With the development of imperialism and the advancement of democracy, people started to identify themselves with nationality, religion, and culture. Nowadays, the Chinese ethnicities are diverse. Even though the ethnic groups are admitted to belong to the Chinese state, there are different approaches in regarding the cultural minority issue in the Western and the Eastern cultures that have distinct historical backgrounds. These approaches and the differences between them are described in the readings “Coming to terms with the nation” and “The politics of imagining Asia”.
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The Chinese national identification has a long history. Nowadays China is regarded as a “home to fifty-six distinct peoples,” but in Qing Empire there were hundreds of ethnicities registered, and in the 12th century there was only one ethnic group (Anderson and Mullaney 5). The changes can be explained by the cultural volatility that is dependent on geography, migration, and cultural interactions. Census was necessary for the political regulations and the consideration of the minor ethnic groups in the concept of citizenry and voting.
The region of the Yunnan province is the one that is the most culturally and linguistically diverse. Historically, the ethnicities that inhabited the region were regarded as minorities. But nowadays China “faces its most visible troubles precisely in the big minority areas – Tibet and Xinjiang” that claim for independence (Anderson and Mullaney 20). These troubles indicate that the national identification has a complex nature, and it rather is formed by the political regime and policies.
Wang and Huters write about the European approach towards regarding Tibet as a part of China. Throughout the history, Tibet was described by many European scholars as “a religious kingdom that must be regarded as unique” (Huters and Wang 140). Tibetan culture and religion was often compared to the western. The idea of “an ancient and mystical link between Europe and Tibet” contributed to the creation of a sympathetic relation and an idealistic view of Tibet by the western nations (Huters and Wang 144). Even though the Chinese sovereignty over Tibet is recognized, the historically developed image of the uniqueness of this nation plays a significant role in the support of Tibetans’ claim for independence.
The census made people aware of the cultural diversity; it also had a great impact on the development of the social studies and linguistics. The political purposes of the ethnical groups’ registration are many, but principally it is supposed to make the territory control simpler. Despite the convenience of the census for the political regulations, the rise of the ethnic awareness induced issues of the national identity. The current situation also emphasizes that the national identity is complex in its nature and that the regarding of the issue is dependent on the historical background of cultural interrelations and is subjective.
Anderson, Benedict and Thomas Mullaney. Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China, Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2011. Print.
Huters, Theodore and Wang Hui. The Politics of Imagining Asia, London, UK: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.