Staunton, December 20 – Aleksandr Lomanov, a Russian specialist on China, says that Beijing’s decision to put a member of the Han majority in charge of ethnic groups there does not presage the formation of a single Chinese nation but only the desire of the authorities to have “effective managers and not nominal figures from national minorities” doing so.
His comments, absolutely consistent with Kremlin views about installing ethnic Russians in places that had been reserved for non-Russians in the Russian Federation, put him and presumably Moscow as a whole at odds with the US that has recently criticized Beijing for its oppression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Vladimir Skosyryev of Nezavisimaya gazeta cites Lomanov’s observation in the course of a discussion of several recent changes in Chinese policy toward ethnic minorities, one that features displays of ethnic exoticism for foreign consumption with repressive measures against any manifestation of ethnic activism (ng.ru/world/2020-12-20/100_20122020_china.html).
The Hans, who form 92 percent of the population of China, are now assuming roles in non-Han institutions and areas that earlier they did not, the Moscow journalist says. And that is no small thing because the 55 recognized ethnic minorities in that country form more than 110 million people.
Since the 1950s, Beijing has had a State Committee on Nationality Affairs within its State Council and that body has been led by representatives of non-Han groups. Now, Han Chinese are assuming roles that the non-Han had, and some, like James Leibold, a China specialist at Melbourne’s LaTrobe University, see this as presaging a new crackdown.
It is even possible, he suggests, that the State Committee for nationalities will be disbanded or become even more of a rubber stamp institution than it has been, with the rise of Han cadres within it signaling to the non-Han that their days of even nominal autonomy are now over.
At the very least, Skosyrev suggests, Beijing is downgrading nationality policy out of the conviction that “success in rooting out poverty” will be itself address all human rights concerns, a view that many in the Russian government share but one that history shows is fundamentally mistaken.