Challenges to establish National Identity
China today can be argued to be a complex entity that is made of very diverse socio-cultural historical elements. This coupled with the effects of modernization since 1978, this diversity is now becoming more complicated with the creation of social classes, something that China previously does not have. Although there are certain aspects of life which the Chinese government try to implement to forge better unity such as Mandarin being the official language, institutions like schools and so on, there are still some challenges faced by the Chinese government to forge a national identity such as economic disparity, linguistic diversity and ethnic and religious relations
- Ethnic and Religious tensions
Ethnic and religious tensions are one of the challenges faced by the Chinese government in forging a common national identity. Religion in areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang has been a galvanizing force for social dissent and calls for secession from the mainland threatens the common pan-Chinese national identity that the CCP had been advocating. Despite calls for independence and their own separate state by autonomous states such as Tibet and Xinjiang, it has been repeatedly denied by the CCP and instead imposed tighter rules on them. In 2014, Xinjiang government departments banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Thus, these restrictions inevitably led to greater resistance by these citizens living in autonomous regions, further dividing the people as a result. Furthermore, these actions by autonomous regions to fight for their differing regional identities may influence other provinces to do the same as well. Therefore, this poses as a crucial challenge that has to be resolved to prevent further segregation amongst the people.
- Economic Disparity
Secondly, economic disparity also poses as a challenge to the formation of national identity. This is because of the persistence of a widening income disparity between the very rich and poor regions. Due to Deng’s economic reforms and their prioritization of growing China’s economy, the introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in coastal areas such as Guangzhou have gotten extremely wealthy at the expense of inland regions in the west. Similarly, as of 2015, coastal provinces and cities such as Shanghai’s GDP per capita is 209% whereas inland such as Gansu’s GDP per capita is only a minor 53%. Thus, showing how uneven China’s economic growth and distribution is and this in turn, would only further divide its people. Without adequate financial resources, rural areas are unable to develop its facilities and infrastructure in order to improve the standard of living. In addition, without quality of life, there would be differing identities formed as these citizens from rural areas would not be able to benefit from China’s economic growth. Thus, unable to relate with the Chinese identity which portrays its citizens to be benefiting from China’s economic growth in coastal and urban areas.
- Linguistic Diversity
Linguistic diversity is also another challenge to the formation of national identity by the Chinese government. This is because regional dialects, suggestive of strong regional identities as opposed to a national identity continues to persist. Out of the total 57 languages being spoken in China, Mandarin was chosen as the official national spoken language. This poses as an issue whereby it has led to a lack of communication between different groups of people, thus reinforcing negative regional stereotypes. For instance, many mainland Chinese refuse to hire Uyghur Muslims from Xinjiang as majority only know how to converse in Turkish and not Mandarin and are often associated with ruthless terrorists. Therefore, showing how regional dialects have become a significant obstacle in the creation of national unity given that China has recognized ethnic groups that speaks different languages.