Peripheral Regions in any Country are usually regarded as being less developed than the Central ones, but that presumption isn’t the case when it comes to Modern day China.
Going clockwise, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Yunnan, Tibet and Xinjiang are nowadays the centre of its regional integration efforts with the rest of Eurasia because of the important roles that these regions play in the Country’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang function as China’s most direct gateways to Mongolia and Russia through the China-Russia-Mongolia Economic Corridor and some transportation projects respectively.
Yunnan is the starting point of the Kunming-Singapore high-speed railway and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor.
As for Tibet, it can connect China more closely with South Asia through Nepal, the same as Xinjiang can do with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Xinjiang, however, can also link the country with Central and West Asia through the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor.
These geostrategic peripheral regions are the traditional homes of non-Han Chinese, so the central Chinese government’s focus on improving their infrastructure for international connectivity purposes can be interpreted as a means of sustainably improving their living standards by giving them genuine long-term employment opportunities from the new business that these projects are expected to generate.
This policy is unlike that pursued in many other states where ethnic minorities typically don’t receive many state-backed opportunities.
Building upon that observation, many traders that will be conducting business in or across those regions will likely have some of their first personal interactions be with those same non-Han Chinese, further reinforcing the fact that China is a multinational country.
Acknowledging this, one comes to realise that the Western media’s allegations about China’s alleged mistreatment of its ethnic minorities simply aren’t true.
Instead of suppressing them, China is doing all that it can to lift their living standards and showcase them as the faces of the country’s 21st-century regional integration efforts.
In this regard, China’s approach serves as a meaningful example to learn. Not every country has the same internal administrative history as China’s wherein ethnic minorities tend to have traditionally lived in peripheral regions, but those that do can consider the wisdom of empowering them through physical and social investments so that they too can become the faces of their countries’ regional integration efforts.
For those that don’t have any particular geographic concentration of minorities, then generous investments into job-training programs could suffice for this purpose.
One of the lessons to be learned by the U.S.’ ongoing domestic unrest is that those minorities that don’t feel appreciated by society at large tend to participate in large-scale demonstrations after certain high-profile incidents remind them of what they regard to be their second-class status in society.
The failure to properly address racial resentments can become a time bomb that could explode at any moment, as seen by what happened in America when this issue becomes the country’s most pressing one ahead of this year’s elections.
By strategically targeting of physical and social investments into minority areas, the government could make its remote citizens feel appreciated by the state and an important part of the national whole.
Instead of relegating them to the actual or metaphorical periphery, they should be celebrated as the centre of the nation’s 21st Century Investment Strategy. China can greatly assist its partners in this respect through BRI by providing mutually beneficial opportunities to help their minorities.