Narrowing the economic gap between ethnic minorities and the Han majority is crucial to reducing tension in some regions of the country, according to a top official in charge of policy on ethnic minorities. Mou Benli , a vice-minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, said the central government had made the issue the core of its new ethnic policies because it was needed to ensure social harmony. He said harmony had been added to unity, equality and mutual assistance as the guiding principles of the country's ethnic policies. When asked if there was 'disharmony' among ethnic groups, Mr Mou said: 'It is not only between ethnic minorities and Han Chinese, it is also found among Han people. 'It can be seen in various aspects such as economic conflicts and different opinions in [government] work. Therefore, we have to put aside the differences and strive for common goals.' While officials and state media have minimised news of ethnic tensions, authorities had been alarmed by clashes in Henan and Xinjiang . Mr Mou said the economic gap between Han Chinese and ethnic minorities was a result of 'historical factors', although some critics have accused the government of practising policies which favour the Han majority. 'The economic gap is a result of history. Actually, there are many preferential policies for ethnic minority regions,' he said. The State Council announced measures last week that would increase the government's financial support for ethnic minorities. Mr Mou said the government had invested 850 billion yuan in 60 large infrastructure projects in ethnic minority areas since launching the Go West development programme.