Ethnic unity key to continued progress

Source: Global Times [08:13 September 09 2009]

Foreigners in China will be impressed if they attend the latest photo exhibition featuring the hard-earned achievements made in China's five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang Uygur, Ningxia Hui and Guangxi Zhuang) in the past 60 years.

They will be more impressed if they see many young people of different ethnic backgrounds in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region scheduling their wedding ceremonies to fall during the upcoming 60th anniversary of New China.

But the foreigners will be skeptical, too. In the Internet age, negative information prevails, and people tend to be doubtful about bright stories.

Needless to say, with the March 14 riots in Tibet last year and the recent July 5 riots in Xinjiang, and the syringe attacks last week as well, the ethnic tensions in China have been exaggerated by some Western media outlets. The photos and weddings showcasing ethnic unity would likely be considered government-staged performances.

But the overall picture must be kept in mind: China has made steady progress in ethnic unity, particularly since the start of reform and opening-up in 1978.

Any frictions, including the riots, are merely single episodes in the context of a much bigger picture.

China does face a tough challenge to maintain ethnic harmony, but so do many governments.

Take the US as an example: It has seen the Civil Rights Movement between 1955 and 1968, the Los Angeles riots of 1992, and the rise of affirmative action programs. The US has gone a long way toward realizing ethnic equality and unity. But even now when Americans take pride in their "melting pot," not everyone is satisfied with the ethnic policy of their nation. Racially-motivated hate crimes frequently take place.

It is the same case with China. Numerous examples can be easily given to illustrate how economic and social development has helped improve the quality of life among all ethnic minorities in the past 60 years. With enormous resources invested by the government, substantial progress has been made.

But at the same time, in the new era of globalization and China's reform, rapid and complicated social changes are taking place, with disparities unavoidable.

The problems facing minorities are the common problems facing the whole Chinese nation, and they should not become the excuses by some for separatism.

A recent survey conducted by Professor Herbert Yee from Hong Kong Baptist University indicates that 87.1 percent of the Uygurs and 85 percent of the Han people in Xinjiang are proud of being Chinese, while 91.3 percent of the Uygurs and 70.2 percent of Han people are proud of their regional identity.

Ethnic amalgamation and unity are irresistible trends. With the National Day approaching, we call for all of China's ethnic groups to take pride in our nation.

Our past experience has served as an excellent example of how crucial ethnic unity is to the prosperity and development of the nation.

To achieve ethnic unity is a long journey. China is no exception. We are proud of the progress made, and anticipate further progress.