The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 50 is a further elaboration of Article 2 of the Common Program, which states “…to liberate all the territory of China, and to achieve the unification of China.” and of Article 9 , which points out “ All nationalities in the People's Republic of China shall have equal rights and duties.” Articles 50, 51, 52, and 53 of the Common Program define this policy.
“…the CCP employed a pluralist concept of the Chinese peoples: the majority nationality consisted of the Han Chinese—itself a twentieth-century construction—and all other peoples were “minority nationalities” ...Mao’s conception of the new democratic revolution served to enfold minority nationalities within the revolutionary people of China. Mao defined national as meaning anti-imperial, and democratic as both anti-feudal and “in the interests of the broad masses of the people” The economic development of the minority regions will be described in the various articles of Chapter 4 of the Common Program.
To realize the objectives of the Common Program, the CCP has several instruments. "First, it recruits ethnic cadres to serve in the central government. They serve as role models for those in the hometown, who will believe that their ethnic membership will not hinder their political participation. Protective policy that guarantees both privileges and honored government positions for people from minority ethnic groups shows that membership of such a group can be a plus."
A second method is to grant the establishment of autonomous districts and regions. (see Article 51 ) The third instrument is the use of the media to promote the "Han" way of living, in other words to bring "civilization" to the minorities.On the other hand, the media are used to uphold the culture of the ethnic groups (Article 53 )
Starting in July and August 1950, the CCP organizes four groups of representatives to visit minority areas in the border regions throughout the country: southwest, northwest, northeast, and Mongolia. These representatives offer food and money, provide medicine and necessities, and propagandize the Party’s nationality policies. On July 2, 1950, a goodwill mission traveled to Yunnan under the direction of ethnologist
Xia Kangnong.
Xia Kangnong (1903-1970) Studied in France
Goodwill missions

"The final mechanism is through social policies, especially those that focus on population and economics. The state reaches out to ethnic people in granting privileges such as,... sponsoring ethnic schools, and giving exemptions to investment restriction or tax schedules. ...On the economic side, enterprises are encouraged to explore business opportunities or exploit natural resources such as forests, mines, and water in autonomous...regions"
Many members of the Chinese bureaucracy had the strong opinion that “ … China needed to be a single racial state totally identified with the Han people.63 Similar attitudes continued to prevail after 1949. Mao and Zhou Enlai could not intervene in every incident. After the decision had been made to take over Tibet, Mao’s efforts, however well meaning, often foundered amidst the racist bias of the Chinese bureaucracy.”

December 24, 1952, Zhou Enlai announced that according to articles 12, 13, and 14 of the Common Program, elections will be held for the People’s Congresses. He declares “…during the early period after the establishment of the government—considering that the people's liberation war had not been concluded, that basic political and social reforms had not been carried out on a national scale, and that the economy still required a period of rehabilitation-- conditions were not favorable for instituting at once the people's congress system.... This transitional period is now over, and our country is entering upon a new period of large-scale planned economic construction. In order to meet the tasks of this new period, it is necessary to convene the All China People’s Congress and local people's congresses…”
2 months later, the election law is promulgated. The elections shall be carried out at the county, provincial, and national levels. Article 24 of this election law states: “In allocating the number of seats for the 150 delegates to be elected to the ACPC by minority nationalities throughout the country, the CPG shall make provisions with due regard to the population of each minority group, its distribution and other such factors.
To meet this promise, the government has to identify the minorities and has to know how many minority groups there are in China. In April 1953, the government issues a directive " convene in 1953 the various grades of xiang, xian, and provincial (or municipal) people's congresses elected through universal suffrage, and then to convene, on this basis, the NPC. In order to ensure that all citizens of China who reach the age of 18 shall take part in the election according to law, it is necessary to make a good job of registration of the electors, while the registration of electors will have to be based on registration of the population. Therefore, simultaneously with the election work a national census and registration of population should be carried out in order to facilitate the election work and to furnish accurate figures of population for the economic and cultural construction of the State."

