Sara Newland, July 2016
Often assumed to be an ethnically homogenous country, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in fact has a substantial minority population with 54 officially recognized ethnic groups that comprise close to 10 percent of the population. Integrating these diverse groups, many of which have a centuries-long history of conflict with the Han Chinese, into a unified Chinese nation-state has been a core policy challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1949.1 At first, these challenges were largely political and ideological. The CCP struggled to integrate minority elites, many of whom did not share a common language or culture with the overwhelmingly Han leaders of the CCP, into the party. They also sought to create political institutions that both respected local cultural practices and combined these diverse regions under a single, unified state, a challenge that the Soviet Union also had to confront.