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Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 05, 1958

IU. ANDROPOV TO THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE CPSU, 'ON THE STRUGGLE WITH LOCAL NATIONALISM IN CHINA'

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    Iu. Andropov of the Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU describes Chinese Communist Party meetings in Xinjiang and "local nationalism" in China's far northwest.
    "Iu. Andropov to the Central Committee of the CPSU, 'On the Struggle with Local Nationalism in China'," February 05, 1958, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI, fond 5, opis 49, delo 130, listy 36-43. Translated by David Brophy. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/175896
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To the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

From the time of the third plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which took place in September 1957, and which discussed questions surrounding the rectification campaign, a struggle against local nationalism among national minorities has been developing in China.

Here we present information on this question, prepared on the basis of materials that have reached this Department of the CC of the CPSU.

Chief of the Department of the CC of the CPSU for relations with Communist and workers’ parties of the Socialist countries

Iu. Andropov

5 February 1958

[…]

On the Struggle with Local Nationalism in China

In accordance with the decisions of the 3rd plenum of the CC of the Communist Party of China, which occurred in September 1957, a movement has arisen in national minority regions of the People’s Republic of China to rectify the style of work, the basic content of which is a struggle with local nationalism.

In connection with the escalation in 1957 of class struggle in China and the attacks of right-bourgeois elements on the Communist Party, the hostile activity of local landlord, bourgeois, religious, and other reactionary elements was also activated in national regions. The CCP has confronted a range of such incidents, which complicate socialist construction in national minority regions. The struggle is developing around questions of realizing the socialist transformation and liquidating the exploiting classes in the national minority regions; around questions of the forms of national administrative construction, the resettlement of Chinese in national minority regions, the development of national culture, and the like. Nationalist elements have started to defame the Communist Party’s nationalities policy, and speak openly against the construction of socialism in the national regions. They are inflaming anti-Chinese moods, for which they exploit isolated errors and deficiencies in the work of the Chinese Communists who have been sent to the national regions by the center.

Under the influence of hostile elements, nationalist tendencies have gained strength among the local intelligentsia, and even among the national worker-Communists. The occurrence of nationalism among local Communists is often to be explained by the fact that almost all of these are young Communists who have joined the party since the formation of the People’s Republic of China. The overwhelming majority of them come from well-off layers of the population without serious experience of revolutionary struggle, and their ideo-political and Marxist grounding sits at a low level. By the end of 1957, more than 450,000 local Communists were counted in the national minority regions.

The ideology of local nationalism in China is manifesting most of all in the fact that its advocates oppose the policy of regional national autonomy, which is being implemented in China at the present time.

Weighing up the concrete situation in the country, the CCP is carrying out administrative construction for the non-Chinese nationalities without providing them the right to secede or create autonomous republics. According to the Constitution, in regions where national minorities live in a compact mass, autonomous regions, prefectures, and counties are being created. Of these three forms of national autonomy, the most substantial is the autonomous region, which is equated to a province from an administrative point of view, and is directly subordinate to the center. Five large nationalities have received the right to realize this form of national autonomy: the Mongols, Zhuang, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Hui (Dungans). The Mongols and Uyghurs have already established their autonomous regions: Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang-Uyghur. A decision has been taken on the creation of autonomous regions for the Zhuang, Tibetans, and Hui, and the nominal boundaries of these regions have been delineated. Autonomous prefectures are being created within provinces and autonomous regions, and autonomous counties within provinces, autonomous regions, and autonomous prefectures. At the current time in the PRC there already exist more than 80 autonomous prefectures and counties.

On the issue of administrative construction, a tendency toward local nationalism arises in two forms. Openly hostile elements propagandize “self-determination,” the creation of independent national states and their separation from the People’s Republic of China. In an article by the CCP CC member and chair of the Commission on Nationality Affairs Liu Geping [刘格平], which was published in People’s Daily on 11 January 1958, it is pointed out that this kind of propaganda under the catch-cry “even if there’s no socialism, let there at least be independence,” has found a particular hearing among the Tibetans, Mongols, Uyghurs, and certain other nationalities.

Proponents of a second tendency advocate for the provision to national minorities, particular to the large ones, of the possibility of creating republics within the PRC, and reorganizing China on the principle of a union or federal state. Adherents of this tendency include the intelligentsia and some Communists from local nationalities, in particular among the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Koreans, Hui, Zhuang, and others. In this they draw on the example of the national-administrative construction of the USSR. There have been pronouncements in favor of the unification of the Koreans (up to 1 million of them in China) with the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, and the Mongols (more than 1 million) with the People’s Republic of Mongolia, and so on.

