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New Features and Countermeasures on Social Stability in Western Ethnic Regions

The October 26, 2009, issue of Study Times published an article entitled “New Features and Countermeasures on Social Stability in Western Ethnic Regions.” [1]. The article discusses “new features that presently affect social stability in the western ethnic regions.” It provides a “causal analysis of frequent social stability problems in ethnic regions,” and “countermeasures to achieve social stability in western minority regions.” The following is a translation of the article.

“At present, the new socialist ethnic relationship in the ethnic regions, along with political stability, solidarity and common prosperity, have basically been established. But the fight of anti-separatists and the social security situation in ethnic minority areas are still grim. Under the cover of ‘national independence,’ religious extremists, ethnic separatist forces, and international terrorists on the one hand openly or secretly create public opinion, and confuse and poison people’s minds; on the other hand they vigorously conduct violent terrorist activities and undermine social stability. In some places, there has even been serious violent looting, and group fighting. How to accurately determine and grasp the new features that will impact western ethnic unity and social stability, and then take positive and effective measures to properly deal with ethnic relations will have great significance for further strengthening national unity, safeguarding the motherland’s reunification, and promoting national development and comprehensive progress in minority areas.

New Features That Presently Affect Social Stability in Western Ethnic Regions

1. The significance of international, geographic and political factors. Since the 1990’s, the unrest in the international situation, the rampant terrorist activities, and the expansion of religious extremist forces have provided the growing space and soil for the separatist forces in the border ethnic regions. According to official statistics, at present, there are about 50 Xinjiang ethnic separatist organizations or groups abroad and they hold activities in dozens of countries. These separatist organizations carry out reactionary propaganda in the U.S. and Europe, and infiltrate into China through the mail using printed materials and audio-visual products, radio broadcasts, the Internet, and other channels. In Central Asia and South Asia, they have smuggled arms and drugs, infiltrated personnel, and directly organized, directed and carried out violence and terrorist activities. They have an extremely complicated international background.

2. New conflicts from the market economy and social transformation. Since the reform and opening, with the constant development of the socialist market economic system, the impact of the laws of the market economy, including the intensifying social transformation, people’s mobility, the competition for resources, and the diversity of social interests have created new contradictions and problems for work and life in the multi-ethnic region. Since the educational and cultural undertakings in ethnic areas are still under development, the nine-year compulsory education is not widely available. There are serious problems for the young children, who stay out of school and drop out of school. The improvement of the minority’s culture quality is affected. It is difficult (for the minorities) to adapt to job competition under the market economy and their communication with other ethnic groups are affected. At the same time, with the influence of the market economy, in order to find employment opportunities and increase income, more and more minorities move into the inland and the coastal cities to obtain work and do business. In the eastern and central cities where the Han dominate, because the cadres lack proper understanding and the related policies and regulations are not in place, minorities’ interests and demands do not received enough attention and have thus not been implemented. Examples include the employment problems of minority migrant workers, the problems of their children going to school, the problems of their political rights and livelihood, etc. Currently, there are no corresponding policies to resolve these problems, which often cause these minorities to express discontent and affect ethnic unity and stability.

3. The negative impact of development patterns. To accelerate economic development, our government carried out a series of large-scale projects in the minority areas, such as the construction of reservoirs, power plants, railways, and highways, and so on. In order to complete these projects, ethnic minority people have made tremendous sacrifices. But some companies often only paid attention to construction speed, regardless of ecological and environmental protection, and caused a lot of pollution and destruction. Because China’s resources and the ecological compensation mechanism are not well established, these projects brought more benefits to the country but few benefits to local minorities. For example, as the standard compensation for land expropriation is low, the subsidies given to the migration residents in the reservoirs areas for their resettlement are not enough. The income from power plants has not been shared enough with the local minority groups, or was not shared at all. In this regard, the minority people have strong opinions. To some extent, this deepened the minority people’s ‘sense of deprivation’ and their dissatisfaction. In some places, these things have resulted in conflicts with the government or with relevant departments. A handful of ethnic separatists use these kinds of problems to agitate and thus endanger social stability and ethnic unity.

4. Cultural conflicts have become prominent factors that cause social instability. Different ethnic groups in the western areas live under very different social environments. For a long time, they have had different economic lives, systems, cultures and social relations. There has been a lack of internal unity and social integration among all ethnic groups, and the heterogeneity has been strongly displayed. A common geographic area has not formed a common culture and the various cultures lack interaction and interdependence. (Different ethnic groups) have difficulty communicating, but easily have contradictions and conflicts, which affects social stability. For example, some Han comrades know little about customs and habits of ethnic minorities (including contraindications), so they lack respect; some Han cadres who work long-term in ethnic minority areas do not want to learn the ethnics’ languages, and some even look down upon their languages. Thus it is harder for them to do their jobs, and it also affects the improvement of ethnic relationships. Some minority comrades easily attach too much importance to their customs and treat them as political issues. They consider the inadvertent violation of their customs by a number of Han comrades as acts of political discrimination against minorities, leading to an increase in the psychological barrier between both sides.

