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The Centennial Protection of Ethnic Minority Rights by the Communist Party of China: An Ideological Exploration
October 30,2021   By:CSHRS
The Centennial Protection of Ethnic Minority Rights by the Communist Party of China: An Ideological Exploration
 
WANG Lifeng*
 
Abstract: During the different periods of revolution, construction,and reform, under the pattern of unity in diversity, the Communist Party of China has recognized and respected ethnic cultural differences, taken ethnic equality as the moral foundation for ethnic minority rights, ethnic fraternity as the ethical foundation of ethnic minority rights, and regarded ethnic minority rights as an important part of China’s human rights cause. Protecting ethnic minority rights through regional ethnic autonomy and ethnic support policies has not only proved to be an effective way to protect ethnic minority rights but also built up rich and profound ideological resources for respecting and protecting ethnic minority rights.
 
Keywords: ethnic equality · ethnic fraternity · people’s rights · ethnic autonomy ·ethnic identity
 
It has always been a worldwide problem to protect the rights of ethnic minorities while ensuring national unity in multiethnic countries. Viewed from the practice of ethnic minority rights in Europe and America, the strategy of multiculturalism has failed.1 There is no panacea for ethnic problems in today’s world. During the different periods of revolution, construction and reform, under the pattern of unity in diversity, the Communist Party of China has recognized and respected ethnic cultural differences and protected the rights of ethnic minorities through regional ethnic autonomy and ethnic development strategies which not only explore an effective way of ethnic minority rights protection but also accumulate rich and profound ideological resources for respecting and protecting ethnic minority rights.
 
I. Ethnic Equality, the Moral Foundation For Ethnic Minority Rights
 
In the international community, people often highlight minority rights or indigenous rights, while they rarely mention the rights of ethnic minorities. In China, the concept of ethnic minorities originated in the context of the Chinese revolution. In the early 20th century, the Han people thought that there are more Han people than Manchu people based on the comparison of population size, civilization level, and so on, hence the birth of the concept of “ethnic minority.”2 During the revolution, while leading the Chinese nation to be independent and the people of all ethnic groups to be masters of their own affairs, the CPC gradually adopted the concept of the ethnic minority.3 In July 1928, the Constitution of the Communist Party of China adopted at the 6th National Congress of the CPC put forward the requirement of “establishing a Department of Ethnic Minority Affairs”.4 The Resolution on Ethnic Issues, released during the 6th National Congress of the CPC, stated: “The issue of ethnic minorities in China (Mongols in the north, Hui people, Manchu people, Koreans, Taiwanese
in Fujian, and Miao people, Li people and other primitive peoples in the south, Xinjiang and Tibet) is of great significance to the revolution.”5 Why did the CPC use the term “ethnic minorities”? In this regard, the work instructions issued by the Political Department of the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army in the Northwestern Military Area offer an explanation, “Besides the Han nationality of which the population is the largest in China, there are many other nationalities such as the Tibetan nationality, Hui nationality, Fan nationality, Miao nationality, and Luoluo nationality. As the population of the latter five nationalities is less than that of Han nationality, they are called ethnic minorities.”6 Thus it can be seen that the concept of an ethnic minority was used in a descriptive sense then. That is to say, ethnic minorities refer to the ethnic groups with a small population.
 
Since the CPC subjectively acknowledged the existence of ethnic minorities, how should it recognize and treat ethnic minorities? As a Marxist political party, the CPC had always pursued the value ideal of Marxism’s ethnic equality. At the conference celebrating the founding of the French Republic on September 22, 1792, Engels said: “By nature, all proletarians are free from national prejudice. Their whole accomplishment and behaviors are essentially humanitarian and anti-nationalistic. Only the proletarians can destroy the segregation of nationalities, and only the awakening proletariat can get the various nationalities to fraternize.”7 Therefore, the CPC took ethnic equality as the moral foundation of its ethnic policy.
 
Mao Zedong systematically expounded the thought of ethnic minority rights based on ethnic equality in a report titled “On Coalition Government” in 1945, writing: (1) we should realize the liberation of the Chinese nation and the equality of all ethnic groups in China; (2) we should strive for the political, economic and cultural liberation and development of ethnic minorities and establish their armies to safeguard the interests of the masses; (3) we should respect the spoken and written languages, customs, habits and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities.8 Mao Zedong repeatedly stated: “Equality should be maintained among the ethnic groups in China”9, “Ethnic minorities including Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Miao, Yao, Yi and Fan nationalities should enjoy equal rights with the Han nationality”10; “It should be admitted that ethnic minorities in China have the right to equality and autonomy”11; “We should respect the equal rights of all ethnic groups in spoken and written languages, customs and habits, religious beliefs, etc.”12 Deng Xiaoping also stated: “Politically, all nationalities within China’s boundaries are truly equal. Their living standards can be improved and their cultural level can be raised.”13 Jiang Zemin said, “All ethnic groups, regardless of their size, history or stage of development, should be equal”. Thus, the connotation of ethnic minority rights includes “equal rights in politics, economic and cultural development, and equal status of spoken and written languages”. “It also includes the respect for religious beliefs and customs of all ethnic groups.”14 Xi Jinping identified equality among all ethnic groups as one of the basic requirements for the correct path of solving ethnic problems with Chinese characteristics.15
 
