Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Compensated Ethnic Assimilation in China

In The New York Times, Edward Wong reports one way China is trying to make the country more "harmonious":
In a policy that appears aimed at soothing violent ethnic tensions in the west of China, officials in the region of Xinjiang are offering cash and other financial incentives to encourage marriages between minorities and Han, the country’s dominant ethnic group.
Why do they think this could this help?
[T]he county director, Yasen Nasi’er, said: “Interethnic marriages are a manifestation of the increased interethnic exchange in a Han-based culture. It is an important step in the harmonious integration and development of all ethnicities.”

He called such marriages “positive energy” and a means by which Xinjiang can realize the “Chinese Dream,” an amorphous term popularized by President Xi Jinping.
Although the policy in Xinjiang is just a trial for now, the idea behind it is nothing new:
Communist officials have long promoted popular tales of mixed marriages to paper over ethnic conflicts.

Many Han talk of how the Manchus from the northeastern forests, who conquered China to establish the Qing dynasty, eventually adopted Han customs and intermarried, citing this as an example of how Han Chinese civilization inevitably absorbs and assimilates other ethnicities.
As a thought experiment to tease apart some issues and add a different perspective, I tried to imagine the response if a minority in the US, a country with its own history of ethnic and racial tensions, was told by the government that one way to achieve the American dream was to marry a White American and that they would be compensated for doing so. Or what would China think if Han Chinese in the US were specifically targeted in this way?

Other thought experiments, even more unlikely to occur in the real world, are also floating through my mind. Most of all, though, I would like to hear the real unfiltered views of some Chinese citizens—in particular, the Uighurs in Cherchen Country who are the targets of the trial policy.

Details of the policy and mention of other related policies can be found in Wong's piece here.

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