In chapter 7, Hongyi Lai claims that the CCP has practiced regional ethnic autonomy (REA) in order to appease ethnic aspiration while securing national unity under a strong central government since 1949. REA can be understood as limited administrative autonomy. Regional ethnic autonomy was inspired by ethnic policy of the Soviet Union, imperial China and CCP practices in the 1940s. REA was installed in the 1950s. The institutions and policy associated with REA has undergone changes over the decades, but the political objectives have remained largely unchanged in the PRC. By granting ethnic areas limited administrative autonomy and ethnic minorities favourable economic and social treatments, the CCP aims to maintain a unitary multiethnic nation-state.
In chapter 15, Björn Gustafsson surveys research that addresses the existence and magnitude of disparities in economic wellbeing in China between ethnic minorities and the majority Han group, and attempts to throw light on the reasons for the gaps. According to Gustafsson, in rural China, income differs greatly between locations, and most of China’s rural minorities live in places with low average income. In addition, in some but not all rural locations, ethnic minority households receive lower incomes than Han majority households. Ethnic minorities make up a considerably smaller proportion of the population in urban than in rural areas. Policies of affirmative action have given urban ethnic minority workers priority for employment in jobs funded by public resources. However, post-1978 market reforms have resulted in a major job decline in the public sector. Gustafsson also reports that China’s various ethnic minorities differ from each other when it comes to economic wellbeing.
In chapter 14, Yangbin Chen studies inequality in education between China’s ethnic minorities and the mainstream Han population. He discusses ethnic inequality in Chinese education from four main perspectives. The first is the macro-structural forces that shape the inequality, such as geography, history, policies, and so on. The second is the system of the family-school-ethnic community, where the ethnic inequality in education takes place in an everyday setting. The third perspective involves minority cultures with a focus on minority bilingual education. The last standpoint examines the effects of the ethnic inequality process in education, where the disparity of educational attainment between ethnic minorities and Han Chinese is investigated. Chen suggests that a better understanding of ethnic inequality in education in the Chinese context shall grapple with three essential issues. First, the formation of this inequality is a process and not isolated from other social, economic and cultural inequalities created by China’s transformation to the market economy. Second, attention to ethnic inequality in education has shifted from basic education before 2000 to higher education after 2000. Last, ‘ethnic inequality in Chinese minority education’ is a relative designation that needs to be perused carefully and by individual ethnic groups.
In chapter 16, Jianxiong Ma analyzes the issue of ethnic marginalization and why minority responses to ethnic marginalization happened in the last several decades in the southwest frontier of China, using the Lahu group as a case study. The government has not raised a sufficient number of Lahu elites. It has instead focused on poverty reduction projects. As a result, the Lahu’s position in the local government hierarchy has been ‘hijacked’ by local Han elites. The civil service examination for cadre recruitment has further narrowed the Lahu’s participation into local decision-making. This may be a major reason why local developments have been slow since economic growth in the local region has not been a major concern of local Han elites. This in turn has strengthened the Han discourse of Lahu backwardness. As a result, the Lahu people has suffered from the pain of being Lahu. In the last three decades, more and more Lahu women have married Han peasants and the rate of the Lahu suicides, in order to move to the world of the dead in their religious belief, is increasing. Moreover, more and more Lahu people have become addicted to alcohol in order to escape the shame and pain associated with being the Lahu.
In chapter 18, Michael Clarke argues that the PRC’s ethnic minorities have been a major factor in the PRC’s foreign relations. He first defines the nature and scale of the challenge posed by an ethnic minority as a function of the interplay of five major factors: the historical relationship between the ethnic group and the Chinese state; the geographic concentration of an ethnic minority; and the degree of acculturation to the dominant Han society; external great power support; and mobilized diasporas. Next, Clarkes surveys the relationship between ethnicity and foreign policy in the Chinese context. Clarke then maps, via a case study, the impact of the Xinjiang and Uyghur issues on China’s foreign policy. The challenge to the PRC has shifted from the ‘bounded’ problem of ‘separatism’ toward a spatially and temporally ‘de-bounded’ one in which the CCP simultaneously confronts multiple manifestations of Uyghur nationalist/separatist aspirations locally (i.e., within Xinjiang and the PRC more broadly), regionally (i.e. in Central and South Asia) and globally (i.e. through activism of the Uyghur diaspora). This shift shows how the Xinjiang and Uyghur issues have been internationalized and have complicated China’s foreign relations.
In chapter 2, Ma Jianxiong provides an overall view and general information about ethnic minorities in southwestern China. This region includes Sichuan Province, Guizhou Province, Yunnan Province, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Ma starts with a discussion of the geographic distribution of ethnic populations in this region, which he describes as one of the most culturally diverse areas in China and the world. He then examines the system of native chieftains in pre-modern times before giving a detailed description of ethnic identification and classification and the process of the establishment of minority autonomous governments in southwestern China.
In chapter 10, Colin Mackerras studies minority languages and cultures. Mackerras outlines government policy towards ethnic minority languages and, with some focus on the twenty-first century, discusses the situation for minority languages. He suggests that minority languages are not doing well among the gathering pace of the spread of Mandarin and Chinese modernization. He also covers topics such as the use of minority languages in the education system. Next, Mackerras discusses minority religions in China, especially Islam and Tibetan Buddhism. He also discusses the situation for the arts among the minorities, including the ways they have functioned in society and become politicized and a form of propaganda for the government since 1949. Finally, Mackerras takes up the complex interrelationships between minority cultures and politics as well as issues of cultural survival. He argues that there is no deliberate government attempt to destroy or undermine minority religions, languages or cultures. However, the process of modernization is gathering momentum everywhere in China, and is inimical to traditional cultures.
In chapter 13, Tim Oakes presents several key issues concerning the study of ethnic tourism in China today. Even though Chinese-language tourism scholarship has exploded since the mid-2000s, there remains a great deal of room for critical research on Chinese ethnic tourism. Noting the rise of independent tourism and leisure consumption in China, Oakes finds that ethnic tourism has expanded beyond the bounded geography of the ‘minority village’ and diffused into the realm of everyday consumption. Because of this, he argues, Chinese ethnic tourism can be approached and understood as a kind of urbanization. Much of his review is influenced by his own long-term experience studying ethnic tourism in one particular region of China, Guizhou Province. Oakes shows that in a clear reversal of the Mao era’s emphasis on urban centres as beacons of progressive socialist modernity in a wilderness of ‘ethnic backwardness’, cities and towns have been rebranding themselves – and reconstructing their built landscapes – as displays of village-style ethnic architecture and culture. At the same time, ethnic tourism has served as a conduit for greater state control over community-held assets, leading to alienation on multiple levels.
In chapter 11, Shanshan Du challenges the concept of ‘Chinese patriarchy’ by stressing the diversity and dynamics of gender norms among ethnic minorities in China. She first offers a sketch of gendered cultural conventions of ethnic minorities in the context of the invasive influence of patriarchy during their interactions with Han Chinese and the state. She shows that minority peoples have always been actively appropriating, negotiating, contesting, and resisting the powerful encroachment of Han patriarchy. As a result, diverse gender systems of minority heritages have sustained to varying degrees, and continue to compete with Han patriarchy, amidst radical socio-cultural transformations across China since 1950s. Next, Du examines the gender norms among the Lahu and the Mosuo, respectively. By exploring the socio-cultural principles underlying the Lahu and Mosuo model of gender-egalitarianism, she highlights the theoretical significance of embracing an ethnic dimension in the study of gender norms in China, and cross-cultural studies of gender relations in general.