To uphold ethnic equality, ethnic discrimination must be opposed. The CPC has always opposed “two nationalisms” resolutely, namely, broad nationalism and narrow nationalism. While emphasizing his opposition to the “two nationalisms”, Mao Zedong especially highlighted his opposition to Han chauvinism. He mentioned the opposition to Han chauvinism in Criticize Han Chauvinism in 1953, A Debate on Agricultural Cooperation and Current Class Struggle in 1955, On the Ten Major Relationships in 1956, and Correctly Dealing with the Issue of Ethnic Minorities in 1957. When Deng Xiaoping stressed the prevention and overcoming of “two nationalisms”, he insisted on taking the opposition to broad nationalism as a priority. He said, “If we throw off Han chauvinism, the minority nationalities will forsake their narrow nationalism in return. We should not ask the minority nationalities to abolish their nationalism before we honestly abolish Han chauvinism. Once these two nationalisms are abolished, unity will result.”16 Jiang Zemin said, we must “firmly oppose any ethnic discrimination, oppose broad nationalism and narrow nationalism”17. Xi Jinping has also pointed out: “Han chauvinism and narrow nationalism are both enemies of ethnic unity, and must be opposed. If Han chauvinism develops improperly, it is easy to lead to ethnic discrimination. If narrow nationalism develops improperly, it is easy to result in a separatist tendency. Both will eventually lead to ethnic estrangement and confrontation, and even be used by opposing forces in severe cases.”18 So, as a Marxist political party, the CPC has formulated its ethnic policy based on a basic moral consideration, that is, ethnic equality. Without ethnic equality, there will be no rights for ethnic minorities.
 
II. Ethnic Fraternity, the Ethical Foundation for Ethnic Minority Rights
 
The CPC takes ethnic fraternity as the ethical foundation for ethnic minority rights while regarding ethnic equality as the moral foundation. The dignity of ethnic equality is important, but the morality of fraternity based on a common cultural foundation is equally significant. In reality, most countries are not nation-states, but multi-ethnic states. In a multi-ethnic state, it is crucial to build trust between ethnic groups. The establishment of trust among multiple ethnic groups requires trust based on both democratic politics and a common ethical foundation. The CPC recognized that in multi-ethnic states, the multi-ethnic community exists because of not only the upholding of ethnic equality or recognition of cultural diversity but also the common ethical foundation of ethnic groups. Without a common ethical foundation, it may be difficult to build trust among the various ethnic groups, and a separatist tendency may arise. To this end, while recognizing the rights of ethnic minorities, the CPC also strived to build a pluralistic and integrated pattern of the Chinese nation.
 
The identity of the Chinese nation is the bond gluing together the multiethnic community in China. The community of the Chinese nation is an inclusive community, not an exclusive one. Although different ethnic groups have different cultural backgrounds, they still have a lot in common because they are all in China. All ethnic groups enjoy a shared foundation unless an acknowledgment of their differences is essential. Ethnic groups in the community trust each other, thus forming a regional community where all members share their own decisions. Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is based on the same principle as the community for the Chinese nation. The members of the community of the Chinese nation have two kinds of identity: the identity of their nationality, and the identity of the Chinese nation. The culture of ethnic minorities should not be denied while the identity of the Chinese nation is highlighted. If the culture and rights of ethnic minorities are denied, it will not only go against the concept of ethnic equality, but also put ethnic minorities at a disadvantage, and ethnic minorities will inevitably try to change their ethnic identity.
 
Mao Zedong explained the concept of “Chinese nation” in detail in the Chinese Revolution and the Communist Party of China in 1939: (1) he differentiated the Han nationality from ethnic minorities; (2) he put forward the concept of “multi-ethnic state”, that is, “China is a country composed of many nationalities, with a large population”, which links nationalities and the country together; (3) he used the concept of “Chinese nation” as a general term for the people of all ethnic groups in China, and put forward that “the Chinese nation is a nation with a glorious revolutionary tradition and excellent historical heritage”19.
 
Thus, the Chinese Communists made clear the concept of a nation at two levels in the revolution process: the “Chinese nation” as a political community, and the nationalities in China which reflect the difference in cultural and historical development. The historical mission of the CPC is to “seek the complete liberation of the Chinese nation externally, and the equality among various ethnic groups internally.”20
 
Since the founding of New China, ethnic relations have not only been relations of equality but also the relations of a family, a fraternity, and providing mutual assistance under the guidance of the thought of unity in diversity. This kind of fraternity and mutual assistance has gone beyond ethnic equality. It is a more noble virtue than ethnic equality, an embodiment of Confucian benevolence. In December 1951, Mao Zedong pointed out in his Reply to the Meeting of Representatives of War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea for Ethnic Groups in Northwest China: “Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, all ethnic groups in China have been united into a big family of friendship and cooperation.”21 In September 1954, Liu Shaoqi said in the On the Issues of Regional Ethnic Autonomy: “Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the system of ethnic oppression has been abolished and a new relationship featuring equality, fraternity and mutual assistance among all ethnic groups has been established.”22 In June 1979, Deng Xiaoping stated in the New Stage of Ethnic Relations in China: “After the democratic reform and socialist transformation, all ethnic groups in China have embarked on the path of socialism one after another and formed a new type of socialist ethnic relations featuring solidarity, friendship, mutual assistance, and cooperation.”23
 
