The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 50 of the Common Program

Article 50 is a further elaboration of Article 2 of the Common Program, which states “…to liberate all the territory of China, and to achieve the unification of China.” and of Article 9 , which points out “ All nationalities in the People's Republic of China shall have equal rights and duties.” Articles 50, 51, 52, and 53 of the Common Program define this policy. The CCP embraced a pluralistic notion of the Chinese populace, categorizing the Han Chinese as the predominant nationality—a designation formed in the twentieth century—and labeling all other ethnic groups as "minority nationalities." Mao's vision of the new democratic revolution aimed to encompass these minority nationalities within the revolutionary populace of China. Mao defined "national" as opposing imperialism, and "democratic" as both anti-feudal and serving the interests of the broader masses of the population. The economic development of the minority Regions will be described in the various articles of Chapter 4 of the Common Program.
In order to achieve the goals of the Common Program, the CCP employs various mechanisms. Initially, it appoints ethnic cadres to positions within the central government. These individuals act as exemplars for their fellow citizens in their native regions, fostering the belief that ethnic background will not impede political engagement. Additionally, protective policies are implemented to ensure both privileges and esteemed governmental roles for individuals from minority ethnicities, illustrating that belonging to such a group can be advantageous.
A second method is to grant the establishment of autonomous districts and Regions. (see Article 51 ) The third instrument is the use of the media to promote the "Han" way of living, in other words to bring "civilization" to the minorities.On the other hand, the media are used to uphold the culture of the ethnic groups (Article 53 )
Starting in July and August 1950, the CCP organizes four groups of representatives to visit minority areas in the border Regions throughout the country: southwest, northwest, northeast, and Mongolia. These representatives offer food and money, provide medicine and necessities, and propagandize the Party’s nationality policies. On July 2, 1950, a goodwill mission traveled to Yunnan under the direction of ethnologist Xia Kangnong
Goodwill missions
The ultimate mechanism involves social policies, particularly those targeting demographics and economic factors. The government extends support to ethnic communities by offering privileges such as sponsoring ethnic schools and providing exemptions from investment restrictions or tax obligations. On the economic front, businesses are encouraged to pursue opportunities and utilize natural resources like forests, mines, and water reserves. A significant portion of the Chinese bureaucratic system strongly advocated for China to become a homogenous state closely associated with the Han ethnicity. This mindset persisted even after 1949. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai couldn't oversee every matter personally. Following the decision to annex Tibet, Mao's endeavors, although well-intentioned, often faltered due to the racial prejudices within the Chinese bureaucracy.

December 24, 1952, Zhou Enlai announced that according to articles 12, 13, and 14 of the Common Program, elections will be held for the People’s Congresses. He declares “…during the early period after the establishment of the government—considering that the people's liberation war had not been concluded, that basic political and social reforms had not been carried out on a national scale, and that the economy still required a period of rehabilitation-- conditions were not favorable for instituting at once the people's congress system.... This transitional period is now over, and our country is entering upon a new period of large-scale planned economic construction. In order to meet the tasks of this new period, it is necessary to convene the All China People’s Congress and local people's congresses…”
2 months later, the election law is promulgated. The elections shall be carried out at the county, provincial, and national levels. Article 24 of this election law states: “In allocating the number of seats for the 150 delegates to be elected to the ACPC by minority nationalities throughout the country, the CPG shall make provisions with due regard to the population of each minority group, its distribution and other such factors.
To meet this promise, the government has to identify the minorities and has to know how many minority groups there are in China. In April 1953, the government issues a directive " convene in 1953 the various grades of xiang, xian, and provincial (or municipal) people's congresses elected through universal suffrage, and then to convene, on this basis, the NPC. In order to ensure that all citizens of China who reach the age of 18 shall take part in the election according to law, it is necessary to make a good job of registration of the electors, while the registration of electors will have to be based on registration of the population. Therefore, simultaneously with the election work a national census and registration of population should be carried out in order to facilitate the election work and to furnish accurate figures of population for the economic and cultural construction of the State."