In theory, all people living on Chinese soil are members of the Chinese people (renmin), it does not matter which ethnicity one belongs but rather to what class. As seen in Article 1, those who belong to the right class belong to the nation, the people, and all others not. “In other words, class was actually made the most powerful unifying force that was supposed to help overcome China’s ethnic (and regional) diversity.”
In anticipation of the 1954 elections for the NPC, an identification process is started in 1953. In the new election law of 1953, each minority group is granted at least one representative seat in the NPC.
The identification of minorities is based on the theory of Stalin. In his work “Marxism and the National Question” (1913) he concludes: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”
Besides these 4 criteria, the CCP also paid attention to the historical names and origins of the “minzu”. Xia (2008) concludes “However, none of the above elements in the Ethnic Identification would be decisive. The combination of those elements and the comprehensive considerations of the relevant information would be indispensable. The criteria were skillfully used so that almost all demands would be met: that is the positive aspect. On the other hand, the indeterminate use of the criteria has the result of relying on subjective judgment and artificial intervention. The consideration of ethnic willingness and the opinions from the classes increased this subjective implementation of the Ethnic Identification. It is said that Ethnic Identification was a successful combination of objective criteria, the willingness of the relevant ethnic groups and the opinions of the higher minority strata.102”
Mullaney (2010) describes the difference between the SU and the PRC method of identification. “Unlike the Soviet census upon which the inaugural PRC registration campaign was loosely based, one which presented respondents with a predetermined set of nationality categories from which to choose, the Chinese census of 1953-54 posed the question of minzu as an unbounded, fill-in-the-blank query wherein a registrant dictated his or her minzu name to the census taker, who then transcribed it into Chinese characters... The underlying principle of this policy was a commitment to self-categorization: a political ideal that granted citizens the unfettered right to select their own minzu designations. More specifically, it specified that any individual over the age of eighteen would be free to select his or her own minzu status, which would then be officially recognized by the state.74 Whatever people called themselves, so too would the government.”

This way of categorizing resulted in over 400 minorities who had applied for minority status. In practice, this would result in an overrepresentation of minorities in the People’s Congress. More than half of these applications came from Yunnan province. According to the census outcomes, roughly one-third of the province (32.6 percent) self-identified as non-Han.
Ma (2007) calculates that at least 190 delegates from Yunnan alone shall come to the NPC and nationwide at least 400. This meant a disproportionate representation of the minorities in a NPC with only twelve hundred seats.

In the middle of April 1954, the Ethnic Identification teams are formed to solve this problem “Hundreds of ethnologists, linguists, historians, sociologists, and archaeologists were divided into teams to investigate the claims of self-reported groups. It has been suggested that a group of Soviet linguists were also involved in the process. 20”
Lin  Yaohua, a member of an Ethnic Identification team states: "Don’t forget that academic research is to serve political practice.The work of minority research before us is certainly not purely for the sake of  academic research. It must unite with politics, particularly with the problem of national security."

They have less than 6 months to investigate because the National People’s Congress shall convene in September 1954. Eventually only 19 of these claims in Yunnan are recognized by the government.
“In practice, large groups, geographically or numerically, were very likely to be approved as minorities, whilst small numbered groups might often be ruled out or incorporated into other minorities.32 The selective application of a set of standards left enough space for the communists to control the identification process for political and/or economic considerations."
In 1954, the Ethnic Identification teams have characterized 38 minority groups.
The national census of 1953 reveals the number of minorities in China. There are 34 million people classified as minority, this is about 6% of the total population. See Table.
Three regions with a majority of nationalities are easily identified; Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang. Other minority ethnic groups are scattered in the northeastern, northwestern, and southwestern parts. 62 percent of China’s territory is populated by non-Han-Chinese people. The Han majority occupies mainly plains, arable land, towns, and cities, while some four-fifths of the country’s minorities take refuge in more mountainous (and less suitable for agriculture) land including 90% of the country's border regions.
A combination of political, strategic, and pragmatic concerns are the main reasons for the early recognition of these minorities groups. July 21, 1950 Deng Xiaoping states: "The southwestern boundary line is several thousand kilometres long, extending from Tibet to Yunnan and Guangxi, along which the overwhelming majority of inhabitants are minority nationalities. So, if the issue of minority nationalities is not handled well, the matter of national defence cannot be handled well. Therefore, in view of the importance of the southwest to national defence alone, we should give high priority to our work among the minority nationalities." Ethnic policy focuses mainly on commitment of the minorities in building a new China. "….despite much evidence suggesting that at least during the 1950s, the Communist regime wholeheartedly adopted the notion of China as a multi-ethnic state, ..., high school history textbooks during that period and the rest of the Maoist era were still extremely Han-centric and treated non-Han peoples as non-Chinese others."

