Unrest Shines Light on Chinese Ethnic Fractures

'Monolithic myth' fades after riots
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 13, 2009 8:48 AM CDT
Uighur boy walks with a women at Uighur sector in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, Monday, July 13, 2009. More roads reopened and shops unlocked their doors in Urumqi on Monday, but sporadic...   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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(Newser) – The government clings to the notion of a “harmonious” country, but China is home to 56 “official” ethnic groups and many unofficial divisions—which are widening as some push for “increased cultural nationalism and resistance to Beijing central control,” writes Dru Gladney in the Wall Street Journal. Counter to the “myth of a monolithic China,” some 9% of the population, or 104 million Chinese, are official minorities, and the Han majority has its own “fault lines.”

The Han speak eight “mutually unintelligible languages,” with their own cultural subdivisions. And many people are “coming out” as minorities. “One might even say it has become popular to be ‘ethnic’ in today’s China,” writes Gladney, thanks in part to affirmative action programs and interest in minority restaurants and art. Meanwhile, ethnic unrest could be fueled by regional economic imbalances. Last year saw 100,000 “mass incidents” of civil unrest, the government says.