First Tibet, now Xinjiang: local Chinese authorities in Western China are encouraging marriages between ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Han Chinese. But this time, the government is going so far as to offer financial incentives to the area’s Muslim Uighurs to intermarry. The FT reports:
The policy, celebrated by local Communist party officials as advancing the “great cause of assimilation” and “ethnic unity”, offers couples entering into mixed marriages an annual bonus of Rmb10,000 ($1,600), equivalent to 135 per cent of average annual rural incomes.Uighurs, Mongolians and other ethnic minorities who marry people from the dominant Han race, which makes up more than 90 per cent of China’s 1.36bn population, will also be eligible for a broad range of medical, schooling and housing benefits.
Just as when officials encouraged intermarriage in Tibet, this new gambit in Xinjiang is a response to unrest among the populations in the area. They hope to manage their minority populations by assimilating them into dominant Chinese life and culture. China has employed the stick against them—jailing, execution—and now it appears to be also trying the carrot.All of this is related to a point Peter Berger raised in an article earlier this summer. As the economic growth which has propped up the current regime slows down, Chinese authorities are anxious to legitimate itself by solidifying a coherent and distinct national identity shared by all its citizens. Rewarding people for marrying into “true Chinese stock” is just the latest manifestation of that overall program.