Evaluate the Successes and Failures of China’s Ethnic Relations Policy in Xinjiang

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People’s Republic of China is known as a newly emerged economic power in international arena, which has become a powerful state with great involvement in international cooperation, peace promotion and trade market. Yet, being one of the top countries in the world, it also has its specific region “ Xinjiang “ which is viewed as an ambiguous issue by both Western and Asian scientists. After the introduction of the Chinese government’s special policy on the development of this region, Xinjiang which is located in the Western part of China, has turned out to be more populated by Chinese population rather than ethnic minorities who used to live in that area for a long time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian countries became independent, and Xinjiang played a key role in connecting with those neighbouring countries. Thus, the Chinese government started to pay more attention to the western part of the country, developing agricultural sector and natural resources’ production within the last decades.

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However, such a sudden switch of the economic development direction and active state involvement in region’s affairs was unexpected by most of regional dwellers. By saying locals, it is meant that this particular region is inhabited by ethnic minorities, such as Uyghurs, Dunguns, Kazakhs, Mongols, and other nationalities; and after the region’s development Han Chinese representatives were also settling in this area, leaving their permanent residences in eastern and central parts of China. However, the first issue to pay attention to was not only economic development or industrialisation, but the educational sphere of the region. As the policy was aimed at changing all structures of the region, the innovations in educational institutions were not exceptional.

The reason why I draw attention to the educational sector is that the young are those who are going to lead the country in the near future, who inherit all knowledge and experience to keep going in the pace of already developed state, making it more prosperous. Hence, in order to prevent any possible consequences of the newly formed mixture of various nationalities, first of all, there should be policies or reforms concerned the educational system. Xinjiang has become a culturally diverse place and needed assistance to enhance cooperation and collaboration of every citizen, taking into account particularities of religious, national and cultural matters. Moreover, viewing the current status quo of Chinese success in economic development and trade (second economy in the world), I suppose that the successes of implemented policies and measures outweigh some negative aspects that are likely to exist due to imperfection and externalities which are natural to human societies.

Different views were also expressed by several scholars who have contributed by writing articles and doing researches in this specific topic of Xinjiang and its educational sphere and general transformation of Western part of China. The articles provide information not only about the ways of policy’s implementation and expected outcomes, but also the results achieved within the next several years. Certainly, it is quite difficult to work out perfect strategy with no drawbacks; therefore there are a few disadvantages that appeared during the policy’s accomplishment. Although my main argument is more concentrated on the education sphere of Xinjiang, the first article represents a general view of the regional development strategy and it creates a full picture of what the development in the western part of the country is about. Then, the next two articles support the point that education is vital aspect that the government paid attention to and did best to develop and promote good level of education for the growing generation of ethnic minorities.

The first literature is called Ethnic Minorities in China’s Official Discourse on the Western Development Project by V. Elena Barabantseva (2009). The purpose of the paper was to assess the consequences of Chinese official development discourse stated in Western Development Program (WDP) launched in 2000 and evaluate localization and citizenship matters by relying on the official sources, including Chinese scholars and experts.

As soon as the project went into force, In the first year after the official launch of the campaign more than 600.000 Han Chinese moved into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Barabantseva 2009, p.12). So, the government made a decision to attract Han Chinese citizens to come in order to contribute in the welfare of Xinjiang with the help of their knowledge, experience, and professional skills. Certainly, in most cases, such diverse representatives of different cultures could possibly result in interests’ collision; therefore, the authorities sought desire to pacify “ or ‘harmonize and stabilize’ “ the state’s orders and hoped that a growing economy will enrich the local inhabitants and security problems and separatist tensions will decline as a result (Barabantseva 2009, p.13). On the one hand, the project gave a green light for the rapid development, opening new doors for those who are interested in improving the region, not splitting society into different nationalities who are allowed to work and who are not. However, on the other hand, there was a newly emerged issue of ethnic minorities being localized, i.e. ethnic minorities who experience difficulties to take part in social and economic modification on the same terms as Han Chinese. According to E. Barabantseva (2009), Ethnic minorities [] are associated with backwardness, underdevelopment, and stagnation among other derogatory characteristics (p.8).

One more interesting point that the author argued about is connected with poverty issue. It is considered that the ethnic minorities are nearly a half of the poor in China (Barabantseva 2009, p.21). However, after having thoroughly investigated this question, it has become clear that indeed Shanxi Province which is officially exclusively Han, had some of the worst economic indicators in the country (Barabantseva 2009, p.20). Hence, it probably may turn out that the WDP program aimed at the growing development level in Xinjiang could have reached partly its goals, supporting this region’s development actions. Yet, there are also some disadvantages of the strategy related to the different level of income paid to Han Chinese and ethnic minorities, i.e. despite the fact that both representatives of society live together and share common norms and aims, ethnic minorities get lower wages in comparison with Han Chinese (Barabantseva 2009, p.21).

Overall, the article is successful in accomplishing its main tasks provided in thesis: explanation of the matters of citizenship, localization and mentioning of inequality and poverty issues; revealing of the WDP strategy and its aims, expressed in economic development and unity of multinational population. However, due to the fact that the article was written in 2009, only nine years after the implementation of such global and important program, there is not enough information to find and see results of a longer term than a decade, especially taking into account the fact that such huge projects are known as long-term strategies that are difficult to be accomplished fully within short period of time. Regarding the methodology used by the author, it is a discourse analysis, which is neither qualitative nor quantitative method, but it discusses basic issues by providing evidence and author’s reflections. Thus, such approach is suitable for this article, as it goes straight to the points of the strategy and analyzes important matters of the program.

