibet Information Network have more offices in Western countries, with increased efforts to keep people informed of their views. In December 1997, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists issued a lengthy report on the situation in Tibet. It was possibly the most important of those by international bodies. However, it is also worth emphasising because both its content and the Chinese reaction typified international discourse with China over Tibet, and indeed other matters involving human rights. The report condemned China for its role in Tibet, notably for its treatment of religious and political prisoners, which it denounced as repressive and harsh. It was extremely critical of the ‘patriotic education’ campaigns which authorities had been carrying out in the 1990s to win over the population to Chinese rule, charging that they were nothing more than intensified repression. The report called on China to hold a referendum in Tibet to test if the local people really wished to remain part of China. Reaction to the report from China was furious and entirely predictable. Foreign Ministry spokesman Tang Guoqiang retorted that ‘the report’s creators are extremely ignorant of Tibet’s history and present and of the rules concerning international relations’. He denied the human rights violations that the Commission had alleged. He rejected the suggestion of an act of self-determination, arguing that Tibet had always been an integral part of China since ancient times. ‘Tibetan affairs are China’s internal affairs and no foreign countries, forces or organizations have the right to interfere’, he concluded (Tang Guoqiang 1998a: 9). In August 1997, American Republican Congressman Frank Wolf secretly visited Tibet for 4 days in the guise of a tourist. He returned home claiming that China was swallowing up the country through mass arrests and brutal repression, and that the Tibetan language and culture were being destroyed. He called on the West to act urgently to save Tibetan culture. The fact that such a man was prepared to visit Tibet without permission from China, not to mention his claims on return, further added poison to Sino-American relations as regards Tibet, even though it is true that as a Republican, he was explicitly in opposition to the Democrat President Clinton. Chinese leaders travelling overseas either to Western countries or India are more or less always confronted with demonstrators with placards reading ‘save Tibet’ or ‘free Tibet’. During Premier Li Peng’s West European trip early in 1992, it was the Beijing Massacre that dominated public reaction. However, Swiss Justice Minister Arnold Koller refused to meet him in protest over the Chinese

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refusal to discuss either Tibet or human rights in general. Jiang Zemin paid state visits to Italy, Switzerland and Austria in March 1999. One source claims that ‘Protestors calling for improved human rights and a free Tibet dogged his visit, prompting the president to lose his temper and reprimand his hosts in Switzerland’ (Westlake 2000: 111). Perhaps the public role of Tibet in Chinese leaders’ overseas visits is best exemplified in Jiang Zemin’s to the United States from 26 October to 3 November 1997. Though it is true that the Beijing Massacre still loomed larger than Tibet on the human rights front and Taiwan on the issue of independence, there were plenty of passionate and vociferous demonstrators against Jiang over Tibet at more or less every stop he made. Film star Richard Gere went on television repeatedly to claim that ‘6 million Tibetans live in slavery’ under Chinese rule (Forney 1997: 20). In a speech in Washington to a friendly audience, Jiang chose to elaborate on the Chinese version of Tibetan history, likening the reforms that followed the suppression of the 1959 uprising against China to the emancipation of black slaves in the United States. One journalist claimed that the ‘Washington establishment was aghast’ at his insensitivity, quoting one China specialist as saying: ‘It shows the level to which the Chinese just don’t get it’ (Forney 1997: 16). When George W. Bush met with the Dalai Lama in May 2001, he chose to emphasise ‘the strong commitment of the United States to support the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans’.4 In Tibet itself, the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1951 Agreement were placing stress on change, development, progress, economic growth and the rise in the living standards of ordinary Tibetans, especially since the 1980s, though also with praise for the repair and maintenance of ancient buildings and monasteries. So while Bush was chatting about human rights in Tibet with the Dalai Lama, with the assumption of a ghastly situation in Tibet itself, Chinese media reports were painting a picture of transition there from hell to relative paradise. Several specific incidents relating to Tibet have caused diplomatic embarrassment for China since the early 1990s. I select two of them for treatment as interesting examples of how Tibetan affairs have affected China’s foreign relations. The first concerns Tibetan religion: the way the Chinese forced their own choice of child as the Eleventh Panchen Lama in 1995, taken against a different nomination from the Dalai Lama (see Chapter 5). Chinese authorities came under very serious foreign criticism for their treatment of the boy. Journalists and others charged that they had placed him under house arrest, making him the world’s youngest religiously motivated political prisoner. Chinese spokespeople, on the other hand, argued that the Dalai Lama’s choice was living the life of a normal Tibetan boy and refused foreign media access to him. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson visited China, including Tibet, in September 1998, she raised this issue with Chinese officials, among a range of other human rights concerns, but all they did was to assure her of his safety without telling her his whereabouts. At a news conference at the end of the visit, she called on Jiang Zemin to meet with the Dalai Lama before the end of


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the century. Although this did not happen, the fact that Robinson actually visited Tibet and that its affairs occupied so important a place in her visit shows its priority in international human rights discourse with respect to China. The second issue concerns the environment and the economy. The Chinese requested money from the World Bank for its Chinese Western Poverty Reduction Project, covering Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Qinghai. In June 1999 the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved US$ 160 million towards the project, just over half the total cost. However, both the United States and Germany voted against the funding, the representatives of several other countries abstaining, and the Board specified the condition that it be entitled to review an inspection study of the Qinghai component of the project. The reason for the condition and for American and German hostility to the project was because the Qinghai component involved a resettlement programme anti-China Tibet activists in the West considered would harm the interests of local Tibetans in the host area and damage the environment. In May 2000 an Independent Inspection Panel of the World Bank reported to the World Bank management, sharply criticising a proposed loan of US$ 40 million designed to relocate some 58,000 rural Han families to a region in Qinghai inhabited by about 4,000 Tibetan and Mongolian herders. The Panel argued that the bank staff should have tried harder to find an alternative location. World Bank President James Wolfensohn sent an approval letter to twenty-four executive directors of the Bank, ‘stating that the relocation project follows new safeguards and meets the bank’s standards’ (CND, no. GL00-079 (26 June 2000), item 3 (37)). In London he expressed his confidence that the problems could be solved. However, as it turned out, a majority of the 181 countries represented on the Board of Executive Directors demanded further Board review based on conditions concerned with human rights and the environment. On 7 July 2000, the Chinese Executive Director, Zhu Xian, announced in Washington that his government rejected the conditions. He said (World Bank Group 2000): China will therefore turn to its own resources to implement the Qinghai Component of the project, and in its own way. Our efforts in fighting poverty will not be interrupted because of this development. We regret that because of political opposition from some shareholders the World Bank has lost a good opportunity to assist some of the poorest people in China, probably in the world, after so much effort by World Bank management and staff. It seems to me that the World Bank decision to impose further conditions was highly counter-productive. It was most certainly due to lobbying by activists whose main intention was to embarrass China. Some of them no doubt had the interests of the affected Tibetan and Mongolian community at heart. But the overall result is that World Bank experts had no input into the reduction of poverty among Tibetans in Qinghai. China was further embittered in its relations with the United States and its nationalism further heightened. The Chinese did exactly as they wished in implementing the project. Their success in reducing poverty

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among the affected population is undoubted, but the environmental and cultural effects will be worse than they need have been had the World Bank decided to contribute funds. Both the case of the Eleventh Panchen Lama and that of the Western Poverty Reduction Project show the effects of globalisation. They show how interconnected the world has become both in terms of its economy and its concern for religious freedom, the environment and human rights. They show both the importance and the limitations of the work of international bodies. They also show the power of lobbies in the globalisation process. There may be instances in which global capitalism operates worldwide like an uncontrollable monster. But this is by no means universal, or even the norm. On the contrary, it is often the vocal minorities who cause the damage, by preventing beneficial projects that help to reduce human misery and poverty.

The Muslim peoples since 1990 Whereas it is southwestern China that is home to the Tibetans, the main Muslim concentrations are in the northwest, especially Xinjiang. The Muslim people that produces the greatest impact on China’s foreign relations is the Uygurs of Xinjiang, and they will take up the bulk of coverage here. One of the major differences between the Uygurs and Tibetans is that the Uygurs lack any figure appealling to Western countries. There is no leader in any sense comparable to the Dalai Lama, who can take the Uygur message to Western peoples and governments and arouse support for their cause. In sharp contrast to Tibetan Buddhism, an icon of the ‘new spirituality’, Islam has a generally negative image in the West, where people tend to see it in terms of terrorism and intolerance. Quite different from the peacefulness of the Tibetan Buddhists, the image of Islam tends towards violence. This image is old but gained added currency during the 1990s because of the rise of the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan. These student Muslim radicals made no secret both of their adherence to the doctrine of the jihad or holy war and of their wish to use this notion to spread their version of Islam outside Afghanistan. Other than Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the international community rejected the Taliban regime. Pakistan was home to a rising system of Islamic schools that helped train Muslim guerrillas, even including Uygurs wishing to stir up trouble for China. The rise of the military government in October 1999, led by General Pervez Musharraf, merely exacerbated foreign anxiety about these schools and Muslim fundamentalism in general. The Pakistan government did not wish directly to sponsor such schools, for fear of alienating outside countries. But neither did it wish to be regarded as anti-Islamic, a factor inhibiting crackdowns on the schools. The inclusion of Uygurs among the students of the schools shows that there is a Uygur exile community some of the members of which have been trying for many years to stir up anti-Chinese feeling among Uygurs, both in Xinjiang itself and outside. Among the most prominent of its leaders are Erkin Alptekin and


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Arslan Alptekin, the two sons of Isa Yusuf Alptekin, a strong Turki nationalist of the pre-1949 era.5 Both escaped from China in 1949 together with Isa. There is also Uygur exile activity in Kazakhstan, which in 2000 had a Uygur population of some 250,000 among its total of 16.93 million people (Hoh 2000: 25 and Turner 2000: 936). In April 1991 a body called the Uygur Liberation Organisation even registered as a legal political party in Kazakhstan (Dillon 1997: 140). However, the Uygur exiles get no support from the government of Kazakhstan, which has suppressed their activities since the mid-1990s and keeps surveillance over them. According to Erkin Alptekin (cited Hoh 2000: 25), Uygurs ‘can hardly breathe in Kazakhstan’. Late in 1999, the Uygur exile groups held the first East Turkestan National Congress in Munich, Germany, in order to organize themselves against China more effectively and place greater pressure on Western governments on behalf of their cause. Despite meetings of this kind, a serious problem for the Uygur exiles is that they are very splintered, lacking both organization and funds. According to Erkin Alptekin (cited in Hoh 2000: 25), ‘Disunity is a historical problem among the peoples of East Turkestan. If we were a united people we would not have been under Chinese rule today’. Efforts by such congresses as that of 1999 are unlikely to solve this problem, and it is improbable that the Uygur exiles can create any alliance with the potential to be more than a pinprick to Chinese rule. The Chinese government is very clear in its belief that outside forces are crucial in any attempt to separate Xinjiang from China. Since the Baren Township uprising of April 1990, the Chinese have become increasingly worried about the potential of Uygur Muslim radicals in Xinjiang to stir up separatist feeling. The Ürümqi meeting of May 1996 (see Chapter 3) accused ‘some hostile forces in the West’ of stirring up infiltration and subversion in the region (Macartney 1996). The reference to the West in such contexts usually means mainly the United States, but probably also includes the range of Islam-based groups in Western countries. Most of Beijing’s worries are actually nearer at hand. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the three states of the former Soviet Union bordering China to the west, have become sites of growing radical Islamic fundamentalism. In the early 1990s, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan vied for influence in the Central Asian region (Rashid 1994: 212–14). However, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan altered the picture there, because of their insistence on radical Islamism. Yet this does not mean that extremist Islamic influence is negligible and it has been a major factor of anxiety to its neighbours, extending even into Xinjiang. One journalist has written (Lawrence 2000: 23–4): The newly independent Central Asian states bordering Xinjiang inspire Uighur [Uygur] separatists. They have also become sources of weapons, money, training and places of refuge. Foreign Islamic missionaries now target Xinjiang’s Muslims, and Uighurs are starting to take part in armed Islamic movements abroad, from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and even Chechnya.