The identification results show some remarkable outcomes. The Chinese Muslims who are termed Hui are united by religion, they are divided by race and culture. In the case of the Manchus hardly any Manchus still speak Manchu. Yet both groups are qualified as a minority group. "By far the largest group who could be, but is not in fact, considered a ‘nationality’ is the Hakkas. These are a south Chinese people who, although culturally, linguistically and socially quite distinct in the late imperial period of Chinese history, nevertheless played a significant role in twentieth-century Chinese nationalism especially in the early period."
Quite the opposite occurred in Guangxi were millions of Guangxi residents were to be convinced by the government that they were members of the larger minority designated “Zhuang. ” Most of the Guangxi population were claiming instead to be Han.
"...the Uyghurs, Kazaks and Hui (Dungan) all have kin relations with Central Asian states, in particular the former two. Mongolia is a kin state for the Mongols, as are both North and South Koreas for the Koreans. Minorities that are located in the Southwestern border areas – such as the Miao, Yao, Hani, and Dai – all have external kin in mainland Southeast Asia. Finally, the Tibetans have extensive relations with groups in Bhutan, Nepal, and India."
To get identified as a minority group has some advantages. First of all, extra subsidies or aids, secondly a type of of autonomy. “It is not strange that some people who were originally Han Chinese tried to convert and re-registered themselves as belonging to minority ethnic groups so as to enjoy the preferential treatments in education, employment, etc." All Chinese citizens are to be registered by ‘nationality status’ in household registration and personal identification. See Article 5.

On March 16, 1953, Mao Zedong addressed the problem of Han Chauvinism: “In some places the relations between nationalities are far from normal. For Communists this is an intolerable situation. We must go to the root and criticize the Han chauvinist ideas which exist to a serious degree among many Party members and cadres… Delegations led by comrades who are familiar with our nationality policy and full of sympathy for our minority nationality compatriots still suffering from discrimination should be sent to visit the areas where there are minority nationalities, make a serious effort at investigation and study and help Party and government organizations in the localities discover and solve problems. The visits should not be those of "looking at flowers on horseback". He concluded “Moreover, the newspapers should publish more articles based on specific facts to criticize Han chauvinism openly and educate the Party members and the people.”
He is not the first CCP leader who warns against Han Chauvinism. On July 21, 1950, Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “With our past work plus our current work we are quite capable of solving the several-thousand-year-old problem of estrangement from the minority nationalities and uniting all our nationalities. … So long as we truly act in accordance with the Common Programme and so long as we sincerely assist the minority nationalities in political, economic and cultural fields, we can solve the problem satisfactorily. If we throw off Han chauvinism, the minority nationalities will forsake their narrow nationalism in return. We should not ask the minority nationalities to abolish their nationalism before we honestly abolish Han chauvinism. Once these two isms are abolished, unity will result.”
In August 1952,
Wang Zhen
Wang Zhen (1908-1993) head of the military government in Xinjiang (1950-1952)
the party secretary of Xinjiang is accused of Han Chauvinism when he introduces radical redistribution of pastoral areas: "Not giving consideration to the current stage of political, economic, and cultural development of the various nationalities, but blindly adopting the experiences of Han agricultural and even military areas; not paying attention to the finer aspects of history, culture, and traditions of the various nationalities, but focusing instead on their back-wardness; emphasizing in an inappropriate way their opposition to narrow nationalism among local non-Han cadres and resolving problems in a rigid manner.5" His successor Wang Enmao emphasizes the need to struggle against Han Chauvinism.
The fight against Han Chauvinism started in 1926 at the first Hunan Peasant Representatives Conference when the CCP accepted a resolution in which the CCP pledged to "liberate the Miao and Yao," declaring that "the Han nationality must not deliberately slander the Miao, and Yao in insulting words."22
Despite all good intentions, the CCP cadres dealing with minority peoples still are guilty of Han Chauvinism.
Wang Feng
Wang Feng (1910-1998) is vice chairman of Nationalities Affairs Commission
, in accordance with Mao Zedong, states: "Speaking in nation-wide terms, 'Great-Hanism' is the principal current danger in the ethnic relationship. It is essential to suppress 'Great-Hanism' because this is the only way whereby narrow nationalisms among the minorities can be eradicated ... Certain of the Han Chinese cadres have even gone so far as to insist that the minority peoples speak Han-Chinese and wear Han Chinese clothes, and have wanted to substitute Han-Chinese songs and dances for the tribal songs and dances. This is extremely erroneous."

