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

On February 22, 1952, the Chinese government promulgates 3 decisions regarding the autonomy of national minorities, and on August 9, 1952, the central administration announces the general program to implement the autonomous regions.
However, before the effectuation of this program, the government had to make sure “ promote the unity of all nationalities. Winning over the trust and loyalty of the people in the minority regions became an important objective,... The first step for the Party to achieve its objectives was to set up government organs in charge of policy making regarding minorities,…" See Article 9
The digression about Article 50 of the Common Program showed that political, strategic, and pragmatic concerns are the main reasons to implement autonomous regions. "In several areas (in particular, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia) the PLA was guided only by general pronouncements from Beijing leaders, who were simultaneously dealing with the massive challenge of reconstruction their victory had brought. The first order of business was simply to establish complete military domination of all regions of China; the second priority was the imposition of Communist Party control over all political and social institutions. 4 The instrument for establishing the party's power was the PLA. Composed primarily of Han Chinese, the PLA was to occupy all areas and eliminate the Guomindang and any other enemies of the people's revolution."

During the Qing empire, there was no distinction made based on ethnicity, there was only one difference acknowledged, the division between Han and non-Han, or in other words, between highly civilized Han and less developed civilizations with different stages of advancement but with similar roots. “This distinction, according to Confucianism, does not refer to apparent differences in physical features or language. Rather, it is mainly shown in cultural differences with values and norms of behaviour as the distinguishing characteristics.”
In the Qing period "The (southern) borderland space was one in which ethnic mixing prevailed and in which still independent Zhuang, Miao and Yao people  negotiated favorable terms of trade with competing colonial regimes. These people went their own way and honed their skills in guerrilla  warfare. They used their ability to crisscross the border for profit, such as smuggling the opium production in China and trading with  French colonials.3 The isolating mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, self-sufficient economies, and lack of a  unified religious  or  political leadership all contribute to the  imited independence from central control."
Shortly after the fall of the empire, the idea of five races (Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan, Muslim, and Han) introduced by Sun Yatsen, was abandoned. Instead Jiang Jieshi decided: “… our various clans actually belong ... to the same racial stock (tsung-tsu). .. that there are five people designated in China ... is not due to differences of race or blood but to religion and geographical environment" Therefore, both the rulers of the empire and the GMD saw no reason for self-determination or autonomy for the national minorities. Yet the GMD government was confronted with rebellion in Xinjiang and was not able to exert effective power in Tibet. Even worse was the successful secession of Outer Mongolia. See Article 2

From the start, the CCP had a different idea. The first years of the CCP, they followed the Soviet Union model claiming that these minorities groups were ‘nationalities’. They should have the right to ‘self-determination’ and to establish their own nations. The Chinese Soviet Republic (1931-1937)
Territories included the Northeastern Jiangxi, Hunan-Jiangxi, Hunan-Hubei-Jiangxi, Hunan-Western Hubei, Hunan-Hubei-Sichuan-Guizhou, Shaanxi-Gansu, Szechuan-Shensi, Hubei-Henan-Anhui, Honghu and Haifeng-Lufeng Soviets.
adopted on November 7, 1931 a constitution. "As in the constitution of the Soviet Union, national minorities were given the right of self-determination. This meant, in theory, that they could either choose to join with the Chinese Soviet Republic or break away and set up their own state."
In 1938, at the sixth plenary session of the CPC Sixth Central Committee, Mao Zedong has changed his opinion and states "under the principle of uniting against the Japanese invasion, the Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Miao, Yao, Yi, Fan, and all nationalities should be given equal rights as the Han, enjoy the right to manage their own affairs by themselves, and build a unified country with the Han.28"
In 1945, a directive regarding the regional autonomy of Inner Mongolia left behind the idea of self-determination and federalism and formulated the development of the theory of regional national autonomy. In 1947, Mongols and the CCP succeeded in seizing power in Inner Mongolia.