Analysis of the Cause of Frequent Social Stability Problems in Ethnic Regions

1. The predominance of conflicts of interest causes social instability. Social stability problems in ethnic minority areas are largely due to poverty, and the imbalance of regional economic development deepens ethnic misconceptions. With the growth of interest groups, a group consciousness based on different ethnic groups pursuing different economic interests is also established. It gradually becomes the internal driving force for the activities of interest groups. Although the fundamental interests of the different interest groups are consistent, their specific interests and aspirations are clearly different. The distribution of interests leads to a clear differentiation in social status, power and wealth among members. The interest competition between different social strata and groups has become increasingly clear, which makes different ethnic groups very sensitive about their own interests. It creates psychological instability, and the potential factors that lead to social instability.

2. Institutional arrangements need to be improved. At present, dealing with the relationships between ethnic and class divisions, ethnic and country, as well as the ethnics’ own development problems, is based on the proper moral relationship between the ethnics, and is required to analyze and solve problems from a political perspective. This prompts the corresponding requirements of our country’s political structure and other important political systems. How our country’s political system can, on the one hand, properly reflect and take into account the desire of various ethnic groups to participate in the country’s management and protect the powers and rights of all ethnic groups, and on the other hand, effectively integrate various ethnic groups, ensure our country’s unity and authority, and have firm legal institutional arrangements, is a very important basic political issue impacting the continuous social stability and the sustained stability of the state. If not handled properly, not only can the ethnic issues not be effectively controlled, but they will also aggravate the conflicts between ethnic groups and between the ethnic groups and classes.

3. The negative effects of the acceleration of urbanization impact social stability. Urbanization is an important component of modernization. On the one hand, it promotes development in ethnic regions and fundamentally guarantees political stability in the regions. On the other hand, it is bound to have a dramatic impact on the existing political system, benefit distribution, traditional culture and social structure in the ethnic regions, and thus to some extent affect the political stability in ethnic regions. With the rapid progress of urbanization, from the horizontal point of view, the development gaps between the ethnic regions and the inland and coastal regions are constantly widening. From the realities of ethnic minority areas, urbanization has brought the issues of employment, mobile population management, social security, religions, etc, to the minority peoples. From a long-term perspective, urbanization may mitigate the imbalance of economic development between the Han and minorities, but in the meantime, the urban population in minority areas is low, the industrialization level is not high, the layout of urban space is irrational, basic production factors are short, and the living environment is deteriorating. In the short term, the existence of all these real conditions will bring more issues to the ethnic minorities, while adapting to rapid urbanization, and will thus become the economic factors that affect national social stability.

4. The management ability and the government’s policy adjustments lag behind. The division of interests makes the citizens have the desire to express their opinions and gain their own interests. At the same time, it enhances their consciousness of their rights, of the law, and of the competition with other groups. They expect to influence the actions and results of the regional autonomous government organizations that are making decisions for the public. They will strive to gain, be aware of, and protect their own interests. All these tendencies create pressure on the local government decision-making organization and challenge the governing ability of the government. As a matter of fact, the government lacks the ability and problem-solving approaches for the new phenomena and new characteristics appearing in the fields of the economy, politics and social life in the minority regions. This has easily led to a passive situation for the government in dealing with the work in those regions. We can learn many lessons from the “June 25th” episode in the Shaoguan region of Guangdong Province. [2] (About developing the coping strategies,) for example, introducing the local surplus labor from the minority regions in the west can both alleviate the shortage of workers in the developed areas in the east and increase the employment opportunities and the income of the minority groups. This is a win-win strategy. However, the enterprises and the relevant government organizations should enhance the consciousness of maintaining social stability. Under the situation that “the three forces”[3] are active, an issue that should be strongly emphasized is how to properly treat the relationship between the Han ethnic group (the majority) and the minorities, sufficiently realize its importance, effectively release the tension, communicate with each other and manage to prevent the occurrence of massive events.
5. The negative elements in a multi-culture affect social stability. Historically, the excellent cultures from different minority groups have mingled and merged with each other. The common Chinese culture was formed during that process and we value the unification of the country and oppose the separation of political powers. This kind of positive social psychological environment makes the minority groups in the west form the positive social and political mentality of equality, harmony, respect and unification between the different ethnic groups. However, some regions, at the same time, also have a negative social, cultural, and psychological environment. Thus they have developed mentalities that impede social development: self-protection, self-closure, a sense of inferiority, fear of risks, being self-content, local consciousness, and narrow-minded regional identification. They have also easily formed mentalities that affect social stability, such as egalitarianism, single nationality identification, strong discrimination against certain ethnic groups, and a separation of ethnic groups. Those mentalities may quickly spread, grow, and form a blind fanaticism, which induces social and political instability.

