ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Debate on China's Existing Nationalities Policy

Scholars have, in recent works, sought to "depoliticise" the ethnic nationalities question in China and to reorient it around cultural and civic arguments. This has not been received too well by critics, including those favouring the status quo in China, which still derives its understanding of the "ethnic question" from orthodox communist doctrines on the subject of nationalities.

Alot of deliberations on the theoretical issues related to depoliticisation of China’s existing ethnic policy and the need for a second generation ethnic policy have been going on for about a decade. The debate began with the publication of an article1 in 2004 by Ma Rong, a professor of sociology and social anthropology at the Beijing University. Scholars from different disciplines of social sciences in China felt the urge for revisiting various aspects of ethnic policies since the creation of several new states following the disintegration of multi-ethnic countries like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

The growing inter-ethnic tensions in Xinjiang and Tibet since early 1990s possibly infused an uninhibited academic quest for a new theoretical approach to the ethnic problem amongst a small section of scholars in China. Following the riots in Lhasa and Urumqi in 2008 and 2009, the academic discussions on the need for reviewing ethnic policies became more public and a greater number of Chinese academics expressed their criticism of present policies on ethnic nationalities (Qiu 2010).

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