On October 21, a press conference was held at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) press center, where Zhang Yijiong, executive vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, answered questions about the uniqueness of China's ethnic policy.
A reporter from the China Review News Agency and its website asked, "We know that ethnic issues are always a hot topic globally and regionally. Different ethnic policies will have different effects when dealing with ethnic issues. My question is, compared to other countries how does China differ in terms of its implementation of policies and systems used to tackle ethnic issues? Thank you."
Zhang Yijiong answered, "I'm delighted to answer this question. As we all know, China is a unified multi-ethnic country. We have 56 ethnic groups in China and each ethnic group has made its own contribution to the formation of the Chinese nation. Therefore, maintaining national stability and creating collective happiness for all ethnic groups has always been of utmost importance to the Party. There are many multi-ethnic countries in the world and due to different historical culture and national conditions, each country is exploring their own way to solve ethnic problems. The Communist Party of China set the pursuit of fundamental interests of the Chinese people as its goal, with the aim of promoting "common unity and common prosperity and development", forming a characteristically Chinese way of solving ethnic problems.
The Party's ethnic regional autonomy system and policy was put into practice in 1947 when the Inner Mongolia autonomous region government was established. At present, China has five provincial autonomous regions, namely the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Tibet autonomous region, Ningxia Hui autonomous region and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and some autonomous prefecture and counties. In relation to the question you just asked, I would like to answer it focusing on a few areas.
Firstly, we remain committed to ethnic equality, ensuring equal participation of all ethnic groups in the management of state affairs; protect the legal rights and interests of all ethnic groups and forbid any ethnic discrimination and oppression. For example, the National People's Congress, the State Council and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) all have members from each ethnic group. The largest ethnic group has tens of millions of people and the smallest has only two or three thousand, but they all equally take part in provincial level, municipality level and county level people's congress, governments and committee of CPPCC. They are all exercising their own political rights.
Secondly, we maintain the unity of all ethnic groups, respect and protect the customs and religious freedom of all ethnic groups, and introduce widespread education and activities geared towards promoting ethnic unity across the whole of society. Each of the 56 ethnic groups has its own unique characteristics, stemming from a specific historical culture and living area, especially the places with different degrees of socio-economic development during the historical development process, including those with different religious beliefs. The central government attaches great importance not only to the protection and respect of ethnic culture, history, writing, language and tradition, but also requires that ethnic groups have mutual respect and understanding and learn from each other. This communication and exchange is something we often talk about.
Thirdly, we implement autonomy to ethnic regions. Under the unified leadership of the government, we implement regional autonomy for ethnic minority areas, establishing a mechanism of self-governance to exercise the right of autonomy. In ethnic autonomous regions all ethnic groups enjoy equal legal status and can collectively be involved in various undertakings. This means that our ethnic regional autonomy is genuine. For example, every administrative leader of an ethnic minority area must be an outstanding person from the main ethnic group of the area. Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang are all like this, the autonomous prefectures and counties are also included.
Fourthly, we support the increased development of ethnic minorities and ethnic areas, fully implement development strategies in the western region, promote the implementation of the program to develop border areas and enrich the people's lives, and provide partner assistance to Tibet and Xinjiang. Most of China's ethnic minorities live in the northwest and southwest and due to historical reasons, the economic and social development in these regions is relatively backward. The economy, culture, education and even transportation, as well as health care and hygiene are more backwards compared to some coastal and inland big cities. Therefore, since the founding of the new China, especially since the reform and opening up, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council has offered strong support to ethnic areas.
For example, in terms of infrastructure, and improvements to education, hygiene, employment, healthcare, housing and other areas, the government has provided large-scale support and assistance. At the same time, in addition to support from the central government, we also organize nationwide partner assistance to Tibet, Xinjiang and the multi-ethnic Qinghai Province. This fully reflects the importance attached by the CPC Central Committee and the people sparing no effort to collectively walk the path to prosperity - each ethnic group is like a pomegranate seed packed closely together.
Finally, we protect and promote ethnic culture, remain committed to developing ethnic minority cultural business, rescue and protect ethnic intangible cultural heritages, and support the development and application of ethnic minority medicine. We have implemented a system of regional ethnic autonomy, which is designed to protect the cultural traditions and historical inheritance of ethnic minorities. I'm sure everyone has seen the cultural performances, exhibitions and clothing of the various ethnic groups; I'm sure the reporters have been to ethnic minority areas when traveling the country; and even in Beijing you can taste the different snacks of each ethnic group. This is the result of our protection. We not only want to protect, but also dig up, develop and ensure that we preserve, retain and develop these outstanding ethnic heritages, thus enriching the magnificent cultural treasures of the Chinese nation.
When talking about whether a nation is united and whether a country has implemented genuine protection of the rights and interests of ethnic minorities, it is important to pay attention to culture and history, and this is what we do. Also, the hundreds of millions of ethnic minorities across the country welcome and support this. All ethnic groups are working hard together to achieve the "two centenary" goal and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Thank you."