Letter to Lian Yue: Talking About Ethnic Minorities in China

Xiamen-based blogger Lian Yue posted several letters sent to him by netizens, forming a series of inspiring discussions on Chinese ethnic (Two additional letters from this post have been translated and posted by Black and White Cat). Translated by CDT:

1. Letter from a Mongolian guy:

I am also a minority, Mongolian. But unlike people from Xinjiang and , the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region has been relatively calm. Inner Mongolia’s economy is relatively better, as it is said the GDP per capita here ranks 10th in the nation. On the edge of the road of any city, you can see Tibetans selling bones and straps, the Miao minority selling tea, and the Uighurs selling mutton string, but you can not see the Mongolians outside. I was told that to some extent this shows you the Mongolians have a pretty good life today, and do not need to endure a bitter life. I said, oh, that’s right. But I think to a greater extent, it reflects that Mongolian culture has been extremely marginalized and Mongolians are close to losing their identity. I’m very clear that there are inevitably Mongolians who work on the street. But they were not recognized, as their identity has been blurred.

The Mongolians around me in general feel very lost. They are in conflict with the Han Chinese sentiments, but get along very well with Han Chinese in daily life. But the feeling of being lost is strong there, I can sense that. I think I may be alarmist, but if there are days when the intensification of ethnic conflicts arise, the two sides will immediately turn on each other. It is just like World War II, when people were good neighbors the day before, but the next day they tormented you to death. In fact, those of us Mongolians who received higher education do not have such a narrow vision. The Mongolians I know generally think that nationality and state are very narrow things, and using geography or nationality to label a person is very funny. So we have always been opposed to being hostile to the Henanese or the Uygurs.

2. Letter from a Han Chinese girl (born in the late ’80s):

I slowly discovered that we all more or less have a deep-rooted concept that Uighurs are thieves, Tibetans are brutal, Shanghainese are shrewd calculators, Hunanese are hot tempered, Northeasterners love fighting, northern Jiangsuers are very country, and so on …. .. Before getting to know the people we already divided them by this or that kind of identity, just like a master buying slaves according to the condition of their teeth, which was just as brutally insulting. The more people you know, the more you find the crowd maintains this general view, not just toward Tibetans, the Uighurs, and Shanghainese. So many people have their own set of colored standards, such a strong habit of identity grows in the deep bone marrow of the entire nation. It is like blood running everywhere in a continuous cycle.

Today it’s the Tibetans, tomorrow it may be the Henanese who are thrown to the waves. People hurt each other and mutually judge each other. Thus, violence appears sooner or later, and it is far from over.

This time the Chinese Government’s approach has been very passive. It has been marginalized by the international media. If it is counted as a public relations crisis, the Chinese Government has failed, or, like its ethnic policy in Tibet, this effort is invalid.