While highlighting the family relations among ethnic groups, the CPC has laid special emphasis on interdependence among ethnic groups. Jiang Zemin said, “The great Chinese nation is made up of 56 nationalities. In the big family, the relations among all ethnic groups are a new type of socialist ethnic relations. The Han nationality is inseparable from ethnic minorities. Ethnic minorities are inseparable from the Han nationality. And ethnic minorities are inseparable from each other.”24 It is an “interdependent relationship”. “All ethnic groups breathe the same air, share the same future, and aspire to the same goals. They are dependent on each other.”25 Hu Jintao stressed that “we should develop socialist ethnic relations featuring mutual assistance and harmony” based on ethnic equality and unity.26 Xi Jinping emphasized the family relations among ethnic groups. He said: “Figuratively speaking, the relationship between the Chinese nation and ethnic groups is like that between a big family and its members. The relationship among ethnic groups is like that among different members of the big family.”27 On this basis, he put forward the concept of community with a shared future for the Chinese nation, that is, the community with a shared future for “the nationalities which are interconnected and indispensable to each other”. Xi Jinping said: “The Chinese nation is a community of shared past and shared future. The ethnic groups that make up the Chinese nation can look forward to bright prospects only when they integrate their future with that of the whole nation.”28
 
In this community, ethnic groups should “take good care of ethnic unity as they take care of their own eyes; cherish ethnic unity as they cherish their own lives, and embrace each other as if they were the seeds of a pomegranate”29.
 
The ethnic relations of fraternity, mutual assistance, and interdependence constitute the characteristics of the rights of socialist ethnic minorities. The interdependent ethnic relations with Chinese characteristics have their historical logic of existence. Jiang Zemin pointed out: “After thousands of years of integration, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups have developed a close interdependent relationship characterized by the sharing of weal and woe in their interactions with each other, especially in the nearly 100 years of struggle against the common enemies. All ethnic groups breathe the same air, share the same future, and aspire to the same goals. They are dependent on each other.”30 He analyzed the reasons from the perspective of historical choice: “China is a unified multiethnic country. The Chinese nation has fostered a strong cohesion after a long period of tempering in the long history of development. Three ties bind all our ethnic groups together in a unified big family and are passed down from generation to generation: 1. the long-term unification of the country; 2. The economic and cultural ties for the co-existence and interdependency of ethnic groups; 3. the interdependent relationship characterized by the sharing of weal and woe that the ethnic groups have developed in the struggle against foreign invasion and long-term revolution in modern times.”31
 
Also, the interdependent ethnic relations with Chinese characteristics share a common Chinese cultural basis. Xi Jinping said: “Culture is the soul of a nation, and cultural identity is the root of ethnic unity. All ethnic groups should respect and appreciate each other’s culture and learn from each other. To build a shared spiritual home for all ethnic groups and develop a strong consciousness of community for the Chinese nation, it is essential to promote the education on core socialist values among all ethnic groups and foster sound viewpoints on the motherland, nationality, culture, and history. With this in mind, we should promote the inheritance, protection, innovation, and integration of the cultures of all ethnic groups, and establish and highlight the symbols of the Chinese culture shared by all ethnic groups and the image of the Chinese nation, so that people from all ethnic groups identify more with Chinese culture.”32
 
III. Rights of the People, Human Rights Foundation of Ethnic Minority Rights Protection
 
According to the theory of traditional Western liberalism, ethnic minority rights are an ambiguous concept. The union of individuals based on equality and freedom should respect the rights of individuals, and there should be no so-called ethnic minority rights. As a result, international documents on human rights initially only focused on the human rights of individuals, with little reference to the rights of ethnic minorities.33 The CPC viewed the rights of ethnic minorities from the perspective of the people’s rights and concluded that the rights of ethnic minorities are the rights of both individuals and collectives, namely, a combination of individual and collective human rights. This not only resolved the conflict of Western liberalism between individual human rights and collective human rights in theory but also effectively protected the rights of ethnic minorities in practice.
 
First, the rights of ethnic minorities are the human rights of individuals. The thought of Chinese Communists to build a social community came from the social ideal of Marxism. The future society pursued by the founders of Marxism was “the union of free men”. Namely, real freedom and equality can only be achieved under the commune system. We need to show them that such a system is what justice requires. So, they will support us.”34 Marx and Engels believed that in an ideal society, people would be first free and then equal. The social ideal of Marxism laid the foundation for the social thought of Chinese Communists, including the thought of a community of the Chinese nation. That is, an ideal society, in which all people, whether they are in nation-states or multi-ethnic states, enjoy equal freedom and rights.
 
