Under normal circumstances ethnicity is described as the ability of a particular member of a community to belong to a certain social group that contains similar cultural or national background. On the other hand, racism refers to the ability to believe that members of a certain race have some characteristics that characterize solely this race. Racism is aimed to term the race as inferior or maybe superior when it is compared with another race or races (Berd?n & Rex, 2010). While the two phenomena appear to be different, the same case applies to various countries. However, ethnicity in a certain state will be viewed differently from that of another state (Chan, Makino & Isobe, 2010). This paper will analyze the effects of ethnicity in China while considering the various ethnic groups in this country. It will particularly focus on the problems thereof as a result of ethnicity in the country. Also, the paper will examine ethnicity from a sociologist point of view to express an opinion in regard to the existence of ethnicity in China. Lastly, this study will examine the similarities as well as differences related to ethnicity in China and America. The goal will be to compare and contrast the ethnic groups, ethnic stratification and ethnic conflicts in these two countries.
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Multiple ethnic groups exist in the republic of China. Currently, there are 56 ethnic groups that are officially recognized in China. However, in addition to the already recognized groups, there are nationals of People’s Republic of China (PRC) who identify themselves as unrecognized ethnic groups (Harrell, 2013). They include the Jewish, Tuvan, Oirat, and Ili Turki. According to the statistics released in 2010, Han Chinese was found to comprise the largest group in the country with 91.59% of the country’s population. According the report, the ethnic group comprised approximately 1.2 billion people (Berd?n & Rex, 2010). The population regarded as the minority groups comprises 8.49% of the China’s population, which is approximately 105 million people (Sturman, Shao & Katz, 2012). The minority ethnic groups are known to be highly concentrated in the northern part of the country in the northeast and northwest sides. There is also the considerable number of them living in the south and southwest with few occupying the central interior of China (Kitayama, Conway III, Pietromonaco, Park, & Plaut, 2010). The dominant ethnic group Han Chinese is widely spread all over the country, but it is mainly found in the lower and the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Pearl River and the Yellow River. There is also the great number of them occupying the Song Liao Plain in the northeast side of the country (Jiang, Chua, Kotabe, & Murray, 2011).
Among the living ethnic groups in china, some have been highly concentrated in regions of vast natural resources in the western part of the country. Those areas possess one of the country’s largest and important oil and gas reserves. The majority of the ethnic groups living in this region are Uyghurs and Turkic communities who are plain Muslims (Sturman, Shao & Katz, 2012). Their occupation in that region has caused serious tension between them and Han Chinese. Basically, the reason is in the need to occupy this region because of its natural resources (Harrell, 2013). As a result, several riots have ensued between the two communities triggering massive loss of lives of members of the two groups. The riots are believed to have been fueled by religious inclination between the Muslims and the non-Muslims (Berd?n & Rex, 2010). Urbanization has also led to ethnical crushes with the minority groups concentrated in an unproductive region, finding their way to urban centers to search for more lucrative jobs in the city. In their bid to settle in the city, they have faced considerable resistance from the majority ethnic groups in this region. In return, they defied the pressure requiring them to return to their homeland. As a result, they have been involved in constant demonstrations that have triggered critical riots while trying to communicate their rights as citizens of China to the government (Kitayama et al., 2010). Similarly, the growth of economy in certain areas can be attributed to the constant crises in various ethnic groups in China. The division of labor in certain less developed economic regions is highly influenced by migration and urbanization patterns. That is especially evident in the oasis settlement regions where the majority of Muslims reside (Jiang et al., 2011). The small cultivated land is scarce, and it has failed to satisfy subsistence needs in many homes in this region as well as provide ample labor force for the household.
There have been several issues experienced by ethnic groups in China, especially among the minority ones who have small population size. Despite the high position accorded to Muslims in the country, the Uyghur’s ethnic groups who are generally Muslims have faced critical discrimination from the Yuan Mongols. They have been forced to eat food of the Yuan Mongols that is against their religion. On their part, Muslims have been accused of performing heinous activities against the Jews that involved killing them in cold blood through an activity referred to as kosher butchering (Kitayama et al., 2010). Apparently, there are few cases of intermarriage between ethnic groups in China. Han and Hui intermarry with each other more often than Hui and Uyghurs, in spite of Hui and Uyghurs both being Muslims. Children who are found to be born between Han and Uyghur ethnicities known as erzhuanzi by the Han and piryotki by the Uyghurs are highly avoided during social gatherings and events involving Uyghurs since they are viewed as outcasts and those who are not acceptable by that community (Berd?n & Rex, 2010). Hereby, this is a clear evidence of a heightened grudge, hatred, and discrimination existing between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese. Several riots that have occurred in China have been explained to have been caused by China’s government that discriminates the Turkic Muslim Uyghur minorities. A good example is July 2009 which caused residents of the city to rise against each other against ethnic lines. There have been very clear discriminative instances toward the Uyghur community by the Chinese official policies. For instance, Uyghurs have reported several cases of being denied passports by the Chinese government, even though they are liable to receive these passports when they reach retirement age (Jiang et al., 2011). The few examples depict constant problems people in the republic of China go through as a result of different ethnic backgrounds.
