Home
Meetings & Statements Events & Activities China & UN Highlights News in Photo
中文
  Home > About China > Situation in Tibet
White Paper 2005: Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China
28 February 2005

2005/02/28

 

White Paper 2005: Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China

http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/20050301/index.htm   [English]

http://www.china.com.cn/ch-book/20050228/index.htm  [Chinese]

 

Contents

Preface

I. A Unified Multi-Ethnic State, and Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

II. The Political Status of Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities and the Establishment of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

III. The Right of Self-Government of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

IV. The Central Government's Support and Assistance for Ethnic Autonomous Areas

V. Historical Development of Various Undertakings in Ethnic Autonomous Areas

Conclusion

Appendix: Basic Facts About the 155 Ethnic Autonomous Areas in the People's Republic of China 

Information Office of the State Council
of the People's Republic of China
28 February 2005, Beijing


 

 

 

Preface

The People's Republic of China is a united multi-ethnic country. So far, 56 ethnic groups have been identified and recognized by the central government. The population of various ethnic groups differs greatly. While the Han ethnic group has the largest population, that of the other 55 ethnic groups is relatively small, so they are customarily referred to as "ethnic minorities." According to the fifth national census, conducted in 2000, the population of all the 55 ethnic minority groups totaled 104.49 million, accounting for 8.41 percent of the total population of China. People of all ethnic groups in China have made important contributions to the creation of a unified multi-ethnic country and the creation of the time-honored Chinese civilization, as well as Chinese historical progress.

Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in China means that, under the unified leadership of the state, regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in compact communities. In these areas, organs of self-government are established for the exercise of autonomy. The implementation of this policy is critical to enhancing the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among different ethnic groups, to upholding national unification, and to accelerating the development of places where regional autonomy is practiced and promoting their progress.

 

 

 

I. A Unified Multi-Ethnic State, and Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

Since its founding in 1921, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has made active efforts to solve China's ethnic problems. It successfully formulated and implemented policies concerning ethnic minorities, and united and led the people of all ethnic groups to win the final victory of the New Democratic Revolution. The first session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was convened in September 1949, on the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China. At the suggestion of the CPC, deputies of different ethnic groups and political parties held consultations, and decided to proclaim the establishment of the People's Republic of China as a united multi-ethnic state. The conference also adopted the Common Program of the CPPCC, which actually served as a provisional constitution of the new republic. A chapter in the Common Program specially expounded on New China's ethnic policies, and clearly defined regional autonomy for ethnic minorities as a basic policy of the state. This major historical decision was made out of consideration for the particular situation of China.

(1) The Long Existence of a United Multi-Ethnic State Is the Historical Basis for Practicing Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

China is a united multi-ethnic state with long history. As early as 221 BC, the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), the first feudal empire in the history of China, brought about unification to the country for the first time. The subsequent Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) further consolidated the country's unification. Administrative areas known as jun (prefecture) and xian (county) were established across the country, and uniform systems of law, language, calendar, carriage, currency, and weights and measures were adopted. This promoted exchanges between different areas and ethnic groups, and created the fundamental framework for the political, economic and cultural development of China as a united multi-ethnic state over the next 2,000 years or more. Later dynasties - whether they were established by Han people, such as the Sui (581-618), Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644), or by other ethnic minority groups, such as the Yuan (1271-1368) and Qing (1644-1911) - all considered themselves as "orthodox reigns" of China and regarded the establishment of a united multi-ethnic state their highest political goal.

Almost all the central authorities of the feudal dynasties adopted a policy of "rule by custom" toward the ethnic minorities. Under this policy, the political unification of China was maintained while the ethnic minorities were allowed to preserve their own social systems and cultures. The Han Dynasty created the Office of Protector-General of the Western Regions in what is now the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the Tang Dynasty established Anxi and Beiting Office of Protector-General in the same area. These organizations administered only political and military affairs. The central authorities of the Qing Dynasty adopted different measures for governing the ethnic-minority areas in accordance with local characteristics. In the areas where Mongolians lived, a league-banner (prefecture-county) administrative system was exercised. In Tibet, the central government sent Grand Ministers Resident in Tibet and exercised a religion-political rule of lamas and nobles by granting honorific titles to the two most important Living Buddhas, namely, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. In the areas where Uygur people lived in compact communities, a Beg (a generic term for chiefs of Moslem groups appointed by the central government) system was adopted. In places where ethnic peoples lived in south China, a system of tusi ("aboriginal office" literally) was introduced. Under the old social system it is impossible for all ethnic groups to enjoy equality in the modern sense of the word, and strife, conflicts and even wars among them were inevitable. Still, the long-standing existence of a united, multi-ethnic state in Chinese history greatly enhanced the political, economic and cultural exchanges among different ethnic groups, and constantly promoted the identification of all ethnic groups with the central government, and their allegiance to it.

(2) The Patriotic Spirit Formed During the Fight Against Foreign Invasions in Modern Times Is the Political Basis for Practicing Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

For 110 years from the Opium War in 1840, China suffered repeated invasions and bullying by imperialist powers, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups were subject to oppression and slavery. At the critical moment when China faced the danger of being carved up, and when the nation was on the verge of being subjugated, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups united as one, and put up the most arduous and bitter struggles against foreign invaders in order to uphold the country's sovereignty, and win national independence and liberation. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), in particular, Chinese people of all ethnic groups, sharing a bitter hatred for the aggressors, rose in united resistance against the Japanese invaders to safeguard their homes. Many anti-Japanese forces whose members were mainly of ethnic minorities, such as the Hui Detachment and the Inner Mongolia Guerrillas, waged heroic struggles against the Japanese invaders, and contributed greatly to the final victory in the war against fascism. While fighting against imperialist invasions, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups also waged struggles against separatist plots to bring about "independence" for Tibet, "East Turkistan" and "Manchukuo" by a small number of separatists with the support of imperialist powers. Through their struggles against foreign invasions, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups keenly realized that the great motherland is the common homeland of them all, and that only when China's sovereignty and territorial integrity are maintained will all ethnic groups truly come to enjoy freedom, equality, development and progress. People of all ethnic groups must further enhance their unity to safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and make China a prosperous and rich country.