In Mao’s eyes, although the civilization of the Han nationality most defined the civilization of the Chinese nation, all of China’s nationalities were united as collective victims of imperialism and equal in their striving to shake off foreign oppression. They were united as revolutionary classes of the Chinese peoples (Mao, 1939) Schram (2005). Pages 280-281. [↩] [Cite]
Howland (2011). Page 177 [↩] [Cite]
Shih (2002). Page 9.[Cite]
Yang (2009) remarks: "In the native chieftain system, native chieftains enjoyed much autonomy, since the central state rarely intervened in internal affairs. Moreover, the power and authority of some local chieftains in Yunnan had lasted at least until the early period of P. R. China. In the early 1950s, many native chieftains were incorporated into local Communist governments. Without the corporation of the local elites, the CCP would have faced much more trouble in frontier areas." Yang (2009). Page 773. [Cite] The number of minority ethnic cadres increases: 1949 10,000 1954 140,00049 "For example, the IMAR, the first autonomous area in China, takes the lead of ethnic minorities works. Yunnan Province had only 7400 minority ethnic cadres in 1952 Minority cadres in Yunnan accounted for 8.9 percent of all cadres in 1952."
Xia (2008). Pages 158-159. [Cite]
Benson (1998) remarks "At the highest government levels, however, there was no proportionate national minority representation, leaving the promises of the Common Program unfulfilled." Benson (1998). Page 99.[Cite]
Hao (2010) states "The low number of minority cadres in decision-making positions indicates some larger problems in the relationship between the Han and minorities, and it is indicative of the problematic role the Party plays at various levels of government. For example, Tibet used to be governed autonomously by Buddhist monks, and the Chinese central government would only maintain nominal control of the region. But the CCP government was following a different theory. …, the concept of class played a central role in the CCP ideology, and class identity would transcend ethnic differences when defining citizenship." Hao (2010). Page 99 [Cite] [↩]
Shih (2002). Page 9. [Cite]
See also Netting (1997). Page 6 [Cite] “After 1949 the People's Republic of China articulated a minority policy with two potentially incompatible goals: cultural pluralism and economic development. On the one hand, the PRC was to be a multinational state, respecting and preserving languages, religions, and other minority traditions. At the same time, minority living standards were to-be raised to the level of the Han through educational expansion, economic growth, and preferential appointments. 20 Cultural pluralism was a twentieth century ideal, but economic development was essentially a modern form of the earlier civilizing project.” [↩]
Feigon (2011). Page 93. [↩] [Cite]
Baranovitch (2010). Page 110 [↩] [Cite]
May 1913 Stalin "Marxism and the National Question” [↩]
Xia (2008). Pages 58-59. [Cite]
Gladney (2004) notices: "In both the Soviet and Chinese discourses, all of these criteria together were needed to constitute a nationality. That the Han did not meet many of these criteria, most clearly the criteria of language, was intentionally overlooked by the Investigations." Gladney (2004). Page 118 [↩] [Cite]
Mullaney (2010). Page 32 [Cite]
"After debating which questions should be posed to their nearly six hundred million respondents, officials ultimately decided upon only five. The first four of these involved the most basic of demographic information, including name, age, gender, and relationship to the head of one's household. The selection of a fifth question was a more complicated issue, however. Certain dimensions of identity, such as occupation, literacy, and place of work were considered but dismissed, deemed impertinent to the forthcoming NPC. Interestingly, one of the possibilities that was ultimately excluded was that of economic class, an axis of identity that seemingly would have been preserved, given the party's revolutionary ethos and the land reform process. Instead of class, occupation, literacy, or place of work, authorities ultimately settled upon a question that no modern Chinese census had ever posed before: that of nationality or minzu.9" Mullaney (2010). Page 20 [↩]
“In Yunnan, for example, 14 groups appeared in the registers with populations in excess of 100,000 people: the Bai, Benren, Dai, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Kawa, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Naxi, Pula, Yi and Zhuang…. 13 medium-sized groups with populations of between 10,000 and 100,000: the Achang, Azhe, Bulang, Huayao, Kucong, Muji, Nu, Tu, Xiangtang, Xie, Xifan, Yao and Zang…. Beyond these 27 groups, however, the ethnographic picture started to get very hazy. 38 registrants appeared in the census with populations of between 100 and 000 people, and another 92 with populations of less than 100.” Mullaney (2010). Pages 328-329 [↩] [Cite]
