China has designated five regions as autonomous zones to give powers to minority groups within the country; they are not considered provinces of China although the Central Communist Party does directly supervise them. These minority groups have a large enough population within China to justify more powers in terms of cultural preservation, language preservation, having their own governance, and having more legislative rights. In fact, each autonomous zone is allowed to appoint a governor from their own ethnicity. The model the Chinese government used mirrored that of the Soviet Union’s policies toward its minority ethnic groups.
Established in 1965, Tibetans are the minority group represented in this Autonomous Zone and its capital is Lhasa. It is the least populated autonomous zone with 3,002,166 people as of the 2010 Chinese census. Of Tibet’s 3 million people, over 90% of its population is of the Tibetan ethnic minority, making it the autonomous region with the highest percentage of its own people. The spiritual leader of Tibetan people is the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India.
Established in 1955, Uighurs are the minority group represented in this Autonomous Zone and its capital is Urumqi. It is the largest geographical autonomous zone. Of Xinjiang’s 20 million population, Uighurs make up 40%. Uighurs are devout Muslims that worship Allah. The economy is driven by corporations in the following sectors: coal and power, non-ferrous metals, iron and steel as well as textiles and sugar.
Established in 1947, Mongolians are the minority group represented in this Autonomous Zone and its capital is Hohot. Mongolia has a parliamentary republic and its people elect the president and its land area comprises 12% of China’s total. Of Inner Mongolia’s 24 million population, 17% are Mongols.
Established in 1958, Hui are the minority group represented in this Autonomous Zone and its capital in Yinchuan. The Yellow River passes through the autonomous zone and is an integral part of the economy of Ningxia. During the Han and Tang dynasty, Ningxia acted as a transportation and cultural hub of the Middle Kingdom. Of the zones 5.62 million people, one third of the population is of the Hui ethnic minority.
Established in 1958, Zhuang are the minority group represented in this Autonomous Zone and its capital is Nanning. It is the highest populated autonomous zone with 46,026,629 people as of the 2010 China census. Because it borders the Vietnamese border, it has been called the Gateway to Vietnam. Its subtropical climate makes for mild winters and humid summers. Tourism is a major draw to Guangxi because of its mountainous terrain.