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The context of this development is the rise of militant Islam in Central Asia since the mid-1990s. Two movements are of particular importance and worth mentioning here. These are the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party for Islamic Freedom) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The first of these movements is pan-Islamic and has a vision of uniting Central Asia and Xinjiang, and eventually all Muslims, in an Islamic religious state under a latter-day caliphate. According to Ahmed Rashid (2002a: 115) it had, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, become ‘the most popular, widespread underground movement’ in the three Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the last two of which border China. Dosybiev (2002) claims that it had spread to Kazakhstan and become active enough to cause great concern to authorities there by April 2002; the reasons he cites being ‘plunging living standards, the lack of a social safety net, corruption and state heavy-handedness’. Already in 1990 a group of Islamic fundamentalists had, against the wishes of the authorities, set up a mosque and Islamic school in a town in Uzbekistan with the sign ‘Long Live the Islamic State’ displayed outside the mosque (Rashid 2002a: 138). Due to various factors that included strong support and assistance from Osama bin Laden’s network in Afghanistan and repression from the Uzbek government led by President Islam Karimov, this group grew strongly over the following years into a fierce fighting force posing a very direct threat to the status quo in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. In 1998 its leaders formally set up the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The next year, the Movement’s religious leadership issued its call for a holy war or jihad against Karimov’s government, and announced its intention to establish an Islamic state.6 The regimes involved in Central Asia have taken action to counter the threat they see to their own power in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The governments of five neighbouring states have taken the initiative to strengthen their friendship, the countries being China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Later Uzbekistan joined their ranks. Certainly these countries have other reasons for getting on with each other, for example mutual security concerns, economic cooperation and preventing the movement of narcotics across the borders. Yet this does not diminish the importance of their shared interest in countering the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. So in April 1996 the Presidents of the five neighbouring states met in Shanghai to discuss common problems, becoming known as the ‘Shanghai Five’. The forums became an annual event, with subsequent meetings in Moscow in 1997, Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 1998, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in 1999 and Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in 2000. In mid-June 2001, the meeting of the group was back in Shanghai. Uzbekistan had observer status in the 2000 meeting and was formally added as a regular participant at the meeting in Shanghai in 2001, the six countries signing a formal pact and establishing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. They also signed a document pledging to cooperate to combat terrorism and extremism, a clear reference to Islamic fundamentalism. Jiang Zemin (quoted Kazer 2001: 7) stated that ‘The signing of the Shanghai Pact has laid the legal


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foundation for jointly cracking down on terrorism, separatism and extremism and reflects the firm determination of the six states on safeguarding regional security’. As one writer correctly observed, ‘China is hoping to contain the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, particularly from Afghanistan, and sees itself as vulnerable in Xinjiang’ (Kazer 2001: 7). In my opinion, it is hardly surprising that the Chinese see Xinjiang as under threat. In Chapter 3, I noted that the Chinese had put out a report in January 2002 alleging numerous terrorist incidents in Xinjiang over the previous decade. Rashid (2002a: 204) claims that a senior fundamentalist Islamic leader he interviewed in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe on 16 March 2001 told him that the Uygurs ‘are waging their own jihad against Beijing and China sees that there is a trans-national threat that cannot be stopped just from Xinjiang’. The formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is of considerable significance for China and for the region. The countries involved obviously think of their mutual relations as very important, since otherwise they would not go to the trouble of holding annual meetings at so high a level. Moreover, the meetings appear to be based on a common view that radical pan-Islamic sentiment is not in their interests. Clearly it is not accidental that Kazakhstan is doing what it can to curb anti-Chinese activities among its Uygur population. The Shanghai Five and successor Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have discussed a range of issues. They include attempts to control drug trafficking, which has become quite a serious issue in Xinjiang, including for the Uygurs and other minorities. The countries hold a similar view on the crucial issue of human rights. In reaction to NATO intervention in Kosovo earlier in 1999, the August 1999 Bishkek communiqué stated that ‘The protection of human rights should not be used as an excuse to interfere in others’ internal affairs’ (‘Bishkek Statement’ 1999: 11). The 2001 Shanghai meeting expressed strong opposition to a plan to build an expensive missile defence system put forward by George W. Bush, who had recently taken over as American President. They argued that Bush’s strategy would spawn a new arms race, which would ‘have serious negative consequences for international and regional stability and security’ (quoted Kazer 2001: 7). In the 1970s and much of the 1980s, the central plank of China’s foreign policy had been to oppose Soviet hegemonism. During the 1980s, this policy drove China to throw in its lot with an American-supported war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union (see Cooley 1999: 65–79). The fall of the Soviet Union and rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia created a completely new situation for China along its western borders. China could befriend the Soviet successor states, but there was still a threat from Muslim radicals. In a sense China had, through its policy in the 1970s and 1980s, itself helped create the bed in which it had to lie. Although the Uygurs are the Islamic minority with much the greatest relevance to China’s foreign relations, they are not the only one. There are several Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang, the co-nationals of which run their own state on the other side of the border. There is a substantial Kazak population in northern Xinjiang abutting Kazakhstan, and small Kirgiz and Tajik communities across the border from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, respectively. Although these peoples are interested in what happens in the countries where their co-nationals dominate the

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state, they do not appear to be anxious to split off from China and join up with the state where they would be in the majority. Generally speaking, they are doing quite well enough in China to warrant staying there and the Central Asian governments are currently not trying to change the borders to bring such co-national communities under their wing. The Hui, who are spread throughout China, have generally been loyal to the Chinese state, at least since the Republican period beginning in 1912. In Xinjiang, the Hui do not generally share the Uygurs’ distaste for the Chinese state and thus offer no support for separatism. Indeed, in the 1930s they turned out to be crucial to the survival of Chinese rule in Xinjiang, and that could easily happen again. Hui communities in other parts of China are not particularly near borders and their effect on China’s foreign relations has been relatively insignificant. However, one area where they have played an economic and religious role is in relations with the Muslim world of Southwest Asia. The World Islamic Development Bank has been active in China, especially since establishment of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in July 1990. The World Islamic Development Bank has contributed to building major Islamic theological colleges in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, and Ürümqi, both including large mosques. It has helped with Muslim activities in Xinjiang, Ningxia and elsewhere. China’s wish to maintain good relations with the Islamic states has also had the effect of more tolerance towards Muslims in general, provided they do not encourage separatism. This is a condition with which the Saudi authorities have found it in their interests to comply. The impact of the 11 September 2001 incidents and the war against terrorism The large-scale impact of the 11 September 2001 incidents on global international relations was relevant above all to Islam. For China some of the main flowon effects were connected with the Muslim peoples of Xinjiang, and above all the Uygurs. The Chinese government was very quick to try and assure the world that separatism of all kinds was equivalent to terrorism. In the case of the Uygurs, they also produced evidence of links with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and claimed that many hundreds of those radical Muslim Uygurs fighting for independence had been trained in the camps run by the al-Qaeda. Actually, there was nothing new about such suggestions. The Chinese government had been cooperating with Central Asian governments and Russia to combat terrorism and their fears that Uygurs were undergoing training in radical Islamic camps in Pakistan had long been known to Western journalists. It was not in the least surprising that they should take advantage of the war against terrorism the United States-led coalition was waging in Afghanistan to step up attacks on Uygur separatism. Oddly enough, Western reports began surfacing that the Chinese were secretly trying to assist the Taliban economically and in other ways. Of course, China immediately denied such reports. As emphasised above, such cooperation was


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flatly contradictory to China’s interests. The country had held no diplomatic relations with Afghanistan since 1993. The suggestion of economic support seems to me highly unlikely. The United States initially responded in two ways to China’s policy on the war against terrorism. On the one hand, George W. Bush was very effusive in his praise for Jiang Zemin’s support, adding that nobody should use the war to oppress minorities. The implication that this was what China was doing was not lost on the Chinese leadership, but they were insistent that they never oppressed minorities, and certainly never used a war against terrorism as an excuse to do so. The second response is closely related to the first. Despite Bush’s praise for Jiang Zemin, the United States refused, in the first instance, to make a direct link between the Chinese fight against its own form of Uygur separatist terrorism and the war it was itself waging. The Americans did acknowledge that there were Chinese among the foreign fighters they had been confronting in Afghanistan, but when the Chinese authorities asked for them to be repatriated, the Americans refused to comply, their grounds being fear that the same fighters would be the targets of human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities. On 5 March 2002, Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner said that Uygur activists were advocating greater civil liberties, which was not the same as terrorism (Torode 2002: 7). He does not seem to have taken at all seriously the evidence the Chinese presented in their January report, in which China detailed the incidents linking Uygur separatist terrorism with the al-Qaeda network (see Chapter 3). However, the United States Department of State later changed its position. When in May 2002 it released its report on terrorism the preceding year, the Department of State’s Counterterrorism Office gave quite high marks to China for its efforts against terrorism. In particular, it acknowledged that Uygurs had been found fighting with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and named two groups as ‘cause for concern’, including the East Turkestan Islamic Party, which ‘was founded in the early 1980s with the goal of establishing an independent state of Eastern Turkestan and advocates armed struggle’ (US Department of State 2002: 17). Late in August 2002, Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage announced in Beijing that the United States had recognised this body as a terrorist organisation. The Chinese leaders were of course delighted by this change in attitude. Uygur spokesmen were correspondingly extremely upset, feeling that people who should be their friends had turned against them. Human rights activists in the West and elsewhere were dismayed at the American change of heart. They had felt vindicated in their view that the Chinese were simply using the war against terrorism to push their own repressive agendas against Muslims and other dissidents. American official spokesmen continued to decry the use of counterterrorism ‘as a substitute for addressing legitimate social and economic aspirations’ (US Department of State 2002: 17), but it was obvious that the highest item on the agenda was not defence of human rights but the war against terrorism. In some ways the war against terrorism has improved Sino-American relations. Both have a common interest in fighting against terrorism, especially that conducted by radical Muslims. But it is obvious from the previous paragraph that

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there are still tensions, and they could easily flare again in the aftermath of the American-led war against terrorism. The United States was very quick to move militarily into Central Asia, and this is very important, because ‘it is the first arrival of Western armies since Alexander the Great conquered the region in 334 B.C.’ (Rashid 2002b: 16). This totally unprecedented historical development has made China feel encircled by the Americans to an extent even greater than was the case before the war. There is still serious ideological difference between the United States and China. The American government would still like to see the CCP overthrown and replaced by a democratic government more in line with its own ideological persuasion. China may have given place to Islamic fundamentalism as the main threat to the United States. But each power remains wary of the other and China probably feels even more under threat than before the war against terrorism. The United States also got Pakistan involved in its war against terrorism. This was a highly significant victory, because many Muslims in Pakistan shared views of Islam and the United States with the Taliban. Probably the Taliban had only got to power through support from Pakistan. However, China got much more direct support for its struggle against Uygur terrorist separatism from Pakistan than it did from the United States. The Associated Press reported that on 21 December 2001, while in Beijing, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had promised the Chinese leadership support for a crackdown on Uygur separatism. So the traditional links between Pakistan and China have become even tighter through the war against terrorism. As for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it is still highly relevant, and possibly more so than ever, because one of its main aims is to defeat terrorism. They still share values concerning distaste for the American view of human rights, and they still share interests in common on security matters, such as the wish to retain the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The United States Bush Administration has declared its intention to negate the Treaty, and if any of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation powers agree to this, it will be very reluctantly. Nevertheless, there are also signs that do not favour the Organisation. With the Americans moving into the Central Asian region, the countries of the former Soviet Union may see their interests best served in cooperating with the Americans. Some members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation may be moved to downgrade its importance in the wake of the changes in the overall balance of forces effected by the war against terrorism. Yet despite the support Russian President Putin has offered Bush, Russia and China both know that the American presence in a region traditionally their own sphere of influence makes mutual cooperation essential. Early in 2002 Beijing placed an order with a Russian defence plant for two brand-new destroyers. A view from Kazakhstan has it that ‘the obvious result of the US presence in Central Asia in the Russian–Chinese relations will be the building up of their military and technical potential’ (Serov 2002). The developments in the war against terrorism that have followed the incidents of 11 September 2001 have intensified globalisation in Xinjiang and among its Uygurs in several ways. First, these developments have brought the region into


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the mainstream of global international relations more directly than has been the case for a very long time. Second, they have strengthened the impact of both the most powerful forces of globalisation that we associate with the United States and one of the secondary forces, in the form of Islam. Finally, the United States can hardly avoid linking its military and economic penetration, which means that the near and medium future is likely to see more intense rivalry among China, Russia, the United States and others over control of oil and gas pipelines, drawing Xinjiang more closely into the competitive structure that makes up global capitalism.

The northeast and its minorities Much further to the east, another area impacted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, though much less so by the 11 September incidents, is Mongolia. The MPR followed in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, going out of existence at almost exactly the same time, namely the end of 1991. Yet there has been continuity, along with great change. In the regular elections held in the new post-MPR both for president and national assembly, the Great Khural, the formerly communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) has dominated both the presidency and the national assembly for all but 4 years each of the period since the early 1990s. The population of Mongolia in 2000 was estimated at 2.74 million, the great majority belonging to a Mongol nationality.7 The main exception is the small Kazak community of about 160,000 people. There are about 5 million Mongols in China, the great majority of them in Inner Mongolia, in other words about double the number in Mongolia itself. Although Mongolians in China exerted considerable influence on bilateral relations from time to time during the period of the MPR, the impact since the early 1990s has not been great. There are organisations in Inner Mongolia demanding secession from China and union with Mongolia, but their influence is limited and China has done its utmost to hide their existence. More serious has been the effect of Tibetan affairs. The Dalai Lama visited Mongolia in 1991, to the anger of the Chinese. Mongolians are traditionally adherents of Tibetan Buddhism and the religion has revived strongly under the new order, a 2000 opinion poll showing that 67 per cent of the people are still Buddhists. Chinese pressure prevented a visit by the Dalai Lama to Mongolia planned for September 2000. However, reformist Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar, himself both a Buddhist and a member of the MPRP, permitted him entry in August 2001, arguing that ‘His visit is at the request of our ordinary Buddhists. We cannot resist our big neighbour so we just explain that it was not the government but ordinary Buddhists who invited him’ (Murphy 2001: 32). This argument quoted directly from an interview and published in an international journal could hardly assuage the Chinese, who continued to protest vigorously against the visit. As it happened, this particular visit did not go ahead: it was Moscow that prevented it by denying him a Russian visa and hence transit through Russia to Mongolia (Westlake 2001b: 162). Yet the cancellation turned out to be a postponement only when, to China’s dismay and anger, the Dalai Lama revisited Mongolia early in November 2002.

