Like other minorities, the Zhuangs have benefited from government assistance over the years. The Guangxi province, where nine in ten ethnic Zhuangs now live, was declared a Zhuang autonomous region in 1958.One of the counterweights to assimilation was noted in a New York Times article published almost 20 years ago, but still true today:
In China, ethnic minorities are entitled to certain benefits which are not available to the predominant Han majority. For instance, they can have more than one child in
spite of China's strict one-child policy and they also receive special benefits when entering colleges.
Even so, given the dominance of the Han Chinese, ethnic Zhuangs say they often have to explain their culture to the Hans. Another problem that they face is losing their cultural distinctiveness, due to the adoption of the Han language and greater assimilation with the Han Chinese.
"Given modern day progress, many things will have to change. We still maintain many non-tangible cultural characteristics, so we've not become completely assimilated with the Hans," said Gan.
[O]ne reason for the relative contentment [of ethnic minorities] seems to be the preferential treatment given to members of minority groups. Typically, ethnic minorities are allowed to marry earlier than members of the Han ethnic majority,
and, most important, to have more children. Their children can also get into universities with lower examination scores than are required of Han students, and model members of minorities are chosen to fill prominent Government posts. The Governor of Yunnan Province, for example, is a member of the Naxi minority.
Because of the affirmative action policy, some families that in the past had tried to assimilate into the Han majority are now applying for declarations that they are members of a minority, and not Han, so that their children will have a better chance of getting into the universities.
Our guide in Guangxi Province when we returned in 2007 told us about the interest in being from a minority group these days, in order to get that all-so-important college admission. He said that lots of people were tracing their roots, hoping to find a family member from a minority group so that they could apply for designation as a minority. Reminded me a bit of some Americans' attempts to get tribal membership just as college applications are due. . . .
[The ChannelNewsAsia article also mentions the famous Zhuang legend of Liu Sanjie. We got to attend Impressions: The Story of Liu Sanjie in Guangxi Province in 2007. Quite a show!]
One of my perennial questions is whether Zoe and/or Maya might be Zhuang. The official story in China would be no, since the one child policy doesn't apply to the Zhuang minority group. But that answer presupposes that the only reason children are available for adoption in China is because they are over-quota children, and we know that's not true. I know of lots of kids adopted from Guangxi Province who have been identified as Zhuang or from some other minority group by Chinese people in the know. I get mixed reactions from people I ask about the girls, so I'm not sure.
I've long been fascinated by the various minority groups in China; click here for one of my favorite websites about the ethnic minorities in China. There's a page for each group.