China's policy in relation with nationalities and autonomous regions« Back
According to the Constitution. China is a unitary state with more than fifty ethnic groups living on its territory. Among them, the Han people, the largest in number (more than one billion people) for more than five thousand years is the state-forming nation.
The history of the Chinese dynasties shows that the highest political goal of China has always been the creation of a single multinational state. The system of national autonomies has developed historically, and the rights of autonomies were adopted in particular "by custom".
The revision of the ideas of federalism with the prospect of creating a single powerful state was supposed to help unite the entire territory of China, prevent unrest of national groups and the possibility of secession and the creation of their own States. The Chinese authorities justified their departure from the idea of national federalism by saying that many small Nations do not have their own ethnic territory. Therefore, political and territorial division became possible only in the form of regional autonomies.
At present, national autonomies are not just a system of administrative and territorial structure, but also a special form of solving the national issue, the basis of China's national policy.
The Chinese authorities are convinced that all actions related to the policy they pursue in the country are aimed at forming a civil nation. The theoretical basis for building a unified Chinese nation (citizenship) is as follows:
- consolidation of all peoples living in the territory of the PRC;
- development of patriotism;
- formation of a general civil identity;
- interdependence and mutual assistance of the Han population and national minorities.
The area of all autonomous territories covers about 64% of the entire territory of the country.
Of the 55 recognized ethnic minorities, 44 have Autonomous territories.. But because of their dispersed nature, about 10 ethnic groups, including Uzbeks, Tatars, and Russians, were unable to obtain autonomy.
National minorities mainly inhabit territories that are considered to be strategically important areas, since they are border areas and are also rich in natural resources. Given the importance of these territories, especially the XUAR, the Chinese government pays great attention to controlling these areas, since there is a risk that the main population of the region may fall under the influence of ethnically and religiously close foreign forces.
The multi-stage system of national autonomies was adopted by the Chinese Communist authorities from the Soviet Union. Just as in the USSR there were Union and Autonomous republics, and in them – Autonomous regions and districts, the system of autonomies is arranged in China.
The first level is autonomous regions. There are five of them, and they are plotted on all maps of the administrative-territorial division of the PRC: Inner Mongolia, Ningxia-Hui, Xinjiang-Uygur, Tibetan and Guangxi-Zhuang.
Regional national autonomy is considered in China as "the main policy in solving the national question" and "an important component of the political system of the state".
The Second level is autonomous prefectures, which are no longer represented on the usual map.
The third level is Autonomous counties.
The fourth level of national-territorial divisions is national parishes.
A classic example of a lower-order territorial unit is Shivei, a Russian national parish in Northern Inner Mongolia. The center of the parish is the village of Shivey on the Bank of the Argun river, opposite the Russian village of Olochi in the TRANS-Baikal territory. The area of the parish is 4.3 thousand km3, the population is 4.1 thousand inhabitants, of which 1.8 thousand are Russian. These "Russians" are quite specific: in oral and written communication, they completely switched to Chinese, but they have preserved their national identity, Orthodox faith, songs, dances, holiday customs, household and behavioral characteristics.
National minorities in China have an extremely wide range of rights and freedoms under the current political system. According to the Constitution, ethnic groups living in national autonomies are granted special privileges that do not apply to representatives of the titular nation of China – Han.