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Message-Id: <199711291722.MAA16422@h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 11:26:23 -0600
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
From: Christiane Reinhold <reinholdc@mail.utexas.edu>
Subject: H-Asia: PRC Demographers on Mongols, Tibetans, Uighurs
To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: David Cowhig <dcowhig@public3.bta.net.cn>
Subject: PRC Demographers on Mongols, Tibetans, Uighurs

PRC Demographers on Mongols, Tibetans, Uighurs

Reading notes from Chistiane Reinhold, November 1997

China's Minority Populations: Surveys and Research
[Zhongguo Shaoshu Minzu Renkou Diaocha Yanjiu]
Chief editors: Zhang Tianlu, Huang Rongqing
No. 8 in the series China's Population in Transition and Development
Published March 1996 by Gaodeng Jiaoyu Chubanshe

Here are my notes on the first 100 pages covering the Mongol, Tibetan and Uighur minorities in China. You are welcome to reproduce or pass on these notes as you wish.

[I also put on the U.S. Embassy Beijing Environment, Science and Technology section web page at http://www.redfish.com/USEmbassy-China/sandt/sandt.htm in the section sources for study of ESfww.rT in the PRC.]

Zhang Tianlu and Huang Rongqing are professors in the Institute of Population Economics of Beijing College of Economics

This 400 page book summarizes population data on ten of China's largest minority groups, concludes with series of essays on problems of overly rapid population growth, living standards, analysis of population trends, and population growth and economic development.

Analyses are largely based on 1990 census, although some of the data goes through 1992. The authors note that the population of many of the present minority areas stagnated for many decades or even centuries prior to 1949. They cite Zhang Tianlu's 1988 work on the Tibetan population which estimates the population of Tibet at the approximately one million mark in 1287, 1737 and 1951. The higher death rate on the high plateau combined with high infant mortality and marriage customs (such as one wife, multiple husbands) in keeping population growth stagnant. After 1949, minority people were encouraged as a matter of state policy to increase their populations (p. 3 - 4) resulting in two peaks in minority population growth, one in the mid 1960s and the other beginning at the end of the 1970s.

China's minority populations are at different points in the demographic transition from high death rate, high birth rate to the low death rate (owing to greatly improved medical care and nutrition) and low birth rate characteristic of the developed countries. The authors note that China's ethnic Korean population was the first of all China's ethnic groups (including the majority Han) to make the transition to the modern low death rate, low birth rate low population growth pattern (pp. 5- 6). The living standards of the Koreans of northeastern China still do not match those of the farmers of China's southeast coast. This seems to be, says author Zhang Tianlu, because the ethnic Koreans 'lived for a long time under a centrally planned economy that kept them from making best use of human talents and material resources.' (p. 7)

The literacy rates of China's minorities at the 1990 census varied widely. Below 50 percent literacy are the Tibetan, Yi, and Hani. Lowest is the Dongxiang minority at 17 percent. The Uighurs, Kazakh, Tibetans and Buyi are among the minorities with a birth rate over 3.5. Infant mortality rates over 65 per thousand include Tibetans, Uighurs, Yi, Buyi, Hani.

Ethnic Mongols

Mongolian minority (pp. 13 - 33 by Huang Rongqing)

1953 1.46 million
1964 1.97 million
1982 3.41 million
1990 4.80 million

The author of this section, Huang Rongqing, notes that the Mongols are a blending of several north Chinese ethnic groups. The Mongolian population grew sharply during the 1980s partially because many people who had not acknowledged their Mongolian ethnicity now want to be counted among the ethnic Mongol population. (p. 21) Family planning was implemented later among the ethnic Mongols than among the Han population. In the early 1970s, as family planning began among the Han, the Mongol fertility rate was about 6.0. The 1988 Family Planning regulations of the Inner Mongolian autonomous region called for two children for each couple with more allowed in thinly populated or pastoral regions. The 1990 census figures show that fertility among the ethnic Mongol population has declined to the level of the ethnic Han population. (p. 18 - 19) Higher education is well developed in Inner Mongolia but elementary education needs to be strengthened. (p. 27) The ethnic Mongolian population had only 18 percent illiterates in the over 15 population in 1990. (p. 28)