The ideology of local nationalism has obtained wide circulation also in question of party-building. The nationalists agitate for the creation of a Communist Party on the basis of nationality, ignoring the unity and leading role of the Communist Party of China.

Local nationalism also shows up in the fact that its advocates try by all means to inflame a feeling of alienation and enmity between the nationalities of China. They direct their main line of attack against the resettlement of Chinese in the national regions, against the work of Chinese cadres in these regions, and agitate for the dissociation of national minorities from the Chinese. Thus, in Inner Mongolia the nationalists propagate the idea of “closing the borders, expelling the Chinese cadres, and creating a purely Mongol autonomous region” (in Inner Mongolia out of a population of approximately 9 million, the Mongols make up around 1 million, the rest being Chinese).

The nationalists put up strong resistance to the question of studying Chinese culture, and the Chinese language. In connection with this, a curious incident took place upon the introduction of the new script in the Xinjiang-Uyghur and Inner Mongolian autonomous regions. In the course of recent years preparations have been under way in the PRC to shift from the hieroglyphic script to an alphabet, with an orientation toward Latinization. In opposition to this, local circles in Xinjiang have expressed support for the introduction of a writing system based on Cyrillic script, similar to the Central Asian peoples of the Soviet Union. In Inner Mongolia, the public spoke out in favor of adopting the writing system of the Mongolian People’s Republic, which is also based on Cyrillic script. The affair only came to an end when by decree from Beijing, the old writing systems in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia were maintained.

In a series of national minority regions, hostile elements were able to provoke unrest in 1957. Quite substantial disturbances took place in Tibet and Xinjiang, and the unrest took on a clearly expressed anti-Chinese character. In Xinjiang, for example, in the spring of 1957 an uprising broke out, which took control of more than 60 cooperatives. The insurgents proclaimed slogans such as “Down with the Chinese,” “Cooperativization doesn’t suit the national regions,” and so on.

Nationalism and the separatist movement are very strong in Tibet. Taking this into consideration, the CCP is carrying out its policy in this region extremely cautiously. Land reform and other democratic transformations are yet to be implemented in Tibet, and elections to organs of popular power have yet to be held. In his speech “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People,” Comrade Mao Zedong said that a decision had been taken not to introduce reforms in Tibet until the second five-year plan, i.e. until 1962.

Local nationalism has become a serious issue in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In December 1957 in the city of Ürümchi an expanded plenum was convened of the CCP Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, called specifically to discuss the question of the struggle with local nationalism. In his speech at the plenum, first secretary of the Committee of the Communist Party of the Autonomous Region, Comrade Wang Enmao, pointed out that local nationalist tendencies in this autonomous region had recently gained in strength, most notably from the time of the entry of right bourgeois elements into the party. This is being expressed in demands for the provision of right to “independence,” “separation” and “a republic.” The advocates of local nationalism agitate against the existing form of national territorial autonomy, undermine the unity of the nationalities, ignore the role of the Chinese, and oppose socialist transformations and the leading role of the party. All this shows, Wang Enmao declared, that local nationalism in Xinjiang has taken on a serious character.

The plenum heard a report by the secretary of the CCP Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and chairman of the People’s Committee of this region, Säypidin Äzizov, entitled “Resolutely Oppose Local Nationalism, Struggle for the Great Victory of Socialism,” where a comprehensive analysis of local nationalism was given and measures outlined for the struggle against it. In the speaker’s words, local nationalist tendencies have seriously revived in recent time, particularly among the intelligentsia and cadre party workers. Demands are being put forward for the separation of Xinjiang from the People’s Republic of China and the creation of an independent Uyghuristan, and many national workers call for the renaming of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as “Uyghuristan,” “Uyghur Republic,” or “East Turkistan Uyghur Republic.”

Äzizov also said that beginning in 1956, anti-Chinese feelings had strengthened among the local nationalists, and talk of the expulsion of Chinese from Xinjiang, and discussions about the fact that the coming of the Chinese to Xinjiang and their “interference” had supposedly worsened the life of the local population, came to be heard all the more frequently. The nationalists spread various fabrications about how “the Chinese have taken the place of the landlords,” that “the Chinese, like the landlords, are exploiting the local population,” and that they are just the same colonizers as were the previous Chinese rulers. Labels such as “Chinese spy” or “lackey of the Chinese,” and traitors to the interests of the nation, are applied by the nationalists to the best local cadre workers.