Second, the rights of ethnic minorities are the rights of the people. Essentially, both human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities are the rights of the people. Marxism holds that “All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”35 Therefore, the rights of ethnic minorities are not only based on individual human rights of equality and freedom, but also the human rights of the vast majority of people. In the eyes of Chinese Communists, the CPC should fight for the rights of the vast majority of the Chinese people, rather than for their own interests. And the vast majority of the Chinese people certainly include the people of ethnic minorities. In Serve the People, Mao Zedong stated: “The Communist Party of China and the Eighth Route Army and New Fourth Army led by the Communist Party are revolutionary forces. These forces are dedicated solely to the liberation of the people and work thoroughly for the interests of the people.”36 After the launch of reform and opening-up, Deng Xiaoping sharply pointed out: “What are human rights? How many people now enjoy human rights? Do human rights mean the rights of the majority of the people or the rights of the minority of the people or the rights of the people of the whole country? The so-called human rights as advocated by the Western countries fundamentally differ from the human rights we are talking about. On this question, our views do differ.”37 The report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC clearly stated: “We should strengthen legal protection for human rights to ensure that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms as prescribed by law”38.
 
Third, realizing the rights of ethnic minorities is part of the human rights cause of the Chinese nation. The CPC takes building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as its goals. The essence of building a moderately prosperous society and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is to realize the people’s rights. The rights of ethnic minorities are an integral part of the people’s rights. Xi Jinping clearly stated: “If ethnic minority areas are left behind, we can’t achieve all-around moderate prosperity. We must ensure that the people of all ethnic groups lead a moderately prosperous life together.”39 Respecting and protecting the rights of ethnic minorities is an integral part of the efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respectsand realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He said: “We must take the people’s aspiration to live a better life the focus of our efforts and ensure that ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas work with the rest of the country to achieve moderate prosperity and modernization in all respects. The Chinese nation is a big family. Everyone in the family deserves a good life. We cannot have across-the-board moderate prosperity and modernization if ethnic minority areas are left behind.”40
 
Fourth, the relationship between collective rights and the individual rights of ethnic minorities should be properly handled in accordance with the principle of the rule of law. There may be conflicts between rights and between rights and obligations. On the one hand, the rights of ethnic minorities are individual rights of citizens first, and then collective rights of ethnic members. On the other hand, the members of ethnic minorities should fulfill corresponding civic duties while enjoying their rights. The rule of law must be upheld in dealing with the above relationship. Hu Jintao pointed out: “We should uphold the dignity of the law, safeguard the interests of the people of all ethnic groups, properly deal with all kinds of conflicts and problems affecting ethnic relations and combat ethnic separatist forces and their activities in accordance with the law, firmly resist infiltration and sabotage by hostile forces inside and outside China under the pretext of ethnic issues, and resolutely maintain ethnic solidarity, national unity, national security, and social stability.”41 Xi Jinping said: “We must handle ethnic affairs in accordance with the law, and ensure that citizens of all ethnic groups are equal before the law. Based on the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, we should improve laws and regulations concerning ethnic minority groups, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of all groups by law. We must treat all equally without discrimination, and pass judgments only through the law. Cases and incidents involving ethnic factors should be dealt with appropriately in accordance with the law, and citizens of all ethnic groups must enjoy their rights and discharge their obligations on an equal basis. The governance of ethnic affairs must be ruled by law.”42
 
As the rights of the people, the rights of ethnic minorities cover a wide range of fields, including politics, economy, society, culture, and education. First, the right to political participation. On the one hand, the right of ethnic minority citizens in China to political participation is guaranteed through the system of regional ethnic autonomy. According to Article 12 of the Implementation Outline for Regional National Autonomy, “The government organs of each ethnic autonomous region should mainly consist of the people from the nationality exercising regional autonomy, and include an appropriate number of people from other ethnic minorities and the Han nationality in the autonomous region.” On the other hand, the national democratic system should be used to ensure the equal participation of ethnic minority citizens in state and social affairs as well as the deliberation and administration of state affairs. Importance should be attached to the role of ethnic minority cadres in political participation. Xi Jinping said: “We should deal with ethnic affairs well. Ethnic minority cadres play an important role of bridge and link. If the affairs are handled by the cadres of ethnic minorities, it will be easier to be accepted by the people of ethnic minorities. It works better if they are the ones to solve the problem at the crucial moment.” 43 Therefore, “we should take proactive measures to train ethnic minority cadres, and select ethnic minority cadres based on both their moral integrity and professional competence, so as to strengthen the construction of ethnic minority cadres”44.
 