Tibetans (pp. 34 - 68) (written by Ma Rong author of the 'Population of Tibet' published in December 1996)

At the time of the 1990 census, slightly less than half of China's Tibetan population lives in the Tibetan Autonomous Region: 45.7 percent (2.1 million people) lives in Tibet while 54.3 percent lived in the ten Tibetan autonomous districts or counties of the provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan. In 1990 ethnic Tibetans comprised 95.5 percent of the population of the Tibetan autonomous region. Tibet with a surface area of over 1.2 million square kilometers is the largest region in China and occupies one-eighth of the country. The population density at 1.8 per square kilometer is the lowest in China. The 18 counties around Lhasa (of Tibet's total 72 counties) contained 34.8 percent of Tibet's population in 1990. (pp. 34 - 35). In 1990, only 11.5 percent of Tibet's population lived in cities or towns (chengzhen) .

Tibet's ethnic Tibetan and ethnic Han populations

In 1990, the population of the Tibetan autonomous region totaled 2.196 million, including 2.096 million ethnic Tibetans (95.6 percent) and 81,000 ethnic Han (3.7 percent), Menba and Geba minorities each 10,000 at 0.4 percent and 9000 people of other ethnic groups. In 1990, 50.0 percent of the ethnic Han lived in Lhasa (40,387) and 78.2 percent of the Han lived in Tibet's cities. The ethnic Han population outside Lhasa was concentrated in six counties which have an average Han population of 4.3 percent; the other 65 counties have an average ethnic Han population of 0.4 percent. (pp. 36 - 38)

Of the active ethnic Tibetan population, 84.4 percent were engaged in agriculture, forestry, herding or aquaculture in 1990, down from 89.1 percent in 1982. The proportion engaged in industry rose to 3.1 percent in 1990 from 1.9 percent in 1982. (pp. 41 - 42) .

Tibet's ethnic Han population

Between 1982 and 1990, the proportion of specialists in the resident Han population declined slightly from 25 percent to 18 percent while the proportion of merchants rose from 2.4 percent to 7.8 percent. Many ethnic Han are sent to Tibet by the government on three-year contracts. Between 1982 and 1990, the number of Han specialists in the fields of health and physical education fell by 660, educators fell by 1200, geological prospectors fell by 570 and workers fell by 400 people. The rapid increase in industry in Tibet from a small base gave new opportunities for Tibetan and ethnic Han merchants, accounting for the increase in the number of ethnic Han merchants in Tibet.

The increase in the proportion of the ethnic Han population engaged in agriculture, herding etc. rising from 2.3 percent to 3.4 percent reflects an increase of 7000 people. Since the contract system in agriculture had already begun in Tibet by the early 1980s, Han moving into Tibet or already in Tibet switching from some other occupation could not have been assigned farmland. The increase in the Han population involved in agriculture etc. must reflect 7000 people going to work in forests, farms, or ranches newly established or expanded by the government. (p. 46). Over the last several years, there have been ethnic Han farmers who have made contracts with local ethnic Tibetan people to grow produce for the Lhasa market. Most of the Han farmers who have gone to the Lhasa region on their own over the last few years are temporary residents who moved to Tibet on their own -- and it is not certain whether their presence has been fully recorded in the census of the Tibetan autonomous region. More research needs to be done on this kind of migration into Tibet. (p. 47)


The proportion of ethnic Tibetans over age 15 in the Tibetan Autonomous Region recorded as illiterate or semi-literate in the 1990 census was 72.8 percent compared with the all China national average of 22.8 percent. (p. 51)

Weakness of Statistics -- statistical information is very incomplete for Tibetan because of the difficulty of gathering information in such a thinly populated area (especially from nomadic herders), the incompleteness of the reporting system, and the reluctance of ethnic Tibetans to report deaths in the family. (pp. 54 - 59). Statistics on migrations between Tibet and other provinces and between Tibet and neighboring countries are also difficult to obtain.