Chinese warlords colonized Inner Mongolia in the early twentieth century, however the majority of the Chinese population consisted of poor peasants leasing Mongol Land. In 1947 the Mongols received limited autonomy " applying Leninist colonial liberation ideology, defining the Mongols as a collective group that had been colonized by the Chinese. However, socialist ideology premised on class analysis during the land reform targeted many Mongols as class enemies, thereby justifying the redistribution of Mongol land among the Chinese majority in Inner Mongolia. The ensuing ethnic violence forced Inner Mongolia's Mongol leaders, who were both agents of the Chinese Communist Party and representatives of the Mongolian nationality, to devise and press for an explicit nationality policy to defend the ethnic rights of Mongols and thus the autonomy of Inner Mongolia." On May 1, 1947 the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Government (IMAR) was established, with
Ulanhu (1904-1988) CCP member since 1925 Born as Yun Ze and only later adopted the Mongolian name Ulanhu (red son)
as the chairman. “In fact, the CCP used the ethnic Mongols’ participation in the founding of the PRC as a crucial model in its effort to demonstrate its legitimacy in the eyes of other ethnic minority groups”
Anastas Mikoyan (1895-1978) Minister of Foreign Trade (1938-1949) Politburo member (1935-1966) Vice-Premier of the Council of Ministers (1946-1953)
visit on February 4, 1949, he “…conveyed to Mao Zedong that our CC does not advise the Chinese Com[munist] Party to go overboard in the national question by means of providing independence to national minorities and thereby reducing the territory of the Chinese state in connection with the communists’ take-over of power. One should give autonomy and not independence to the national minorities. Mao Zedong was glad to hear this advice but you could tell by his face that he had no intention of giving independence to anybody whatsoever.”
In the Common Program the notion of "self-determination has completely disappeared. "On October 5, 1949, the CCP Central Committee instructed its regional bureaus and field-army CCP committees that the term “self-determination” should no longer be used in its minorities policy, because it might be employed by imperialists and minority reactionaries to sabotage the unification of China.34" The PLA is stationed in all regions and under direct control of Beijing.
Clarke (2013) states: "Rather, the CCP model was based on the assertion that the various non-Han ethnic groups could only achieve their own social revolutions within a unified Chinese state and under the leadership of the Han dominated CCP.22 While separation from the PRC was therefore denied, the Party nonetheless asserted that it would guarantee China’s ethnic minorities a degree of political and cultural autonomy via the establishment of autonomous organs of government in regions predominantly populated by minority peoples and the protection of ethnic minority religions, languages and cultural practices."
Howland (2011) notices, that the way the autonomous regions are formed, is according to "...some critics effectively a policy of “divide and conquer”—the creation of a mosaic of autonomous zones in order to prevent any collective action against the PRC- and other critics have debated whether or not the PRC’s work of minzu shibie (ethnic identification) was an act of colonialism in continuity with Qing imperial practices" and he continues with the remark: "This identification, territorialization, and transformation of minority peoples produced lasting ambiguities. On the one hand, longstanding communities discovered ethnic divisions among themselves. Communities of people in southwest China, for example, found themselves identified and territorialized into new communities arranged differently from those to which they had long been accustomed: education and the creation of minority nationality cadres and administrators created new fissures among communities,…"
Clarke (2013) concludes
"..., the CCP in fact adopted five guiding principles for its handling of the ethnic minority issue that reflected the imperatives of ‘national regional autonomy’: (1) no region would be permitted to secede from the PRC; (2) both ‘Han chauvinism’ (i.e. assertions of Han cultural superiority) and ‘local nationalism’ (i.e. separatism) would be opposed; (3) autonomous organs of government would be established in regions predominantly populated by minority peoples; (4) equality between nationalities, freedom of religion, and the preservation and development of minority languages and customs would be guaranteed; and (5) the central government pledged to aid in the development of ethnic minority regions…. The ultimate effect of ‘national regional autonomy’, however, was that plurality existed only in a cultural sense while the ‘political unity’ of the People's Republic of China remained resolutely Han-centred."