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Talking about a sociologist, they are experts who are in a position to study a society. They try to understand how individual modes of behavior are influenced by the social world. According to various experts who have been in a position to study the conflicts existing between different ethnic groups in China, it has been evident that the conflicts have been fueled by some factors that could be avoided. Firstly, the major reason of conflicts is the concept of superiority complex, which is a deadly bacterium that has eroded many societies. The concept is built on one’s perception to believe that they possess more value or importance than others. It can also be viewed from another angle where an individual is considered to assume themselves very inferior as compared to another one within a certain situation (Jiang et al., 2011). The concept has greatly influenced societies in China, contributing to animosity between the different communities existing in that region. For instance, the Han Chinese people believe that they are mightier than other ethnic groups in that country. That is evident when they tend to forcefully occupy a region that is currently occupied by the Uyghurs for the reason that it contains a lot of resources that they would want to extract (Garver, 2011). That is a deliberate boast that in turn has greatly contributed to uprising and upheavals in the region.
According to the experts, the government of China has also failed in it manner of offering governance to its subjects. For that reason, ethnic groups have become hostile to each other after realizing that the government is in favor of certain ethnic groups. However, the riots and upheavals could have been avoided if the government was keen to provide leadership in the correct form without being inclined to certain communities (Kitayama et al., 2010). In line with that, the government has been economically conscious of some regions while leaving others to suffer of poor infrastructures that make the entire regions unproductive. That has led to the movement of people to urban centers while trying to search for better fortune (Jiang et al., 2011). While doing so, they face endless discrimination that makes them react aggressively, causing riots in the cities. If communities are encouraged to appreciate others despite their backgrounds, then peaceful coexistence of communities can be established in the country (Garver, 2011). Consequently, they will be encouraged to intermarry and share religious values that uphold justice and moral virtues.
The societal setting in China in regard to ethnic groups and ethnic issues in one way or another can be compared and contrasted with a society in the United States. The two are similar in the fact that they have different ethnic groups. As already evident from a case study provided in this paper, China has 56 different ethnic groups. Though the United States might not be having as many ethnic groups as China, it has ethnic groups such as Indian American, Filipino American, Taiwanese American, Maltese American, White Americans, Fijian Americans and Latino Americans among others (Garver, 2011). That is a clear similarity that both countries are a home for diverse ethnic groups. While China has Han Chinese as the dominant ethnic group occupying the vast territory of the region, the United States also contains a dominant ethnic group which comprises the White Americans occupying 72% of the overall population in the United States (Chan, Makino & Isobe, 2010). Moreover, the two countries have minority groups. Those of China contain the Uyghurs, Jews, and others comprising 8.49%, while the United State has the Latino Americans as the largest minority group comprising 15% of the overall population. Most of the ethnic conflicts in the two countries were fueled by socioeconomic status (Chan, Makino & Isobe, 2010). Those individuals living in poor conditions in the United States demonstrated and confronted the ruling government that was formed by the majority of White Americans in order to improve their living conditions by giving lucrative jobs. That was the same case in China, where the minority groups seem to revolt against the majorities in the government articulating for better living conditions.
While most of the conflicts were fueled by religious differences in China, most of the conflicts in the United States were as a result of racial segregation. The Uyghurs in China were aggressive toward the non-Muslim community in the region. Thus, there was heightened animosity toward the Jewish community to a level of slaughtering them (Garver, 2011). In the States, the conflicts were as a result of blacks accusing whites of making them their slaves. Talking about intermarriages between ethnic groups in China, they were highly prohibited and if it happened in rare circumstances, the children that were born received considerable discrimination and were not regarded as a member of a certain ethnic group (Sturman, Shao & Katz, 2012). However, the case was different in the United States as white Americans intermarried with the Africans to give birth to a black American child. Lastly, while most of people coming to urban centers were from far countries like Africa in America, those who moved to occupy urban centers were local residents in China (Chan, Makino & Isobe, 2010).
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From the case study already conducted in the two countries, China and the United States, it is evident that conflicts are inevitable in a normal society that comprises different ethnical groups that are fond of interacting in their daily activities. Economic factors such as the existence of natural resources within a particular region and external migration are the major causes of ethnic conflicts. In reality, in a normal societal setting there will be a majority group as well as a minority one. Majority groups should not undermine the minority ones to a point of denying them their rights as citizens of a particular country. Those possessing leadership must be cautious not to incline to certain groups within societies to eliminate any chances of conflicts affected by favors or incompetence of the government. Lastly, it is important that ethnic groups create peaceful coexistence if they want to live in a peaceful society. That will only be achieved if they choose to overcome prejudices between them and shun negative reasoning that triggers hatred between them. Thus, it is very possible for a society to live in peace and harmony even if it comprises different ethnic groups.