Second, economic and social rights. Chinese Communists attach great importance to safeguarding the economic and social rights of ethnic minorities. Hu Jintao pointed out: “We should take accelerating the economic and social development of ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas as a fundamental way to solve ethnic issues in China, adhere to the principle of combining assistance from the central government, support from developed regions and self-reliance of the ethnic minority areas, continuously improve the living standards of all ethnic groups, and upgrade the ideological and ethical standards, scientific and cultural qualities and health of all ethnic groups.”45 Xi Jinping said: “We should accelerate the development of ethnic minority groups and the areas they inhabit, ensure their equal access to basic public services, and help them turn natural resources into economic gains. The achievements of reform and development should benefit more people from all ethnic groups in a fairer way so that they will have a growing sense of gain, happiness, and security.”46
 
Lastly, cultural and religious rights. The CPC recognizes that ethnic cultures are diverse and that every culture in China has its own characteristics. Therefore, the cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities should be respected. Mao Zedong stressed in the report to the Sixth National Congress of the CPC in October 1938 that “we should respect the culture, religion, and customs of all ethnic minorities”47. After the founding of New China, Deng Xiaoping pointed out in The Question of Minority Nationalities in the Southwest: “we should also be honest in respecting the customs and habits of the minority nationalities”48. Jiang Zemin said: “We should respect the customs of all ethnic groups and protect freedom of religious belief.”49 Hu Jintao said: “We should respect the religious belief of the people of ethnic minorities and the people of all ethnic groups in ethnic minority areas, and further improve the administration of religious affairs in accordance with the law. We should respect the customs and habits of ethnic minorities and protect their legitimate rights and interests.”50 Xi Jinping stated: “We should implement the Party’s policy toward the freedom of religious belief, handle religious affairs according to the law, uphold the principle of self-administration and running religious affairs independently, and encourage the adaptability of religions to the socialist society”51.
 
IV. Ethnic Autonomy, the Political Foundation of Ethnic Minority Rights Protection
 
The realization of ethnic minority rights is inseparable from ethnic autonomy. As a political strategy for dealing with multi-ethnic cultures, ethnic autonomy has existed for six centuries.52 However, even to this day, it is still not easy for politicians to implement the strategy of national autonomy. Western liberalism tends to regard ethnic autonomy as a temporary expedient because its emphasis on individual rights does not consider it as a general collective right of ethnic groups. Ethnic autonomy mainly includes territorial autonomy and non-territorial autonomy which, however, are difficult to be achieved in practice. Globally, the tide of seeking ethnic autonomy has not receded and has even led to ethnic separatism in some regions since the beginning of the post-Cold War era. Looking ahead, ethnic autonomy will still be a very important institutional arrangement. 
 
For the institutional arrangement of ethnic autonomy, Chinese Communists were influenced by the practice of ethnic autonomy in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union adopted the territorial autonomy of ethnic minorities. Although it was limited territorial autonomy. There are 127 officially recognized ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union, but only 41 enjoyed autonomy in the Socialist Federal Republic.53 The Soviet Union’s idea of ethnic autonomy based on the federal republic influenced China. In the struggle against Japanese aggression and national secession, the CPC gradually gave up the choice of ethnic self-determination and federalism and turned to regional ethnic autonomy instead. At that time, in terms of the multi-ethnic problem, the CPC did not copy the experience of the Soviet Union, the first socialist country which had already practiced republican federalism. Instead, it creatively established the system of regional ethnic autonomy and established New China as a unified multi-ethnic People’s Republic. It is an initiative of the Chinese Communists to adopt regional ethnic autonomy instead of federal ethnic autonomy in which Mao Zedong played a decisive role. Zhou Enlai recalled at the 63rd Conference of the Government Administration Council of the Central People’s Government on November 24, 1950: “Mr. Sun Yat-sen affirmed ethnic self-determination at the First National Congress of Kuomintang. When we formulated the Common Programme, Chairman Mao put forward the principle of replacing ethnic self-determination with ethnic autonomy, because this would be beneficial to strengthening unity and cooperation among ethnic groups. It can be seen from a year of work on ethnic minorities that Chairman Mao’s foresight is quite correct.”54 In a conversation with foreign guests in 1987, Deng Xiaoping explained the reasons for this change: “In dealing with the problem of ethnic minorities, China has not adopted a federal system of separate republics but a system of regional ethnic autonomy. We believe that this system works quite well and is consistent with conditions in China”55.
 
Protecting the rights of ethnic minorities through regional ethnic autonomy embodies the political concept of democracy and autonomy. The first aspect is democracy. Ethnic minority factors should be incorporated into the democratic politics of the country to prevent the absence of ethnic minority representatives in the democrartic process. Every ethnic group should have its representatives in the legislature who can express and adequately represent the views of the ethnic group as a whole. To this end, legal measures have been taken to incorporate the basic rights of ethnic minorities into the Constitution, so as to protect ethnic minorities from the encroachment of the majority at all times. The second aspect is autonomy. It is necessary to establish ethnic autonomous areas and prove their legitimacy based on democracy. Under the system of autonomy, autonomous areas have the right to legislate on matters of particular concern to their inhabitants, while the central government reserves other decision-making rights. Specifically, the regional ethnic autonomy in China is to practice regional autonomy in areas where ethnic minorities live in compact communities and set up organs of self-government for the exercise of the power of autonomy under the unified leadership of the central government, so as to help ethnic minority people become masters of their own affairs and administer internal affairs of their own autonomous areas. The ultimate goal of the CPC’s national thought is to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic minorities, grant them equal social and political status, and consolidate ethnic equality and unity while promoting the development of ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas. The ultimate realization of ethnic equality, ethnic unity, and ethnic development cannot be separated from the legal granting of certain autonomy to ethnic minorities in a unified multi-ethnic country.
 