Mao Zedong writes to Peng Dehuai on November 14, 1949, that "the government organs at all levels should, in accordance with the size and ratio of [minority] nationality populations, allocate quotas and absorb in large numbers those members of the Hui nationality and other minority nationalities who are capable of cooperating with us into taking part in government work. In the present period they should organize, across the board, coalition governments, i.e., united front governments. Within [the framework of] such a cooperation, minority nationality cadres will be nurtured in large numbers. Furthermore, the provincial [Party] committees of Qinghai, Gansu, Xinjiang, Ningxia and Shaanxi, and the [special] district [Party] committees of all places where there are minority nationalities ought to form training classes for minority nationality cadres, or cadre training schools. Please give this a good deal of attention. It is impossible to thoroughly resolve the problem of the minority nationalities and to totally isolate the nationalistic reactionaries without a large number of Communist cadres who are from minority nationality backgrounds."
The Central Institute of Nationalities (CIN) in Beijing to train cadres for the government and party apparatus is established in 1951. A few months later, is decided to establish such institutes in three other locations: the northwest, the southwest, and the central south. By 1952, seven such Minority Institutes had been established in other parts of the country. "Three tasks were specified for these institutes: first, to train high- and mid-level cadres for minority work, including language workers; second, to conduct research on minorities, including their language, culture, history, and socioeconomic situations; and third, to supervise and organize translation and editing work"
Not all minorities were interested in the training. Most responsive were those affected by Japanese aggression before 1949. Especially the Koreans, Mongolians and Manchus. In the province of Qinghai, there was little response. The Islamic Hui and the Tibetan opposed the new regime and throughout the 1950’s there were periodic armed revolts. (See Article 2) By 1957, there were about 700,000 CCP members among the minorities, that is, about 5.5 per cent of the total of 12.72 million. The number of ethnic minority cadres at all levels of leadership was about 10,000 in 1950, 50,000 in 1951, and 100,000 in 1952
There is also resistance from CCP members, they argued "…it was too early to train minority cadres. Of the minority citizens who had completed training and become cadres, not many had advanced to the status of party officials.67 There was in such attitudes a clear message to Tibetans living in these areas, one which went contrary to all that Mao had promised: you are part of new China where all are equal, but by virtue of being non-Han, you are considered ethnically incapable of participating fully in new China's governance."
In the south of China, language is an obstacle for the mobility of minority cadres. Most of the minorities do not speak Mandarin. From 1950 on, officials are required to learn Mandarin within a few years. Only the well-educated are in the position to acquire posts in the regional administration and/or party. The CCP is confronted with a dilemma. On the one hand, the party wants to create a united front with the local elite, to show that the CCP is unlike the earlier Han rulers who did not pay attention to the interests of the minorities. On the other hand, the CCP has to convince the minority peasants that in the long run the support for the CCP is in their interest.
In remote areas all over the country, there are no minority CCP members who can hold office. Cadres are not only confronted with linguistic and cultural obstacles but also with transport, communications, housing, supply, security, and staffing difficulties. Although confronted with these complications. "Han people working in local government and Party administration only constituted a small minority of the whole population, but owing to their political elite status they have obviously had a considerable influence on the economic, political and cultural changes in those areas since the 1950s."
Weiner (2012) observes "While the Party would place great attention on the cultivation of minority cadres, in these early years what the state needed more than bureaucrats was the charismatic authority associated with indigenous tribal and religious positions. Thus, despite doling out government positions to indigenous leaders, essentially the Party expected and needed post-Liberation indigenous elites to continue to act as pre-Liberation elites, albeit somewhat repackaged and certainly remessaged." These local leaders were important to resolve intra- and inter-tribal conflicts, because the CCP primary goal was to restore social order, developing national unity, and increasing production. June 1950, the GAC recruited a group of researchers and government cadres to form 4 Central Research Teams. Between 1950 and 1952, they visited different non-Han areas throughout the country. The delegations travelled to the Southwest (Xikang, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou) , the Northwest (Shaanxi, Xinjiang, Gansu, Ningxia, and Qinghai), the Central South (Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hunan) and the Northeast (Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Rehe, and Jilin). Besides research, the teams organized meetings with Han cadres and local non-Han (informal) leaders to discuss the possibility of becoming and autonomous area.
