A Brief Overview of the Creation, Languages and Education of China's Minority People
With China's rapid rise as a cultural and economic power over the past thirty years, and with the claim that the 21st century will be China's century, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has become an important consideration in the policies of world governments, international businesses and academic research. China is often seen as a cultural powerhouse, with Confucianism, an extensive dynastic history and a writing system at its core. Although it is acknowledged that minority peoples make up nearly 10% of China's population, their small percentage of the population belies the impact that these peoples have on the government policy of the PRC. In order to understand the importance which China's minority population has for government policy, it is essential to understand the political origin of the labels which minority groups are given by the state. When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) undertook its minzu (literally: clan of people) identification project in the 1950s, it claimed to adhere to specific criteria. The reality is that China's minzu identification project was a haphazardly conducted and politically motivated categorization of China's waizu. Politics, pre-existing categories, and highly complex situations caused the minzu identification project to fail in its attempt to adhere to Stalin's criteria. Despite a failure to adhere to its alleged framework, the results of the minzu identification project, the current 56 minzu groups, have become a part of modern Chinese people's self-identity.2 The PRC wants to promote and protect its own national unity, and as it perceives many of the minzu groups as lacking a historical connection to China, the state promotes national unity in relation to the shaoshu minzu by integrating them into and assimilating them to the majority culture of the hanzu3 via the public state-run school system. However, the different worldviews, priorities, and economic situations between hanzu and minority peoples make implementation of this goal difficult for the PRC. Language differences between the various minzu is a factor that greatly hinders the spread of the state-promoted ideas to minority minzu peoples. At the same time, distinct geographic areas, cultures that are historically separated from han culture, hanzu-shaoshu minzu antagonism and extra-China similars also cause the minority people of China to be less susceptible to the government's attempts at sinicization.These materials are publicly accessible at the request of the author.