R. Iredale, N. Bilik, S. Wang, G. Fei and C. Hoy, Contemporary Minority Migration, Education and Ethnicity in China

Urban/rural migration represents an important dimension in
the development of a country, and this is true for China. Spared any rural exodus
until quite recently, China is today experiencing massive internal migration that
is redrawing the human and economic landscape. The policy of reform and opening
up, matched by the progressive lifting of the restrictions on internal mobility
that started in the 1980s, has permitted a greater freedom to move. Large numbers
of peasants, but also inhabitants of less economically favoured regions, are flooding
in particular into the big cities in the east of the country in search of work
and better, so they hope, living conditions. Offering an in-depth analysis of
this internal migration, the book proves indispensable for gaining a better understanding
of the changes inherent in China’s transition from a planned to a market
economy.

The authors concentrate on studying the migration of minorities
from a perspective that is at once social, economic and ethnic, measuring the
migratory flows, in particular those of minorities in relation to those of the
general population, and analysing the effects of migration on the status of the
migrant families. They devote particular attention to the role of education in
the migratory process, while also focusing on the causes motivating migration
and the conditions under which it is conducted. They also identify the circumstances,
in particular the political circumstances, which have positive implications for
the status of migrants.

Three ethnic minorities are favoured in this approach: Tibetans,
Mongols and Uighurs, and this for a variety of reasons. First of all, these minorities
are localised in border regions in the north and the west of the country, regions
that have been relatively less well researched. Next, these groups are considered
highly unstable, something which makes their study particularly interesting. Finally,
they are very heterogeneous in terms of level of education, lifestyle and degree
of interaction with other ethnic groups, in particular the Han.

Aside from the introduction and the conclusion, the work is
structured in seven chapters. Chapter 2, “Migration research background”,
draws up a report on the question of migration and reviews the different theories
of the phenomenon before applying itself to a description of the Chinese case,
including the flow of internal migration and the role of the government in the
migratory process. In Chapter 3, “Ethnicity and minority education policy”,
concepts of ethnicity and of “Chineseness” from the dynastic era to
the present day are developed, followed by a presentation of the policies implemented
with regard to minorities in the field of education. Chapter 4, “Overall
minority movement”, describes the intra and inter-provincial migrations of
the minorities: favoured destinations, status of the migrants before and after
migration, etc. The following three chapters, “Inner Mongolia and Mongol
movement” (Chapter5), 5), “Tibet and Tibetan movement” (Chapter
6), “Xinjiang and Uighur movement” (Chapter 7), present case studies
on the three minorities in question. Each chapter follows the same outline: geographical
distribution, socio-economic and cultural characteristics, and education. Finally,
Chapter 8, “Beijing’s growing ethnic minorities”, takes its point
of departure in the results of the Sample survey of ethnic minority migration
of 1996-97 and concerns itself with the migrants originating from Mongolia, Tibet
and Xinjiang who have installed themselves in Peking. Each of these chapters paints
a picture of the tackled themes that is both rich and precise, neglecting neither
the historical, the cultural, nor the human dimension, something which, it must
be underlined, is rare and thus highly valuable.

We can therefore keenly recommend this work to anyone interested
in questions of ethnicity and migration in today’s China in transition.

Translated from the French original by Nick
Oates

Back to top