In theory, all people living on Chinese soil are members of the Chinese people (renmin), it does not matter which ethnicity one belongs but rather to what class. As seen in Article 1, those who belong to the right class belong to the nation, the people, and all others not. “In other words, class was actually made the most powerful unifying force that was supposed to help overcome China’s ethnic (and Regional) diversity.”
In anticipation of the 1954 elections for the NPC, an identification process is started in 1953. In the new election law of 1953, each minority group is granted at least one representative seat in the NPC. The identification of minorities is based on the theory of Stalin. In his work “Marxism and the National Question” (1913) he concludes: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” However, none of the aforementioned components in Ethnic Identification would be conclusive on their own. It is the amalgamation of these elements along with a thorough examination of pertinent information that proves indispensable. The criteria were adeptly employed to satisfy nearly all demands, which is a positive aspect. Conversely, the ambiguous utilization of the criteria leads to dependence on subjective judgment and artificial intervention. The inclusion of ethnic willingness and feedback from various social strata further exacerbates this subjective approach to Ethnic Identification. It is argued that Ethnic Identification successfully blends objective criteria with the willingness of relevant ethnic groups and the perspectives of higher minority echelons. The method of identification employed by the SU differs from that of the PRC. Unlike the Soviet census, upon which the initial registration campaign of the PRC was loosely modeled, where respondents were presented with a predetermined set of nationality categories to choose from, the Chinese census conducted during 1953-54 posed the minzu question as an open-ended, fill-in-the-blank query. Registrants were given the opportunity to provide their minzu name to the census taker, who would then transcribe it into Chinese characters. The underlying principle of this approach was a commitment to self-categorization, a political ideal that granted citizens the unrestricted right to determine their own minzu designations. Specifically, individuals over the age of eighteen were free to select their minzu status, which would then be officially recognized by the state. Whatever individuals chose to call themselves, the government would acknowledge accordingly.
Nevertheless, the impact of Soviet expertise remains significant. Throughout the process of identification and categorization, Soviet support persists, encompassing both theoretical and practical assistance. The Chinese government conducts surveys on non-Han language under the guidance of Soviet specialist advisers. Linguistic endeavors are segmented into three categories: the development and establishment of scripts, exploration of spoken languages, and the training of linguistic personnel.
This way of categorizing resulted in over 400 minorities who had applied for minority status. In practice, this would result in an overrepresentation of minorities in the People’s Congress. More than half of these applications came from Yunnan province. According to the census outcomes, roughly one-third of the province (32.6 percent) self-identified as non-Han. Calculations reveal that at least 190 delegates from Yunnan alone shall come to the NPC and nationwide at least 400. This meant a disproportionate representation of the minorities in a NPC with only twelve hundred seats. Eventually only 19 of these claims in Yunnan are recognized by the government.

In the middle of April 1954, the Ethnic Identification teams are formed to solve this problem “Hundreds of ethnologists, linguists, historians, sociologists, and archaeologists were divided into teams to investigate the claims of self-reported groups. It has been suggested that a group of Soviet linguists were also involved in the process.20 Lin  Yaohua, a member of an Ethnic Identification team states: "Don’t forget that academic research is to serve political practice.The work of minority research before us is certainly not purely for the sake of  academic research. It must unite with politics, particularly with the problem of national security."
They have less than 6 months to investigate because the National People’s Congress shall convene in September 1954. In practice, sizeable groups, whether in terms of geographic distribution or population, were frequently designated as minorities, whereas smaller groups often faced exclusion or were assimilated into other minority categories. This selective application of criteria provided ample room for the Communists to manipulate the identification process, influenced by political and/or economic motives. In 1954, the Ethnic Identification teams have characterized 38 minority groups.
The national census of 1953 reveals the number of minorities in China. There are 34 million people classified as minority, this is about 6% of the total population. See Table.
Three Regions with a majority of nationalities are easily identified; Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang. Other minority ethnic groups are scattered in the northeastern, northwestern, and southwestern parts. 62 percent of China’s territory is populated by non-Han-Chinese people. The Han majority occupies mainly plains, arable land, towns, and cities, while some four-fifths of the country’s minorities take refuge in more mountainous (and less suitable for agriculture) land including 90% of the country's border Regions.