According to Äzizov, some leading workers of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are implicated in nationalism and anti-Chinese moods, including the secretary of the CCP Committee of the Autonomous Region Säypullaev (Uyghur), deputy chairman of the People’s Committee and member of the bureau of the CCP Committee of the Autonomous Region Ishaqov (Tatar, Soviet citizen), chairman of the Union of writers and the head of the Autonomous Region’s Department of Culture Ziya Sämädi (Communist, Uyghur, Soviet citizen), deputy chairman of the Union of writers and head of the Department of Internal Affairs Ibrahim Turdi (Communist, Uyghur), along with others.

In the resolutions of the 3rd Plenum of the CC of the Chinese Communist Party and other documents of the party, local nationalism is treated as the occurrence of bourgeois ideology in the national question. The party considers that in contrast to the other regions of China, the rightist elements in the national regions hindering the further successful construction of socialism are the local nationalists, and therefore in the national regions the struggle with local nationalism should become the main focus of activity in the rectification and socialist education campaigns being carried out across China.

In his report to the 3rd Plenum of the CC of the CCP, the general secretary of the CC Comrade Deng Xiaoping pointed out that “previously we laid emphasis on the struggle against the trend of Great-Han chauvinism. However, at the present time it is also necessary to place emphasis on the struggle against local nationalist tendencies.”

Along with local nationalism, as the chief target of this struggle the party is mobilizing its organizations in national regions to carry on as before the struggle with great-power [sic.] chauvinism, which has still not been fully eliminated.

The CC of the CCP makes clear that a successful struggle with local nationalism will strengthen the position of the Communist Party in national regions and create the necessary conditions for the expansion of the scale of socialist construction, and for the uniform distribution of population throughout the whole territory of the country. It is sufficient to point out that the Chinese, who make up almost 94% of the country’s population, occupy only around half of its territory, so that the national minorities, who make up only 6% of the entire population, occupy more than half of the country’s entire territory. The huge territory inhabited by national minorities is rich in natural resources and contains limitless tracts for the development of modern industry, agriculture, and animal husbandry. The significance of the assimilation of the national regions can be seen in the fact that almost all the oil deposits of China occur in the sparsely populated national regions in the west of the country (in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region). For this reason, the overcoming of local nationalism will assist the Communist Party and the PRC government in making full use of the rich possibilities of the sparsely populated national frontiers, by means of resettling into these regions a large number of Chinese from China’s densely populated interior regions.

In the struggle with local nationalism, the elimination of certain deficiencies in the party’s work among national minorities of China has no small significance. The CCP, for example, has rejected such forms of micro-autonomy as national counties, the creation of which was practiced until 1954. Currently in China doubts are being expressed as to the political and practical desirability of implementing many of the autonomous counties, of which more than 50 have already been created. Furthermore, the majority of the population in many autonomous counties consists not of national minorities, but of Chinese. The economic and political equality of peoples and their all-round development can be provided for without creating small autonomous counties. Opinions are also being expressed that the creation of small autonomous units will be unlikely to promote the elimination of national narrow-mindedness.

With even greater urgency the question of the nomenclature of certain autonomous regions is being raised in China. The Uyghurs are unhappy about the fact, for example, that in the new designation of the autonomous region the old term “Xinjiang” (“New Frontier”), which in present circumstances has lost all meaning, is being retained. The scrapping of this old colonialist name would have great political significance, and would not pose any threat to the interests of the PRC. Similarly hard to fathom is the retention of the old name “Inner Mongolia,” which implies the presence of an “Outer Mongolia,” since such an entity no longer exists, and is now the Mongolian People’s Republic.

The principles of national autonomy established in the PRC basically correspond in their content to Marxist-Leninist theory, although it would seem that in the form and methods in which they are being worked out they require further enhancement.

Until the formation of the PRC the Chinese Communist Party put forward a demand for the creation of a federal state. In the charter of the CCP which was adopted at the party’s 7th Congress in 1945, it was written that the task of the Chinese Communist Party was to struggle “… to establish an independent, free, democratic, unified, strong, new-democratic, federal republic.”

After the victory of the revolution, the plank about federalism was abolished without the necessary clarification. In doing so the CCP took into account China’s domestic and international situation. Yet now that the situation of the PRC has stabilized, the CCP has come up against demands for federalism which would appear to be widely held, and growing. Apart from the Chinese there are some ten nations in the PRC with a population between 1 and 7 million, each of them living in a compact mass in historically defined territories. One must also keep in mind that the example of the Soviet Union, where the unity of the large nations with the small is realized on the basis of the union and federal structure of the state, stands before the nationalities of China.

Judging from the fact that in recent months the central and local press in China have been devoting much attention to the development of the national minority regions and the struggle with local nationalism, the Chinese Communist Party is attributing great significance to these questions.

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