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Other than Mongolia, there is one other country where a nationality represented by an ethnic minority in China dominates the population: Korea. On the whole, the Koreans in China are not a major factor in China’s overall relationship with either North or South Korea. Yet there are a few points worth making. Koreans in China have been active in promoting economic dealings with South Korea. Many Koreans in China still have relatives in North Korea, and some go to visit them across the border, bringing them financial and other assistance. This was particularly important during the last years of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twentyfirst, when a very serious famine afflicted North Korea. The Korean population has thus contributed positively to China’s relations both with North and South Korea since the 1990s. Negative factors are very few. Although Chinese authorities certainly do not like it, they take but very little action against South Korean Christian missionaries who visit the Korean areas of China under other guises.

The southwest Moving to the opposite end of China, we find that the range of minorities is broader and the issues very different, but the impact on foreign relations also rather slight. Since the early 1990s, China’s relations with the countries to its southwest, such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) have not been much affected by the minorities of Yunnan and Guangxi. This is despite the fact that there have been sensitive dealings across borders where minorities live. One issue worth mentioning is the number of Vietnamese women who have moved to China and married Zhuang men. The Zhuang are close ethnically to the Kinh, the majority people of Vietnam. In Vietnam the sex ratio is low,8 in part a result of the long and bitter war that raged in the country in the 1960s and 1970s, killing more males than females. But sex ratios tend to be higher in China, including among the Zhuang. Authorities both in China and Vietnam look upon this female migration with disfavour, and it is usually illegal. However, since the early 1990s authorities have cooperated in dealing with it, and it has not been a major issue in relations. At the beginning of 2002, I was told by one government official in Meng Cai in the far northeast of Vietnam, just over the border from China, that authorities repatriated about 1,000 Vietnamese women each year from China, and that the governments of each country cooperated actively in preventing any such illegal migration of women. Several issues are of very considerable importance in China’s relations with Myanmar and, though they affect some people in China in serious ways, including among the minorities, these are not primary and they do not exemplify how minorities impact on China’s international relations. Three of these issues are the transport of narcotics over the border from Myanmar into China, the spread of AIDS, and gambling. These are all ills that have gathered some momentum in China since the turn of the century. Official statistics certainly underestimate the scale of such problems, but even these have made no attempt to hide how grave they are becoming.9 In Dai villages I visited in 2000 on the Sino-Myanmar border, I learned that border controls are quite lax for local people, meaning that Dai people can cross


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the border quite readily either way. Nobody made any secret about the fact that drug-pushers, not usually Dai, make use of this laxity to smuggle narcotics across the border. The Chinese authorities have taken drastic punitive action, for example by executing drug-smugglers they catch. But this does not really solve the problem. One Dai CCP village official very near the border was quite open about the seriousness of the growth in narcotic smuggling, arguing there was very little he could do about it apart from trying to enforce state regulations. Probably corruption makes it more difficult to enforce the rules, despite the severity of punishments meted out to offenders whom police are able to apprehend. AIDS is an even more secretive and sensitive matter, and many Dai share with Han Chinese the reluctance to talk about or have anybody try to ‘educate’ them regarding their sex lives. However, doctors I interviewed in Yunnan in 2000 told me that AIDS does spread over the borders with such countries as Myanmar through such men as truck-drivers engaged in commercial and other activities. One doctor, himself of the Wa ethnic group, was insistent that Thailand was the most serious source of this problem, not Myanmar, even though there is no border between China and Thailand. This disease does not distinguish between ethnic groups. Among the drivers most are Han, but some are no doubt either Dai from China or Shan from Myanmar, two ethnonyms which actually represent identical groups. Gambling may be harmful but certainly not on the scale either of AIDS or narcotics. There are quite a few gambling dens along the borders between China and Myanmar. Because gambling is formally banned in China, many Chinese entrepreneurs, mostly Han, have set up gambling dens in Myanmar, just on the border so that they are easily accessible to Chinese people. In one place in a Dai area of Yunnan, I saw a gambling den on an island in the middle of a river separating China from Myanmar. The island is in neither Chinese nor Myanmar territory, and so outside the law of both countries. Both governments turn a blind eye to the gambling, presumably because they make money out of it. Regular boats, which take only a few minutes to reach their destination, go to the island and back from both countries. Nobody made any secret of what was happening, even though public boards were on display on the Chinese side reminding everybody that the Criminal Code expressly forbids gambling.

Conclusion In two major general respects, China’s international relations with respect to its minorities have become very much more globalised since the early 1990s. In the first place, the rights of ethnic minorities have become much more part of international relations discourse than was the case at that time. It is part of the repertoire of the global citizen to be concerned about the rights of ethnic minorities. Of course, this is especially the case in Western countries, which are the front-runners in determining the factors of importance in international relations. But the citizens of other countries are also concerned. And China has been forced to react to this by creating its own criteria and ideas for coping with international theory in this matter.

International relations


Second, human rights have grown as a factor in international relations globally to an enormous extent since the early 1990s. Citizens feel not only a right but also a duty to concern themselves with how human rights are managed all over the world. Human rights guardians such as Amnesty International have become global bodies to an extent of which their founders could only have dreamed. The rights of ethnic groups are actually a subset of human rights in general. The specific cases of Tibet and the Muslim peoples of Xinjiang show differing but important aspects of the way globalisation operates and the kinds of reactions it provokes. The fact is that the Tibetan issue has become woven into global feelings about ethnic rights and the ‘new spirituality’, and largely due to the person of the Dalai Lama, in ways that have proved very helpful to the Tibetan cause. But Islam is also becoming both global itself as well as being to some extent in opposition to the liberal version which tends to dominate debate about globalisation. Put another way, Islamic fundamentalism is one aspect of the phenomenon I referred to ‘glocalisation’ in the Introduction. Globalisation has thus exercised a profound impact of China’s international relations, including as these affect the minorities. It is most unlikely that this situation is reversible. Indeed, it is much more likely to gather momentum with China a member of the WTO. China can probably manage the new situation and trends that derive from this globalising process. But it should certainly not ignore them. It is very striking that China has taken up a strongly statist attitude in dealing with its foreign relations, especially in areas involving its minorities. In other words, China shows no sign at all of any willingness for itself to weaken as a nation-state. The idea that globalisation might result in any diminution of state power, as the Introduction suggested might follow, is precisely what the Chinese leaders wish to prevent. They have seen what happened to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia through ethnic strife in the context of globalisation and intend to avoid the model of disintegration and party overthrow for as long as they can. One of the effects of the war against terrorism was to restrengthen the power of states everywhere, not only in China. The fashion for criticising states and state power certainly did not disappear. However, it did weaken while states all over the world prepared themselves for a united American-led war against terrorism. Bush himself used the incidents for a drastic improvement of his own public image and gained enormous support from Americans of most political colourings for the leadership he gave to the war. Certainly one of the effects of this war was to strengthen the United States strategically in many parts of the world, and especially in Central Asia.



The processes of globalisation have already made a significant impact on China, and with increasing acceleration since the country joined the WTO in December 2001. In general, the impact of globalisation on the minorities and the minority areas has been much slighter than on the richer areas of the eastern seaboard. This is because the minority areas are in general less highly developed, less urbanised and less accessible to the forces of globalisation than the Han areas. They attract much less foreign capital and fewer foreign commodities and services than do the main Han regions. On the whole the case of China’s minorities bears out the theory that localisation counters some of the homogenisation processes engendered by globalisation. Though many of the identities of the ethnic minorities have declined greatly since the early 1990s and others appear to be on the wane, still others have actually strengthened. Some aspects of traditional minority cultures are losing their vitality under the pressures of modernisation and globalisation, but others show no sign at all of dying out. If there is one overwhelming conclusion to this study, it is diversity: in other words globalisation has affected the various nationalities and areas in different ways and to differing extents. Moreover, the globalisation processes are themselves very diverse. They include not only those factors we normally associate with ‘liberal’ globalisation, such as markets, investments and social and cultural trends deriving from the advanced industrial nations of the West, but also contrary widely spread and even global forces like Islam. The interlinkages and interconnections transcending the nation-state that have affected China and its minorities since 1990 have also been very diverse in their character. The economic factors have been of immense importance and probably primary, including markets and the victory of capitalism that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, globalisation processes affecting China and its minorities have also included political, social, cultural and intellectual factors, not to mention some that sit only uncomfortably in such categories, like the despoliation of the environment and the spread of the AIDS epidemic. Trade is clearly important for global processes. Commodities and services that flow from one country to another affect lifestyles and eventually ideas. Since the late 1980s Western goods have tended to exert a more profound influence on China than the other way around. Although the impact has been greater on the



Han areas than the minorities, it has affected all parts of the country. Since China’s accession to the WTO at the end of 2001 commodities have flowed both into and out of China more extensively than they did up to that time. This can only intensify globalisation processes. One of the aspects of trade of importance for the global economy, and specifically of global capitalism, is energy. One ethnic area of China where such trade is highly relevant is Xinjiang. The flow of oil and gas through pipelines linking Central Asia and Xinjiang could have a long-term powerful impact on the Chinese economy as a whole. It certainly links in with the sensitive strategic issues throughout Central Asia, where the United States, Russia and China, among other countries are trying to involve themselves strategically and economically in a way that illustrates globalisation processes. One of the forces that should be given special emphasis is tourism. This is because it is multifaceted in the sense of being economic, social and cultural. It brings in money from various parts of the world, especially the advanced capitalist countries that are so important for globalisation, but also affects ethnic cultures and societies, because it brings in ideas and fashions from outside. Though the effects of tourist globalisation are probably mainly positive, there are definitely negative aspects, including such serious matters as prostitution and the AIDS epidemic. It is especially important to note that tourism increasingly affects not only the Han areas, but also the ethnic areas of China, bringing them more rapidly into the global influences that are so important in the world. Another reason to give tourism emphasis is because it is becoming so important a force in globalisation and China as a whole is adopting a crucially important place in world tourism. As China joins the WTO, it already ranks among the top four or five destinations of international tourism, and it is likely to soar even higher in the coming years, especially with Beijing hosting the Olympic Games in 2008. Some have predicted that China will be the top destination for international tourism by the year 2020. Religion is one of those factors exemplifying both globalisation and localisation. Religions like Islam have become more influential in China and have had the effect of bringing Muslims into closer relations with Islamic brethren in other parts of the world than was the case earlier in the period of PRC rule. The same can be said of Theravada Buddhism among the Dai, who follow with considerable interest what their co-religionists in Thailand and Burma are thinking and doing. At the same time, many of China’s ethnic religions are highly localised and look like remaining so. Actually, these local religions are tending to dwindle in significance and may become more of a remnant as modernisation dilutes their social base. Their long-term future does not seem to me assured. Gender issues have assumed increasing importance since the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, and they continue to gather momentum. China, including its minorities, has been affected by this trend. Although the CCP leaders put a reasonably high priority on women’s issues from early days, the fact is that they did rather little about the women of the ethnic minorities until well after Deng’s reforms were taking effect. It seems as though leaders did not care very much about them. However, there seems little doubt that globalisation is creating



an impact with them too. In many ethnic areas, families are decreasing in size not because of government compulsion but because ordinary people are wanting fewer children. And there are cases where models are being found in China’s ethnic regions themselves to enthrall Western tourists and others, the most notable example being the matrilinear Mosuo. And if China’s ethnic regions are hardly world leaders in the field of family and gender, then the same is not true of population policy. China’s one-child-per-couple policy may be highly controversial. But it certainly shows a daring to confront an exceedingly serious problem that few governments can match. And of course the fact that the minorities have been able to adopt their own practices and attitudes on population is an added factor in the overall autonomy policy. The determination to control population growth is hardly new to China, but it can claim to be one of the sources of globalisation in this respect, rather than simply a receiver. Another example that shows China as a point of origin of globalisation processes is the way in which Western and other countries have taken to Tibetan Buddhism. Traditionally followed by the Tibetans and Mongols, it is spreading to other parts of the world in the era of globalisation in a way that has not occurred to the same extent for many centuries. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and went on to become one of the most powerful icons of the contemporary world. Globalisation may be mainly a one-way street for China, but it is not entirely so. The issue of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism leads us on to the way diasporas function in the processes of globalisation. Diasporas are not new, but they have increased enormously in number in recent decades. People from poorer countries, often with oppressive governments, have tended to leave for climes they regard as richer and freer. Diasporas carry their own cultures to their new homes, and frequently try to use the freer climate there to influence trends and events in the countries where they were born. They are thus a powerful factor in globalisation. China’s ethnic minorities have become a force in globalisation processes. As implied in the reference to the Dalai Lama, the most obvious case in point is the Tibetans. There are already significant Tibetan communities in India, the United States and elsewhere in the West. They have become a significant influence outside their own home, one that seeks to spread their own culture but, more importantly, tries to influence major powers to affect what is happening in their original home. Having seen the success of the Tibetans in influencing the West, especially the United States, several others have tried to follow suit, especially the Uygurs and Miao but also others. Up to now they have failed utterly to establish themselves as a ‘cause’ in the way the Tibetans have done, in part due to a notable leading figure comparable to the Dalai Lama. But it will not surprise if their presence in the international scene increases over the coming years, a factor showing China as the origin of globalising tendencies, not merely the recipient.

National integration To what extent has globalisation affected the integration of China as a nation? In my opinion, the very significant improvement in the infrastructure has tied the economies and cultures of the minority areas into that of China as a whole.



