This paper examines the meaning of Chinese multi-ethnic autonomy in Longsheng County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In China, ethnic policy is aimed at national unity, but the construction of multiethnicity conflicts with the purpose of autonomy, because this construction strips ethnicity of its ability to mobilize people into action. Local cadres cannot act meaningfully under the abstract concept of multi-ethnicity, to which everyone belongs administratively but not ethnically. In other words, multi-ethnicity cannot effectively represent any specific ethnicity, nor does it serve as an incentive for cadres to develop agencies for social change. One result is the widespread sense of ”no way out” of the institutional rigidity caused by the top-down style of policymaking that the author detected among interviewees at all social and political levels.