Behind the Great Wall: Identification of China’s “Ethnic Minorities” & the State’s Assimilation Process

Joe Hammoura

The aim of this research is to give an overview of the minorities in China. Other than the majority Han population, up to 55 officially recognized “nationalities” live today in China. The Chinese Communist rule recognized these “ethnic minorities” or “minority nationalities” through a long and complex process that started in 1949. Most of these minorities live in southern China, Tibet, and the Western Province of Xinjiang or near the borders of neighboring countries. Despite their small numbers if compared with the Han majority, ethnic minorities, occupy 60 percent of the national territory, including most strategic borderlands, contain extensive mineral and pastoral resources. Today’s Chinese rule doesn’t allow much freedom for minorities when they don’t submit fully to the Communist Party authorities and power. Like the Muslim Hui ethnic minority, many minorities are assimilated and enjoy some sort of freedom of worship and belief. Others, like the Uighurs and the Tibetans, don’t enjoy this type of freedom and have to struggle in order to resist the assimilation policies of the state.

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