Tibetan Population Doubled So Massive Subsidies, Food Imports Required

Tibet is high, mountainous and cold; relatively little land is suitable for farming. In 1992, the Tibetan autonomous region had 3.36 million mu (225,000 hectares) of arable land or about 1.5 mu per person. One-third of this land is irrigated and food production per mu is only 455 jin (230 kg). According to a Chinese Academy of Sciences study, there is little unused land suitable for agriculture in Tibet, so increases in production depend upon improved agricultural techniques, not more land inputs. This in turn will require considerable new investment in the land and in the people to train them how to use better techniques.

Fifty Kilograms of Food Per Capita Sent to Tibet Each Year

The population of the Tibetan autonomous region grew from 1.27 million in 1953 to 2.25 million in 1992. The Chinese central government in order to meet the needs of this larger population sends in large quantities of food each year. Between 1985 and 1992, the central government send an average of 106,000 tons per year of foodstuffs to Tibet. On a per capita basis, this comes to 50 kg. for each of the 2 million inhabitants of the Tibetan autonomous region. In 1992, about 78 percent of the population was engaged in herding or agriculture etc. This means that although three-quarters of the population is engaged in agriculture and herding, they still must depend upon the central government to supply three months worth of food for them every year. If the Tibetan population continues to increase, the problem of the food supply will become even more acute. (p. 63)

Tibet does not have coal or oil. It is rich in hydropower potential, but this resource is very difficult to exploit. Energy costs are so high that during 1963 - 1988 income from industry was actually negative. Tibetan agriculture/herding is not self-sufficient; its industry loses money. (p. 63)

Tibet exports minerals and wood to other areas of China. Tibet imports food, manufactured goods (mostly goods needed for light industry), building materials, oil or about 150 kg. of products per Tibetan each year.

Transportation costs are so high for goods brought into Tibet, usually by truck, that the central government subsidizes the retail price to keep prices down to a reasonable level. The low productivity agriculture and chronic money-losing industry of Tibet depend upon central government subsidies to survive. In 1992, the central government subsidy for Tibet amounted to 644 RMB per Tibetan. Compare this with the Chinese national average per capita income of 630 RMB in that same year. (pp. 64 - 65) .

Since 1990, agriculture and herding in Tibet have been free of taxes. Free medical care, education, and improved living and health conditions in Tibetan cities and towns as a result of central government subsidies have made the cities and town more attractive to farmers. This has spurred urbanization.

Author Ma Rong offered these policy recommendations:


Ethnic Uighurs by Yuan Xin (pp. 69 - 100)

According to the 1990 national census, the ethnic Uighur population of China totaled 7.207 million people. Thus the Uighurs are, following the Zhuang, the Hui, Manchurian (Man), and the Miao, are China's fifth largest minority ethnic group.

There is little historical data on the Uighur population. It seems likely that the Uighur population was about 250,000 in the late 18th century, to 650,000 in 1831, to 1.13 million in 1887. During the mid 19th century Xinjiang lost over 500,000 sq. km and a portion of its Uighur population as a result of an unequal treaty with Tsarist Russia. In 1908, the Uighur population reached 1.57 million and then by 1949 had reached 3.29 million. During the first half of the 20th Century Xinjiang's Uighur population enjoyed a population growth rate of twice the national average (1.82 percent vs. 0.80 percent) since remote Xinjiang was relatively undisturbed by the Chinese Civil War and the Japanese invasion. Two concentrations of Uighurs outside of Xinjiang, in Taoyuan County, Hunan Province and Shengchi County, Henan Province totaled one thousand population shortly after the founding of the PRC in 1949. At the founding of the PRC in 1949 over 99 percent of China's Uighur population lived in Xinjiang. (pp. 69 - 72)

According to the 1990 census, the ethnic Uighur population of 7.19 million comprised 47.45 percent of the total population of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Improved medical care and better economic development spurred a rapid increase of the ethnic minority population of Xinjiang beginning in the 1950s just as in other Chinese minority regions. Family planning has been implemented among the ethnic Uighur minority only in the last few years, much later than among the ethnic Han population. Family planning among the ethnic Uighurs of Xinjiang began in late 1988. (p. 74)