(3) The Population Distribution Pattern of China's Ethnic Groups, in Which They Live Together over Vast Areas While Some Live in Compact Communities in Small Areas, Plus the Disparities Between Different Areas in Access to Natural Resources and Stage of Development Make It Pragmatic to Adopt the Policy of Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

The history of the evolution of China's ethnic groups is one of frequent contacts and intermingling. In its long historical development, the various ethnic groups moved frequently from one place to another and gradually formed the pattern of living together over vast areas while some live in individual compact communities in small areas. The Han people, with the largest population, are distributed all over China, while the populations of the other 55 ethnic groups are relatively small, and most of them live in the frontier areas. Still, they can be found in all the administrative regions above county level in the hinterland. Given this population distribution pattern, establishing ethnic autonomous areas of different types at different administrative levels based on regions where ethnic minorities live in compact communities is conducive to the harmony and stability of relations between different ethnic groups and their common development.

The regions inhabited by ethnic minorities in compact communities are large, and rich in natural resources. But compared with other regions, particularly with developed regions, the level of economic and social development in these regions is relatively backward. Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities enables them to bring into full play their regional advantages and promote exchanges and cooperation between minority areas and other areas, and consequently quickens the pace of modernization both in the minority areas and the country as a whole and helps achieve common development of all regions and prosperity for all ethnic groups. 

 

 

 

II. The Political Status of Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities and the Establishment of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

(1) The Political Status of Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities

The first National People's Congress, convened in 1954, included the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the "Constitution"). All subsequent revisions to the Constitution reaffirmed the implementation of this system. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Regional Ethnic Autonomy (hereinafter referred to as "Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy"), which was amended and issued in 2001, explicitly stipulates that "the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is a basic political system of the state."

As early as 1952, the Chinese government issued the Program for the Implementation of Regional Ethnic Autonomy of the People's Republic of China, which included clear provisions on such important issues as the establishment of ethnic autonomous areas and the composition of organs of self-government, as well as the right of self-government for such organs. On May 31, 1984, on the basis of summarizing the experience of practicing regional autonomy for ethnic minorities, the second session of the Sixth National People's Congress (NPC) adopted the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, and decided to put it into effect on October 1 of that year. To meet the need for faster economic and social development of ethnic autonomous areas in the era of the socialist market economy and on the basis of fully respecting and representing the will of the people living in those areas, in 2001 the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress made revisions to the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, thus making the law more complete and effective.

The Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, the content of which covers all aspects, including politics, economy, culture and society, is a basic legal document for implementing the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities as provided in the Constitution. It defines the relationship between the central government and the ethnic autonomous regions, as well as the relationship between different ethnic groups in ethnic autonomous regions. Its legal effect is not limited to the ethnic autonomous regions only; every individual in China and all state organs must abide by and implement this law.

(2) The Establishment of Ethnic Autonomous Regions

Under the leadership of the Communist Party, China's first provincial-level ethnic autonomous region - the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region - was established in 1947 in the liberated areas inhabited by Mongolians before the founding of the People's Republic of China. After New China was established in 1949, the Chinese government began to introduce the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities to all regions where ethnic minorities lived in compact communities. In October 1955, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was established; in March 1958, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was established; in October 1958, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was established; and in September 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region was established. By the end of 2003, China had established 155 ethnic autonomous areas. Of these, five are autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners). According to the fifth national census, conducted in 2000, of the 55 ethnic minorities, 44 have their own ethnic autonomous areas. The population of ethnic minorities practicing regional autonomy accounts for 71 percent of the total population of ethnic minorities, and the area where such regional autonomy is practiced accounts for 64 percent of the entire territory of China.

In places where ethnic minorities live in compact communities but where the establishment of autonomous areas is not feasible, because the populations of the ethnic minorities and the areas they live in are relatively small, or because the populations are scattered, the Constitution provides that ethnic townships be established, so that the minority peoples there can also exercise the right to administer the internal affairs of the ethnic group and be the masters of their own areas. In 1993, the Chinese government issued the Regulations on the Administrative Work of Ethnic Townships to guarantee the implementation of the system of ethnic townships. By the end of 2003, China had established 1,173 ethnic townships in areas equivalent to townships where ethnic minorities live in compact communities. Ethnic townships have been established for nine of the 11 ethnic minorities where the regional autonomy policy is not implemented because the populations and areas of the ethnic minorities are relatively small.

Areas where the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is practiced can be divided into three levels, namely, autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties, according to how big the population of the ethnic group is and how large the area it occupies. All areas where the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is practiced are inseparable parts of the territory of the People's Republic of China. Organs of self-government of autonomous areas must safeguard the unification of the country and guarantee that the Constitution and laws are carried out and implemented in those areas. State organs at higher levels and organs of self-government of autonomous areas should safeguard and develop a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance between ethnic groups.

In places where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, after due consideration has been given to the relationships among the ethnic groups and the economic development of those localities, as well as to historical situation, an autonomous area based on one ethnic group can be established, such as the Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Zhejiang Jingning She Autonomous County. Or an autonomous area based on compact communities of two or more ethnic groups may be established, such as the Qinghai Haixi Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Jishishan Bao'an-Dongxiang-Salar Autonomous County, and so on.

