The Party and the National Question in China
A political document written by a high official of the Chinese Communist Party and translated into English is indeed a rarity. Even rarer is such a paper concerned with “one of the major questions of the Chinese revolution....” The Party and the National Question in China offers a translation of a book entitled A Discussion of the National Question in the Chinese Revolution and of the Actual Nationalities Policy (Draft), written by Chang Chih-i, then a Deputy Director of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
This translation makes available the only systematic analysis of the Chinese Communist Party's theoretical approach to the national minority question in China. Chang, writing from his excellent vantage point in the United Front Work Department (the most direct link between the Party and the more than 50 national minorities in China), has provided a remarkably cogent and straight-forward account of an important but little-known phase in the development of Marxism-Leninism in China. The translator, apart from his introduction and occasional footnotes, has avoided marring the original text with commentary.
This crucial “question” centers on the fact that 40 million people in Communist China belong to numerous small nations scattered throughout the country but concentrated in the border regions. These minorities differ in physical appearance, spoken language, religious beliefs, and even diet from each other and from the Han Chinese, who make up the vast majority of the population and are considered more “civilized.” The basic problem is to unite these diverse peoples in a socialist, “classless” society without antagonizing any of them or compromising Marxist-Leninist theory. Chang shows how this important question has been used by the Chinese Communists in attaining their revolutionary goals.
National minority affairs were Chang's specialty, and as an important CCP member it was his responsibility to advise Party leadership in this area. He first prepared this paper in 1956 to provide a basis for discussion on national minority policy within the Party during a time of crisis. His purpose, among others, was to urge Party members to study the application of Marxist-Leninist theory to the national question in order to equip themselves with the “ideological weapons” they need to carry out the Party's policy in this area, and to define a methodology for dealing with specific questions concerning the status of these nationalities. Thus the document was probably intended for circulation primarily within a small circle of responsible people. As a result, the book is almost devoid of the usual propagandistic style and clearly reflects the Party's ideal synthesis of Han Chinese and Communist Party attitudes toward national minorities.
In addition to the translated text, The Party and the National Question in China includes appendices listing all the national minorities in China, excerpts from pertinent political documents, and an extensive bibliography.