The practice has proven that the implementation of regional ethnic autonomy by the CPC not only ensures national unity but also helps the people of all ethnic groups become masters of their own affairs. Regional ethnic autonomy is very limited ethnic territorial autonomy. Essentially, regional ethnic autonomy is to make ethnic minorities become masters of their own affairs and protect their rights. Deng Xiaoping believed, “regional ethnic autonomy must be earnestly practiced in areas where ethnic minorities live in compact communities”56. A political system should be established to regulate it and incorporate it into the Constitution, so as to ensure its implementation.“Ethnic minorities have the political right to be masters of their affairs.”57 Regional ethnic autonomy is to help ethnic minorities become masters of their own affairs in ethnic autonomous areas. Jiang Zemin said: “Regional ethnic autonomy is a basic policy of our Party to correctly deal with ethnic issues and a basic political system of the country. It can not only ensure the right of ethnic minorities to be masters of the areas where they live in compact communities, but also guarantee the unity of the country and solidarity of the Chinese nation for the joint building of socialism.”58 Hu Jintao said: “Practicing ethnic regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the central government embodies the State’s respect for and guarantee of the right of ethnic minorities to administer their internal affairs, the adherence to the principle of equality, unity and common prosperity for all ethnic groups, and the unity of ethnic factors and regional factors, political factors and economic factors, historical factors and realistic factors.”59 So far, “regional ethnic autonomy has been a basic political system in China and an important content and institutional guarantee for the correct path of solving ethnic problems with Chinese characteristics”60.
 
The key to practicing regional ethnic autonomy lies in “two combinations”. Xi Jinping explained: “We should ensure ‘two combinations’ for the upholding and improving of regional ethnic autonomy. The first is the combination of unity and autonomy. As the highest national interest and common interest of all ethnic groups, unification serves as the premise and foundation for regional ethnic autonomy. Without national unification, there is no way to practice regional ethnic autonomy. Meanwhile, while ensuring the implementation of national laws and decrees, we should ensure that autonomous areas exercise their right of autonomy in accordance with the law, provide them with special support, and properly solve the special problems in autonomous areas. The second is the combination of ethnic factors and regional factors. Regional ethnic autonomy involves both ethnic factors and regional factors. Regional ethnic autonomy is not exclusive to one ethnic group, and an ethnic autonomous area does not refer to an area that belongs to a single ethnic group. If we fail to understand this, we will take a wrong path.”61
 
In terms of the connection between unity and autonomy, on the one hand, “unity” is a precondition for “autonomy”. Therefore, without national unity, there will be no regional ethnic autonomy; on the other hand, regional ethnic autonomy is an important and necessary institutional arrangement to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and promote the building of the community of the Chinese nation. In terms of the connection between ethnic groups and region, on the one hand, regional national autonomy is not the autonomy of a single ethnic group, but the shared autonomy of many ethnic groups in the areas where they live in compact communities; on the other hand, regional national autonomy is not a single regional autonomy. The region is not exclusive to one ethnic group, but the homeland of all ethnic groups.
 
V. Ethnic Development, the Policy Foundation for Ethnic Minority Rights Protection
 
The realization of ethnic minority rights requires not only the institutional arrangement of ethnic regional autonomy but also the policy consideration for ethnic identity. Ethnic identity means that people are willing to sacrifice their own interests to help others in a community. Ethnic identity makes it possible for people to live together under conditions of justice. This also applies to different ethnic groups. In multiethnic countries, there are birds’ nests of ethnic identities, including nationwide and local ethnic identities. Without a nationwide ethnic identity and a sense of common loyalty, national democracy will not work effectively, and there will be no justification for the transfer or redistribution of resources from rich areas to poor areas. In China, it is called the Chinese national identity. Although the 56 ethnic groups have different religious beliefs, different geographical locations, and uneven development, they can cooperate politically and stay together, because of their common Chinese national identity. Only with the Chinese national identity, can democracy and social justice be realized.
 
The next question is whether the identity of ethnic minorities affects the realization of freedom and equality for their members. In a good society, people pursue freedom and equality, live the way they choose, get equal treatment, have access to equal opportunities, and enjoy equal rights. If a certain part of people enjoys less freedom and they are treated at a level lower than the average level in society, it is a problem of ethnic minority rights. For example, if the people of ethnic minorities have fewer opportunities in the job market than others, it means they are not treated as free and equal members of society. When an ethnic group that is promised equal treatment is discriminated against, it means that ethnic rights are violated. If ethnic minority cultures are not respected by the mainstream ethnic groups, and ethnic minority members are discriminated against by the mainstream ethnic groups, it also means that their ethnic rights are violated.
 