The fact that television, radio, telephones and even the Internet are reaching these minority areas makes it much easier for central Chinese authorities to put over their message to the minorities. At the same time globalisation processes are bringing these economies much more thoroughly into the world system. Since China’s accession to the WTO such processes have intensified, and they link these economies not so much with the national markets of China as with those from outside the country. It is reasonably easy to control television and radio, but the Internet is an entirely different matter. According to a front-page article in People’s Daily (23 April 2002), quoting Nielsen/NetRatings, China had overtaken Japan to assume the second place in the world (after the United States) for home Internet users, with no fewer than 56.6 million people able to access the Internet in their own homes. Chinese authorities have tried to prevent certain types of messages from reaching both the Han and minority areas of the country, but this is an increasingly difficult exercise. Globalisation means that products, ideas, cultures and lifestyles from outside China compete with the local ones, regarding ‘local’ as meaning either derived from China or from the individual ethnic group or minority area concerned. In the contemporary world, it is likely that what is local will succumb to what comes from outside. There seems to be a very widespread, even almost universal, appeal in the kinds of consumerism that has become normal in Western countries and elsewhere. As the country has become more integrated economically and living standards have risen for the majority of people, even if not for all, separatism has generally tended to decline. The kinds of separatist incidents that were common in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s in Tibet have decreased in number and scale. Although relations between Han and Tibetans cannot be described as good, they are not as intensely hostile as they were in the late 1980s. In other areas of the country, such as Inner Mongolia, those few separatist incidents that occurred in the early 1990s have not been repeated. On the other hand, Uygur separatist feeling seems to have increased quite significantly since the Baren Township incident of April 1990. This is despite the economic progress and great strengthening of the infrastructure that has occurred since then. Some even argue that it is because of this stronger infrastructure and economy, because separatist forces are quite capable of using technologies that the state sets up for their own purposes. Of all ethnic areas of China, Xinjiang is the one most directly affected by the 11 September 2001 incidents in New York and Washington. This is because of suggestions by the Chinese state of numerous Uygurs undertaking training in schools run by the al-Qaeda network that the United States-led war against terrorism has fought so strongly. It is true that Washington continues to attack China for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other ethnic areas. But the fact is that the Chinese state has used the opportunity of the war against terrorism to step up attacks on Uygur separatism, and Washington has been relatively quiet in its overt criticisms. The reason is because it greatly values China’s support for its war against terrorism. As a matter of fact, China has announced that it sees three main sources of terrorism in its own territory. Apart from the case of the Uygurs and their secessionist activities, the Chinese government has specified Tibetan and Taiwan



separatism. However, if one applied a definition of terrorism that emphasised using violence targeted against civilians for political purposes, then it seems to me very unlikely that the United States would ever accept that those forces that wish to detach Tibet or Taiwan from China were terrorists. And I doubt that they would include such forces in any war against terrorism. They enjoy too much support among public opinion in Western countries.

Prospects for the future The trends mentioned in the first part of this chapter are likely to intensify in the coming years, but they may do so to different extents in different ethnic areas of China. The standard of living will probably go on rising for most members of ethnic minorities, but at very different rates in different places and for different groups of people within the same region. The Korean areas are likely to continue their rise towards prosperity more effectively than most of the minorities of Yunnan, while within the minorities class differences could become more apparent. Disparities are thus likely to widen still further as globalisation strengthens. The policy to develop the Western regions will no doubt bring a measure of success, but could also bring some unwanted by-products, such as further ethnic tensions and damage to the environment. Tourism is likely to increase in the ethnic areas, as more and more of them become alive to the potential profits Han or foreign visitors bring. At least some ethnic societies will become more modern, undergoing the wide-ranging and sometimes contradictory social, cultural and economic implications of modernisation. Some ethnic cultures will weaken or even die under this impact. However, the stronger ones will survive or even get stronger as people turn to their own traditions as a way of demonstrating difference. I do not foresee any general homogenisation of Chinese society, let alone in the ethnic areas. Globalisation does not necessarily bring individual countries more closely together. In fact, it can do precisely the opposite. Some countries have experienced fragmentation at least in part due to globalising forces. The worldwide sweep of liberal democracy appears to have been one of the forces that tore the once might Soviet Union apart. Could China follow suit? Most observers acknowledge that China’s accession to the WTO at the end of 2001 has exacerbated many trends that could turn out to be socially divisive and conduce to fragmentation. In addition to increasing economic disparities, it will create unemployment by allowing in foreign competition that many enterprises may prove unable to meet. This has already sparked social and labour protests, which are likely to increase in frequency and intensity in the coming years. China’s WTO accession may increase global influences from such countries as the United States in parts of China such as Tibet and other sensitive ethnic areas, thus increasing the chance of successful secession. It will also enhance those of China’s industries and enterprises that are competitive worldwide. That will increase China’s economic prosperity and overseas sales. It is likely to accelerate urbanisation, a force that will likely increase state control in the ethnic areas. There is the possibility that these influences could actually improve China’s overall national integration.



It seems to me that one of the effects of the 11 September 2001 incidents in New York and Washington is to increase the power of states and governments. The willingness of states to cooperate against an essentially non-state force such as terrorism was extremely striking. This could act as a deterrent to separatist movements in various places, including in China. And if it is not a deterrent to them, it could certainly enhance the power of the Chinese state to resist them. Another of the effects of 11 September is to bring relations among China, the United States and Russia to a better point than at any time since the end of the Second World War. It seems as if war reveals consonant interests in a way that few other trends can do. The three big countries share interests in opposing terrorism of all kinds, and especially that form inspired by Muslim fundamentalism. How long this consonance of interests will last it is of course very difficult to say. The United States is increasing its influence in Central Asia, a part of the world that has traditionally been Russian and Chinese spheres of influence. Neither China nor Russia will welcome the growth of American influence in that part of the world that used to be Soviet Central Asia. And there is a series of other matters in which interests are not necessarily the same. Still, Russia does not seem to have any interest in China’s disintegration. The United States would probably still like to see the CCP overthrown, and that could happen as globalisation gathers momentum in China. But CCP overthrow is somewhat different from Chinese disintegration. Unlike the Soviet Union, China has a long history as a united state with a strong central government. That does not prove it cannot disintegrate, but I suspect that it is much less likely to do so than most comparable continental states. I also think that Chinese disintegration along ethnic lines looks somewhat less likely at the beginning of the twenty-first century than it did in the 1980s or early 1990s. Most of the ethnic areas are better integrated through economic prosperity than they were late in the twentieth century. A separatist movement among the Mongols seems to have been defeated so thoroughly that very few Mongols now living in China would prefer to be part of the Republic of Mongolia rather than the PRC. It has even dealt the Tibetan separatists a series of defeats thorough enough that few Tibetans in China now believe their own independent state a likely prospect. While it is true that Xinjiang and the Uygurs remain a major problem for China, the 11 September incidents appear to have reduced it in scope, rather than the opposite. China has many problems ahead of it as a result of globalisation. But I suspect that it will succeed in staying together as a more or less united country. Its strategic influence is on the rise. Although its economy faces many problems, some of them a direct result of globalisation, it still seems to be expanding more quickly than those of most of its neighbours. Of course nobody knows how long this growth will last, and if it were to grind to a halt within the next few years, then all bets over China’s future would be off. But the likelihood is that China will continue to grow strategically and economically for quite a few years to come. In that case, China’s historical tradition of unity will help it stay together as a more or less united country. This may not include Taiwan for many years to come, but it will almost certainly encompass those ethnic regions that currently come under its rule.

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

The following is an alphabetical listing of China’s fifty-five state-recognised ethnic minorities, with some very brief notes concerning each. The population figures are from the November 2000 census, given in NBS 2002: 97. The list is adapted from Mackerras 2001a: 262–6.

Achang Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 33,936, male: 17,189, female: 16,747 The Achang are mountain farmers. Some groups believe in primitive spirits and practise ancestor worship, while others follow Theravada Buddhism. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language, but most can also speak Chinese.

Bai Provinces of main concentration: Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan Population: 1,858,063, male: 947,019, female: 911,044 A Tibeto-Burman people, the Bai were a major ethnic grouping and cultural elite in the Nanzhao kingdom that dominated the region to China’s southwest from the seventh century until 902. They are rice-growers, whose religions include worship of ‘local tutelary spirits’, shamanism, Buddhism and Daoism. The Bai have close cultural ties with the Han.

Bonan Province of main concentration: Gansu Population: 16,505, male: 8,416, female: 8,089 The Bonan are culturally close to the Hui and, like them, are Muslims. They speak a Mongolian language.

Blang Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 91,882, male: 47,534, female: 44,348

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 183 The Blang speak a Mon-Khmer language, and their culture is closely related to those of nearby Burma (Myanmar) and Laos. They are farmers, with an economy based on shifting cultivation. The main traditional religions are Theravada Buddhism, polytheism and ancestor worship.

Bouyei Province of main concentration: Guizhou Population: 2,971,460, male: 1,530,887, female: 1,440,573 The Bouyei way of life is similar to the Miao and their language is closely related to those of the Zhuang and Dai. They practise polytheism and ancestor worship.

Dai Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 1,158,989, male: 578,938, female: 580,051 There are two main branches of Dai, the Water Dai, who have a close affinity with the Thais, and the Han Dai, who are more or less identical with the Shan of Burma (Myanmar). The Dai were one of the main ethnic groups dominating the Nanzhao kingdom (seventh century to 902). They are the most populous of China’s Theravada Buddhist ethnic groups.

Daur Province-level units of main concentration: Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang Population: 132,394, male: 65,699, female: 66,695 The traditional occupations of the Daur are grain and vegetable farming and animal husbandry; they also rely on logging, hunting and fishing. In spoken language and culture, this ethnic group has a strong affinity with the Mongolians. The main religion is shamanism.

De’ang Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 17,935, male: 9,032, female: 8,903 The De’ang speak an Austro-Asiatic language close to that of the Va. They are subsistence farmers and are culturally similar to the Burmese. Some De’ang follow a form of Theravada Buddhism.

Dong Provinces of main concentration: Guizhou, Hunan, Guangxi Population: 2,960,293, male: 1,566,575, female: 1,393,718 The Dong trace their origins back to about the third century BC. They speak a Thai language and are primarily agricultural. Dong architecture features covered bridges and multistorey drum towers.


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

Dongxiang Province-level units of main concentration: Gansu, Xinjiang Population: 513,805, male: 264,453, female: 249,352 The Dongxiang are closely related to the Mongolians and speak a Mongolian language. However, they are Islamic and mainly agricultural, growing potatoes, wheat and maize, as well as industrial crops.

Drung Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 7,426, male: 3,649, female: 3,777 These farmers speak a Tibeto-Burman language closely related to Jingpo. Their traditional religion is nature worship, with belief in spirits, but there are also some Christians.

Ewenki Province-level unit of main concentration: Inner Mongolia Population: 30,505, male: 14,740, female: 15,765 The Ewenki are a Tungus people who speak a Tungus language. Their religions include animal and ancestor worship, shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism. Once migrant hunters, the Ewenki have led a more settled life over the past few decades, but they still hunt, breed deer, tend flocks and farm.

Gaoshan Provinces of main concentration: Taiwan, Fujian Population: just over 400,000, all but 4,461 in Taiwan The aboriginal mountain people of Taiwan, the Gaoshan are millet farmers and hunters. They speak a Malay-Polynesian language and believe in polytheism and ancestor worship, and a few are Christians.

Gelo Province of main concentration: Guizhou Population: 579,357, male: 310,775, female: 268,582 The Gelo are mountain subsistence farmers and hunters. The Gelo have a spoken language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan family but by the late 1980s only about 25 per cent still used it, instead communicating in Chinese, Miao, Yi and Bouyei. The Gelo have largely lost their original culture, despite some lingering distinctive features.

Gin Province-level unit of main concentration: Guangxi Population: 22,517, male: 11,328, female: 11,189

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 185 The Gin cultivate rice and are good fishermen. They have their own language, but many now speak Cantonese. The Gin are descendants of Vietnamese migrants who arrived in China from the fifteenth century on, the word gin being an equivalent of the Vietnamese Kinh, the name given to the majority people of Vietnam. Some are Daoists and a few Catholics.

Hani Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 1,439,673, male: 751,899, female: 687,774 The Hani are subsistence farmers who speak a Tibeto-Burman language. They practise polytheism and nature and ancestor worship. They claim to have been the first in the world to have developed rice cultivation through terraced fields, which are still prominent in their agriculture.

Hezhen Province of main concentration: Heilongjiang Population: 4,640, male: 2,289, female: 2,351 Among China’s least populous ethnic group, the Hezhen speak a Manchu-Tungus language. They are farmers who concentrate on rice-growing. Their religion is based on nature worship and shamanism. Their main art form is sung folk narrative.

Hui Province-level units of main concentration: Ningxia, Gansu, Henan, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Yunnan. The Hui are China’s most widely scattered minority ethnic group. Population: 9,816,805, male: 5,002,072, female: 4,814,733 The Hui are Muslims, a part tracing their origins to the seventh century, when Arab and Persian merchants settled in China. They are involved in many occupations, with the Hui working as shop and restaurant keepers, artisans and peasants. Other than their belief in Islam, and all that implies, the Hui culture is basically the same as that of the Han, with Chinese the standard written and spoken language.

Jingpo Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 132,143, male: 65,291, female: 66,852 The Jingpo live in the mountainous areas along the Burma border and speak a Tibeto-Burman language closely related to Drung. The main traditional religion is polytheism, but some practise Christianity. The main staple food is rice, but in some places maize.

