Economic growth in regions inhabited by ethnic groups in China has been faster than the rest of the country in the past few years, but poverty alleviation remains a long-term challenge, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The gross domestic product growth rate of the country's five ethnic autonomous regions - Xinjiang Uygur, Tibet, Ningxia Hui, Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang - and of the three provinces inhabited by many ethnic groups - Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai - was above the national average in 2015, which was 6.9 percent.
However, the GDP per capita in these areas is still quite low. Such levels in all these provinces and regions, except Inner Mongolia, is below the national average, according to the 2016 Annual Report on Development of Ethnic Minorities in China by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Of all 592 national-level target counties for poverty alleviation, 263, or 44.4 percent, are in ethnic autonomous areas. Poverty stricken residents account for 12.1 percent of the rural population in these eight provinces and regions, well above the national average, which is 5.7 percent.
"With the nation's economic growth slowing down, poverty alleviation in ethnic areas remains a challenge and is crucial for the development of the regions in the long run," said Wang Yanzhong, chief editor of the report and director of CASS' Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology.
While the national average illiteracy rate of those older than 15 was 7.4 percent in 2014, the rate in ethnic areas was higher. Tibet had the highest illiteracy rate - almost 40 percent - with the rate for the female population in the region hitting 48 percent, it said.
By 2014, the central government had invested more than 1.4 billion yuan ($202 million) in the development of villages with ethnic features, protecting ethnic culture while fostering industries promoting local specialties, the report said.
However, some village buildings have been reconstructed under a unified style to attract tourists, losing their original value, it said.
It added that a small population is a challenge that many ethnic groups face in inheriting and promoting intangible cultural heritage.