If other ethnic groups live in compact communities within the autonomous area of one bigger ethnic group, the former may establish their own autonomous areas or ethnic townships. For example, the Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture and Yanqi Hui Autonomous County have been established in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Depending on the actual situation of each locality, ethnic autonomous areas may include communities, cities or towns where Han people or people of other ethnic groups live.

If communities of one ethnic group of various sizes occupy several areas, they may establish several autonomous areas of different administrative status. Take the Hui ethnic group for example. There are the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Gansu Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture and Hebei Mengcun Hui Autonomous County.

Except for special cases, the name of an ethnic autonomous area normally consists of the name of the place, name of the ethnic group and the word indicating the administrative status, in that order. Take the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for example. Guangxi is the name of the place; Zhuang is the name of the ethnic group and Autonomous Region indicates its administrative status.

The establishment of an ethnic autonomous area, the delimiting of its boundaries and what name this autonomous region is to assume shall be decided after these matters are fully discussed among state organs at a higher level, the state organs of the locality concerned and the representatives of the relevant ethnic group(s), and then their decision shall be submitted for approval in accordance with the procedures prescribed by law. The establishment of an autonomous region is to be approved by the National People's Congress. The delimiting of the boundaries of an autonomous region, the establishment of an autonomous prefecture or county and the delimiting of their boundaries are to be decided by the State Council. Once an ethnic autonomous area is established, it shall not be dissolved or amalgamated without going through the procedures prescribed by law. Once the boundary lines of ethnic autonomous areas are determined, they shall not be altered without going through the procedures prescribed by law. If an ethnic autonomous area really needs to be dissolved or amalgamated, or if its boundaries really need to be altered, the matter shall be fully discussed by the relevant departments of the state organs at higher levels and the organs of self-government of that autonomous area, and their decisions shall be submitted for approval in accordance with the procedures prescribed by law.

(3) The Composition of Organs of Self-Government of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas are the people's congresses and people's governments of autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties. In addition to deputies from the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned, the people's congresses of the autonomous areas should also include an appropriate number of members from other ethnic groups living in that autonomous area. Among the chairman or vice-chairmen of the standing committee of the people's congress of an autonomous area there shall be one or more citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. Other members of the people's governments of the autonomous areas shall include an appropriate number of members of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy as well as members of other ethnic minorities. The functionaries of the working departments subsidiary to the organs of self-government shall be composed in a similar fashion. 

 

 

 

III. The Right of Self-Government of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

The organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas perform the functions of local state organs as prescribed in Section Five, Chapter Three of the Constitution. They also exercise the right of self-government provided for in the Constitution, the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy and other laws, and of carrying out and implementing state laws and policies in the light of specific local conditions. The state organs at higher levels guarantee that organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas exercise their right of self-government.

(1) Independently Managing the Ethnic Group's Internal Affairs in Its Autonomous Area

People of various ethnic origins in autonomous areas are entitled to vote and stand for election, as provided for in the Constitution and other laws and, by electing deputies to the local people's congresses and establishing other organs of self-government, exercise their democratic rights to manage the internal affairs of their own ethnic groups in their autonomous areas. Among the chairmen or vice-chairmen of the standing committees of the people's congresses of all 155 autonomous areas in China there are citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The heads of all autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties are all citizens of the ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy in the areas concerned.

To guarantee that the organs of self-government fully exercise their political right to manage the internal affairs of their own ethnic groups in their autonomous areas, the state organs at higher levels and organs of self-government in autonomous areas have taken all measures to train a large number of minority cadres and specialized personnel in the field of science, technology, operation and management. By the end of 2003, minority cadres and other specialized personnel totaled over 2.9 million.

Meanwhile, through electing deputies to the National People's Congress from their own ethnic group, the ethnic minorities exercise the right to manage state affairs. From the First National People's Congress to the present day, the proportion of deputies of ethnic minorities among the total number of deputies in every NPC has been higher than the proportion of their populations in the nation's total in the corresponding periods. For example, in the Tenth National People's Congress there are 415 deputies of ethnic minorities, accounting for 13.91 percent of the total number of deputies, 5.5 percentage points higher than the proportion of their populations in the nation's total. Every ethnic group has its own NPC deputy or deputies. Ethnic groups with a population of more than one million have members in the NPC Standing Committee.

(2) Ethnic Autonomous Areas Enjoy the Right to Formulate Self-Government Regulations and Separate Regulations

The Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy stipulates, "Besides enjoying the same rights as enjoyed by other local state organs, people's congresses in autonomous areas have the right to formulate self-government regulations and other separate regulations in light of the particular political, economic and cultural conditions of the ethnic group in that autonomous area." The Law of the People's Republic of China on Legislation stipulates, "Self-government regulations and separate regulations may contain provisions which have been flexibly altered on the basis of existing laws or administrative regulations to suit the particular conditions of the ethnic group." It also stipulates, "Wherever self-government regulations and separate regulations have made flexible alterations to existing laws, administrative regulations or local laws and regulations, the self-government regulations and separate regulations shall be applicable in that autonomous area." According to the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, "If the resolutions, decisions, orders and directives of state organs at higher levels are not suitable for the particular situation of an autonomous area, the organs of self-government may report the matter to the higher state organs concerned, asking for permission to flexibly carry out, or halt the carrying out, of those resolutions, decisions, orders and directives." By the end of 2003, ethnic autonomous areas had formulated 133 self-government regulations and 384 separate regulations. In light of the particular situation in each area, ethnic autonomous areas have made flexible alterations or provide supplementary regulations to 68 provisions in such laws as the Marriage Law, Inheritance Law, Election Law, Land Law and Grassland Law.