A combination of political, strategic, and pragmatic concerns are the main reasons for the early recognition of these minorities groups. July 21, 1950 Deng Xiaoping states: "The southwestern boundary line is several thousand kilometres long, extending from Tibet to Yunnan and Guangxi, along which the overwhelming majority of inhabitants are minority nationalities. So, if the issue of minority nationalities is not handled well, the matter of national defence cannot be handled well. Therefore, in view of the importance of the southwest to national defence alone, we should give high priority to our work among the minority nationalities." The ethnic policy primarily emphasizes the involvement of minority groups in the construction of a new China. Despite ample evidence indicating that at least during the 1950s, the Communist regime enthusiastically embraced the concept of China as a multi-ethnic nation, high school history textbooks from that era and throughout the Maoist period remained predominantly focused on Han perspectives, portraying non-Han peoples as distinct from the Chinese identity.

The identification results show some remarkable outcomes. The Chinese Muslims who are termed Hui are united by religion, they are divided by race and culture. In the case of the Manchus hardly any Manchus still speak Manchu. Yet both groups are qualified as a minority group. The Hakkas constitute the most significant group that, despite meeting the criteria, isn't officially recognized as a 'nationality'. Originating from southern China, the Hakkas, although culturally, linguistically, and socially distinct during the late imperial period of Chinese history, played a crucial role in twentieth-century Chinese nationalism, particularly during the early stages. Quite the opposite occurred in Guangxi were millions of Guangxi residents were to be convinced by the government that they were members of the larger minority designated “Zhuang. ” Most of the Guangxi population were claiming instead to be Han. "...the Uyghurs, Kazaks and Hui (Dungan) all have kin relations with Central Asian states, in particular the former two. Mongolia is a kin state for the Mongols, as are both North and South Koreas for the Koreans. Minorities that are located in the Southwestern border areas – such as the Miao, Yao, Hani, and Dai – all have external kin in mainland Southeast Asia. Finally, the Tibetans have extensive relations with groups in Bhutan, Nepal, and India."
Being recognized as a minority group offers several benefits. Firstly, it entails additional subsidies or assistance, and secondly, it provides a certain level of autonomy. It is not uncommon for individuals who were originally of Han Chinese descent to attempt to convert and re-register themselves as belonging to minority ethnic groups in order to access preferential treatment in areas such as education and employment. All Chinese citizens are to be registered by ‘nationality status’ in household registration and personal identification. See Article 5.

On March 16, 1953, Mao Zedong addressed the problem of Han Chauvinism: “In some places the relations between nationalities are far from normal. For Communists this is an intolerable situation. We must go to the root and criticize the Han chauvinist ideas which exist to a serious degree among many Party members and cadres… Delegations led by comrades who are familiar with our nationality policy and full of sympathy for our minority nationality compatriots still suffering from discrimination should be sent to visit the areas where there are minority nationalities, make a serious effort at investigation and study and help Party and government organizations in the localities discover and solve problems. The visits should not be those of "looking at flowers on horseback". He concluded “Moreover, the newspapers should publish more articles based on specific facts to criticize Han chauvinism openly and educate the Party members and the people.” He is not the only CCP leader who warns against Han Chauvinism. On July 21, 1950, Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “With our past work plus our current work we are quite capable of solving the several-thousand-year-old problem of estrangement from the minority nationalities and uniting all our nationalities. … So long as we truly act in accordance with the Common Programme and so long as we sincerely assist the minority nationalities in political, economic and cultural fields, we can solve the problem satisfactorily. If we throw off Han chauvinism, the minority nationalities will forsake their narrow nationalism in return. We should not ask the minority nationalities to abolish their nationalism before we honestly abolish Han chauvinism. Once these two isms are abolished, unity will result.” The fight against Han Chauvinism started in 1926 at the first Hunan Peasant Representatives Conference when the CCP accepted a resolution in which the CCP pledged to "liberate the Miao and Yao," declaring that "the Han nationality must not deliberately slander the Miao, and Yao in insulting words."
