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China: Hu Jintao and the national minorities

hujintaoPreventing the struggles of national minorities goes beyond physical intervention, it should involve a new type of political action and thought which achieves a balance between ethnic groups. Hu Jintao should worry, not much more time is left to fix what has been broken.

(From China) HU JINTAO’S MANNER OF SPEECH since he assumed his position of Secretary General of PCCh (2002), showed clear signs of difference with his predecessors, with a growing sensitivity towards political, social and even environmental issues. In 2007 there emerged the idea of “aggiornamento”, accepting the importance of handling democracy, even if initially this were only a way to exploit democracy and increase the PCCh’s power and legitimacy, without having a sensible transition within the political system. But three years away from finishing his second and last mandate, there runs the risk of passing into history as the bully of national minorities and the public will forget about the positive features of his mandate.

We cannot be sure that Hu Jintao is unaware of the problems in place. This could be why he decided to cancel his state visit to Italy and did not participate in the G-8 reunion in order to return to Beijing, this being an unknown action, which transmits the gravity of the situation in Western China. Hu Jintao was Secretary in Tibet from 1998 and here he did not hesitate to utilise repressive methods to suffocate the rebellion of the lamas. Some historians agree that this was the point where Deng Xiaoping perceived the extent of Hu’s abilities, the repressive ones as well as the skill of negotiation, and decided to place his bet on him as Jiang Zemin’s follower.

“Hu Jintao believes that progress in the material sector assures stability, which is definitely a necessary factor, but is not enough.”

THE GOVERNMENT DEFLECTS

The Chinese government gives praise to the politics applied these last years in Xinjiang: the reduction of poverty by 50 percent, a significant increase in the income of peasants and farmers of the local ethnic groups, an overall improvement of the standard of living due to the efficient exploitation of natural resources (including oil) and strong public investment. The figures and data the government supplies suggests that it is mainly the influence of exterior powers that cause this destabilization. However, these facts are not sufficient to support this explanation. If what the governement states were true, the tension which exists today would not in fact be so dramatic.

Hu Jintao believes that progress in the material sector assures stability, which is definitely a necessary factor, but is not enough. The interaction with national minorities is based on a mixture of repression and paternalism but lacks a model which gives them a new type of protagonism which can make way for dignity and opportunities in the public sphere without suffering from intereferences of an informal sort which now occurs so often.

The catalog of rights which applies for national minorities is a form of positive disctrimination which has not evolved in he expected useful manner but instead developed into a way for the Chinese government to exhibit their “good treatment”, which even makes the Han. A few days ago, 15 civil servants from the populated city of Chongqing were sanctioned to fake the ethnic background of 31 sudents so that they could obtain a higher score in the gao kao, the national exam which students require to enter university. Initially, if you are not Han, it is easier to get in.

“This fake unison which the government has undertaken only serves as proof of the lack of actual interest in protecting the national minorities and tackling this truly crucial issue.”

NATIONAL MINORITIES

The question is, to what do we owe the stagnation in nationality politics when in so many other sectors China has made such an effort to adapt and create constantly? The mess in which we find the government and PCCh in relation to national minorities is a direct consequence of attempting to place issues into categories such as the economy, religion, culture or tourism in an effort to decrease the dimensions of the political conflict. But if we only focus on increasing development it will not be enough to solve this type of problem.

It must be pointed out that a national identity will not be supressed no matter how much development in the areas mentioned above expands, in the same way that although the last 30 years the west has positively influenced China in various areas it has not changed the Chinese identity, and has even driven some back to a Confucious ideology. This deliberate neglection of such issues is exactly what is driving China towards a collapse.

Beijing has attempted to unite approximately 55 national minorities which have now blossomed in areas such as tourism and the economy but have nonetheless not acquired a peaceful relationship with the government and rights for their ethnicity. This fake unison which the government has undertaken only serves as proof of the lack of actual interest in protecting the national minorities and tackling this truly crucial issue.

THE FUTURE OF CHINA

This “snow-ball effect” has become extremely worrying. In the neighboring area of Tibet, where the images from Urumqi served by Chinese television took us back to March of 2008, the army mobilized thousands of soldiers under the possible threat of another rebellion. This is not enough. Preventing this type of result goes beyond physical intervention, it should involve a new type of political action and thought which achieves a balance between ethnic groups. Hu Jintao should worry, not much more time is left to fix what has been broken.