Age structure: The Uighur ethnic minority has the largest proportion of elderly and one of the largest proportion of young people of any of China's ethnic groups: this creates an especially large social and economic burden of supporting the young and the elderly. (pp. 74 - 75)

Gender structure: In 1964 the gender ratio was an abnormally high 115 males to 100 females. With social progress and the higher status of women, the gender ratio has fell to 105.1 by 1984 and 104.5 by 1990. Among the elderly population there is an unusual excess of males compared with females: a ratio of 160:100 in the 60 - 64 years of age cohort in 1990. The higher proportion of males seems the result of the lower social status of women, the heavy responsibilities of women at home, in the fields, and in taking care of herd animals. and the widespread custom of early marriage, having children early and having many children. For example, the 1990 census showed that the death rate for women in the 15 - 49 age cohort exceeded that of men.

Dropping death rate, Longer Lives

The sharp drop in the Uighur death rate is the result of better medical care, better nutrition and poverty alleviation and the basic elimination of contagious diseases long endemic to Xinjiang. The birth rate although declining is still high.... population growth is the result of the death rate coming down before the birth rate declines. As living standards rise the desired number of children has been dropping. In the 35 - 49 year cohort women want 5 - 6 children; in the 15 - 34 year cohort women want 3 - 4 children. Urban Uighur women want just 2 - 3 children. The desires of Uighur women are coming into basic alignment with the family planning regulations for the Uighur people. (pp. 77 - 78)

Early Marriage Common, Divorce Rate High, Large Families

The Uighur ethnic group has several distinctive characteristic in its marriage and family life:

Social Structure

Society, Economy and Environment

Xinjiang, in China's northwest, has a surface area of 1.66 square kilometers and occupies one-sixth of China's national territory. Xinjiang has long borders of 5400 km which touch on eight foreign countries. Xinjiang depends on oasis irrigation agriculture. Agriculture accounted for 34.1 percent of the regional economy in 1990.

In 1992, Xinjiang had 47.01 million mu (3.136 million hectares) of arable land or 3 mu per capita. Food production totaled 7.06 million tons or 225 kg. per person. Food production is in surplus. Xinjiang is one of China's top producers of cotton and grain. Xinjiang has 859 million mu (57.30 million hectares) of grassland, second only to Inner Mongolia and Tibet. Xinjiang's coal and oil reserves are the greatest in China. In 1992 Xinjiang farmers has an annual income of 740 RMB; city dwellers 1753 RMB.

Xinjiang is surrounded by mountains. It depends upon snow melt water from these mountains to irrigate its oases. Xinjiang's oases are isolated, separated from each other by large expanses of desert. Transportation is poor and expensive; as a result many regions are basically closed economies. In 1992, the average income of people in the Hotan region was 903 RMB and 1185 in Kashgar, respectively the lowest and third lowest per capita income of Xinjiang's regions. Nonetheless Hotan and Kashgar are rank second and third highest in Xinjiang in their population growth rate. Increasing populations in the oases has put great pressure on water resources, loss of vegetation on the fringes of the oases, accelerating desertification and grasslands deterioration. Of the 20 counties of Xinjiang in which the ethnic Uighur population comprises 90 percent or more of the population, 13 have been designated by the PRC government as key poverty alleviation counties. Many of these poor counties of southern Xinjiang are trapped in a vicious cycle of getting poorer and poorer but more and more children are born. pp. 90 - 92

Family Planning in ethnic Uighur areas

Family planning for the ethnic Uighur minority was merely voluntary until the family planning regulations of 1988 were promulgated by the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These regulations called for a maximum of two (three under certain conditions) children for urban Uighurs and a maximum of three (four under certain conditions) children for rural Uighurs. The practice of family planning doubled to over half of the Uighur population between 1988 and 1992.

Author Yuan Xin draws conclusion and makes policy recommendations

Yuan Xin's policy recommendations