In August 1952, Wang Zhen, the party secretary of Xinjiang, faces accusations of Han Chauvinism due to his implementation of radical redistribution of pastoral areas. He is criticized for failing to consider the current stage of political, economic, and cultural development among the various nationalities. Instead, he blindly adopts strategies from Han agricultural and military areas without regard for the specific historical, cultural, and traditional nuances of the different ethnic groups. Additionally, he disproportionately focuses on their perceived backwardness and addresses issues in a rigid manner, disregarding the complexities and nuances of local non-Han cadres and their potential opposition to narrow nationalism. His successor Wang Enmao emphasizes the need to struggle against Han Chauvinism.
Despite all good intentions, the CCP cadres dealing with minority peoples still are guilty of Han Chauvinism. Wang Feng, in accordance with Mao Zedong, states: "Speaking in nation-wide terms, 'Great-Hanism' is the principal current danger in the ethnic relationship. It is essential to suppress 'Great-Hanism' because this is the only way whereby narrow nationalisms among the minorities can be eradicated ... Certain of the Han Chinese cadres have even gone so far as to insist that the minority peoples speak Han-Chinese and wear Han Chinese clothes, and have wanted to substitute Han-Chinese songs and dances for the tribal songs and dances. This is extremely erroneous."

In Mao’s eyes, although the civilization of the Han nationality most defined the civilization of the Chinese nation, all of China’s nationalities were united as collective victims of imperialism and equal in their striving to shake off foreign oppression. They were united as revolutionary classes of the Chinese peoples (Mao, 1939) Schram (2005). Pages 280-281. [↩] [Cite]
Howland (2011). Page 177 [↩] [Cite]
Shih (2002). Page 9.[Cite]
Yang (2009) remarks: "In the native chieftain system, native chieftains enjoyed much autonomy, since the central state rarely intervened in internal affairs. Moreover, the power and authority of some local chieftains in Yunnan had lasted at least until the early period of P. R. China. In the early 1950s, many native chieftains were incorporated into local Communist governments. Without the corporation of the local elites, the CCP would have faced much more trouble in frontier areas." Yang (2009). Page 773. [Cite] The number of minority ethnic cadres increases: 1949 10,000 1954 140,00049 "For example, the IMAR, the first autonomous area in China, takes the lead of ethnic minorities works. Yunnan Province had only 7400 minority ethnic cadres in 1952 Minority cadres in Yunnan accounted for 8.9 percent of all cadres in 1952."
Xia (2008). Pages 158-159. [Cite]
Benson (1998) remarks "At the highest government levels, however, there was no proportionate national minority representation, leaving the promises of the Common Program unfulfilled." Benson (1998). Page 99.[Cite]
Hao (2010) states "The low number of minority cadres in decision-making positions indicates some larger problems in the relationship between the Han and minorities, and it is indicative of the problematic role the Party plays at various levels of government. For example, Tibet used to be governed autonomously by Buddhist monks, and the Chinese central government would only maintain nominal control of the Region. But the CCP government was following a different theory. …, the concept of class played a central role in the CCP ideology, and class identity would transcend ethnic differences when defining citizenship." Hao (2010). Page 99 [Cite] [↩]
Shih (2002). Page 9. [Cite]
See also Netting (1997). Page 6 [Cite] “After 1949 the People's Republic of China articulated a minority policy with two potentially incompatible goals: cultural pluralism and economic development. On the one hand, the PRC was to be a multinational state, respecting and preserving languages, religions, and other minority traditions. At the same time, minority living standards were to-be raised to the level of the Han through educational expansion, economic growth, and preferential appointments. 20 Cultural pluralism was a twentieth century ideal, but economic development was essentially a modern form of the earlier civilizing project.” [↩]
Feigon (2011). Page 93. [↩] [Cite]
Baranovitch (2010). Page 110 [↩] [Cite]
May 1913 Stalin "Marxism and the National Question” [↩]
Xia (2008). Pages 58-59. [Cite]
Gladney (2004) notices: "In both the Soviet and Chinese discourses, all of these criteria together were needed to constitute a nationality. That the Han did not meet many of these criteria, most clearly the criteria of language, was intentionally overlooked by the Investigations." Gladney (2004). Page 118 [↩] [Cite]
Mullaney (2010). Page 32 [Cite]
"After debating which questions should be posed to their nearly six hundred million respondents, officials ultimately decided upon only five. The first four of these involved the most basic of demographic information, including name, age, gender, and relationship to the head of one's household. The selection of a fifth question was a more complicated issue, however. Certain dimensions of identity, such as occupation, literacy, and place of work were considered but dismissed, deemed impertinent to the forthcoming NPC. Interestingly, one of the possibilities that was ultimately excluded was that of economic class, an axis of identity that seemingly would have been preserved, given the party's revolutionary ethos and the land reform process. Instead of class, occupation, literacy, or place of work, authorities ultimately settled upon a question that no modern Chinese census had ever posed before: that of nationality or minzu.9" Mullaney (2010). Page 20 [↩]