To realize the rights of ethnic minorities, equitable inequality must be used to solve the problem of equality. For example, special preferential treatment is provided to ethnic minority members during enrollment and employment to correct the deviation. Certainly, social justice aims to achieve justice between individuals, rather than between ethnic groups. If justice is understood as a means to improve the overall social status of an ethnic group compared to other ethnic groups, it is not a question of justice. Treating every member of society equally and making ethnic groups fully fit into the life of a wider community are two different problems. In a just society, we should not only treat everyone fairly, but also consider the basis of his ethnic group.
 
Since the CPC has fully understood the particularity of ethnic minorities, it has taken measures for differential treatment in policy design to ensure the realization of ethnic minority rights through the implementation of the equitable inequality strategy. The CPC has recognized that ethnic equality is not only formal equality but also substantive equality. Deng Xiaoping said, our policy is “truly based on ethnic equality”62. Only when the starting point is equal, will it be possible to achieve real equality. Only when we help ethnic minority areas develop to a level like that of developed areas, can they have the conditions for fair competition. “Our policy to assist ethnic minority areas in their development will remain unchanged”63. Therefore, some special rights should be granted to ethnic minorities, so that they can get policy support and have a sense of fulfillment about ethnic equality.
 
To this end, politically, the Party and the State attach great importance to the participation of ethnic minorities in the deliberation and administration of State affairs, and give special consideration to the proportion of NPC deputies and CPPCC members, with a view to the large number of ethnic groups in China. Economically, the Party and the State have emphasized special support policies for ethnic minority areas. Jiang Zemin said: “We should vigorously promote the economic and cultural undertakings of ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas, solve the problems of poverty and backwardness left over by history, and realize common prosperity and progress of all ethnic groups in accordance with the principle of combining state support with self-reliance.”64 Xi Jinping profoundly realized the significance of development to social justice and realization of ethnic minority rights. He stressed: “Development is the master key for solving various problems related to ethnic minority areas.” But, what kind of development do we want to achieve? This is the key. For this purpose, “we should do more practical work that meets the people’s needs and benefits the people’s livelihood, and solve more problems that concern the people of all ethnic groups”.65
 
VI. Conclusions
 
Reviewing the century-long history, the CPC’s discourse on the rights of ethnic minorities has a strong normative value, which not only pays attention to the unity of the multi-ethnic country but also pursues the equality and fraternity of all ethnic groups. During the Agrarian Revolution period, the CPC opposed national oppression and emphasized national self-determination. Ethnic minority rights were a class revolutionary discourse. Later, under the political background that the Sino-Japanese contradiction was elevated to the principal contradiction in China, ethnic minority rights turned from a revolutionary discourse on class into a national revolutionary discourse. Although the CPC still emphasized the rights of ethnic minorities, it corrected the radical ethnic self-determination theory during the Agrarian Revolution, brought all classes of all ethnic groups who participated in the Anti-Japanese War together, and consolidated the “Chinese nation.” The ethnic policy of the CPC had realistic considerations including national unity and national line struggles. On the one hand, as a political party rooted in China, the CPC must consider how to maintain the territorial integrity of a highly diverse country in its ethnic policy. On the other hand, unlike the ethnic line of the traditional feudal dynasty and the Kuomintang,the CPC’s ethnic policy highlighted ethnic equality. In contrast to the Kuomintang’s stated concept of a monoethnic China, the CPC has always believed that China is a pluralistic ethnic community composed of different ethnic groups.
 
In short, it is a battle of two lines towards unity, i.e., the recognition of ethnic minorities and the emphasis on a single ethnic group. The political choice of the CPC is to build a multi-ethnic China. Since the founding of New China, the discourse on ethnic minority rights has become a discourse of nation-building. Namely, through the policy of regional ethnic autonomy and support for ethnic groups, the People’s Republic of China has been established as a unified multi-ethnic People’s Republic composed of different ethnic groups based on equality and fraternity. In the journey of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the rights of ethnic minorities are not only the unity of individual human rights and collective human rights but also the unity of human rights and obligations, based on the Chinese virtues of fraternity and mutual assistance. The rights of ethnic minorities are an indispensable part of the cause of human rights of the Chinese nation.
 
(Translated by Shen Jinyun)
 
* WANG Lifeng ( 王立峰 ), Professor of Department of Political Science and Law, Party School of the Central Committee of CPC (National Academy of Governance). This paper is a phased result of the Intellectual History of Human Rights in China (20XNLG02), a major program of Renmin University of China.
 
1. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron said “the multiculturalism has failed, utterly failed.” Also, former US president Donald Trump said: “multiculturalism is bad for the United States.” Sergi Moralles-Galvez and Nenad Stojanovic eds., Equal Recognition, Minority Rights and Liberal Democracy (London: Routledge, 2018), 6.
 
2. Yang Siji, “The Birth and Early Evolution of Concept of ‘Ethnic Minority’”, Ethno-National Studies 3 (2011).
 
3. In July 1922, the Declaration of the Second National Congress of the CPC used the term “heterogenous nationalities”. In January 1924, the term “small and weak nationalities” was used in the Opinions of the Central Bureau of the Socialist Youth League of the CPC on the National Congress of the Kuomintang. See the State Archives Administration of the People’s Republic of China and Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected File of Central Committee of Communist Party of China, vol. 1 (Beijing:Central Party School Press, 1989), 111 and 216.
 