Juno Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 20,899, male: 10,596, female: 10,303


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

Subsistence farmers, renowned for their fine, colourful fabrics, the Juno speak a Tibeto-Burman language. Of all the minorities, the state recognized the Juno as a nationality most recently (in 1979). Their traditional religion is nature and ancestor worship.

Kazak Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 1,250,458, male: 633,875, female: 616,583 The Kazaks are a Turkic people, speaking a Turkic language. The Kazak language has two scripts, one based on Arabic, the other on Latin. Renowned for their horsemanship, some Kazaks are wandering herders of goats and sheep. Kazak people are mainly Muslims, but shamanism still survives.

Kirgiz Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 160,823, male: 81,695, female: 79,128 The Kirghiz are pastoral wanderers and herders of goats and sheep. They are a Turkic people who speak a Turkic language. Most are Islamic, but a few follow Tibetan Buddhism.

Korean Provinces of main concentration: Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning Population: 1,923,842, male: 956,946, female: 966,896 Korean migration into Manchuria dates from the seventeenth century, but did not occur in sizeable numbers until the nineteenth century. The Koreans are mainly rice-growers, but have also joined China’s industrialisation. This ethnic group’s culture and language are the same as in Korea.

Lahu Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 453,705, male: 234,144, female: 219,561 The Lahu have their own language, which belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibeto-Burman languages, but most Lahu speak Chinese or Thai due to a close association with the Han and Dai peoples. They lacked a written script until 1957. Some Lahu practise nature and ancestor worship, but Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity are also found.

Lhoba Province-level unit of main concentration: Tibet Population: 2,965, male: 1,484, female: 1,481 The Lhoba speak a Tibetan language and they are ethnically very similar to the Tibetans, but their traditional religion is nature worship, not Tibetan Buddhism.

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 187

Li Province of main concentration: Hainan Population: 1,247,814, male: 647,547, female: 600,267 Natives of Hainan Island, the Li live mainly in the mountainous areas and are agricultural. Their area is tropical and rich in tropical crops, such as coconuts, cocoa, pineapples, mangoes and bananas. They speak a Sino-Tibetan language, but many now speak Chinese. They believe in polytheism and nature worship.

Lisu Provinces of main concentration: Yunnan, Sichuan Population: 634,912, male: 326,274, female: 308,638 Subsistence farmers, the Lisu have monogamous marriages, with free love a normal pattern beforehand. Their language belongs to the Yi branch of the TibetoBurman family.

Manchu Province-level units of main concentration: Liaoning, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Inner Mongolia, Beijing Population: 10,682,262, male: 5,547,750, female: 5,134,512 Once herders and hunters, the Manchus trace their origins back some 3,000 years. They conquered China in the seventeenth century and adopted Chinese manners, language and culture to such an extent that little survives of their own distinctive culture. Very few now speak the Manchu language. The Manchus formerly practised shamanism and ancestor worship. Territorially they are, next to the Hui, the least concentrated of all minorities in China.

Maonan Province-level unit of main concentration: Guangxi Population: 107,166, male: 56,443, female: 50,723 The Maonan culture is similar in many ways to the Zhuang, and they speak a related language. An agricultural ethnic group, their staple crops are rice and maize, but they also grow millet and sweet potatoes.

Miao Province-level units of main concentration: Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Chongqinig, Hubei, Sichuan Population: 8,940,116, male: 4,656,974, female: 4,283,142 The Miao are one of the most ancient of China’s nationalities, tracing their origins back more than 4,000 years. In China some people whom the state classifies as Miao, regard themselves as Hmong. Groups of this designation are found in many of the countries of mainland Southeast Asia. Before the modernisation of farming methods the Miao grew millet and buckwheat using the slash-and-burn method.


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

The Miao language has three main dialects, but there was no unified written script until 1956. Religions include nature and ancestor worship and Christianity.

Moinba Province-level unit of main concentration: Tibet Population: 8,923, male: 4,428, female: 4,495 The Moinba are mountain herders. They have a way of life, culture and language similar to the Tibetans and follow Tibetan Buddhism.

Mongolian Province-level units of main concentration: Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang Population: 5,813,947, male: 2,875,453, female: 2,938,494 The Mongolians once ran a gigantic empire, founded in 1206 by Chinggis Khan, which covered most of the Eurasian continent. The Mongolian language belongs to the Altaic family, but there are many dialects. The Mongolian script, still in use in the PRC, dates at least from the early thirteenth century. The main religion is Tibetan Buddhism. Mongolians were traditionally nomadic (some still are), living in hide and felt tents called yurts. However, they are increasingly becoming settled with many urban dwellers, and industry is well developed. The Mongolians run their own independent republic, called Mongolia, to the north of Inner Mongolia. In 2000, there were about 2.5 million people there of Mongolian ethnicity (about 94 per cent of the total population of Mongolia), meaning that there were more than twice as many Mongolians in China as in Mongolia.

Mulam Province-level unit of main concentration: Guangxi Population: 207,352, male: 107,154, female: 100,198 The Mulam are an agricultural people with a self-sufficient village economy. Religions include Buddhism and Daoism. The Mulam language is related to that of the Dong and Chinese characters are used.

Naxi Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 308,839, male: 154,971, female: 153,868 The Naxi speak a language belonging to the Yi branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Traditional religions include the national worship of Dongba (a form of shamanism, which is nearly extinct), Tibetan Buddhism and Daoism. Most Naxi follow a patriarchal family system, but one section, called the Mosuo, who straddle the Yunnan–Sichuan border area around the Lugu Lake, is still matrilineal.

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 189

Nu Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 28,759, male: 14,857, female: 13,902 Farmers who are closely related to the Tibetans, the Nu speak a Tibeto-Burman language. Some follow Tibetan Buddhism, while others are nature worshippers or Christians.

Oroqen Province-level units of main concentration: Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia Population: 8,196, male: 3,872, female: 4,324 A Tungus people who speak a Tungus language, the Oroqen were once seminomadic, living in birch and hide tents. They are now more settled and work as hunters, herders of deer and farmers.

Primi Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 33,600, male: 17,043, female: 16,557 The Primi speak a language related to Tibetan and have a similar lifestyle to Tibetans, but only part of the ethnic group accepts Tibetan Buddhism; the others have a polytheistic religion and sacrifice to their ancestors.

Qiang Province of main concentration: Sichuan Population: 306,072, male: 155,981, female: 150,091 Closely related to Tibetans and speaking a similar language, the Qiang are herders and farmers. They are, however, polytheists, nature worshippers and shamanists, not Tibetan Buddhists.

Russian Province-level units of main concentration: Xinjiang, Heilongjiang Population: 15,609, male: 7,365, female: 8,244 Almost all of China’s Russian population arrived in the northeast and Xinjiang after the Russian civil war of 1918–1922. Culturally and linguistically they are the same as in Russia.

Salar Province of main concentration: Qinghai Population: 104,503, male: 53,715, female: 50,788 Islamic Turkic speakers living in a semi-desert area, the Salars are herders of sheep and some cattle. Their diet consists largely of steamed buns and a variety of noodles made of highland barley, wheat and buckwheat.


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

She Provinces of main concentration: Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Guangdong Population: 709,592, male: 381,038, female: 328,554 The only minority to live in the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangxi, the She are in many ways quite similar culturally to the Han. Although most She nowadays speak Chinese, some use a language belonging to the Miao branch of the Miao–Yao family. The origins of the She are unclear, but probably date back to the seventh century. Some are Buddhists, while others are polytheists or ancestor worshippers.

Shui Province-level units of main concentration: Guizhou, Guangxi Population: 406,902, male: 213,488, female: 193,414 The Shui have a language close to that of the Dong. Their main diet is rice and fish, supplemented with corn, barley, wheat and sweet potatoes. Most are nature worshippers and polytheists, but a few are Catholics.

Sibe Province-level units of main concentration: Liaoning, Xinjiang Population: 188,824, male: 98,737, female: 90,087 The Sibes speak a Manchu-Tungus language. Manchu script, dead among the Manchus, is still occasionally found among the Sibes. They traditionally lived in the northeast of Liaoning with the Manchus, but in 1764 many were moved to the west as border guards on the Russian frontier, where a portion of the Sibe population still lives. They are traditionally polytheistic but a few follow Tibetan Buddhism.

Tajik Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 41,028, male: 20,954, female: 20,074 Of Iranian stock, the Tajiks speak an Iranian language and follow Islam. By means of extensive irrigation, they grow rice, wheat, fruit and cotton; some are herders. Houses are built of wood and stone, with square flat roofs.

Tatar Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 4,890, male: 2,550, female: 2,340 The Tatars are Islamic Turkic speakers and farmers. Their diet includes round cakes, with the outside crisp and inside soft. They also eat cheese, dried apricots and rice.

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 191

Tibetan Province-level units of main concentration: Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan Population: 5,416,021, male: 2,697,807, female: 2,718,214 Before the implementation of reforms in 1959, following a major rebellion against Chinese rule, Tibet was a theocratic state. The Tibetans have a highly distinctive culture, mainly based on their own form of Buddhism, and a rich written and oral literature. They are farmers of barley, peas and tubers, and herders of yaks, sheep and goats. They are also the only one of China’s minority nationalities to have created a major tradition of drama completely independently of the Han people.

Tu Provinces of main concentration: Qinghai, Gansu Population: 241,198, male: 123,571, female: 117,627 The Tu trace their origins to the thirteenth century. They speak a Mongolian language and are related to the Mongolians. They have two dialects and a rich oral literature. Originally pastoralists, they have practised agriculture for several centuries. Most follow Tibetan Buddhism, but some still adhere to polytheistic beliefs.

Tujia Province-level units of main concentration: Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing, Guizhou Population: 8,028,133, male: 4,196,469, female: 3,831,664 The Tujia farm rice and corn, collect fruit and fell trees for lumber. In most ways they are very similar to the Han people.

Uygur Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 8,399,393, male: 4,272,863, female: 4,126,530 A Turkic people who ran a major empire centred on what is now Mongolia from 744 to 840, the Uygurs converted to Islam over several centuries. They grow fruit, wheat, cotton and rice through irrigation. Uygur customs, culture and art are similar to those of other Turkic people and they excel in music, song and dance. The Uygur language belongs to the Turkic group of the Altaic family of languages.

Uzbek Province-level unit of main concentration: Xinjiang Population: 12,370, male: 6,498, female: 5,872


Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities

The origins of the Uzbeks go back to the fourteenth century. They are Islamic Turkic speakers and farmers with dress and food similar to those of the Uygurs.

Va Province of main concentration: Yunnan Population: 396,610, male: 202,626, female: 193,984 The Va speak a Mon-Khmer Austro-Asiatic language, but had no script until recently. They grow rice, maize, cotton and fruits such as bananas, pineapples, mangoes and oranges. Most are nature worshippers, but some are Theravada Buddhists or Christians.

Yao Province-level units of main concentration: Guangxi, Hunan, Yunnan and Guangdong Population: 2,637,421, male: 1,391,332, female: 1,246,089 The Yao farm sweet potatoes, maize and rice. They have recently developed hydroelectric power and increased irrigation. There are several different mutually incomprehensible Yao languages, and Chinese or Zhuang are often used for communication. Traditional religions include nature worship, ancestor worship and Daoism.

Yi Provinces of main concentration: Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou Population: 7,762,272, male: 3,989,391, female: 3,772,881 The Yi speak a Tibeto-Burman language and have their own script. They once had a reputation as fierce warriors and those in Liangshan, Sichuan, formerly had a heavily stratified slave system. They are polytheists, and also have a long tradition of Buddhism, with Daoism and Christianity introduced later.

Yugur Province of main concentration: Gansu Population: 13,719, male: 6,935, female: 6,784 Descended from the Uygurs of the ninth century, the Yugurs are Turkic speakers. They are herders and farmers, with some hunting as a sideline. Most practise Tibetan Buddhism.

Zhuang Province-level units of main concentration: Guangxi, Yunnan and Guangdong Population: 16,178,811, male: 8,376,754, female: 7,802,057

Appendix: China’s ethnic minorities 193 The Zhuang are the most populous of China’s minority nationalities, and one of the best integrated with the Han. Zhuang origins go back well before the time of Christ. They speak a language related to Thai, but many speak Chinese. The Chinese written language was formerly used, but in 1955 a Zhuang written language based on Latin letters was devised. Religions include Buddhism, Daoism, ancestor worship and Christianity.

Source: Reprinted, with permission, from the end covers of Mackerras 1994.