(3) Using and Developing the Spoken and Written Languages of the Ethnic Groups

According to the provisions of the self-government regulations for ethnic autonomous areas, the organs of self-government of such areas shall use one or more commonly used local languages when they are performing official duties. If more than one language can be used for such official duties, the language of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy should be used primarily. Autonomous areas such as Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet have formulated and implemented stipulations regarding the use and development of the spoken and written languages of their own ethnic groups, and rules and regulations for the implementation of these stipulations.

Soon after New China was founded, the state helped a dozen ethnic minorities improve or create their own written languages. By the end of 2003, 22 ethnic minorities in China used 28 written languages. In China, the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities are widely used in the fields of law and justice, administration, education, political and social life, and other areas. When important meetings, such as the CPC National Congress, NPC and CPPCC Sessions, are held, the documents of the meetings are available in Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Kazak, Korean, Yi and Zhuang, and simultaneous interpretation in those languages are also provided.

(4) Respecting and Guaranteeing the Freedom of Religious Belief of Ethnic Minorities

Most people of ethnic minorities cherish religious beliefs. In some ethnic groups the majority of the people are adherents to a certain religion. For example, most Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism, while the Hui and Uygur peoples are followers of Islam. Organs of self-government in autonomous areas, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and relevant laws, respect and guarantee the freedom of religious belief of ethnic minorities, and safeguard all legal and normal religious activities of people of ethnic minorities. By the end of 2003, there were 1,700 sites in Tibet for Buddhists to conduct religious activities, and some 46,000 resident monks and nuns; there were 23,788 mosques and 26,000 clerical personnel in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; and there were 3,500 mosques and 5,100 clerical personnel in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. All religious activities are conducted normally, and the freedom of religious belief of ethnic minorities is fully respected and guaranteed.

(5) Retaining or Altering the Folkways and Customs of Ethnic Groups

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas guarantee the rights and freedom of all ethnic minorities to retain their traditional folkways and customs in daily life or when conducting social activities. These include respecting the habits and customs of minority people, respecting and showing special consideration for their festivals, ensuring the supply of special foods, supporting and ensuring the production and supply of special items, and respecting their marriage and funeral customs. Meanwhile, the ethnic minorities are encouraged to adopt new, scientific, civilized and healthy customs in daily life, as well as in marriages and funerals.

(6) Independently Arranging, Managing and Developing Economic Construction

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas may, in accordance with legal provisions and the characteristics of local economic development, rationally adjust the relations of production or economic structure of the said areas. Under the guidance of state planning, they shall independently arrange local capital construction projects, depending on the local financial and material resources, and other conditions. They manage local enterprises and institutions independently. Ethnic autonomous areas can engage in foreign trade in accordance with the provisions of the state. They can also open ports for foreign trade after obtaining approval from the State Council. Autonomous areas enjoy state preferential policy treatment in their foreign trade. All ethnic autonomous areas have formulated their own plans, goals and measures for economic and social development by following the guidance of the overall state plan for national economic and social development, while at the same time taking into consideration local conditions.

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas are bound to protect and improve the local environment, and prevent and deal with pollution and other public hazards. They determine, in accordance with legal provisions, the right to own and use pastures and forests within their autonomous area. They manage and protect local natural resources by law. They have the priority, in accordance with legal provisions and the unified plans of the state, in developing and using the natural resources that are available to them. For instance, the Sichuan Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture has taken full advantage of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, two World Natural Heritage sites within its borders, in transforming tourist resources into a tourist industry. While developing such industry, special attention is paid to the protection of the two sites.

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas have the right to manage local financial matters. All financial revenue belonging to ethnic autonomous areas under the state financial system can be used by the organs of self-government without any restrictions. According to stipulations of the state, financial budgetary expenditure of autonomous areas should include some amounts as reserve funds, the proportion of which to the total expenditure is higher than those in other areas. In the process of managing financial budgets, organs of self-government of autonomous areas are independent in arranging and using the extra in their revenue or funds saved from their expenditure. In implementing state tax laws, in addition to projects that enjoy tax reduction or exemption upon approval from the state, organs of self-government of autonomous areas can grant tax reduction and exemption to projects that need encouragement and preferential treatment from local revenue.

(7) Independently Developing Educational, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Undertakings

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas determine the educational plan, the establishment of schools, school system, the forms by which schools are run, curricula, language of teaching and method of enrollment, in accordance with principles concerning education and legal provisions of the state. Public ethnic primary and middle schools that provide boarding and allowances to most students are established in pastureland and mountainous regions where families normally have financial difficulties and live in scattered locations to ensure that the students can complete their compulsory education. Schools (classes) and other educational institutions whose students are predominantly from ethnic minority families should, if possible, use textbooks printed in their own languages, and lessons should be taught in those languages. Chinese language courses shall be offered at different times of the primary school period depending on the particular situation, to propagate the use of putonghua (standard Chinese).

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas independently develop cultural undertakings with ethnic characteristics, including literature, art, news, publishing, broadcasting, movies and television programs. They organize relevant departments to collect, edit, translate and publish historical and cultural books. They protect scenic spots and historical sites, valuable cultural relics and other important items of the local cultural heritage, and inherit and carry forward the traditional culture of the ethnic group(s). By the end of August 2004, China had 29 world cultural and natural heritage sites. Two of the cultural heritage sites, namely the Potala Palace in Lhasa and the Old Town of Lijiang; and three of the natural heritage sites, namely Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic & Historic Interest Area, Huanglong Scenic & Historic Interest Area and the scenic spot of Three Parallel Rivers, are located in ethnic autonomous areas. In addition, the Dongba classical documents of the Naxi ethnic group are included in the World Memory Heritage List.

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas independently determine plans for the development of science and technology of their areas to disseminate knowledge of science and technology. They independently determine development plans for their medical and health work, and promote modern medicine as well as their traditional medicine. By the end of 2003, there were 157 ethnic hospitals in China. Of these, 55 were hospitals of Tibetan medicine, 41 hospitals of Mongolian medicine, 35 hospitals of Uygur medicine, one hospital of Dai medicine and 25 hospitals of other types of ethnic medicine. The total number of beds in these hospitals is 5,829.