4. The State Archives Administration of the People’s Republic of China and Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected File of Central Committee of Communist Party of China, vol. 4 (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1989), 472.
 
5. Ibid., 388.
 
6. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, Compilation of Documents on National Issues (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1991), 278.
 
7. Marx and Engels, Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 36 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1957), 87.
 
8. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 1084.
 
9. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 752.
 
10. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, Compilation of Documents on National Issues (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1991), 278.
 
11. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 4 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 1238.
 
12. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, Compilation of Documents on National Issues (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1991), 323.
 
13. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994), 162.
 
14. Comprehensive Research Group, Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Documents on Religious Work in the New Age (Beijing: China Religious Culture Publisher, 1995), 181-182.
 
15. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 150.
 
16. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994), 163.
 
17. Comprehensive Research Group, Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Documents on Religious Work in the New Age (Beijing: China Religious Culture Publisher, 1995), 181-182.
 
18. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 155.
 
19. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 622-623.
 
20. Ibid., 752.
 
21. Jin Binggao, Theory of the New China for 60 Years (Beijing: China Minzu University Press, 2010), 460.
 
22. Ibid., 522.
 
23. Liu Xianzhao, Discussion of Leaders of the Communist Party of China on Ethnic Issues, (Beijing: The Ethnic Publishing House, 1994), 200.
 
24. Comprehensive Research Group, Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Documents on Religious Work in the New Age, (Beijing: China Religious Culture Publisher, 1995), 180.
 
25. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, The Briefings and Documents of the Conference on the Work for the National United Front (1988-1998), (Beijing: Sino-Culture Press, 1998),160-161.
 
26. Hu Jintao, Selected Works of Hu Jintao, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 315.
 
27. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 150.
 
28. National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Spiritual Learning Counseling Reader of Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs (Beijing: The Ethnic Publishing House, 2015), 27.
 
29. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the Discussions by the Xinjiang Delegation at the Fifth Session of the 12th National People’s Congress ”, People’s Daily, March 11, 2017.
 
30. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, The Briefings and Documents of the Conference on the Work for the National United Front (1988-1998), (Beijing: Sino-Culture Press, 1998),160-161.
 
31. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee and Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Documents on United Front Work in the New Period (Supplementary), (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1997), 393.
 
32. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the National Commendation Conference on Ethnic Unity and Progress”, People’s Daily, September 28, 2019.
 
33. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948, did not mention the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, but reiterated the principle of equality, that is, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
 
34. Marx and Engels, Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2002), 482.
 
35. Marx and Engels, Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1972), 262.
 
36. Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 1084.
 
37. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1993), 125.
 
38. Xi Jinping, “Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era”, People’s Daily, October 28,2017.
 
39. National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Innovative Opinions of Central Conference on Ethnic Work (Beijing: The Ethnic Publishing House, 2015), 94.
 
40. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the National Commendation Conference on Ethnic Unity and Progress”, People’s Daily, September 28, 2019.
 
41. Hu Jintao, Selected Works of Hu Jintao, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 316.
 
42. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the National Commendation Conference on Ethnic Unity and Progress”, People’s Daily, September 28, 2019.
 
43. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 160.
 
44. National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Spiritual Learning Counseling Reader of Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs, (Beijing: The Ethnic Publishing House, 2015), 303.
 
45. Hu Jintao, Selected Works of Hu Jintao, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 315-316.
 
46. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the National Commendation Conference on Ethnic Unity and Progress”, People’s Daily, September 28, 2019.
 
47. Compilation of Documents on National Issues (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1991), 595.
 
48. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994), 170.
 
49. Jiang Zemin, “Century of Good Neighborliness Creates A Bright Future”, People’s Daily, December 3, 1996.
 
50. Hu Jintao, Selected Works of Hu Jintao, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 321-322.
 
51. Xi Jinping, “Speech at the National Conference on Religious Work”, People’s Daily, April 24, 2016.
 
52. T. H. Malloy and F. Palermo, Minority Accommodation through Territorial and Non-territorial Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 1.
 
53. T. H. Malloy and F. Palermo, Minority Accommodation through Territorial and Non-territorial Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 259.
 
54. Pang Xianzhi and Jin Chongji, The Biography of Mao Zedong (1949-1976) (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2003), 23-24.
 
55. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1993), 257.
 
56. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994), 339.
 
57. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994), 166-167.
 
58. The United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee, The Briefings and Documents of the Conference on the Work for the National United Front (1988-1998), (Beijing: Sino-Culture Press, 1998), 161.
 
59. Hu Jintao, Selected Works of Hu Jintao, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 322.
 
60. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 150-151.
 
61. Ibid., 151-152.
 
62. Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1993), 246.
 
63. Ibid.
 
64. Comprehensive Research Group, Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Documents on Religious Work in the New Age (Beijing: China Religious Culture Publisher, 1995), 182.
 
65. Xi Jinping, A Selection of Xi Jinping’s Discussion on the Construction of Socialist Political Construction (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2017), 155-156.