Placating Credible Rebels: Chinese Fiscal Policies Toward Religious and Non-Religious Ethnic Groups
Victor Shih - Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University
From a strictly theoretical perspective, the seemingly generous Chinese policies toward ethnic minorities make little sense. Given the authoritarian nature of the Chinese government and the small share of minorities in the general population (8%), the state should have little problem suppressing any sign of uprisings, which means that minorities, even if they have some rebellious attributes, cannot credibly threaten an uprising. Indeed, the CCP regime has successfully suppressed many minority rebellions since 1949. Despite the over-whelming might of the CCP, the party in the reform era has systematically targeted fiscal transfers to areas with high religious minority populations. This paper shows that whether objectively true or not, the CCP believes that religious minorities show a greater capacity and willingness to launch uprisings. This belief has shaped a host of minority and religious policies, a part of which can be captured by the deliberate fiscal policies toward religious minorities.