Organs of self-government of autonomous areas make their own decisions when it comes to sports and the development of traditional ethnic sports activities. By the end of 2003, China had held National Traditional Ethnic Minority Sports Meet seven times. The Seventh National Traditional Ethnic Minority Sports Meet, held in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in 2003, consisted of 14 competitions and 125 demonstration events.

 

 

 

IV. The Central Government's Support and Assistance for Ethnic Autonomous Areas

The Constitution stipulates, "The state will do its utmost to promote the common prosperity of all the ethnic groups." The Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy further clearly stipulates it as a legal obligation that higher state organs should support and assist ethnic autonomous areas in speeding up their development. To implement the provisions in the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, the Chinese government has adopted a series of measures as follows:

(1) Giving Prominence to Speeding up the Development of Ethnic Autonomous Areas

While formulating the national economic and social development plan, the central government gives full respect and consideration to the characteristics and needs of the ethnic autonomous areas, and gives strategic prominence to speeding up their development in accordance with the overall arrangement and general requirements of national development. To accelerate the development of China's western regions and ethnic autonomous areas, the Chinese government launched a grand strategy for the development of western China in 2000, which covers five autonomous regions, 27 autonomous prefectures and 83 of the 120 autonomous counties (banners). In addition, three other autonomous prefectures are allowed to enjoy the preferential policies the state has adopted for the western regions. During the five years since the launching of the strategy of development of the western part of the country, the construction of 60 important projects has begun, with a total investment of 850 billion yuan. They play an important role in promoting the economic and social development of the ethnic autonomous areas.

(2) Giving Priority to and Rationally Arranging Infrastructure Projects in Ethnic Autonomous Areas

When making arrangements for infrastructure construction and exploitation of resources in ethnic autonomous areas, the central government appropriately raises the proportion of investment and loans from policy banks, and grants the local areas reduction or exemption from supplementary funding according to their different conditions. Starting in the period of the First Five-Year Plan (1953-1957), the Chinese government has arranged a batch of key construction projects in ethnic autonomous areas, including the Baotou iron and steel base in Inner Mongolia, Qingtongxia Hydropower Station in Ningxia, petroleum exploration in Xinjiang and major highways linking Sichuan and Tibet, Qinghai and Tibet, Xinjiang and Tibet, and main railway lines linking Baotou and Lanzhou, Lanzhou and Xining, and Lanzhou and Urumqi. In the 1990s, large transport facilities were constructed, including the railway line between Zhongwei in Ningxia and Baoji in Shaanxi, and the Nanjiang Railway and Tacheng Airport in Xinjiang. Since 2000, the state has assisted ethnic autonomous areas to further convert their resource advantages into economic advantages by investing in the construction of a number of key projects, such as the West-East Natural Gas Transmission Project, West-East Power Transmission Project and Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

The state has made special arrangements for infrastructure construction and the development of basic industries in Tibet. From 1984 to 1994, a total of 43 projects were constructed, with investment from the central government and assistance from nine inland provinces and municipalities, totaling 480 million yuan. From 1994 to 2001, some 30 projects were constructed with a total direct investment of 3.9 billion yuan from the central government, and 32 projects were completed with investment, totaling 960 million yuan, from the more developed areas in the east. During the period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005), the central government has invested 31.2 billion yuan in 117 projects in Tibet alone.

Since 1999, the Chinese government has launched large-scale transport infrastructure construction programs that were intended to benefit all ethnic autonomous regions, such as "Outlet Highways for Impoverished Counties," "Asphalt Roads to Every County in Western China" and "Inter-County and Rural Highways." Roads in rural areas and county-level roads totaling 225,000 km have been built or renovated, with a total investment of almost 100 billion yuan. This has markedly improved the formerly backward transport conditions in some areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.

(3) Strengthening Financial Support for Ethnic Autonomous Areas

With the development of the national economy and the growth in financial revenue, governments at all levels have gradually increased transfer payments from the exchequer to ethnic autonomous areas. Through ordinary transfer payments from the exchequer, special-purpose transfer payments from the exchequer, transfer payments from the exchequer according to preferential policies regarding ethnic minorities, and other ways, the central government has increased the financial input in ethnic autonomous areas to promote their economic development and social progress, and gradually reduce the gap between them and the more developed areas. The Chinese government has established some special-purpose funds, including the "Subsidy for Ethnic Minority Areas" established since 1955, and the "Stand-by Fund for Ethnic Minority Areas" in 1964. Moreover, it has also adopted some preferential policies, such as raising the proportion of reserve fund for ethnic minority areas, to help ethnic autonomous areas develop their economies and raise the people's living standards. In the 1980-1988 period, the central budget provided a set-quota subsidy system with a yearly increase of 10 percent to Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia and Tibet autonomous regions, as well as Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai provinces, which have large numbers of ethnic-minority inhabitants. In 1994, the central government introduced a structural reform of its financial management with the focus on a system of sharing tax revenue between the central and local authorities, but the policies of providing subsidies and special appropriations to ethnic minority areas have maintained. While adopting the method of transitional transfer payment in 1995, the central government tilted its policy toward the ethnic minority areas by adding special provisions concerning the policy of transfer payments to ethnic minority areas, covering Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia and Tibet autonomous regions, Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai provinces and some autonomous prefectures of ethnic minorities in other provinces.