1 Introduction 1 For instance, Harrell 1990: 515–48; Harrell et al. (2000); and Harrell 2001. The second work was written especially to accompany a major exhibition on the Yi of Liangshan in Sichuan province (who are called Nuosu), held at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington, over much of 2000. The third book is a culmination of Harrell’s research. It has most focus on the Nuosu, but deals with other ethnic groups of Liangshan and some nearby areas. 2 In a speech given on 24 May 2001 at a work conference on poverty relief, Jiang Zemin claimed that the incidence of rural poverty had fallen from 30.7 per cent in 1978 to 3 per cent in 2000. He claimed this as a miracle ‘unprecedented in the history of the world’ (‘Poverty Relief Success’ 2001: 6). 3 See ‘some key events in the history of globalization’ in Scholte 1997: 17. 4 See also a collection of alternative definitions in Scholte 1997: 15. 5 See Nathan 1998. There has been a significant literature on democracy in China, of which this book is a prominent example. 6 For a full-scale discussion of the complex issues relating to human rights in China see Kent 1993. 7 See these figures in SSB 1986: 586 and NBS 1999: 609. 2 Historical background, 1949–1989 1 See Wu 1973: 797. ‘The Common Program, 1949’ is included pp. 789–98. 2 Wu 1973: 800. Much of ‘The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, 1954’ is included in Wu 1973: 799–810. 3 The text of the agreement can be found in English translation, among other places, in Shakya 1999: 449–52. The clauses cited above are on p. 450. 4 Article 24 of the 1975 Constitution enjoins the higher organs of state to safeguard the exercise of autonomy ‘and actively support the minority nationalities in carrying out the socialist revolution and socialist construction’ (NPC 1975: 17). In other words, autonomy really meant engaging in precisely the same activities and believing exactly the same as the Han. 5 For accounts of this horrific incident see Gladney 1991: 137– 40 and Dillon 1999: 165–6. 6 The text of this law is included in Kaup 2000: 183–97. 7 The figures in this paragraph are based on State Statistical Bureau Population Office 1991: 32, 78 and Mackerras and Yorke 1991: 175, 207. 8 See the figures presented in Shakya 1999: 390 and Mackerras 1994: 158. The 1981 figures are themselves a very big rise, both in absolute and relative terms, on the 7,508 Tibetan cadres (32.9 per cent of the TAR’s total) in 1965 and the 20,023 (44.5 per cent) in 1978. 9 For a mainly pictorial account of the 1987 and 1989 disturbances, see Harris and Jones 2000: 38–73.



10 The map in Barnett 1994: xvi–xvii shows quite a bit of territory claimed by the Tibetan government in exile which is outside the main Tibetan areas, including the capital of Qinghai Province, Xining. The map shows Tibet as including, in addition to all the TAR, the whole of Qinghai Province, much of Gansu and Sichuan Provinces and some of Yunnan Province. 3 Minorities politics, 1989–2002 1 Compare Article 22 of the 1984 and 2001 versions in Kaup 2000: 189 and Zhonghua 2001: 9, 42. 2 For the total figures and the proportions belonging to the ethnic minorities down to 1999, see Mackerras 2001a: 90. The 2001 figures are based on China’s official Xinhua News Agency, as recorded in China News Digest (CND), Global News, No. GL01-45 (8 June 2001), item 8. 3 See treatments of this topic in Gladney 1991: 1–5 and Mackerras 1994: 125–6; and, specifically for Xinjiang, Dillon 1995: 19–20. 4 For example, the section on China in Amnesty International (1995: 97–101) has quite a bit about Tibet, but does not even mention Xinjiang. On the other hand, the section on Xinjiang in Amnesty International (2001: 72) is actually longer than the comparable one on Tibet. 5 For more detail on this work conference see Mackerras 2001a: 260–1. 6 Sufi are mystic Islamic beliefs and practices that result in the development of orders of practitioners. For a detailed history of the Sufi orders in China see Dillon 1999: 113–29. 4 The economies of the minorities 1 The World Bank estimates show 280 million rural poor in 1990, and 106 million in 1998, while Chinese official figures claim 85 million in 1990 and 42 million in 1998 (ADB and SDPC 2001: 5–1). The Chinese official figures put the boundary for absolute rural poverty at US$ 0.66 per day, while the World Bank puts it at US$ 1 per day. 2 Figures from the 1990 census for the districts of Xinjiang are contained in Liu et al. 1995: 891–2. They show as follows: Ürümqi, total 1,374,195 (of whom Uygurs, 172,516 and Han, 1,015,474); Karamai, total 210,064 (of whom Uygurs, 30,855 and Han, 161,242); Kizilu 375,771 (of whom Uygurs, 241,406 and Kirgiz, 110,160); and Kashgar, total 2,853,634 (of whom Uygurs, 2,606,382 and Han, 203,934). 5 The realm of the mind, religion and education 1 For much greater detail on traditional religions among China’s minorities see Mackerras 1995: 19–38 and for the specific period 1949–1995 Mackerras 1995: 109–32. 2 This compares with 14 million in 1985 (Wan 1988: 461). 3 For much more detail and discussion on the causes of separatism in Xinjiang since 1990 see Mackerras 2001b: 294–302. 4 See detailed accounts of this affair in Goldstein 1997: 105–11 and Shakya 1999: 440–7. 5 See more information in Mackerras 1995: 25–6, 114 and Goldstein 1998: 15–6. Goldstein notes that in Thailand, ‘another prominent Buddhist society’, about 1– 2 per cent of the total number of males were monks in the early 1950s. 6 For a general rundown on minorities’ education in the first four decades or so of the PRC, see Postiglione 1992: 307–36 or Mackerras 1995: 133–57. 7 Figures for semi-literacy and illiteracy by province-level unit contained in NBS 2000: 103 show the following rates for those aged 15 and over, including all those provincelevel units with high minority populations and all those above 23 per cent. Beijing (the lowest in the country), 6.45; Xinjiang, 9.77; Inner Mongolia, 16.44; Sichuan, 16.77; Ningxia, 23.32; Yunnan, 24.34; Guizhou, 24.46; Gansu, 25.64; Qinghai, 30.52; Tibet, 66.18.



8 The census of November 2000 claimed that the illiterate population of Tibet was 850,700, which is 47.3 per cent of the 1,798,900 people in the TAR aged 15 and over. This would make the literacy rate 52.7 per cent. See ‘National Census’ 2001: 7. The sharp discrepancy with the figure given in the previous note is probably explained by the fact that the reported census figure makes no mention of semi-literacy, only of illiteracy. 6 Population, women and family 1 For a detailed account of population issues among China’s ethnic minorities down to the early 1990s see Mackerras 1994: 233–59, with policy considered 233–7. 2 In Yunnan the ethnic population in the 1990 census was 12,333,146, or 33.4 per cent of the total provincial population of 36,972,612, fractionally more than one in three. See He et al. 1993: 728–34 or SSB Population Office 1991: 78–86. 3 For an extensive study of this very interesting phenomenon in a village on the Vietnam–Guangxi border, see Xie 2000. Although the village is located in a Han area, its basic findings are almost certainly applicable to ethnic border areas of southwest China. 4 On this question see the excellent discussion of Stevan Harrell (2001: 248–51). 7 International relations 1 For an analytical selection of books on China’s foreign relations see Mackerras 2001a: 150–3. 2 This refers specifically to mutual visits by Indian President K. R. Narayanan and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan to each other’s capitals in the year 2000, but can describe relations as a whole. See Westlake 2001a: 121. 3 For brief rundowns see Mackerras 1999: 166–70 or Roy 1998: 45–51. For what amounts to a full-length treatment of Western, and especially American, images of Tibet see Schell 2000. 4 This passage is cited from an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, 25 May 2001, which also attacks the Australian government for its decision to be represented at a reception at the Chinese Embassy in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 23 May 1951 Agreement on Tibet. 5 On Isa’s political career before 1949 see Benson 1990: 53, 154, 157 and 163. He died in December 1995 in Istanbul at the age of 94 (Emmet 1997). 6 See the full text of ‘The Call to Jihad by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’, dated 25 August 1999, in Rashid 2002a: 247–9. 7 According to Turner 2000: 1095, the United Nations gave a projected population for 2000 in Mongolia of 2.74 million, of whom 78.8 per cent were Halh Mongolian, 5.9 per cent were Turkic Kazaks, with 20 other Mongol minorities. 8 The 1999 census showed a total Vietnamese population of 76,323,173, among whom males numbered 37,469,117 and females 38,854,056. See General Statistics Office 2001: 3. 9 From 1985, when the first HIV case was discovered, to the end of 2000 HIV had spread to all of China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and independent municipalities, Chinese experts estimating that the number who had contracted the virus by then was over 600,000. According to Vice Minister of Health Yin Dakui, by June 2001 there were 26,058 HIV-positive cases, including 1,111 AIDS patients, with 584 AIDScaused deaths. The number of new HIV-positive patients in the first half of 2000 was 2,115, rising to 3,541 over the same period in 2001. Of the patients with the virus, 69.8 per cent contracted it through intravenous drug use, and 6.9 per cent through sexual contact. Among the latter group, 94 per cent were aged between 15 and 49 and five-sixths were male (Mu 2001: 21–2). The UNAIDS Beijing estimate of HIV/AIDS victims for early 2002 was 1.25 million. Dr Gao Yaojie, winner of the Global Health Council’s Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, paints a grim picture, including that the official statistics are serious undercounts. Among others of her works, see her acceptance of the award, given in absentia, in Gao 2001.


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11 September 2001 154, 171–2; incidents in New York and Washington, effect of 169–72, 179, 181; see also terror attacks 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty 171 Abdurixit, A. 52 Achang 182 Afghanistan 165, 168, 170 Afshar, H. 8 AIDS 10, 73, 174, 177; spread of 173, 176 Akto County see Baren Alataw Pass 59 Almaty 167 Alptekin, A. 166 Alptekin, E. 165–6 al-Qaeda network 154, 169–70, 179 America: Congress 34, 158; intervention in Vietnam 153; market 58; presence in Central Asia 75; relations with the PRC 35; State Department 157; sympathy for the Dalai Lama 157; teachers in minority areas of China 116; see also United States American-led war against terrorism 171 Amnesty International 45–6, 175 ancestor worship 186–7, 190, 192–3 Annaud, J.J. 159 anti-American nationalist feelings in China 155 anti-China Tibet activists 164 Armitage, R. 170 Asia Watch (renamed Human Rights Watch/Asia) 45 Asiaweek 159 Associated Press 171 Aung San Suu Kyi 156 Australia 18, 30, 158 Austria 163 autonomy: for ethnic minorities 24, 26, 39; policy 22, 40 backpackers 15, 30 Bai 182 Baotou 59, 123 Baptist University of Hong Kong 122 Baren 49, 166; 1990 uprising 119, 179 Barrientos, S. 8 basic economic indicators 59–61 Basques of Spain 18 Beck, U. 12

Beijing 69, 177, 187; bomb blasts 50–1; Declaration and Platform for Action 134; Massacre of 1989 31, 43, 161–3; see also UN Conference Belgrade 155 Ben-Adam, J. 54, 141 Bilik, N. 129, 131 birth control 136, 138 Bishkek 167; communiqué 168 Blang 182–3 Bonan 182 Bouyei 183–4 bride price, custom of 146 Britain 157–8; Tony Blair 157 Buddha 120 Buddhism 117, 120–5, 188, 190–3; basic doctrines of 120; believers in China 120; Dai people 120, 124, 143; esoteric Tantric form 120; monks 124, 144; in Tibet 122 Bulag, U.E. 47 Bureau of Tibetan Poverty-Relief 68 Burma (Myanmar) 124, 177, 183 Bush, President George W. 154–5, 160, 163, 168, 170; Administration 171 capitalism 57; victory of 176 Caspian Sea 75 censorship, issue of 44 census: 1964 21; 1990 129; 2000 1, 182 Central Ethnic Work Conference 38–9 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 33 Central Nationalities Institutes 21 Centre for Religious Research, Xinjiang Social Sciences Institute 118 Chatral Rinpoche 121 Chechens 18 Cheng Kejie 6 Chiang Kai-shek, government of 19 childbearing strategies: female influence in 148; study of 137, 148 childcare 142 child labour 13 China 12, 167, 171; accession to the World Trade Organisation 1, 37, 43, 55, 57, 62, 75, 133, 155, 177, 179–80; borders 39; Buddhist Association 35; demographic structure 135; domestic tourism 58; economic impact in Central Asia 74;

210 Index China (Continued) economy, growth in 37; education 132; ethnic groups 69, 182; Folk Culture Villages (Zhongguo minus wenhua cun) 70; foreign policy formulators 154; foreign relations 154–7; foreign trade of ethnic autonomous areas 74; and human rights 37, 43; influence in Vietnam 156; Islamic Association 115; language 5, 54, 124, 129, 133, 184; Muslims 2; national integration 54–5; nationalism 2, 155; national unity 19, 133; participation in the Korean War 31; role in world energy diplomacy 74; society 43; sovereignty over Tibet 32, 157; Tibet policy 121; Western Poverty Reduction Project 164 China international relations 152; with its minorities 174; with Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) 156; with Russia 152; with the Western countries 152 China Times 160 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 2, 6, 10, 19, 56, 113–15, 152, 155, 181; Central Committee 5, 52, 117; corruption 113; power 17; revolution 123 Chinggis Khan 188 Chongqing 187, 191 Christianity 116, 125, 186, 192–3 Christians 184, 189, 192 clergies 20; power in politics 117 Clinton, Hillary Rodham 135 Clinton, President W. 13, 158, 160; China policy of 154 coal 74 collectivisation programme 118 colonialism 8–9, 32 Common Programme 19 commonwealth of independent states 152 Conference of Afro-Asian states 33 Constitution: of 1954 22, 114; of 1975 24; of 1982 26, 115; of the PRC 56 cotton: industry 140; production 60; products as export commodity 74 counterterrorism, use of 170 crime 9 Criminal Code 174 crude oil, production 60 cultural despoliation, images of 162 cultural destruction 24, 161 cultural genocide 138–40, 161 Cultural Revolution 2, 5, 23, 46, 115, 122–3, 126, 149; policies 25 Cyprus International Tourism Conference 58 Czech Republic 153 Dai 117, 120, 130–1, 137, 139, 143–4, 165, 174, 183; Buddhism 124; ethnic group 71; medicine 64–5; monasteries 130; villages, cash economy in 65; Water (or Shui) Dai 124–5, 183, 190 Dalai Lama 18, 23, 35, 45, 48, 116, 121–2, 138, 140, 158–60, 162–3, 172, 175, 178; charge of ‘cultural genocide’ 46; flight to India 33; government-inexile 34; influence of 121; international role 158–61; speech before Congressional Human Rights Caucus 36; statement in Taiwan 160; Strasbourg proposals 35

