New Delhi: In an attempt to become a dominant power in the world, Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to combine all the different ethnic minorities in China into a singular national identity and thereby imposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology on them. China has 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities and for years CCP believed that they would also gradually integrate into China’s dominant Han Chinese culture.
Under Xi Jinping, the CCP has run out of patience and no longer wishes to wait for all the ethnic minorities in China to naturally assimilate.
CCP’s aggressive cultural assimilation or “ethnic fusion” has been taken to the extremes, primarily in occupied East Turkistan (Xinjiang in China). As per the Wall Street Journal, government records and speeches have laid bare China’s plans for Xinjiang and their efforts to suppress and assimilate the Uighur Muslims, who reside there.
Xinjiang has now become the home of the largest mass detention of a minority group since World War 2. The native Muslims are kept in inhuman conditions in so-called “vocational training camps” and labour camps in order to superimpose CCP’s ideology over their faith.
Another aspect of the Chinese government’s attempts to assimilate minority groups is their reliance on the security infrastructure. The CCP utilizes this high-tech security infrastructure to police and surveils the minority population. The strategy of deploying large-scale surveillance to monitor the minority population is currently used with great effect in Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities and local government have long stated that this form of surveillance is necessary to tackle crime and terrorism, but in reality, the large-scale surveillance and security infrastructure allows them to closely monitor and control the Turkic Muslim ethnic minority.
In occupied Mongolia (Inner Mongolia in China), the CCP has tried to ‘stamp out the local culture and language in the region by introducing and encouraging Mandarin-language education. The Chinese government has also forced the region to use national textbooks instead of the local versions in an attempt to remove any trace of a different Mongolian identity.
The local population has not been silent, the CCP’s efforts to impose Mandarin on the people sparked widespread protests and school boycotts in the region. These methods of control that have proved effective for the CCP have now spread eastward to the southwestern region of Guangxi. The region is home to China’s largest minority group, the Zhuang, The Zhuang follow an animalist-based faith and have almost no history of ethnic conflict or ‘separatist’ violence.
In occupied Tibet, where the Chinese government already has strong Control, the local authorities have reportedly launched vocational training centers for rural Tibetans, similar to the ‘vocational training centers’ in Xinjiang. As per the Wall Street Journal, local authorities in Tibet have also passed new regulations that seek to promote “ethnic unity” and “patriotism”.
Xi Jinping’s nationalistic Chinese dream rests on the fact that 1.4 billion people in China will someday share a common identity. In 2019, during a government conference, Jinping said that creating a collective consciousness was integral to the rejuvenation of China. Minority groups in China make up only 10% of the population but some groups are as large as other countries. China is also home to millions of people belonging to traditionally nomadic communities like Tibetans and Mongols. All minority groups in China have their own separate beliefs, customs, and languages.
Most of the minority groups in China, especially those that greatly differ from the Han Chinese, reside in the outskirts of the country. For Xi Jinping, control of the minority groups in these regions is synonymous with consolidating the CCP’s power and ensuring China’s territorial integrity.
Under Mao Zedong, ethnic minorities were given extra space and assistance to get them out of their ‘economic backwardness’. While the CCP retained ultimate control, these minority groups had some semblance of autonomy and access to important posts in local governments. Chinese attitudes towards these ethnic minorities began to change between 2008-2009. Ethnic riots in the capitals of Tibet and Xinjiang skewered public opinion towards the belief that Tibetans and Xinjiang’s Uighurs were ungrateful. These feelings of unfairness coalesced into the second generation of ethnic policies, this time these policies actively tried to eradicate ethnic difference instead of nurturing it.
Following the Beijing bombings in 2014, Xi Jinping who had till now been quiet on how to deal with minority communities became much more vocal. While Xi refused to do away with the concept of minority autonomous zones, he became increasingly optimistic about ‘ethnic fusion’ and burying the ‘seed of love for the Chinese nation deeply in every child’s heart’
As per the Wall Street Journal, thousands of new police stations have been built in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has also invested billions of dollars in increasing surveillance in Xinjiang to control the region’s ethnic population. Also, the CCP has demolished dozens of religious sites in Xinjiang. Small ‘convenience’ police stations are a new tactic used by the CCP to increase surveillance in minority-dominated areas.
The small police stations offer amenities like Wi-Fi and emergency medical stations but also act as an information collection and rapid action response depot. It is not publicly stated that these new police stations are trying to acquire information about minorities, but the majority of these stations are located in minority-dominated areas. 13 of these police stations were put into service in 2019 in the Qinghai province’s Golmud city. The city is located on the Tibetan plateau and 30% of its population consists of ethnic minorities.
As per the Wall Street Journal, CCP’s ethnic fusion activities have been intensifying in Tibet and other minority regions. Adrian Zenz, a scholar, and critic of the Chinese regime has revealed that in 2020 alone, almost half a million nomadic Tibetans have been forced to undergo vocational training. Zenz has further commented that the vocational training program in Tibet has a lot of similarities to the ones in Xinjiang. The Center for Global Policy in December 2020 released a report titled ‘Coercive Labor in Xinjiang: Labor Transfer and the Mobilization of Ethnic Minorities to Pick Cotton’ wherein they revealed that nearly a million ethnic minority Uighurs were being forced into cotton picking.
China and the CCP’s dream of prominence in the global order has driven them to strive for national unity causing them to trample on almost all forms of minority identity in the country. From Uighurs in occupied East Turkistan to nomadic tribes in occupied Tibet, the Chinese government has tried to force the assimilation of different cultures in the pursuit of national identity. Their aggressive tactics in the South China Sea, the Huawei-5G debacles, and their mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak has garnered them substantial criticism from the international community.
China’s aggressive actions have also allowed countries to realise the Chinese desire to gain dominance, irrespective of the methods. In such a charged international climate, the CCP’s continued prosecution and mistreatment of Uighurs, Mongols, Tibetans, and other ethnic minorities have come under the scanner. These ethnic minorities have also been able to garner international support for their struggle against the Chinese government in the search for autonomy.