(4) Attaching Importance to Ecological Construction and Environmental Protection in Ethnic Autonomous Areas

All the four key areas and four key projects included in the National Ecological Environment Construction Plan of the Chinese government are in ethnic minority areas. The "Natural Forest Protection Project" and the projects for converting farming land for forestry and pasture are mostly in ethnic minority areas. Nearly half of the 226 national nature reserves are located in those areas, including the Zoige Wetland Nature Reserve in Sichuan and the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve in Yunnan. In addition, the central government has launched the "Project for Comprehensive Improvement of the Environment of the Tarim Basin" in Xinjiang and the "Project of Protection of the Source of the Three Rivers" in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai, and attaches great importance to the ecological improvement of the karst areas in southern China.

(5) Adopting Special Measures to Help Ethnic Autonomous Areas Develop Education

The state helps ethnic autonomous areas universalize nine-year compulsory education and develop diverse forms of education. Ethnic autonomous areas are key target areas for the state's plans to basically universalize nine-year compulsory education and basically eliminate illiteracy among the young and middle-aged population. The "Compulsory Education Project for Impoverished Areas" launched by the state is also geared to the ethnic minority areas in western China. Furthermore, the state also establishes institutes of higher learning and opens classes and preparatory courses for ethnic minority students. Institutes of higher learning and polytechnic schools have lowered admission standards for ethnic minority students, and give special preference to applicants from ethnic minorities with a very small population. So far, there are 13 institutes of higher learning for ethnic minorities in China. In more developed areas there are middle schools for ethnic minorities and ethnic minority classes in ordinary middle schools enrolling ethnic minority students. To enhance training for high-level backbone personnel from ethnic minorities, the Chinese government has decided, on an experimental basis, to enroll 2,500 students for Master's and PhD programs from ethnic minority areas in 2005, and the goal of 2007 is to enroll 5,000 people, thus making the total number of such students reach 15,000.

(6) Strengthening Assistance to Impoverished Ethnic Minority Areas

Since the mid-1980s, when the Chinese government launched its large-scale poverty-alleviation drive in an organized and programmed way, ethnic minorities and areas they live have always been key targets of governmental aid. Among the 331 impoverished counties designated as key recipients of state aid in 1986, 141 are in ethnic autonomous areas, accounting for 42.6 percent of the total. In 1994, the state began implementing a Seven-Year Program for Delivering 80 Million People out of Poverty, and among the 592 impoverished counties designated as key recipients of state aid 257 are in ethnic autonomous areas, accounting for 43.4 percent of the total. The Outline Program for Poverty Alleviation and Development in the Rural Areas of China, which began being implemented in 2001, once again recognized ethnic minority areas as key targets for assistance. In the 592 counties newly designated for state poverty alleviation and development, 267 are located in ethnic autonomous areas (excluding Tibet), accounting for 45.1 percent of the total. Tibet as a whole has been included as a target for key poverty alleviation and development from the state.

In 1990, the state established the Food and Clothing Fund for Impoverished Ethnic Minority Areas, aiming primarily at impoverished ethnic minority counties. In 1992, the state established the Fund for Ethnic Minorities Development, which is mainly used to deal with special difficulties encountered in the development of ethnic autonomous areas, and in the production and lives of ethnic minorities. Since 2000, the state has pursued a drive known as "More Prosperous Frontiers and Better-off People Action," adopting special measures to assist the 22 ethnic minority groups each with a population of less than 100,000, and focusing on infrastructure construction and the problem of food and clothing for impoverished people in frontier regions and ethnic minority areas with small populations.

(7) Increasing Input into Social Services in Ethnic Autonomous Areas

The state has increased input into health services in ethnic autonomous areas, to raise the level of medical care for the people of those areas. In 2003, the central government appropriated special funds totaling 1.37 billion yuan for health services in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia and Tibet autonomous regions, which covered such aspects as public health, basic rural health facilities, specialized hospitals, rural cooperative medical services and control of serious diseases.

In 1998, the Chinese government launched a project to give every village access to radio and TV broadcasts, providing special-purpose subsidies to key counties for national poverty-alleviation and development in the central and western regions, which greatly promoted the development of radio, film and TV services in ethnic minority areas. By the end of 2003, with subsidies totaling 450 million yuan, over 70 million villagers in 117,345 administrative villages had gained access to radio and TV broadcasts. The project covered 54,365 administrative villages in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia and Tibet autonomous regions, as well as Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, where large numbers of ethnic minority people live. In 2004, the state launched another drive to make villages with more than 50 households where electricity was available to have access to radio and TV. It is estimated that 90,000 more villages will have access to radio and TV in the next two years, among which 59,000 are in ethnic minority areas.

(8) Assisting Ethnic Autonomous Areas to Open Wider to the Outside World

The state grants more decision-making power to production enterprises in ethnic autonomous areas in managing foreign trade, encourages them to export local products and implement preferential border trade policies. It encourages and supports the ethnic autonomous areas to give full play to their geographical and cultural advantages in expanding their opening to and cooperation with neighboring countries. In 1992, the Chinese government launched its frontier opening-up strategy, designating 13 open cities and 241 first-grade open ports, and establishing 14 border economic and technological cooperation zones, most of which are in ethnic autonomous areas.

(9) Pairing off More Developed Areas and Ethnic Autonomous Areas for Aid

The Chinese government encourages better-off areas and ethnic groups to help those that are not well-off yet, and attain common prosperity this way. Since the end of the 1970s, the Chinese government has organized the more developed areas along the eastern coast to provide corresponding aid to western areas and help ethnic minority areas develop their economies and public services. In 1996, corresponding assistance was made more specific: Beijing is to assist Inner Mongolia; Shandong, Xinjiang; Fujian, Ningxia; and Guangdong, Guangxi. As regards Tibet, it receives assistance from all the other areas of the country. From 1994 to 2001, 15 assistance-providing provinces, and ministries and commissions under the State Council gave assistance gratis for the construction of 716 projects, with the input of funds totaling 3.16 billion yuan (excluding investment from the central government. Same below). During the Tenth Five-Year Plan period, Tibet received assistance and grants totaling 1.062 billion yuan from all over the country for the construction of 71 projects.

