Out of many, one
Editorial  ·  2024-06-24  ·   Source: NO.26 JUNE 27, 2024

Fifty-six ethnicities, one nation. This phrase captures the diversity and unity of China, a multiethnic nation of 1.4 billion people. Besides the Han, who make up some 91 percent of the population, 55 other ethnic groups, collectively known as ethnic minorities, call the country home.

Their population ranges from 19.6 million for the Zhuang, the largest, to 3,544 for the Tatar, the smallest, according to the 2020 national census. Most Zhuang people live in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, whereas the Tatar inhabit the north of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The ethnic groups were identified based on field research after the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Their ancestors have coexisted on this land since antiquity. When the Qin Dynasty unified the country for the first time in 221 B.C., it brought today's Guangxi and Yunnan Province, where there are relatively large ethnic minority populations, under its jurisdiction. 

In the long course of history, there were times when different ethnic groups interacted in peace and times when they fought for dominance. Several ethnic minority groups succeeded in seizing the throne to found dynasties, such as the Yuan (1279-1368) led by Mongolians and the Qing (1644-1911) led by Manchu people.

All this is evidence that all ethnic groups are builders of the Chinese territory, writers of the Chinese history and creators of the Chinese culture. There is no reason whatsoever to equate the Chinese nation solely with the Han people and the Chinese culture solely with the Han culture. Despite varying in customs, the 56 ethnic groups identify themselves as part of the Chinese nation, making China a community based on shared culture and civilization rather than on race.

President Xi Jinping has reiterated the importance of creating a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation. He has called for more exchanges and interactions among different ethnic groups to help them remain closely united and work jointly for common prosperity and development. During China's campaign to eliminate absolute poverty, which concluded in late 2020, the government saw to it that no ethnic group was left behind.

It is important to study China's ethnic groups in the broader context of the Chinese culture. Understanding the Chinese civilization requires taking into account all of these groups. Diversity and unity are two sides of the same coin.

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