Cointet (2008). Page 114
Original text: "Dans le processus d’identification et de classification, l’aide soviétique est encore présente, une aide non seulement théorique mais aussi pratique: le gouvernement chinois lance des enquêtes sur les langues des groupes non han sous la direction de conseillers–spécialistes soviétiques.243" [↩] [Cite]
“In Yunnan, for example, 14 groups appeared in the registers with populations in excess of 100,000 people: the Bai, Benren, Dai, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Kawa, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Naxi, Pula, Yi and Zhuang…. 13 medium-sized groups with populations of between 10,000 and 100,000: the Achang, Azhe, Bulang, Huayao, Kucong, Muji, Nu, Tu, Xiangtang, Xie, Xifan, Yao and Zang…. Beyond these 27 groups, however, the ethnographic picture started to get very hazy. 38 registrants appeared in the census with populations of between 100 and 000 people, and another 92 with populations of less than 100.” Mullaney (2010). Pages 328-329 [↩] [Cite]
"..nationalities hailing from just Yunnan would have accounted for over one-sixth of the entire parliament-a staggering number when one considers that they constituted less than 1 percent of the population of the country.90 In addition to these mandated seats, as we saw, the 1953 Law made additional provisions based on proportionality, designed to insure that larger minorities would receive a level of representation reflective oftheir size. If we make a conservative estimate regarding the number of additional minority representatives, hypothesizing somewhere between fifty and one hundred supplemental delegates countrywide, we are left with a National People's Congress in which 40 percent of the legislative body would hail from a non-Han minority nationality-an overwhelmingly large percentage when we consider that the combined population of these minority nationalities constituted only 6 percent of the total population of China circa 1953.91" Ma (2007). Page 38. [Cite]
Wang (2015) "It has been pointed out that 178 minority representatives, from thirty different minority groups, attended the First National People’s Congress in September 1954. The representation ratio reached 14.52 percent" Wang (2015). Page 6 [↩] [Cite]
According to this new demographic model, then, Yunnan Province was home to only 19 minzu: the Achang, Bulang, Dai, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Kawa (later renamed Wa), Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Minjia (later renamed Bai), Menggu, Naxi, Nu, Xifan (later renamed Pumi), Yao, Yi, Zang and Zhuang. Mullaney (2010). Page 340 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2015). Page 6.[Cite]
See also Heberer (1989). Page 31-35 shows the problems of classification [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Mullaney (2010). Page 84 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2015). Page 8 [↩] [Cite]
Eleven of these groups, the Mongol, Hui, Tibetan, Uyghur, Miao, Yao, Yi, Korean, Manchu, Li, and Gaoshan (in Taiwan), were the so-called “generally accepted minorities” and thus had no need to be assessed in the Ethnic Identification Project. Wang (2015) Page 9 [↩] [Cite]
21-07-1950 Deng Xiaoping The question of minority nationalities in the southwest. These are areas of strategic and military importance, such as the frontiers of Korea, Mongolia, the Soviet Union, India, Laos and Vietnam — all boundaries over which China has had diplomatic and/or military skirmishes [↩]
Baranovitch (2010). Page 87 [↩] [Cite]
"Unlike many of the other minority nationalities of China, however, the Hui are distinguished negatively: apart from lacking their own language, they generally do not have the peculiar dress, literature, music, or the other cultural inventories by which more ‘colorful’ minorities are portrayed. Gladney (2004). Page 152.[Cite]
See also Lindbeck (1950). Pages 473-488, and also article 53." [↩] [Cite]
Mackerras (2003). Pages 2-3.[Cite]
Jankowiak (2008) describes a similar situation "For example, prior to 1949, most Bai, a minority group in Yunnan (southwest China), saw no difference between themselves and the local Han population. They spoke a Tibetan–Burman language that had taken more than 60 per cent of its vocabulary from Mandarin Chinese and, significantly, most Bai considered themselves to be Han. All this changed when the Bai were officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group. Today, the majority of Bai perceive themselves as a viable minority with a history distinct from the people they once thought they were – the Han Chinese" Jankowiak (2008). Pages 98-99. [↩] [Cite]
See Kaup (2000). Pages 55-56.[Cite] She remarks "The situation in the northwest differed radically from that in the southwest in at least five politically significant aspects".