(10) Giving Care to Special Needs of Ethnic Minorities in Production and Living

Respecting the customs of ethnic minorities, and to meet their needs for special necessities in production and living, the state has adopted a special policy for their trade and production of necessities. In 1963, the state introduced preferential policies for ethnic minority enterprises in profit retention, self-owned funds and price subsidies. In June 1997, the state promulgated a new preferential policy for ethnic minorities' trade and production of necessities for them, which provided that, during the period of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), the People's Bank of China would set aside 100 million yuan every year for loans with discounted interest for the construction of trade networks for ethnic minorities and technological renovation of enterprises designated to turn out necessities for ethnic minorities. It also stipulated that state-owned trade businesses and grass-root supply and marketing cooperatives below the county level (not including counties) would be exempt from value added tax in ethnic minority areas. By the end of 2003, there were 1,378 designated manufacturers of special necessities for ethnic minorities in China, which enjoyed preferential policies concerning working capital loan rates, technological renovation loans with discounted interest, and reduction of and exemption from taxes. Considering the importance of special necessities such as tea in the everyday life of some ethnic minorities, the state established a brick-tea reserve system during the period of the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1991-1995), to guarantee the stable supply of such tea. In 2002, the Measures for Administration of National Brick-Tea Reserve was formulated, providing for the management of the reserve of brick-tea raw materials and products, and credit support to units that store the relevant materials. It also provided that the central exchequer should pay the interest on the loans used for the reserve of brick-tea materials. 

 

 

 

V. Historical Development of Various Undertakings in Ethnic Autonomous Areas

Before the founding of New China, the ethnic minority areas suffered from low productivity, and underdeveloped economy, society and culture. They had little modern industry, few educational or medical services, and poor infrastructure. Most of their populations were illiterate, and they suffered epidemics of such contagious diseases as plague, smallpox and malaria. They mainly engaged in traditional farming and animal husbandry, the slash-and-burn method of farming was still practiced in some of the ethnic minority areas, and iron tools had even not been widely used in some places. The people lived in destitution, and those living in mountainous areas, deserts and on saline-alkali soils were out of food for a few months almost every year. The development of ethnic minorities was seriously hindered, and some were on the verge of extinction.

Since the founding of New China, and especially since the introduction of the reform and opening-up policies, the people of various ethnic groups in the autonomous areas have exploited their own advantages, relied on their own efforts, worked with stamina and diligence, and continuously enhanced their self-development ability with energetic assistance and aid from the state and the more-developed areas. As a result of over half a century's efforts, in the ethnic autonomous areas the people's living conditions and environments have conspicuously improved, and the local economy and various public services have developed rapidly. Together with the people of the other parts of China, they share the achievements of development brought about by the modernization construction of the country.

(1) Rapid Economic Growth

In 2003, the GDP of China's ethnic autonomous areas reached 1,038.1 billion yuan, exceeding 1,000 billion yuan for the first time. From 1994 to 2003, the GDP of the ethnic autonomous areas grew by an average of 9.87 percent annually, which was nearly one percentage point higher than the national average. The proportion of the GDP of the ethnic autonomous areas in the national total rose from 8.5 percent in 1994 to 8.9 percent in 2003. In 1994, the per-capita GDP of the ethnic autonomous areas was 63.5 percent of the national per-capita average. In 2003, the percentage rose to 66.3 percent. Also in 2003, the local revenue of the ethnic autonomous areas reached 67.4 billion yuan, 3.3 times over that of 1994.

In 2003, the GDP of Xinjiang was 187.761 billion yuan, accounting for 1.60 percent of the national total, and an increase of 0.06 percentage points compared with 1993; the GDP of Tibet was 18.450 billion yuan, accounting for 0.16 percent of the national total, and an increase of 0.04 percentage points compared with 1993. In the same year, the per-capita GDP in Xinjiang was 9,700 yuan, equivalent to 106.58 percent of the national per-capita average; and the per-capita GDP in Tibet was 6,871 yuan, equivalent to 75.5 percent of the national per-capita average.

(2) Obvious Rise of Living Standards

In 2003, the per-capita net income of rural residents in ethnic autonomous areas was 1,895 yuan, 2.31 times that in 1994. The per-capita net income of rural residents in Xinjiang and Tibet were 2,106.19 yuan and 1,690.76 yuan, respectively, equivalent to 80.32 percent and 64.48 percent of that of rural residents nationwide.

In 2003, the housing conditions of the residents of the ethnic autonomous areas continued to improve. The per-capita housing space in urban areas was 19.8 sq m, and that in rural areas was 22.9 sq m. The balance of various kinds of savings in ethnic autonomous areas was 1,175 billion yuan, of which those of the residents of both urban and rural areas at the end of the year was 735.3 billion yuan, four times that in 1994.

(3) Distinct Improvement of Infrastructure

In 2003, the total investment in fixed assets in ethnic autonomous areas was 473.4 billion yuan, 3.7 times that of 1994. Of this, 283.7 billion yuan was invested in infrastructure construction, 4.2 times that of 1994. By the end of 2003, there were 22.73 million fixed telephone users in ethnic autonomous areas, among whom 15.32 million were urban residents. The number of mobile phone users reached 23.07 million. In 2003, the state-owned railway operation mileage in ethnic autonomous areas reached 15,100 km, a near three-fold increase compared with 1952; the highways open to traffic in those areas totaled 547,800 km, 21 times that in 1952. In addition, the urbanization levels of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Xinjiang have exceeded the national average.

