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The State and Minority Nationalities (Ethnic Groups) in China

  • Roland BoerEmail author
Living reference work entry

Abstract

In the context of racial tensions in the USA, questions over the EU project from those who have not benefitted, the treatment of asylum seekers with increasing harshness in places like Australia, and the response to refugees in Europe, a rather different example of ethnic and cultural diversity is worth attention – that of China. As the country with the largest population in the world and due to a complex history, China now has 56 officially recognized nationalities, including the Han, who number 1.2 billion. Even so, the next nine nationalities number 6–19 million each – larger than the total population of many countries in the world.

How does China deal with this situation? To begin with, the term minzu is badly translated as “ethnic group.” It is better translated as “nationality.” With its multiple nationalities, China has developed a “preferential policy” that initially followed the model of the Soviet Union and was revised substantially in the 1990s. The policy entails support for economic development, cultural traditions, language, education, literature, and local political leadership. However, the policy has also created some problems: the inherent difficulties of government classification and their unintended effects; the tensions over “separatism, extremism, and terrorism,” which has included foreign interference; and differences over the understanding and application of human rights in light of distinct traditions. Ultimately, the policy turns on the contradiction between autonomy for nationalities and the unity of the Chinese state. The question is how one deals with such a contradiction.

Keywords

China Nationality Preferential policies Terrorism Human rights 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Liberal ArtsRenmin University of ChinaBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Ratuva
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and SociologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific StudiesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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