Touting ‘Ethnic Fusion,’ China’s New Top Official for Minority Affairs Envisions a Country Free of Cultural Difference

Last October, China’s top officials convened the once-every-five-year congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to determine the leadership and political trajectory of the country for the next half decade. Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third term as paramount leader of the Party, confirming expectations that the congress would cement his authority and concentrate power in a single person to a degree not seen since the Mao era. Several high-profile promotions and demotions signaled that officials’ political survival depends on personal loyalty to Xi, and that aggressive implementation of his policies is key to career advancement. Among the officials garnering Xi’s support is Pan Yue, who was elected as a full member of the Central Committee of the CCP.

Since last June, Pan has been head of the State Council’s Ethnic Affairs Commission, which is responsible for policy concerning China’s “minority nationalities,” the 55 officially recognized ethnic groups who collectively represent around 8.9 percent of the total population. For decades, the CCP’s ethnic policies have oscillated between multiculturalism—recognizing and even celebrating distinct ethnic identities—and assimilationism—denying and destroying them—with significant variation at the local level. The Chinese term “minzu” (民族) captures this policy range: it refers both to individual “nationalities” or ethnic groups, like Han, Uyghurs, and Tibetans, and to the overarching “Chinese nation” (zhonghua minzu, 中华民族), which comprises all 56 (55 minorities plus the Han majority) groups.


Categories: Demographics, Geopolitics

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