Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Can US Federalism Learn from China?

China, like the US, is a very diverse.  Sure, both countries have a majority group but if you started counting the number of other groups, you would be there for a long time.

In China, there are some 56 different ethnic groups, and therefore 55 different minority groups, not counting foreigners like myself.  In the United States, there are over 500 different federally recognized Native American tribes alone, the most numerous being the Cherokee and the Navajo.  

But how the two countries organize their different minority groups is something that is radically different in the two countries.

Imagine if, in the US, the Cherokee and Navajo nations each had their own State, or if there was a German American State or an Italian American State, and you have the situation that exists in China.

China is mostly divided into provinces, but the areas of the country that belong to a particular ethnic group are called Autonomous Regions.  For example, there's the Tibet Autonomous Region for Tibetans in Tibet and there's the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region for Ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia.  

There are five ARs overall, meaning that five of the 55 different minority groups have their own areas of the country, equivalent to States in the US, where, for example, their own languages are co-official with Mandarin Chinese.  

A map of China's main Ethnolinguistic Groups
A Map of China's Autonomous Regions

Now, let's be clear what this is not - we are not talking about forcing minorities to live in certain areas - far from it; in China for example, only one in every 5 Hui people actually live Ningxia, their own autonomous region - the rest live across China, including opposite my apartment block here in Nanjing.

Rather instead this is about having a particular province or state dedicated to a particular minority group, and it is  where almost always that particular group is from in the first place.

Would the Chinese Model Work in the U.S?

I've long believed that at least one Native American Reservation in the US should be given Statehood - it makes no sense that the Native Americans, America's first inhabitants, don't have states of their own, whereas Californians and North Carolinians do.

It too makes no sense that not a single Native American nation is represented in the Senate in the way that California or New Jersey are.  It also makes no sense that many Native American Reservations, like the Navajo Nation, even have State boundaries running across them!  

The Navajo Nation's Reservation is divided between three
different states.  Time to end this nonesense.

It's high time to make the Navajo Nation a state in it's own right - and make it America's first 'Indian State.'  It would send a message to the world that America's Indigenous people are not a conquered people to be left on the margins but full on members of the American Union just as Californians or Alaskans are.

A State for German Americans, for example?

German Americans by US State
and Canadian Province
German Americans, like most immigrant groups, are fairly widely dispersed throughout the US, and there is no state where they are an actual majority.  Furthermore, only 5% still speak German.  

But that doesn't matter.  In China, of the five A.Rs, in only one, Tibet, is the Titular Ethnic Group still more than 50% of the population.

In the Inner Mongolian A.R, only 17% of the population is ethnically Mongol, with more than 70% being Han Chinese.  But that doesn't stop Mongolian from being co-official with Chinese or do anything to revoke Inner Mongolia's A.R status - and nor should it.  

And then of course there's the example of Ningxia, which is home to only a fifth of China's Hui people, and where only a third of the population is ethnically Hui.

So why, when 46% of the population of North Dakota is German American, can't we do likewise, and make it America's German State?  This would mean, for example:
  • Making German a co-official language at State Level there, so that parents in North Dakota could chose between German and English Medium Public Schools for their children.
  • In German Medium Schools, the kids would mostly speak English at home but would acquire German through total immersion and have all their lessons through German, (with the exception of English class of course), and thus subsequent generations would grow up bilingual again and rediscover their heritage.
  • The State's name would be something like 'The German American State of North Dakota', just as the Ningxia is the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.  The position of non-German Americans in North Dakota would in no way change, just as the Han Chinese inhabitants of Ningxia are in no way disadvantaged either.
  • The state would be regarded as the 'home' or 'capital' of German America, and German American cultural festivals would probably happen there too.
I think it would be a great idea - a fine tribute to the many different ethnic groups that made America great and allow countless Americans to rediscover their own heritage.  

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