People who  refused to  be classified as “Zhuang” traced their family genealogy and insisted that their ancestors were a part of Han military settlements. Some groups get different names only because of the provincial division. "The classification hence took place in strict accordance with provincial jurisdictions, and was inseparably connected to political issues in that province." Chaisingkananont (no date). Page 36 [↩] [Cite]
Han (2011). Page 12[Cite]
The different ethnic groups have had different relations with these two competing forces. Especially during the CCP’s forced Long March, it is alleged that the CCP managed to build alliances with many minority groups along the way. However, some ethnic groups were considered as particularly anti-CCP, such as the Tibetans, Yi, and Hui. Perhaps these past relations explain the variation in state policies. Page 13 [↩]
Xia (2008). Page 60.[Cite]
Xia remarks "In China’s case, the Ethnic Identification was also an interactive bargaining process in which the Central Government, local governments, the scholars as well as the minority ethnic people themselves participated. Minority ethnic groups actually played a relatively weaker role. Page 62 [↩]
Bulag (2012). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]
Wu (2015). Page 308 [↩] [Cite]
Wang Feng talking at 3rd NAC meeting June 1953. Cited in Wiens (1954). Page 260 [↩] [Cite]

Experimental plan for fostering minority nationalities cadres. November 24, 1950.
Experimental plan for the establishment of the Central Nationalities Academy. November 24, 1950.
General decree of the GAC exempting people of the Islamic faith from paying the slaughter tax when their cattle and sheep are slaughtered for home consumption, and also relaxing the inspection standard. December 2, 1950.
Several decisions of the GAC regarding nationality affairs. February 5,1951.
Directive of the GAC regarding the handling of problems arising from racial and geographical names,monument and stone inscriptions, and sign boards and couplet signs carrying connotations which are discriminatory or derogatory to minority nationalities. May 16, 1951.
Decision of the GAC on the reports submitted by the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Public Health of the Central People’s Government concerning the national conferences on trade, education, and public health pertaining to minority nationalities. November 23, 1951.
Report of the Ministry of Trade regarding the National Trade Conference for Nationalities. November 23, 1951.
Report of the Ministry of Education regarding the First Na¬tional Education Conference for Nationalities. November 23, 1951.
Report of the Ministry of Public Health regarding the National Public Health Conference for Nationalities. November 23,1951.
Outlines for instituting autonomy in the nationality Regions of the PRC. August 8, 1952.
Experimental general rules governing the organization of nationality affairs committees of the people’s governments at various levels. February 22, 1952.
Decision of the GAC on the measures for the institution of local democratic united governments for nationalities. February 22, 1952.
Decision of the GAC on the protection of the right of scattered minority nationality elements to enjoy na-tionality equality. February 22, 1952.
Basic summarization of the Third Conference (expanded) of the Nationalities Affairs Commission regarding promotion of the experience gained from autonomy in nationality areas. Passed September 3, 1953.
Basic summarization of the Third Conference (expanded) of the Nationalities Affairs Commission regarding cattle production in certain stock-raising areas in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region and in Suiyuan, Tsinghai, Sinkiang, etc. September 3, 1953.
Chapter 6 of Common Program