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Olivier, "The nationality policy of the People's Republic of China and its Korean ethnic minority, 1949-1989," 1991

USC Dissertation in History.
August 26, 2009
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Bernard Vincent Olivier, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
The close to two million Koreans of China represent the eleventh largest minority ethnic group of the People's Republic. Their experience as a minority nationality is unique because they are not native to China, but are relatively recent immigrants. In spite of their foreign origins, a specific set of geographical, historico-political, and economic factors forged a durable alliance between the Koreans and the Chinese Communist Party. As a result, the Koreans have successfully adapted to China's socialist regime and managed a fairly peaceful cohabitation with the Han Chinese majority while preserving their language and culture.

The main purpose of this research is to examine the impact of the evolution of the Party's nationality policy on the Koreans of China in order to evaluate the dimensions and nature of this apparent success. It shows how the Party's liberal policy of the early-1950s and the establishment of Korean autonomous territories contributed to the development of Korean language and culture, and how socialist state protection allowed the Koreans to explicit their traditional rice cultivation skills and enjoy a relative economic prosperity. Subsequent fluctuations in the Party's policy endangered this success and, ultimately, post-Mao liberalization failed to benefit the Koreans and precipitated their economic decline. The study concludes that, since the late-1980s, the Chinese leadership appears intent on re-establishing a balanced relationship between Han and Koreans in order to avoid ethnic tension, and that the Koreans are adapting to the new economic order while continuing to strive to preserve their language and culture.

The question of whether this specific case study can serve as a model for other minority nationalities remains moot. However, an example does not necessarily have to be repeated. Instead, it can shed light on the position and degree of integration of a minority group into official minority politics and on the complexity of managing ethnically diverse societies. In doing so, this research highlights the problems China must solve in order to maintain peaceful inter-ethnic relations that will guarantee the economic development of a minority ethnic group and its continuous allegiance to the People's Republic. (Copies available exclusively from Micrographics Department, Doheny Library, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0182.)

Advisor: Robinson, Michael E.

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