1949-1951 1st edition of RMB with minority images
Before an autonomous area can be created, a preparatory committee has to be established. The committee has two primary tasks. First to hold local elections to select candidates for the founding meeting. The composition has to correspond to each ethnic share in the total local population, and they have to represent the class structure. The second task of the committee is to propagandize the ethnic local autonomy. "The formation of the propaganda team and the central government's emphasis on the team's work suggest that many local non-Han leaders either remained unclear about, if not unaware of, the content of ethnic local autonomy. As a result, the creation of autonomous prefectures often took place without genuine grassroots interest beforehand.11" At the convention the delegates will elect" the leading cadres for the local People's Government and the local People's Congress.
Cheng (2019) concludes "...the granting of ethnic local autonomy is not a simple top-down or bottom-up process. Instead, the designation of ethnic autonomous territories appears to be a bottom-up process that takes place only after the central government's mobilization of local non-Han communities. Before a district officially becomes an ethnic autonomous prefecture, the central government has also stepped in when the provincial government appears to hinder the designation process."

In his talk with Tibetan delegates, Mao Zedong tells about the the problem of land redistribution “In the regions inhabited by the Han people land has already been redistributed, and in these areas religions are still protected. Whether or not land should be redistributed in regions inhabited by minority nationalities will be decided by the minority nationalities themselves. At the moment, land redistribution is out of the question in Tibet. Whether or not there should be redistribution in the future will be decided by you yourselves; moreover, you yourselves should carry out the redistribution. We will not redistribute the land for you.”
The program carried out in the minority areas was called Democratic Reforms instead of Land Reforms. "There were several reasons for such a delay. One is the idea that many minority groups were still not at the stage of “landlord economy” yet, so land reforms were not appropriate. Another reason was the CCP’s need to appease local leaders in minority areas to incorporate them into the ruling elites. Thus, the local leaders were able to hold out their previous land tenures for much longer than their Han counterparts. Also, the Democratic Reforms carried out in ethnic minority areas were not as violent as the Land Reforms in most Han areas, where landlords were violently struggled and persecuted."
Article 27 of the Marriage law permitted the national minorities to modify the Marriage Law in conformity with the actual conditions prevailing in these areas. See Article 6
The CCP allows minority groups some degree of religious freedom. In Xinjiang and Tibet, religious leaders are included in governmental organs. Islamic and Buddhist education can be continued for a while. New prayer halls are erected and some religious festivals are still performed. "Other affirmative measures toward ethnic minorities included: to lower standards for admission to colleges and universities (1951); the granting of scholarships to students from an ethnic minority (1952); a specific program to improve the public health of ethnicities (1951) as well various measures to preserve the various ethnic cultures."
The purpose of these special arrangements is to win the favor of minority groups through the promise of protected legal status. This set of minority rights would be territorially based, allow for political and economic self-determination, and place minority leaders into local offices. However, the CCP used refined methods to maintain control: “the use of the Party’s unique position in the structure of the Chinese government to undermine minority autonomy; the organization of the country’s administrative units in ways disadvantageous to minorities; and the subversion of traditional leadership in minority communities. While promising minorities protected legal status and autonomy within the system, the CCP often used the structure of the Party itself to sabotage minority autonomy. Within China’s political system, the state government and the CCP exist as separate entities, but each state organization has a corresponding Party equivalent, with the Party component exercising ultimate authority.70 This arrangement allowed the CCP to appoint local minority leaders to state posts, but because these offices were subservient to their Party counterparts, they possessed no real power.”
Svanberg (1998) notices: "At the highest government levels, however, there was no proportionate national minority representation, leaving the promises of the Common Program unfulfilled. In Xinjiang, each national minority was given at least one representative on the government council; Uyghurs, who constituted 75 percent of the population, held only 29 percent of council seats. When the council was subsequently enlarged to seventy-one members, Uyghurs held twenty-four seats, or 34 percent. Han Chinese, who were then about 6 percent of the region's population, held fifteen seats, or 21 percent. The remaining positions were held by representatives of the remaining nationalities."