"..nationalities hailing from just Yunnan would have accounted for over one-sixth of the entire parliament-a staggering number when one considers that they constituted less than 1 percent of the population of the country.90 In addition to these mandated seats, as we saw, the 1953 Law made additional provisions based on proportionality, designed to insure that larger minorities would receive a level of representation reflective oftheir size. If we make a conservative estimate regarding the number of additional minority representatives, hypothesizing somewhere between fifty and one hundred supplemental delegates countrywide, we are left with a National People's Congress in which 40 percent of the legislative body would hail from a non-Han minority nationality-an overwhelmingly large percentage when we consider that the combined population of these minority nationalities constituted only 6 percent of the total population of China circa 1953.91" Ma (2007). Page 38. [Cite]
Wang (2015) "It has been pointed out that 178 minority representatives, from thirty different minority groups, attended the First National People’s Congress in September 1954. The representation ratio reached 14.52 percent" Wang (2015). Page 6 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2015). Page 6.[Cite]
See also Heberer (1989). Page 31-35 shows the problems of classification [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Mullaney (2010). Page 84 [↩] [Cite]
According to this new demographic model, then, Yunnan Province was home to only 19 minzu: the Achang, Bulang, Dai, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Kawa (later renamed Wa), Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Minjia (later renamed Bai), Menggu, Naxi, Nu, Xifan (later renamed Pumi), Yao, Yi, Zang and Zhuang. Mullaney (2010). Page 340 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2015). Page 8 [↩] [Cite]
Eleven of these groups, the Mongol, Hui, Tibetan, Uyghur, Miao, Yao, Yi, Korean, Manchu, Li, and Gaoshan (in Taiwan), were the so-called “generally accepted minorities” and thus had no need to be assessed in the Ethnic Identification Project. Wang (2015) Page 9 [↩] [Cite]
Baranovitch (2010). Page 87 [↩] [Cite]
"Unlike many of the other minority nationalities of China, however, the Hui are distinguished negatively: apart from lacking their own language, they generally do not have the peculiar dress, literature, music, or the other cultural inventories by which more ‘colorful’ minorities are portrayed. Gladney (2004). Page 152.[Cite]
See also Lindbeck (1950). Pages 473-488, and also article 53." [↩] [Cite]
Mackerras (2003). Pages 2-3.[Cite]
Jankowiak (2008) describes a similar situation "For example, prior to 1949, most Bai, a minority group in Yunnan (southwest China), saw no difference between themselves and the local Han population. They spoke a Tibetan–Burman language that had taken more than 60 per cent of its vocabulary from Mandarin Chinese and, significantly, most Bai considered themselves to be Han. All this changed when the Bai were officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group. Today, the majority of Bai perceive themselves as a viable minority with a history distinct from the people they once thought they were – the Han Chinese" Jankowiak (2008). Pages 98-99. [↩] [Cite]
See Kaup (2000). Pages 55-56.[Cite] She remarks "The situation in the northwest differed radically from that in the southwest in at least five politically significant aspects".
People who  refused to  be classified as “Zhuang” traced their family genealogy and insisted that their ancestors were a part of Han military settlements. Some groups get different names only because of the provincial division. "The classification hence took place in strict accordance with provincial jurisdictions, and was inseparably connected to political issues in that province." Chaisingkananont (no date). Page 36 [↩] [Cite]
Han (2011). Page 12[Cite]
The different ethnic groups have had different relations with these two competing forces. Especially during the CCP’s forced Long March, it is alleged that the CCP managed to build alliances with many minority groups along the way. However, some ethnic groups were considered as particularly anti-CCP, such as the Tibetans, Yi, and Hui. Perhaps these past relations explain the variation in state policies. Page 13 [↩]
Xia (2008). Page 60.[Cite]
Xia remarks "In China’s case, the Ethnic Identification was also an interactive bargaining process in which the Central Government, local governments, the scholars as well as the minority ethnic people themselves participated. Minority ethnic groups actually played a relatively weaker role. Page 62 [↩]
Wu (2015). Page 308 [↩] [Cite]
Bulag (2012). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]
Wang Feng talking at 3rd NAC meeting June 1953. Cited in Wiens (1954). Page 260 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 6 of Common Program