Daoism 188, 192–3 Daur 183 De’ang 183 Dehong 124 democracy 10–12 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) 156 Deng Xiaoping 5–6, 25, 33, 38, 51, 123, 143; ‘journey to the south’ 56, 113; reforms 177 Denmark 158 Department of State Counterterrorism Office 170 Dharamsala 23, 34, 159 diasporas 45, 54; in globalisation 178 Dirlik, A. 9 diseases 76 divorces 149–50 Doak Barnett, A. 27 doctors 64 Document No. 7 52 Dong 25, 183, 190 Dongba, national worship of 188 Dongxiang 69, 184 Dosybiev, D. 167 Drepung monastery 120 drug-pushers 174 drugs 9, 73, 76 Drung 184–5 Dushanbe 167–8 Eastern Europe 2 East and Southeast Asia 10, 12; crisis 7 East Timor 18, 39 East Turkestan Islamic Party 170 East Turkestan National Congress 166 Economic Department 128 economic development 49; under CCP 5 Economic and Development Department 127–8, 135 economic inequalities, rise in 12 economic modernization 76, 162 economies of minorities 56 ecotourism 71 education 70, 74, 113, 116, 126–33, 137, 142–3; of girls in minority areas 143 Eighth and Ninth Five-Year Plans 60 employment 143 energy trade network of Central Asia 75 Eng, I. 70 English, globalisation 132 Enkhbayar, President N. 172 environmental norms 13 environment: degradation 56, 70, 176 Equatorial Guinea 7 Ethnic Affairs, First National Conference 38 ethnic autonomous areas 59, 61, 63; average annual wage 62 ethnic CCP members and cadres 41–3 ethnic conflict in the Balkans 153 ethnic culture 71, 180 ethnic group 4; definition of 2–3; southwestern China, major study 147 ethnic health 64 ethnic identity 37, 39, 54, 132–3, 141; ethnic medicines 64; revival 65

Index 211 ethnicity 3; theory of 4 ethnic minorities 4; policy laid down for 136; rate of improvement 65; treatment of 45; women poverty 144 ethnic separatism: and conflict, threat of 52; revival in Xinjiang 52 ethnic tourism 70 ethnic villages as ‘theme park’ 73 ethnonationalism 37; movements 18 Eurasian ‘rail bridge’ 59 Europe 15, 30 Evans, G. 145 Ewenki 184 extremism 154, 168 Falungong 6; suppression of 114 family 134, 146; income 148; planning 40 famine afflicted North Korea 173 Federation of Russia 152 female ethnic cadres 142 female teachers 143 female unemployment 145 feminisation of poverty 134 five principles of coexistence 32 floating population 139 folk practitioners 64 ‘folkways and customs’ of the ethnic minorities 45 foreign relations 74 foreign trade and Central Asia 74–5 France 58 Fujian 184, 190 Ganden Monastery 24 Gandhi, Rajiv 33 gang of four 24; fall of 25 Gansu 69–70, 122, 139, 144, 164, 182, 184–5, 191–2 Gaoshan 184 gas 74; and oil pipelines 75 Geertz, C. 17 Gelo 184 gender: aspects of tourism 145; discourse effects of globalisation 134; equality 6, 134, 142, 144; illiteracy gap 142; issues among China’s ethnic minorities negative side 144; roles, traditional 11 gender-related development index (GDI) 141 Gere, R. 159, 163 Germany 164, 166 Giddens, A. 9 Gilley, B. 60, 140–1 Gin 184–5 Gini ratio for measuring inequalities 68 girls, abduction and sale 6 Gladney, D.C. 53–4; work on the Hui 4 global capitalism 177; advance of 13 global epidemics 9, 65 globalisation 1, 6, 8, 10–12, 37, 54, 151; controversial nature of 12–15; and the Dalai Lama 120; destructive effects on cultural identities 13; and identity, tension between 14; ignoring borders 9; relevance for China and ethnic minorities 17–18; sovereignty and the state 15–17; sub-stream associated with Islam 55; two kinds of 55; in Xinjiang 171

glocalisation 14, 120 Goldstein, M.C. 48, 120 Gongdong 64 Gong Xuezeng 115–16 grain 60; production 59 Great Britain 160 Great Khural 172 Great Leap Forward 21 Great Prayer Festival 30 Great Western Development Strategy 70 gross industrial output value 57 Guangdong 38, 69, 190, 192 Guangxi 183–4, 187–8, 190, 192; Governor Cheng Kejie 6; trade with northern Vietnam 74 Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 21, 40 Guizhou 4, 63, 65, 69–71, 125, 149, 182–4, 187, 190–2 Gulf War of 1991 156 Gulja (Yining in Chinese) 50–1 Hague, the 153 Hainan Province 73, 127, 187 Hakkas 2–3 Hall, S. 14 Hami 118 Han 1, 3, 27, 37, 69, 148; areas 176; chauvinism 21; Chinese 161, 174; Chinese authorities 137; Chinese political culture 116; Dai 124, 183; immigration 54, 138, 141; migration into minority areas 62, 140, 151; people 51; population 138, 140; students 128; and Tibetan, disparities 69; under the PRC 140; to Xinjiang 140 Hani 185 Hansen, M.H. 131 Harrell, S. 40, 131, 147; on the Yi 4 Harrer, Heinrich 159 head-scarves 144 health delivery privatisation of 64 Hebei 187–8 Heilongjiang 185–9 Henan 144, 185 Hezhen 185 High Commissioner for Human Rights 163 Hinayana Buddhism 183 HIV virus 10, 146 Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party for Islamic Freedom) 167 Hmong 187 Hohhot 123, 132, 146 Hollywood 159 holy war or jihad 119, 165, 167 Hong Kong 15, 30, 37–8, 46, 58, 160 hospitality industries 73 hospitals 64 hotels 57, 77 household consumption 69 Hua Guofeng 25 Hubei province 24, 187, 191 Hui (Chinese Muslims) 2–3, 24, 29, 40, 69, 117–19, 142, 144, 169, 182, 185; and Han, clashes 119 Hu Jintao 2, 31 human development index (HDI) see United Nations Development Programme

212 Index human rights 10–12: abuses of 11, 16, 153; activists 43, 150; activities 170; in Asia 45; against China’s ethnic minorities 45; communitarian view of 11; cultural survival 161; diplomacy 12; as a factor in international relations 175; guardians 175; international rise in the concern for 153; issues 11, 43–6, 168; in Tibet 45–6, 158, 161; in Xinjiang 45–6 Human Rights Watch 121, 141 Hunan 182–3, 187, 191–2 Hungary 153 Hu Yaobang 6, 28; liberal policies 29–30; visit to Tibet 139 illiteracy 129 imperialism 32 India 23, 32–3, 36, 69, 120, 134, 152, 156, 159, 162; GDI ranking 141; government 122; Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee 157, 161 indigenous medicines 65 Indonesia 4, 18, 33, 69 Industrial Revolution 9 industries 59, 180 inequalities 56, 68–70, 75, 134; China 68 infectious diseases, spread of 65 Inner Mongolia 4, 42, 46–7, 59, 74, 123, 128, 132, 164, 179, 184, 187–9; economy 47; ethnic areas of 22; Han-Mongolian marriages 146; Heilonjiang 183; Normal University 132; secession from China 46 Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR) 21 Institute for Research on Religion of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences 114 interethnic marriages 146–7 International Campaign for Tibet 158 International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 11 internationalisation 8, 36, 49; of Tibet issue 34 international markets 76 International Monetary Fund 10, 17 international population conference 135 international relations 2 international tourism 177; arrivals in China 15, 58; cash inflow 71 Internet 8, 179; home users 179 Iran 166; language 190 Iraq 156 Islam 10, 28, 117–20, 122, 125, 130, 153, 176–7, 190–1; adherence to 40; believers in China 118; clergy 118–19, 144; culture 119; development in China 119; ethnic groups 144, 147; fundamentalism 53, 166–8, 171, 175; militant, in Central Asia 167; minority 168; revival 119; spread 8; theological colleges 169; in Western countries 166; Xinjiang 49 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan 167 Islamic Party of East Turkestan 50 Islamic Turkic speakers 189–90 Italy 58, 163 Japan 7, 14–15, 30, 36; aggression before 1949 21; invasion 22; Manchukoku 19 Jiang Qing 24–5 Jiangxi 190

Jiang Zemin 2, 6, 38, 56–7, 155, 158, 167, 170; visit to the United States 163 Jilin Province 21, 67, 186–8 Jinghong 62, 145 Jingpo 184–5 Juno of Yunnan 21, 185–6 Karamai 69 Karimov, President I. 167 Karmapa Lama 121–2 Kashgar 49, 60, 62, 69, 118, 144 Kaup, K., on the Zhuang 4 Kazak community 172, 186 Kazakhstan 59, 74–5, 166–8, 171; copper industry 74 Kazaks 32, 59, 118, 142; of Yili 118 Khotan 118, 144 Kilin 129 Kinh 173 Kirgiz 69, 118, 186; community 168 Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture 49, 69 Knight, N. 14 Koller, A, 162 Koran, the 114 Korea 15, 156–7, 173, 186 Koreans 21, 25, 31, 36, 67, 69, 116, 129, 130–2, 142, 180; in China 120, 173 Korean War (1950–1953) 156 Korean Workers’ Party 156 Kosovo 16, 39; bombing campaign in 153; Kundun 159 Kunming 60 Kurds 18 Kwan, D. 68 Kyrgyzstan 74–5, 166–8 labour: activists, exiled 13; conditions in China 13; issues 70 Ladakh 160 Lahu 186 lamaism (lama jiao) 120 lamas 122 Lamontagne, J.: literacy study by 129 language: and education 129; of instruction 131 Laos 173, 183 law concerning individual rights 11 Law of the PRC on Compulsory Education of 1986 126 Law of the PRC on Regional Autonomy of 1984 26, 41, 126; 2001 amendments 39, 66; Article 37 of the 13 Lawrence, S.V. 166 Lee Teng-hui, President 160 legal system, revival of 26 Lhasa 23, 30, 48, 62, 116, 123, 139; 1987 events in 30; government 136; riots in 35; uprising of 1959 33 Lhoba 186 Li 187; ethnic group 127; ethnic village of 73 Liangshan 20, 57, 69, 186–8, 190 Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture 147 liberal capitalism 34 liberal globalisation 176 liberal mainstream globalisation 55 liberal theorists 10

Index 213 life expectancy 68; at birth 65; in Tibet 65 Li Hongzhi 6, 114 Li Peng, Premier 38, 61, 135; West European trip 162 Lisu 187 literacy 129 Litzinger, R., on the Yao 4 Liu, G. 63, 140 living standards 179; rise in 65 localisation 37, 176 localism 40 Long March of 1934–1935 19 Lü Feijie 67 Lugu Lake 3, 124, 145, 188 Macau 15, 37, 58 McCarthy, S. 41 McGrew, A. 8–9, 16 McLuhan, M. 8 Mahayana Buddhism 120, 186 Malay-Polynesian language 184 male and female illiteracy 142 Manchu 187 Manchuria 19, 186 Manchus 2, 21, 36, 69 Manchu-Tungus language 185 Maonan 187 Mao Zedong 5–6, 17, 19, 22, 24–5, 32, 115; death 115; isolationism 57 marriages: arranged 146; arrangements, permanent 148 Martial Law Decree 1 31 martial law, imposition of 35 Marxism 113 Marxism–Leninism 5, 34, 117, 152; in Eastern Europe 52 Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought–Deng Xiaoping theory 152 Marxist–Stalinist nationality theory 3 maternity leave 142 media 44 medical personnel in Tibet 64 medical services, free basic 64 medicines: Chinese traditional 65; traditional 64–5, 76 Médicins sans Frontières 64 Miao 25, 45, 125, 178, 184, 187; ethnic village of 73 migration 15, 70, 138–41, 150 Milosevic, S. 10, 153 minorities 19–25; areas 4; in China foreign relations, 1949–1990 31–5; cultures 141; customs 70; diasporas of 18; early policy on 19–22; of Guangxi 173; languages 5; membership of the CCP 27; nationalities 1–2, 114; policy 25; politics, 1989–2002 37; population growth in 136; representation 27; students enrolled 127; teachers 128, 133; of Yunnan 173, 180 minzu [ethnic] subjects 47 modernisation and globalisation 9, 72 modernisation process 61, 116; Tibet 46 Moinba 29, 188 monasteries 20; rehabilitation of 29 Mongolia 152, 172, 188; culture 132; ethnic consciousness 47; language 191; population 19, 172; schools 132; separatist activities 46

Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) 22, 31–2, 34, 47, 172 Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) 172 Mongolians 21, 45, 59, 69, 123, 130–1; in China 31; traditional medicine of 64 Mongols 181 monks 122; government control over 121 moral decay, problem of 113 Mosuo 3, 40, 123, 145, 148–9; matrilineal 145, 188; matriliny 148–9; social system 145 Mulam 188 Muli Monastery 24 Munich 166 Musharraf, P. 165, 171 Muslims 42, 44, 114, 165–72, 182, 186; activities in Xinjiang 169; in China 150; fundamentalism 165, 181; guerrillas 165; in Pakistan 171; radicals 119, 168; separatists 51; of Southwest Asia 169; uprising in Akto Country 37; women 144 Myanmar (Burma) 146, 156, 173–4 Nanning 60 narcotics, smuggling 173–4 national integration 178–80 nationalism 40; growth in 37 Nationalist Party government of Chiang Kai-shek 22 nationality (Chinese minzu) 2 National People’s Congress (NPC) 41, 56–7 nation-state 175; rise of 9, 15 nature worship 186–7, 189, 190, 192 Naxi 3, 40, 123, 188 Nehru, Jawaharlal 33 Nepal 45 Netherlands, the 59 New China News Agency (NCNA) 24 news conference in Beijing 158 new spirituality 13, 133, 153, 165 New York 114 Nicosia 58 Nielsen/NetRatings 179 Ningxia 4, 65, 69, 142, 149, 169, 185 Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 21, 118 Nobel Peace Prize 6, 18, 35, 159, 178; see also Dalai Lama Norbu, D. 32 North America 15, 30, 54 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 16, 39, 152–3; bombing campaign 153; intervention in Kosovo 155, 168 Nu 189 nuns 122 Nuosu 20, 147; language 131; slave-owners 20 Oakes, T. 72 oil and gas: flow of 177; pipelines control of 172 oil movement to Xinjiang 75 Olympic Games 177; in Seoul 156 one-child-per-couple policy 29, 135–6, 178 one-China policy 154 Organisation for Turkestan Freedom 51 Oroqen 189 Osaka, Japan 58

214 Index Osama bin Laden 154, 169; network in Afghanistan 167 Outer Mongolia 22 Pakistan 10, 69, 155, 157, 165–6, 171; radical Islamic camps in 169 Panchen Lama 23, 35, 122; controversy over 48; Eleventh 45, 121, 163, 165 patriarchal family system 188 patriotic education campaigns 121, 162 patriotism 113 People Armed Police 49 people communes, establishment of 21 People Liberation Army (PLA) 22, 49 People’s Daily 25, 66, 139–40, 179 People’s Hospital of Jinghong, Sipsong panna 137 People’s Republic of China (PRC) 19, 154; authorities 161; five censuses, ethnic minority populations in 135; Law Protecting Women’s Rights and Interests 134; State Council Information Office 45 Pitt, Brad 159 plague 65 planned economy 57 Poland 153 Politburo 25 political re-education campaigns 48 pollutants 9 polygyny 146, 149 polytheism 187, 189, 190, 192 popular folk religions 125 population 134–41; control policy 140; control and social status of women relationship 150; and ethnic minorities 135–8; growth 134, 141; issues in Tibet 29; policy 135, 178 Postiglione, G.A. 132 post offices 60 Potala Palace in Lhasa 62 poverty 75; absolute 66, 75; eradication of 142; general reduction in 65; high incidence among the minorities 67; line 7; and poverty alleviation 66–8 Prague 10; meeting of November 2002 153 preferential policies: favouring minorities 58, 70, 127; (youhui zhengce) series of 27 Primi 189 Production and Construction Corps. 140 Project Hope 127 prostitution 73, 145, 177 public health 64 Putin, President Vladimir 155, 171 Qiang 189 Qin dynasty 16 Qing dynasty 22 Qinghai 4, 69–70, 124, 128, 139–40, 164, 185, 189, 191 Qin Shihuang 16 Quanzhou, Fujian Province 119 racists 43 radio 179 railways: link of eastern seaboard with Europe 76; and roads 59 Rashid, A. 167 Reagan, President R. 34–5

Rebellion of 1959 149 Rebiya Kadeer 46, 53, 143 reform, period of 25–31 religion 29, 113–26; and education of China’s ethnic minorities 133; exemplifying both globalisation and localisation 177; freedom of 114; as having a ‘mass nature’ 114; official communiqué on 117 religious persecution 24, 161–2 Republic of Chechnya 155 Republic of Korea (South Korea) 156 Republic of Mongolia 47, 181 Reuters 157 Robinson, Mary 45, 163–4 Rotterdam 59 Rudelson, J. 118 rural family planning 136 rural incomes 68 Russia 16, 154, 167, 171–2, 177, 189 Rwanda, 1994 ethnic carnage 153 Saddam Hussein 156 Salar 189 satellite stations 60 Saudi Arabia 165, 169 Sautman, B. 70, 128, 161 Schein, L. 151; on the Miao 4 Schermerhorn, R.A. 3 Seattle 10 secessionist activities 2, 17 Second World War 8, 155 self-government, organs of 126 separatism 31, 38, 168, 179; policies of suppression of 49; in Xinjiang 53 Sera Monastery in Lhasa 122 Serbia 10; bombing campaign against 16, 153; ‘ethnic cleansing’ 39 serf system 23 Seven Years in Tibet 159 sex industry 145; in Thailand 146 sex tourism, overt 145 Sexual Customs 44 Shaanxi 70 Shadian Incident 24, 40 Shakya, T. 4, 29, 47 shamanism 183, 186–7, 189 Shanghai 38, 69; Cooperation Organisation 167–8, 171; Five 167–8 Shan people of Burma (Myanmar) 124, 183 She 190 Shenzhen 38, 70 Shigaze in Tibet 62, 121 Shimenkan 125 Sibe 190 Sichuan 70, 122–4, 131, 139, 145, 147, 187, 189, 191–2 Sino-American relations 33–4, 154–5, 157, 170 Sino-Indian relations 33 Sino-Soviet relations 7, 32 Sipsong panna Dai Autonomous Prefecture 124; attractions of 71 slavery, abolition of 21 smallpox 65 socialist ideology 113, 133 socialist market economy 56, 143

Index 215 South Africa, apartheid regime in 10 South Korea 10, 116; Christian missionaries 173 Soviet Union 17, 22, 31, 34, 36, 59, 155, 175; bloc, fall of 10; collapse of 1, 10, 52, 119, 152, 156, 166, 168, 172, 176; hegemonism 168 Spain 58 special economic zone 38 Spring Bud Project 127, 142–3 SSB Population Office 139–40 Stalin 2; definition of nationality 2–3, 21 standard of living 56, 68, 73, 180; poverty, inequalities 62–70 State Council 123; Poverty Alleviation Office 66 State Ethnic Affairs Commission 44, 66 state-owned enterprises, corporatisation 57 steel products, import of 74 Strasbourg 160 student movement, suppression 37, 56–7 Sufi sect of Islam 118 superstition 113 Sweden 7 Switzerland 163 Taiwan 10–11, 15, 58, 154, 157–8, 160, 163, 180–1, 184; Central News Agency 51; separatism 179 Tajikistan 74–5, 166–8 Tajiks 118, 190 Taklamakan Desert 68 Taliban 165, 169, 171; in Afghanistan 154, 166 Tamils in Sri Lanka 18 Tang Guoqiang, Foreign Ministry spokesman 161–2 Tashilhunpo Monastery 121 Tatars 118, 190 teachers: from ethnic minorities 133; training school in Hotan 143 technologies, advance of 9 telephones 60, 179 television 179 Tenzin Chogyal 161 terror attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington 16, 49, 53, 58, 75–6; Chinese leaders’ reaction 155 terrorism 51–2, 168; three main sources of 179 textbooks 130 Thailand 7, 12, 124–5, 173–4, 177 Thais 124, 186; language 183; monks 125 ‘theme parks’ 70–1 Theravada Buddhism 124, 144, 177, 192; ethnic groups 183 Theravada tradition 120 Tianjin 69 Tibet 4, 15, 28–31, 37, 47–9, 61, 64, 69, 115, 125, 129, 138, 142, 148–50, 162–3, 175, 180, 186, 188, 191; appointment of special coordinator 158; bureaucracy nationalisation of 29; cadres 31; CCP power in 29; culture 61, 122; diaspora 48, 54; economy 61; ethnic areas of 22, 123, 139, 158; exile community 121; female officials 142; foreign tourists in 71; foreign trade 74; global implications of 122; government-in-exile 136, 138, 157; Han Chinese immigration into 139; human rights abuses in 157; impact on bilateral relations 152; incarnate lamas 122; independence for 120; independence movements in 30, 33, 37, 48, 115; Information

Network 46, 162; issue, globalisation of 162–3; language 30, 130–1; lifestyle 46; lobby 152, 157, 159; Marriage Law of 1981 149; marriage practices 151; members of the CCP 48; monasteries 130; polyandry 149; poverty 68; railway in 60; referendum in 162; religion 122, 163; separatism 179, 181; in Sino-American relations 33; spirituality 30; standards of living 61; Support Group 138; survey on family matters in 137; tourists in 120; traditional arts 24; traditional medicine of 64; women 146; Work Forum in Beijing 61 Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) 21, 23, 42, 70, 122, 140; Birth Control Commission 136; ethnic breakdown of population 139; language commission 131 Tibetan Bon, ancient traditional 122 Tibetan Buddhism 13, 28, 49, 120, 123, 133, 153, 161, 165, 172, 178, 188–92; clergy 121; monasteries 24, 121, 123 Tibetans 17, 25, 32–5, 45, 69, 130–2, 157–65; in clerical estate 122 Tibeto-Burman language 184–6, 192 Tongzha 127 tourism 15, 57, 70, 75–6, 145, 177, 180; acceleration 71; China’s ethnic areas 133; industry 126; influx into Tibet 36; positive impact 73; tourists 30, 116, 146 trade 176 Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance 32 Tu 123, 191 tuberculosis 64, 75 Tujia 191 Turkey 51, 166 Turpan 60, 118, 144 Uighur [Uygur] businessmen 61 Ulanhu 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites 62 United Arab Emirates 165 United Kingdom 58 United Nations 11, 16, 23, 134, 163; 1998 Human Development Report 7; Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing 6, 134; High Commissioner for Human Rights 45; Population Fund 150; War Crimes Tribunal 153 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 67, 141–2; measure of overall human development index (HDI) 65, 69, 141 United States 1, 7, 11, 32–3, 55, 58, 75, 117, 120, 149, 152, 154–5, 157–8, 160, 164, 171–2, 175, 177; Department of State 45, 170; domination of world economy 13; influence in Central Asia 181 United States-led war against terrorism 179 universal 9-year education 126; aim of 129 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 11 universalist view of human rights 11 Upton, J. 131 urbanisation 61–2, 180 Ürümqi 62, 69, 137, 144, 148, 169 Uygurs 17, 32, 45, 51, 54, 60, 61, 69, 117–19, 130–2, 140–2, 150, 165, 169, 178, 181, 191; educated 137, 148; exile community 165; and Han, relations between 53; language 191;

216 Index Uygurs (Continued) Liberation Organisation 166; migration 141; Muslim communities of Xinjiang 55; Muslim radicals 166; population 46, 138; separatist activities 51, 119, 179; separatist terrorism 170–1; traditional medicine of 64; women 144 Uzbekistan 74–5, 167 Uzbeks 118, 191–2 Va 192 Vietnam 156, 173, 185; relations with 7 village: elections 10; health stations 64 ‘walking marriages’ 148–9 Wang, J. 149 Wang Zhaoguo 52 war: against Afghanistan 16; in Bosnia-Hercegovina 153; against terrorism 169–72, 175 water, shortage of 70 Water Splashing Festival 124 Weining County 125 Western Europe 54, 153 Western Poverty Reduction Project 165 Western tourists 178 Westphalia, Treaty of 9, 15 Winchester, M. 49, 119 Winnington, A. 20 Wolf, F. 162 Wolfensohn, J. 164 women 6, 134; educational levels 151; empowerment of 141, 151; from ethnic minorities 143, 177; and gender 141–50; rights 13; rising status of 146, 148; see also United Nations Conference World Bank 10, 66–7, 150, 164–5; boundary mark for poverty 68; Independent Inspection Panel 164 World Health Organisation 64 World Islamic Development Bank 169 World Tourism Organisation 58 World Trade Center 49, 58; Towers, destruction 154 World Trade Organisation (WTO) 1, 5, 10, 12, 17, 54, 126, 145, 175–7; meeting in Seattle 1, 13; see also China

Wu Jinghua 30–1 Wudang zhao 123 Xining 124, 128 Xinjiang 4, 15, 22, 37, 42, 49–54, 56, 60–1, 67–8, 71, 76, 115, 117–18, 125, 128, 131, 138, 140, 142, 144, 146, 148, 150, 165, 168, 179, 181, 184–6, 188–91; 2000 census 141; ethnic breakdown of population 140; ethnic clashes and terrorism 49–52; foreign trade 74; history of 130; minorities 27; Political Consultative Conference 50; separatism 119; Television 49; tourists 71 Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) 21, 52, 118 Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture 4, 21, 27, 129, 131 Yangjin 143 Yangxin riots of December 2000 44 Yan, H. 139 Yao 125, 192 Yee, Professor H. 122 Yeltsin, President Boris 155 Yi 20, 30, 130–1, 184, 187–8, 192 Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture 50 Yinchuan 169 Yining 32, 143–4 Yugoslavia 175; break-up of 153 Yugur 192 Yunnan 4, 41, 63, 65, 67, 69–72, 123–4, 138–9, 145, 149, 182–9, 191–2 Zahideen Yusuf 49–50 Zhang Guohua General 23 Zhao Ziyang 6 Zhejiang 69, 190 zhongnan qingnü 144 Zhou Enlai 22, 33 Zhuang 187, 192–3; ethnic consciousness 41; men 173; mobilisation 41 Zhu Rongji 38, 70