What Explains the Rise of Ethnic Minority Tensions in China?

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:54 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Reza HASMATH , University of Oxford, United Kingdom
In the past few years there has been a rise of flash ethnic violence in the relatively developed areas of China such as Beijing and Shanghai, to the far-reaching Western provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. While the state’s response to ethnic unrest oscillates between ‘soft’ (e.g. funding ethno-cultural activities) and ‘hard’ (e.g. increasing security mechanisms) policies, this paper suggests that this strategy will do little to address the underlying causes behind ethnic minority tensions in the long-term. Instead, it will argue that the most culpable factor behind current ethnic tensions are socio-economically rooted: Minorities are increasingly experiencing ‘ethnic penalties’ in the labour market, whereby their comparable educational attainment and training, akin to the majority ethnic group, Hans, do not match similar labour market outcomes. While intuitively, overt discrimination insofar as one’s physical appearance or linguistic abilities, and first generation migrant status, are often cited as prevailing reasons to explain this ‘penalty’, the findings presented in this paper will suggest that explanatory factors such as an individual’s social network, a firm’s working culture, and social trust in a community are equally important considerations. Moreover, the interactive role of non-cognitive skills in minority labour acquisition will be discussed. Finally, the paper will consider the policy implications of these findings for ethnic minority management, and the lessons learned for other multi-ethnic jurisdictions.