One more work written on the theme related to education is called The Xinjiang Class: Education, Integration, and the Uyghurs by Timothy A.Grose. The paper examined efficiency of the specific policy for Xinjiang middle school-aged students who got an opportunity to study for free during the last four years in eastern part of China. The aim of the program was improve the level of education and skills of Xinjiang students who come from ethnic minorities’ families, thus integrating them into one united Chinese society. Although the author’s main argument was pro-resistance of Uyghur students to integrate in Han society, there are several strong points that reveal positive consequences on the general education level and good intention of the government to educate the population of its state.

Providing Uyghurs with an inexpensive education has been portrayed in the Chinese media as the CCP acting as a kind parent (Grose 2010, p.7). The government created special conditions to attract and motivate students to take part in such program and learn not only the Chinese language, but also to become more experienced and skillful after having been graduated. The conditions comprised lowered standards on the college entrance exam, adding bonus points and instituting a quota systems at universities in Xinjiang (Grose 2010, pp.4-5). Moreover, there are specific provisions in meal and holidays celebrations created with respect to Muslims society, such as halal cafeterias with Chinese Muslims or Uyghur chefs, and Nauryz and Kurban holidays (Grose 2010, p.6). But, the author also drew attention to the policy seen more as a political mechanism to instill ideas of ethnic unity (Grose 2010, p.6).

The author also provided examples with interviews (as a part of methodology) taken from Xinjiang Class graduates who were mostly Uyghurs and Kazakhs. The interviewees shared their own experience after graduation and in most cases were less satisfied with their studies, claiming that the interaction with Han students was quite uncomfortable, and the language used in speaking among their friends was more Uyghur outside the classroom rather than Chinese (Grose 2010, p.8).

The author assumed that despite positive characteristics of the program, it has failed, but it can be seen through the paper that CCP has implemented pretty organized system for educating pupils for their better skills and knowledge. The failure described by author is expressed in less integration with Han Chinese and low level of satisfaction by graduated students. However, there is one more important factor of necessary integration of students with Han as they are going to work together for improving Xinjiang region and be more tied and united in the future. The article was also written 8 years ago which says that there were only two generations of graduates of Xinjiang Class, and now as the situation in international arena has changed, the outcomes and improvements are highly to happen. The rapid economic growth, international collaboration particularly with Central Asian states could have improved the system and made CCP introduce amendments to replace drawbacks with positive changes.

In comparison to the previous article’s methodology, this article has advantage in conducting interviews from first sources, from those who were part of the program and are credible and reliable source of information. Yet, at the same time, the relevance of the data is becoming less important as the status quo of the countries, including political and economic changes, are changing from day to day rapidly.

The last article to review is called Bilingual Education in Xinjiang in the Post-2009 period by Sonika Gupta and R.Veena (2016). The article demonstrates the changes in educational policies after 2009 known for ethnic riots that signaled the government that it should have been reconsidered, taking into account linguistic issues of ethnic minorities at educational institutions. One more work concludes that, although the central government provides suitable and appropriate conditions for educational purposes, there are newly emerging obstacles during studying process which rather disintegrate minorities from Chinese society. Yet, in the paper, there is much more evidence of the official information and measures introduced in favor of ethnic minorities’ interests which overweight negative sides of the question. For instance, 2014 Xinjiang Conference with the participation of leader Xi Jinping pointed out the introduction of new conditions in minority-dominated regions and stressed the role of ethnic unity as crucial to developing stability in Xinjiang (Global Times 2014b, as cited in Gupta and Veena 2016). Also, the state proposed subsidies for inter-racial marriages and Uyghurs’ migration out of Xinjiang alongside with the improvement of inter-ethnic communication between the two nations (Gupta and Veena 2016, p.8).

The policy amendments introduced after 2009 seemed to introduce improvements in the policies and prevent other riots or misunderstandings in the region. According to the official sources, there were new implementations at schools by training teachers to learn both languages for teaching purposes and more disbursement given to Xinjiang students who enjoyed special conditions while studying at high schools. Concerning an issue about the learning of Putonghua (standard Chinese) in kindergarten, it helps children to be more prepared for school, as they will be able both to study and interact with Han Chinese. Thus, such innovation appears to benefit the children who will be bilingual since the early childhood and probably will not have difficulties with studying on Putonghua and may have certain advantages towards a future career.

Analyzing and comparing two articles, it has become clear that the western part of China remains an important region with its specificity in multi ethnicity and linguistic matters. Yet, the central government has introduced a number of measures and created special conditions to foster the young who wish to study and be more skillful and competitive with Han Chinese. The first two articles have revealed the results of the projects like Western Development Policy and Xinjiang Class by 2009 and the third article showed that despite the creation of good environment for development in Xinjiang, both in economic and educational spheres, there was huge necessity to reconsider and amend the policy due to appraisals happened in 2009 in Urumqi.

However, in spite of some failures that the system experienced, the region overall could reach high rates of GDP and overall budget rise since 2000s. According to news article Xinjiang’s economy growth 7.6% in 2016 (2017), The region’s GDP reached 961.7 billion yuan ($139.8 billion) in 2016 with continued expansion of the tertiary sector, which made up 57 percent of the region’s gross domestic product in the first three quarters. Hence, the overall development and integration of ethnic minorities could have progressed since the beginning of the 21st century and the policies worked well to accomplish main purposes. The State Council Information Office of the PRC provided that By the end of 2016, there were 107 public libraries, 90 museums, 53 galleries, 119 cultural centers, and 1,170 township (community) cultural activity venues, all offering free access to the public (China SCIO 2017).

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Evaluate the Successes and Failures of China's Ethnic Relations Policy in Xinjiang. (2019, Mar 18). Retrieved June 27, 2022 , from
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