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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Minority policy in post-Mao China Ip, Catherine Kwai Po


One of the most potent political forces in the world today is ethnicity. Contrary to the predictions of the developmentalists, ethnicity has not disappeared. Likewise, contrary to the beliefs of the Marxists, a shedding of "false consciousness" to erode the power of ethnicity has not occurred. One of the important tasks of a state is to deal successfully with the challenges posed by the presence of ethnic cleavages. The possible strategies to be employed range on a spectrum from a multi-cultural accommodative approach, to the "melting pot", to an assimilationist approach. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the strategies employed by the government in post-Mao China to ensure the compliance of the ethnic minorities, who comprise 91 million people (8 percent) residing in over 64 percent of China's territory, mostly along its borders. The central questions of this thesis are as follows: (1) What have been the strategies employed to ensure the compliance and/or secure the loyalty of the ethnic minorities?; (2) Have these strategies been consistent over time or have they varied, and why?; (3) Have these strategies been successful or not in securing compliance and/or promoting loyalty? Two of the major approaches used to analyze policies in China - of cycles or alternations - will be used to analyze China's post-Mao policies towards the ethnic minorities. This thesis concludes that a liberal line on minority policy has re-emerged in postii Mao China, which resembled the "velvet fist" of the former Soviet Union - tolerance and accommodation within certain parameters which did not challenge the integrity of the state. The results of these strategies have been mixed. For those ethnic minorities whose immediate concern is economic betterment, the current strategies have been successful in securing compliance and apparently in promoting loyalty. However, the prevailing accommodative approach has not been successful in ensuring the acquiescence, let alone compliance, of the minorities in certain areas, like Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia. Along with accommodative strategies, therefore, the Chinese government has employed coercive power to maintain order in these regions.

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