By Bolor Lkhaajav (Analyst, Institute for Geopolitical Studies of Mongolia)
June 24, 2018
People’s Republic of China (PRC) is home to 1.4 billion people with rich history and diverse ethnic backgrounds that do not belong to the Chinese definition of Han Chinese. Despite China’s economic growth and its expansionist ambition both in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere, identity crisis remains as one of the leading threat to domestic instability. According to the CIA, in 2010, the Central government officially recognized 56 ethnic groups with multicultural, multilingual, and multi-religious backgrounds. Among them are Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Fuzhou, Taiwanese, Zhuang, Mongolian, Uyghur, Xizang, Hui, and other not well-known ethnic minority. While diversity seems common in our globalized, constantly modernizing world, it is an issue if the state labels them as something that they are not. In this case, Chinese. Consequently, identity crisis has become a growing issue for Beijing’s policymakers— either continue its iron fist policy or implement policies that are more inclusive. This piece of analysis scrutinizes the necessity of addressing the existing identity crisis in China and further questions, what is to be Chinese? If there are no clear definition, then, should the minorities have the right to be called what they are versus forced to be called what they are not?