This paper pursues an inquiry into the relationship between ethnicity and public goods provision in an authoritarian system such as the People’s Republic of China. It engages the theoretical relationship between ethnicity and public goods provision in general, but also pays special attention to political economy logics unique to authoritarian systems. Empirically, the paper examines whether ethnic divisions between the majority Han Chinese and various other ethnic minorities have an effect on public goods provision throughout the western part of China, where the majority of China’s ethnic minority population reside. For this purpose, this paper utilizes two census data from China (2000 and 2010) together with night time streetlight imagery data to analyse the overall relationship between ethnicity and public goods provision as measured by luminosity, as well as changes in such a relationship during this ten-year period. More importantly, the year 2000 also coincide with the official launch of “Open Up the West” (xibu da kaifa) development program (Western Development Program WDP), so the ten-year span creates a golden opportunity to study whether such development strategy has any effect on the ethnic dimension of public goods provision in China.