Strategies for the Stability of the Western Ethnic Minority Regions

1. Diligently construct an international political environment that is advantageous to us. Due to the complexity and volatility of the international situation and the competition among the political forces of the bordering countries in the west, we must sufficiently take advantage of all kinds of diplomatic resources, interact with the relevant countries, diligently nurture the exterior international environment that opposes separation and terrorism and try our best to minimize the living space for the forces that support separating the nation and terrorism.

2. Speed up economic and social development emphasizing improving the quality of life in the Western minority regions. At present, of the work to do, the most urgent and major task to enhance regional economic development is to speed up social development. The major element is living conditions, which is closely related to people’s happiness and satisfaction. We should solve the problems of getting their basic needs met in regards to food, clothing, shelter, transportation and their safety. We especially should establish a social welfare system that covers all the people in the cities and countryside. Only when the people in the west benefit from social development can we truly build harmonious relationships among different ethnic groups and different social strata, enhance identification with the big Chinese nationality, and lay a solid social foundation for realizing the regional stability of the western minority regions.

3. Vigorously improve the governing and management ability of the local government in the minority regions. The local government should adopt effective measures to improve the quality of public policies. Currently, it is a test for the governing ability of the local government with regard to how to transform the farmers who returned home after working in the cities as temporary workers into a force to advance the economic development in local regions so that they will not produce pressure (on the government) and become a burden to the economy. The government should improve the executive power of policies, enhance policy transparency and responsibility and form a new style of cooperative relationship with the minorities in order to realize long term peace and order in minority regions. In addition, we should speed up the development of the social stability warning system in minority regions so that we can correctly judge the actual situation of social stability, predict and provide warnings about instability factors in time, and provide information and support for the relevant government departments to plan and implement effective measures to maintain social stability and prevent risks affecting social stability.

4. Fully take advantage of the political and economic elites among the minorities as the “Social Stabilizer.” In minority regions, the minority cadres are elites in constructing a united system in relation to political order and political development, and they are local political elites. They have increasingly realized the importance of involvement, management, power and mobilization. We cannot underestimate their influence on the minority political system. They will directly or indirectly influence the order of the minority political process and the continuity of the minority system. We should give them sufficient trust and let them proactively function (in local politics). They generally have good relationships with other people in society, are models for the lower level people to follow, have a relatively large impact on the lower classes in minority groups, and are realistic candidates for us to use to alleviate and dissolve social conflicts. In addition, the well-off middle class in minority regions generally have a moderate reforming attitude toward society, are rational and practical, and are basically not likely to have radical emotions or behaviors in ethnic and religious conflicts; therefore, they also have the function of alleviating different kinds of social conflicts.

5. Enhance the development of a new model of multi-dimensional and unified minority culture. The traditional minority culture with distinctive characteristics contains enormous spiritual wealth and knowledge. We should discover, modify and reform the culture so that it can play an important role in developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, make it develop according to the direction of maintaining social stability, and prevent it from “splitting” the culture of the nation into multiple ethnic groups. First, we need to discover, absorb and learn from multiple ethnic cultures, and create and establish a complete value system and a core ideology that adapts to the socialist market economy and that is acknowledged by all ethnic groups. Second, we need to fully use the positive effect of the traditional ethnic culture, for example, the effect of punishing evil and praising good that it plays in the work of suppressing the use of drugs. Third, we should use the political value of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness, and righteousness as the reference system and take the modern social economical, political and cultural needs into consideration to allocate modern elements to the traditional minority culture and eliminate their mentality of being “people of lower class value,” “people who should be obedient,” and “the people who are servants” among the western minority groups and build up modern citizen characteristics. Fourth, we should continuously eliminate the negative impact of the narrow minded ethnic consciousness (on society) and develop a positive, proactive, healthy and beneficial culture with ethnic characteristics. Last, we should integrate the sources for multi-dimensional ethnic culture and promote the formation of the common wealth of various ethnic cultures.

6. Enhance the management of minority affairs according to the law. First, we should protect the dignity and power of the constitution and the law. Any individual, any organization, and any group should act within the regulations of the constitution and the law. The minority autonomous regions are no exception. Second, we should establish and implement regulations that are complementary to the laws of the minority regions as soon as possible, and quickly establish and implement augmented regulations and laws and other practically needed laws and regulations for minority groups that correspond to laws of the autonomous minority region, for the eventual formation of an intact minority legislative system. Third, we should regulate and perfect the recognized law of the minority regions. Under the premise of insisting on the national law, we should refer to the relative content in ethnic and religious recognized law to establish a viable common law that can maintain the excellent culture of the minority groups as well as ensure the authority and compulsory nature of the national law and regulations. Last, we should ensure the effective implementation of minority laws and regulations and forcefully crack down on the various illegal and criminal activities that endanger the harmony and stability in the minority region.

[1] Study Times, October 26, 2009
[2] For an in depth analysis of this incident, see:
[3] The “three forces” are terrorism, separatism and extremism