The PLA recruited some soldiers with a minority background during the Long March and the war against Japan. The Japanese occupiers did have some early successes at winning allies among the Manchus and Mongols with the advocacy of anti-Han programs. During the Civil War, the CCP intensified recruitment, especially Hui and Mongol cavalry played a significant role during some military campaigns. Li and Miao were operational on Hainan island. By 1949, the East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang had an armed force of more than 14,000 soldiers, but this army was peacefully integrated into the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in December 1949. "Between 1950 and 1955, troops in the predominantly Uyghur and Qazaq Ili National Army (INA), formerly the military arm of the Eastern Turkistan Republic, were folded into the PLA or demobilized and settled on paramilitary farms. In both cases, these troops fell under direct CCP control " The CCP support for self-determination prior to 1949 has been strategically and tactically an advantage which the GMD government lacked. See
, a Muslim general, defects with his army to the PLA. He becomes the vice chairman of the province Gansu.
Ma Hongbin (1884-1960) Hui warlord, later vice chairman of province Gansu
, Hui nationality, was born in Xianxian County, Hebei Province in 1901. He joined the CCP in October 1938. In October 1937, he organized a Hui Nationality Anti-Japanese Army of Volunteers made up of 60 people. In 1944, he died and Mao Zedong wrote an elegy in memory of him: "Comrade Ma Benzhai is immortal!" The minorities supported the PLA in donations, for example: "...,the “Hui Culture Promotion Association” persuaded the Muslim Chinese to donate a military airplane to support the resistance. From 1938 to 1939, over 50,000 fur coats, a large amount of medicine and 10 tons of white board paper were sent by HCPA to Yanan to support the Eighth Route Army."
Ma Benzhai (1901-1944)
Lack of trust remains in the Han dominated PLA. Less scruples exist against highly Sinicized ethnic groups like the Zhuang and Manchus, but more objections are raised against the less Sinicized minorities of the west. In these regions (Tibet and Xinjiang), separatist ideas flourish. There are no data for the amount of soldiers with a minority background in the 1950s. The data of 1990 suggest that the percentage lies around 1 per cent.
In Tibet, security agents investigate Tibetan elite and religious leaders. Members of the minority elite who have fled to Taiwan or Hong Kong are also closely under surveillance.
, stipulates: "...with respect to the development of agent work, in accordance with our needs in the struggle against the enemy, the emphasis for now is on cultivating and recruiting secret investigation agents.57." A severe shortage of officers from other than Han Chinese background is a big obstacle for security work on the ground in these regions. "Beginning in 1954, the Central People’s Public Security Academy organized special classes for officers from some of China’s larger ethnic minority groups. Some sixty junior public security officers from Xinjiang – members of thirteen different nationalities including Uighurs and Kazakhs –made up the special Nationalities Class I, members of which attended the academy for twelve months in 1954–55.27 "
Luo Ruiqing (1906-1978) Minister of Public Security (1949-1959)
From 1951 to 1956, the traditional Tibetan administration governs a part of Tibet, but is supervised by Han PLA officers and cadres.
, founder of the Tibetan Communist Party, is appointed to the Southwest Military administration and named as a deputy director of the United Front in Central Tibet. His appointments can be “…regarded as having held these positions not as a figurehead but, at least in popular perception, as an actual or as a potential power-holder.” Barnett (1999) writes about the tensions between rival regional elites "In the 1950s this kind of counterposing of regional groupings within the élite was arranged quite openly by the incoming Chinese administration, which created after 1951 a hybrid system of government called the "co-existence of the three leading bodies", one representing the kashag of the Dalai Lama, one representing the nangma gang or inner office of the Panchen Lama, and a third representing the traditional rulers of those areas of Kham west of the Drichu (identified by the Chinese with the person of Chamdo Phagpalha Gelek Namgyal). This novel arrangement brought the tensions between Lhasa and Shigatse into the government structure; such power-balancing concerns have clearly played a prominent part in Chinese institution-building in Tibet.48"
Phuntsog Wangyal (1922 -2014) founder of the Tibetan Communist Party
Further on Schoenhals quotes instructions saying: We should primarily recruit politically reliable patriotic elements to work for us, but also to the extent that it is possible seek to utilize the elements from the middle and upper strata who have drawn closer to us. Page 67
"In 1950, ten Tibetan local leaders from Amdo and Kham in eastern Tibetan areas requested the PRC to establish an Eastern Tibetan Autonomous Region formed from the Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces, and were imprisoned" Jia (2009). Page 51