China vs India on diversity and plurality

19 Aug

Here’s another article about China and India, and this time it’s about the more broader and abstract issues of diversity and pluralism. It’s a very interesting article, comparing China to India in terms of these two issues, examining Chinese views on treating minorities in China and how Han “hegemony” can be lessened, and the writer’s insightful overview of India. First of all though, I wasn’t so aware of the differences between diversity and plurality. Diversity refers the existence of a varied range of something, such as people, languages, cultures etc, while plurality, I believe, is the implementation of this diversity in policy, such as official languages or religions. In short, China and India are both diverse, but India is more pluralistic – over 10 official languages as opposed to one in China, for instance. The main setting of the article is a conference in China about minorities, which sees some interesting frank views put forward by Chinese scholars showing an awareness of the issues concerning how minorities can be better integrated into China’s society rather than just pure assimilation. These views they admit would be difficult to express in Beijing. Furthermore, a greater appreciation of minority cultures and peoples can also lead to a better appreciation for diversity within Han people. After all, while being Chinese, a Beijinger might be different from a Cantonese who might be different from a Fujianese in terms of language, beliefs, behavior, and diet. It’s also interesting to see Hakkas mentioned, as that is part of my heritage, though I don’t agree about the writer stating that being part of the Chinese diaspora is why Hakkas are considered Han and Uighurs are not. The author (an Indian) is told by a Chinese scholar that China could learn some things from India about freedom of express, and that “If India was not so economically backward, it would persuade the world more easily about how it has nurtured democracy and diversity.” Of course, India’s diversity and pluralism isn’t harmonious, which both its post-independence history and recent events show, and the author admits this, saying pluralism “remains fragile”. I’m also not convinced that having a multitude of official languages is a benefit (though I don’t think suppression of local dialects is good too). Still, it’d only be positive if both giants could learn and interact with each other more. It’d also be a big benefit for China to better accommodate its minorities, especially the restless Western regions.


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