“Rising tensions and Resistance to Beijing’s Control Challenge China’s ‘Harmonious’ Society” Dru C. Gladney is President of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, a research foundation widely recognized for its work enhancing understanding among the nations of the Pacific Rim. Gladney’s most recent is Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities, and Other Subaltern Subjects (University of Chicago Press, 2004). He is also the author of: Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People’s Republic (2nd edition 1996) and Ethnic Identity in China: The Making of a Muslim Minority Nationality (1998); and the editor of Making Majorities: Constituting the Nation in Japan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the U.S. (1998). He writes on the Wall Street Journal:
The myth of a monolithic China was shattered this past week. Running barely beneath the surface of what the government has sought to portray as a “harmonious” society, the fracture created by the Urumqi and Lhasa riots threatens to shake the country.
Foreigners and the Chinese themselves typically picture China’s population as a vast Han majority with a sprinkling of exotic minorities living along the country’s borders. This understates China’s tremendous cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity—in particular the important cultural differences within the Han population. Across the country, China is experiencing a resurgence of local ethnicity and culture, most notably among southerners such as the Cantonese and Hakka, who are now classified as Han.
Cultural and linguistic cleavages could worsen in a China weakened by internal strife, an economic downturn, uneven growth, or a struggle over future political succession. The initial brawl between workers in a Guangdong toy factory, which left at least two Uighur dead on June 25, prompted the mass unrest in Xinjiang on July 5 that ended with 156 dead, thousands injured and 1,500 arrested, with ongoing violence spreading throughout the region.