3 + 1 + 1 = 1: Disempowerment in Multi-ethnic Autonomous Longsheng

  • Chih-yu Shih


Granting local autonomy to ethnic communities has gained increasing support in China as a means of organizing a multi-ethnic state. Given the rigidity of the country’s modern system of sovereignty, Chinese authorities believe that regional autonomy is the only viable option for reconciling assertions of sub-national ethnicity with national sovereignty. The thrust of Chinas policy is to create a sense of unity by recruiting minorities to work for the Party and the government; to give economic, educational, and demographic privileges to citizens with ethnic identification or those simply living in autonomous jurisdictions; and to provide exemptions from state mandates. In return, the state closely monitors all ethnic cultural, religious, and social activities, and demands political loyalty. The state treats minorities as individual citizens (who have special rights and privileges) rather than as groups. In other words, ethnicity is considered a component of citizenship, but not a component that legitimizes organizing groups outside of state control. This position was clearly evident at the first International Workshop on Regional Autonomy of Ethnic Minorities held in Beijing in 2001 (see Chapter 1). Almost all of the Chinese attendees supported the idea of national unity as the requisite foundation upon which the state could best promote the welfare of nationalities residing in relatively underdeveloped areas.


Central Government Ethnic Identity Junior High School National Unity Autonomous Prefecture 
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    See Au Junde, Zhonghua renmin gongheguo minzu quyu zizhifa shiyi ([A Review of vague points of the Law of Ethnic Regional Autonomy of the PRC]) (Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 2001), 9–10.Google Scholar
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    Chih-yu, Shih, Negotiating Ethnicity in China: Citizenship as a Response to the State (London: Routledge, 2002), chapters 6 and 13.Google Scholar
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© Chih-yu Shih 2007

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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