Bingjie Xu (z3325236)–Reading Journal 2
According to the ARTS 2213 course reader materials for week 6, an article of ‘Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority/ Minority Identities’, which is written by Gladney (1994), it makes me know some basic concepts and background of nationality in China, indicating general ideas for the development of Chinese majority and minority, as well as the relationship and position between ethnic groups. After reading this article, I clearly know that minority groups play a crucial role in the contemporary construction of the People’s Republic of China, even though they only have less than 10% of population (Gladney 1994, p.95). Their development level directly affects China’s development, so Chinese government make big efforts to support minorities’ evolution.
There are many different ethnic groups in China. The Han nationality is the biggest group, which takes up over 90% of China’s population. The others are 55 ethnic minorities, such as Tibetan Minority, Hui Minority, living together harmoniously, and located throughout the mainland of China, most of them living in the mountain areas, forests or grasslands. In the old times, in terms of Chinese arts studies, some China scholars have stated that the colourful portrayal of minorities in China as often derogatory, colonial, and useful to the state (Diamond 1988). However, actually, minorities have played an important role in the formation of art history in the PRC (Chang 1980). The objectified portrayal of minorities is essential to the construction of the Han Chinese majority. We can say that foreigners won’t know China and Chinese culture completely without being confronted by its colourful minorities. Minorities have unique and colourful costumes and festivals and people from minorities like singing, dancing, and smiles always on their face showing their happiness to be part of the motherland.
However, due to most minority groups living in remote and poor regions, untouched by economic and social changes, lack of education, hence their developments are relatively lagged behind. Thus, Chinese government has issued several policies and benefits, specialized for minorities, to help their evolution.
As I known, China has established ‘autonomous’ regions for some of ethnic groups, classified as five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures, 124 autonomous counties (Hays 2012), in order to promote their development based on their own special situation. Nevertheless, Chinese government still remains some power of control to these regions, because ultimate control is still necessary for such a big country.
Additionally, the government protects the customs of minorities by law, and encourages them to participate in the government and has set up special development programs to help them. Hence, we can see people from minorities dressed in their traditional costumes in the People’s Hall, through TV. Moreover, government stated minorities don’t have to comply with ‘One Child Policy’, because they hope the populations of minorities become larger, which is good for their further developing.
In terms of education development assistance, The Eastern Tibet Training Center (EETI) is a vocational training school in Yunnan Province (Harrell & Erzi 2003, p.15), the school is designed to help students from rural areas bridge the gap to urban job opportunities. Minorities also have been beneficiaries of affirmative action policy that they have been given priority for university admission by adding extra marks to final results. The aim is to select the best and brightest minority group members to make contribution to the society and give their chance to realize the value of life.
Moreover, since Chinese government presented “Go West” campaign, a number of recently graduated doctors, teachers, engineers and agronomists are heading to Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan and other western provinces to provide their services at local clinics, schools and other facilities in remote, undeveloped areas. China has a tradition of sending people with expertise to the countryside to help and live among peasants. They bring some new technologies, in order to provide locals a more convenient living environment. In addition, many infrastructures, roads and buildings are constructed by government in these regions.
Overall, as a song said, “56 nationalities, like 56 flowers, brothers and sisters from 56 nationalities form a big family called China, we all love China……”. Han nationality and minorities are closely related with each other. They appreciate and learn from each other. Furthermore, Chinese government’s efforts help to improve minorities’ life effectively. 56 nationalities in China will live in amity and make common progress in the future.
Chang, A. 1980, Painting in the People’s Republic of China: The Politics of Style, Boulder: Westview Press.
Diamond, N. 1988, ‘The Miao and Position: Interactions on China’s Southwest Frontier’, Ethnology,27.1:1-25.
Gladney, Dru C. 1994, “Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority/Minority Identities”. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 92–123.
Harrell, S., Erzi, M. 2003, “Folk Theories of Success Where Han Aren’t Always Best,” China’s National Minority Education: Culture, Schooling, and Development, ed. Gerard A. New York: Falmer Press, pp.10-26.
Hays, J. 2012, ‘Minority and Government Ethnic Policy in China’, Facts and Details, viewed 3 October 2012, <http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=192&catid=5&subcatid=29>.