Ru (1999). Page 131 [↩] [Cite]
Benson (1998). Page 90 [↩] [Cite]
Ma (2007). Page 6 [↩] [Cite]
Chaisingkananont (no year). Page 23 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Ru (1999). Page 26 [↩] [Cite]
Waller (1973). Page 32 [Cite] (in the provisional constitution of the GMD of May 12, 1931 there is no mention of minorities at all). The 1931 Resolution on National Minority Questions Within China reaffirms
"...the previously established guidelines, these laws allowed national minorities to create autonomous areas. As a general policy, it was also declared that: equal political and legal status should be enjoyed by national minorities and the majority; labour productivity and economic results should be improved in these areas; national languages should remain in use; and minority cadres should trained in autonomous organs." Zhu (2000). Page 48 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Zhou (2010). Page 482 [↩] [Cite]
Bulag (2002). Pages 23-24 [↩] [Cite]
Han (2014). Page 172 [↩] [Cite]
Clarke (2013). Page 117 [↩] [Cite]
Howland (2011). Page 185 [↩] [Cite]
Clarke (2013). Page 114 [↩] [Cite]
Ru (1999). Pages 132-133 [↩] [Cite]
Mackerras (2003). Page 21.[Cite]
There were 3121 CCP members in Qinghai in 1954. Goodman (2004). Page 386.[Cite]
Conner (1984). Page 290 [Cite]
"Though still making no specific recommendations for Zhuang autonomy, the party emphasized the necessity of training minority personnel to carry the Communist message to the minority masses. The vast majority of party members and officials in the area were Han, from both inside and outside the province. Very few cadres were minority nationals, and those who were rarely emphasized their nationality affiliation. In August 1951, 219 minority cadres were sent to the Southern Minority Nationalities Institute for a one-year training course. In March 1952 the party established the Guangxi Nationalities Institute in Nanning and recruited the first class of 150 students" Kaup (2000). Page 84 [↩] [Cite]
Khan (2015). Page 31 [↩] [Cite]
For example: In February 1952 the PLA in Tibet started its first language class, to learn Tibetan. [↩]
Hansen (2004). Page 48 [↩] [Cite]
Weiner (2012). Page 181 [↩] [Cite]
Cheng (2019). Page 91 [↩] [Cite]
Cheng (2019). Page 102 [↩] [Cite]
Han (2011). Page 16. [Cite]
"The Agrarian Reform Law of The People's Republic of China, promulgated on June 30th 1950, specifically protects the rights of Muslims to mosque land, but also states that Ahungs (and other religious leaders) should be given land to work, unless they have other means of making a living . (38) Communist troops destined for Muslim areas were given specific instructions to respect mosques, refrain from eating pork, and to show respect to Muslim women . Special hospitals serving halal food were established in Peking and Tientsin. " Forbes (1976). Page 79 [↩] [Cite]
Lahtinen (2010). Page 71 [↩] [Cite]
Betz (2008). Page 27. [Cite]
Betz (2008) remarks: "...means by which the CCP was able to undermine minority autonomy was to organize the country’s administrative units in ways disadvantageous to minority groups. The purpose of this was to dilute Uyghur predominance within Xinjiang’s leadership by creating a system in which the Uyghurs had to compete directly with other minority groups for political office. As a result, despite being a local majority within Xinjiang, the Uyghurs came to possess a disproportionately low number of local offices, only 40 percent of a potential 80 percent of such offices in 1951.73 So while the Uyghurs accepted CCP rule because minority leaders could hold office within Xinjiang, the system that the Party created locked them in competition with other groups. This aided the CCP in its efforts to control Xinjiang by providing the appearance of autonomy, but simultaneously allowing the Party to remain dominant as minority groups struggled amongst themselves.74" Page 28. He continues "Again, in the same way that administrative units were designed in Xinjiang to dilute Uyghur influence and force Uyghur leaders to compete with Kazaks and Hui for office, so to was Zhuang power diluted in Guangxi as Zhuang leaders competed with Yi and Dai for local control." "In order to limit the ability of Tibetans to exercise autonomy within central Tibet, ..., the Party fostered competition among the political factions of the Dalai Lama’s government." Page 29 [↩]
Benson (1998). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]

Chapter 6 of Common Program