(4) Protection and Fostering of Traditional Cultures

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the central authorities organized over 3,000 experts and scholars to compile and publish five series of books on ethnic minorities, totaling 403 volumes and over 90 million Chinese characters. The series are: The Ethnic Minorities in China, A Series of Books on the Brief History of the Ethnic Minorities in China, A Series of Books on the Brief Record of the Languages of the Ethnic Minorities in China, A Series of Books on the Survey of Autonomous Areas of Ethnic Minorities in China, and A Collection of Research Materials on the Societies and Histories of the Ethnic Minorities in China. Over 500,000 copies have been distributed. Today, each of the 55 ethnic minorities in China has its own brief written history.

The 55 ethnic minorities in China, except for the Chinese-speaking Hui and Manchu, each have their own language. The Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Korean and Yi languages have coded character sets and national standards for fonts and keyboard. Software in the Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur and Korean languages can be run in the Windows system, and laser photo-typesetting in these languages has been realized. Applied software in languages of ethnic minorities are emerging one after another, and some achievements have been made in research into the OCR (optic character recognition) of languages of ethnic minorities and machine-aided translation.

The state has set up special institutions to collect, assort, translate and study in an organized and programmed manner the three major heroic epics of China's ethnic minorities, i.e., Gesar (an oral Tibetan epic), Jangar (a Mongolian epic) and Manas (an epic of the Kirgiz people). In the past decade, the state has appropriated over 30 million yuan for the collation and publishing of 160 volumes of the Buddhist Tripitaka in the Tibetan language. It has also earmarked a large amount of funds for the renovation of the Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries in Tibet, the Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, and the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves in Xinjiang, and many other key national cultural relics. From 1989 to 1994, the state invested 55 million yuan and 1,000 kg of gold in the first-stage renovation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and in 2001, 330 million yuan for the second-stage renovation.

With the assistance of the state and efforts of the ethnic autonomous areas, by 2003, 4,787 titles of books in ethnic minority languages had been published, totaling 50.34 million copies. There were also 205 magazines and 88 newspapers in such languages, totaling 7.81 million copies and 131.30 million copies, respectively. The ethnic autonomous areas had set up 513 art performance troupes, 566 libraries and 163 museums. In 2003, the ethnic autonomous areas had 122 radio broadcasting organizations with 73 radio stations and 523 radio transmitting stations, broadcasting in 15 ethnic minority languages; 111 TV broadcasting organizations with 94 TV stations and 830 TV transmitting stations, broadcasting in 11 ethnic minority languages. There were also 254,900 satellite radio and TV receiving and relaying systems.

(5) Education Level Markedly Raised

In 2003, there were 83,726 schools at all levels and of all kinds in ethnic autonomous areas, with a total enrollment of 29.43 million, an increase of five fold compared with 1952, of 29.7 percent compared with 1984 and of 10.6 percent compared with 1994. There were 1.541 million specialized teachers, an increase of 16 percent compared with 1994. The development of education has greatly extended the years of schooling of the people of ethnic minorities. The fifth national census, conducted in 2000, showed that the years of schooling of 14 ethnic minorities, including the Korean, Manchu, Mongolian and Kazak groups, were higher than the national average.

(6) Continuous Progress in Medical Services and Public Health

By the end of 2003, the ethnic autonomous areas had 15,230 medical institutions, 13 times the number in 1952; 380,000 hospital beds, nearly 67 times the number in 1952; 460,000 medical technicians, almost 26 times the number in 1952; 934 epidemic-control and specialized prevention and treatment institutions; and 371 clinics and health centers specially catered to women and children. In rural areas, there were 7,234 township hospitals, with 55,000 beds. The development of medical services has greatly increased the life expectancy of the ethnic minority people. The life expectancy of 13 ethnic minorities is higher than the national average, which is 71.40 years, and those of seven of them are higher than the average of the Han people, which is 73.34 years.

(7) Rapid Development of Foreign Trade and Tourism

In 2003, the total value of imports and exports of the ethnic autonomous areas was 13.6 billion US dollars, including 7.9 billion US dollars-worth of imports and 5.7 billion US dollars-worth of exports. The 3,263 foreign-invested enterprises in these areas used two billion US dollars of foreign investment in 2003. In the same year, these areas hosted 123.33 million domestic tourists and 2.15 million international tourists, the incomes from domestic and international tourism reaching 56.3 billion yuan and 600 million US dollars, respectively.

 

 

 

Conclusion

The practice of more than half a century has proved that the system and practice of China's regional ethnic autonomy have been immensely successful. Regional ethnic autonomy is a correct solution to the issue of ethnic groups in China, and is in keeping with China's actual conditions and the common interests of all ethnic groups.

China is a large developing country with a population of 1.3 billion. In the process of reform, opening-up and national modernization, the state and the ethnic autonomous areas have adopted various measures to promote the economic and social development in the latter, but limited and influenced by historical, geographical and other conditions, the economic and social development level of western China, where the populations of ethnic minorities are more concentrated, is still low compared with the more developed eastern areas. Some remote areas, in particular, are still pretty backward. To build a well-off society in an all-round way in the new century, China has to make an effort to solve such issues as adherence to and improvement of regional ethnic autonomy, giving full play to the advantages of the system, and continuously raising the economic and social development level in ethnic minority areas.

Acting in line with the actual conditions of China, the Chinese government will adhere to the scientific concept of human-oriented, all-round, coordinated, sustainable development, further explore and strengthen specific forms of implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, improve the supporting laws and regulations for the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, continuously strengthen the material basis for implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and promote the all-round economic and social development of ethnic minorities and their areas. 

 

 

* * *

http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/20050301/Appendix.htm

Appendix: Basic Facts About the 155 Ethnic Autonomous Areas in China

http://www.china.com.cn/ch-book/20050228/8.htm  

 

* * *

 

Suggest to a friend
  Print