June 29, 1987
In the People's Republic of China there is no discrimination against different nationalities, and our policy in Tibet is based on genuine equality of the nationalities. China has dozens of minority nationalities, which, however, account for only 6 per cent of the total population, the rest being Han. Nevertheless, in the people's congresses and in administrative organs at all levels, the proportion of cadres from the minority groups far exceeds 6 per cent. As for the harm done to minority nationalities during the "cultural revolution", that sort of thing can't be used as evidence that we discriminate against them. In those years it was not just the minorities that suffered; it was the Han nationality that was hit hardest. The majority of the revolutionaries of the older generation, nearly all Han, were toppled, including myself.
Since the downfall of the Gang of Four, the Central Government has adopted many measures to develop the areas inhabited by minority nationalities. Take Tibet, for example. The government has decided that all other provinces and cities should share long-term responsibility for helping Tibet carry out certain development projects. Tibet has tremendous development potential. Many of China's natural resources are located in minority nationality areas, including Tibet and Xinjiang. If these areas can begin to develop, their future will be bright. It is our unshakable policy to help them do that.
The population of Tibet is thinly scattered over a vast area. The two million local Tibetans alone are not enough to carry out development, and there is no harm in having some Han people go there to help. If the problems in Tibet and China's policy towards minority nationalities are judged on the basis of the number of Han people in Tibet, the conclusion is bound to be wrong. The important things to consider are how the Tibetan people will benefit from their presence and what it will take to stimulate rapid development in the region and bring it into the forefront of the drive for modernization. Marked changes have already taken place in Tibet, and the living standards of the Tibetan people have risen a great deal, but in general the region is still backward and a great deal remains to be done.
This is true not only for Tibet but for the other minority nationality areas as well. Our policy is to focus on developing these areas. For example, take Inner Mongolia, with its vast grasslands and sparse population. In future, it may become one of the most developed areas, and there are quite a few Han people there. When assessing a minority nationality area, the important thing is to see whether it has development potential. If the number of Han people there is fairly large, and if they are helping the local people develop the economy, that's not a bad thing. In judging a matter of this sort, one has to consider the essence and not the form.
(Excerpt from a talk with James Carter, former President of the United States.)