China's ethnic dilemma: Ethnic minority education

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China adopted the concept of nationality in the late nineteenth century. Since then, China has experienced two ethnic categorizations that served different projects of nation-state building. The ethnic landscape shifted from an obscure classification of five peoples (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan, and Muslim) in the Republican era to a politically legitimized recognition of fifty-six nationalities after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949. Two “facts” have remained unchanged during the process: (1) the Han constitute the majority; and (2) a complete picture is framed by “the Chinese nationality” (Zhonghua minzu), a term coined by Liang Qichao in 1903. Formation of the Chinese nationality was the result of a process interpreted by Fei Xiaotong as “ethnic pluralism within the organic configuration of the Chinese nation” (duoyuan yiti geju)1 in the 1980s (Postiglione 2009b). Did the CCP effectively resolve the issue of cultural diversity and national unification? The question makes better sense if posed from another perspective: How do ethnic groups move between cultural autonomy and cultural assimilation? This is the focus of this issue of Chinese Education and Society. Our focus is education, because schooling has been an essential means of transmitting, through history, the self-asserted cultural superiority of the Han. Copyright © 2010 M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-11
JournalChinese Education and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


Zhao, Z. (2010). China's ethnic dilemma: Ethnic minority education. Chinese Education and Society, 43(1), 3-11.


  • Education, Higher
  • Minorities -- Education (Higher)
  • China


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