Friday Reads

In light of what I've been covering a lot this past week, the theme of this Friday's reading recommendations is Chinese ethnic policy. Lots of these are oldies, but still worth reading.

#1 - China's Ethnic Policies and Challenges (East Asia Institute) - 2009

Although a little old, being published in 2009, this short paper is still a useful primer on the historical context and challenges facing China's ethnic policies.

Dramatic developments in Tibet and Xinjiang since 2008 have highlighted the challenges to China’s ethnic policies. The pillar of China’s ethnic policies is regional autonomy for ethnic minorities. Ethnic areas enjoy limited administrative autonomy and have witnessed faster economic growth than the country as a whole. However, China still adheres to a “unitary multiethnic state” and has responded firmly to recent riots in Tibet and violence in Xinjiang.

#2 - Can China Have a Melting Pot? (The Diplomat) - May 2012

James Leibold sheds light on the disagreement among Chinese academics as to the way forward for ethnic policies. One example:

For more than a decade, Prof. Ma Rong of Peking University has warned that the lack of an inclusive, shared national consciousness – one that can literally “fuse” (融合) the Han majority together with the minorities – will see China follow the USSR and Yugoslavia in ethnic disintegration.
In recent years, Ma Rong has become increasingly strident in his calls for the scrapping of ethnic autonomy and preferential policies, suggesting that the systematic segregation of ethnic groups and institutions in China has rendered the Chinese nation (中华民族) an empty concept, and that the assimilation, or literally Hanification (汉化) of minorities, is an inevitable process of modernization. Without urgent and renewed emphasis on collective, national identity, it’s hard to imagine, Ma Rong argues, a Uyghur or Tibetan president of China let alone China’s continued peaceful rise.

#3 - Toward a Second Generation of Ethnic Policies? (China Brief)

Another piece from James Leibold, but this one is fleshed out a lot more while including some of the same information from #

Critics of the current system agree that a new sort of calculus is required. One that frees ethnic identity from its current minzu straightjacket, and breaks the assumed link between “Chinese” and “Han.” There is arguably more diversity within the Han (linguistic, ethno-cultural, spatial, etc.) than between the Han and most minorities. Are not the Cantonese and the Shanghainese also ethnic parts of the same Chinese whole? Might the Uyghurs and Tibetans find more room to maneuver in a society were identity is hybrid, dynamic and self-ascribed, and everyone is simply labeled a Chinese citizen?
At present, with federalism and a “high degree of autonomy” unrealistic, the options are limited. Those calling for a rethink of the minzu system in China might offer viable alternatives for many of China’s ethnic minorities. While their proposals remain contentious and probably misunderstood outside China, they merit carefully study, especially if China hopes to foster the sort of inclusive and tolerant “cosmopolitan nationalism” (da minzu zhuyi) that Liang Qichao envisioned over one hundred years ago.

#4 - A few thoughts on current problems in the field of ethnicity (China Policy Brief) - February 2012

An interesting and blunt piece from a Chinese perspective:

Building fusion on a conscious, voluntary foundation should be permitted. Ethnic intermixing and fusion does not mean ‘Han localisation’, but rather the common sharing and enjoyment of each ethnicity’s strengths and advantages, and the strengthening of each ethnicity’s unity. Work on ethnicity should be oriented towards respecting difference, tolerating diversity, and facilitating ethnic mixing. 
I personally tend to lean towards removing ethnic classifications from resident IDs, not creating any more minority-governed autonomous regions or cities, and promoting schools where ethnicities mix. 

#5 - Sacred Right Defiled (UHRP)

UHRP newest report:

In the report, UHRP records restrictions on a number of aspects of Uyghur religious activity. Religious leaders, such as imams, are required to attend political education classes to ensure compliance with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regulations and policies; only state-approved versions of the Koran and sermons are permitted, with all unapproved religious texts treated as “illegal” publications liable to confiscation and criminal charges against whoever was found in possession of them; any outward expression of faith in government workplaces, hospitals and some private businesses, such as men wearing beards or women wearing headscarves, is forbidden; no state employees and no one under the age of 18 can enter a mosque, a measure not in force in the rest of China; organized private religious education is proscribed and facilitators of private classes in Islam are frequently charged with conducting “illegal” religious activities; and students, teachers and government workers are prohibited from fasting during Ramadan. In addition, Uyghurs are not permitted to undertake Hajj, unless it is with an expensive official tour, in which state officials carefully vet applicants.

#6 - The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Pew Forum)

Another Pew Forum report based on polling. The methodology is up for debate by those with more experience.

Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center. But many supporters of sharia say it should apply only to their country’s Muslim population.
Moreover, Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia: While most favor using religious law in family and property disputes, fewer support the application of severe punishments – such as whippings or cutting off hands – in criminal cases. The survey also shows that Muslims differ widely in how they interpret certain aspects of sharia, including whether divorce and family planning are morally acceptable.
The survey involved a total of more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages. It covered Muslims in 39 countries, which are divided into six regions in this report – Southern and Eastern Europe (Russia and the Balkans), Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.