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Ethnolinguistic map of mainland China and Taiwan
Ethnic minorities in China refer to the non-Han Chinese population in mainland China and Taiwanmarker. The People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC) officially recognizes 55 ethnic minority groups within Chinamarker in addition to the Han majority. As of the mid-2000s, the combined population of officially recognised minority groups numbered at 123.33 million, comprising 9.44% of mainland China and Taiwan's total population. In addition to these officially recognized ethnic minority groups, there are PRC nationals who privately classify themselves as members of unrecognized ethnic groups (such as Jewish, Tuvan, Oirat and Ili Turki). Also, foreign nationals who have become Chinese citizens form yet another separate group.

In general, the officially recognized ethnic minority groups reside within mainland China, with the exception of the Taiwanese aborigines. The Republic of Chinamarker (ROC) in Taiwan officially recognises 13 Taiwanese aborigine groups, while the People's Republic of China classifies them all as a single ethnic minority group, the Gaoshan. Hong Kongmarker and Macaumarker do not use this ethnic classification system, and figures by the PRC government do not include the two territories.

These ethnic minority groups, together with the Han majority, make up the greater Chinese nationality known as Zhonghua Minzu.


Ethnic groups in China are often called nationalities in official English-language documents of the People's Republic of China, such as the nation's 1982-adopted constitution. This is in the naming style of the Soviet Unionmarker government. The Chinese word minzu (民族) is used to translate the German and Russian words for "people" and "nationality" as used in Marxist-Leninist ideology. However, all the ethnic minorities in China are Chinese citizens, regardless of the fact that they are sometimes referred to as different "nationalities" in English, and the Chinese-language term that is used to refer to different ethnic groups, minzu, is not specific on citizenship status.

Officially, English-language terms such as "ethnic minorities", "ethnic groups", and "national minorities" are also used in PRC publications.

Ethnic groups

Most ethnic groups are distinctive from one another, but there are some that are very similar to the Han majority group. For example, most Hui Chinese are indistinguishable from Han Chinese except for the fact that they practice Islam.

Some of the ethnic groups as classified by the PRC government contain, within themselves, diverse groups of people. Various groups of the Miao minority, for example, speak different dialects of the Hmong-Mien languages, Kradai languages, and Chinese languages, and practice a variety of different cultural customs. Some ethnic groups with smaller populations are simply classified by the PRC together with another distinct ethnic group, such as the case with the Utsuls of Hainanmarker being classified as part of the Hui minority, and the Chuanqing being classified as part of the Han majority .

While Han Chinese make up the vast majority of China's total population, the population distribution is highly uneven with large parts of western China having Han Chinese as a minority.

The multi-ethnic nature of China is a result of many centuries of assimilation, expansion and modern consolidation of territories incorporated during the Qing Dynastymarker, whose emperors were themselves Manchu and not members of the Han majority. Today, modern Chinese ethnic theory is heavily influenced by that of the Soviet Unionmarker.

The degree of integration of ethnic minorities with the national mainstream community varies widely from group to group. With some groups, such as the Tibetan and the Uyghurs, there is some resentment against the majority. Other groups such as the Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, and Korean are well integrated into the national community.

Demographics of the ethnic minorities

The People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC) officially recognises 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are Han Chinese, which constitutes about 91.9% of the total population. The 55 other ethnic groups are officially recognised as ethnic minority groups. The large ethnic minority groups in terms of population include the Zhuang at 16 million, the Manchu at 10 million, the Hui at 9 million, the Miao at 8 million, the Uyghur at 7 million, the Yi at 7 million, the Tujia at 5.75 million, the Mongols at 5 million, the Tibetans at 5 million, the Buyei at 3 million, and the Koreans at 2 million.

Minority population grows faster than that of the majority Han Chinese; in 1953 they comprised 6.1% of the population, but this figure rose to 8.04% in 1990, 8.41% in 2000, and 9.44% in 2005. In the most recent survey, their crude natural increase (from the difference between births and deaths) is about seven times faster than that of the Han Chinese. That is because the one-child policy only applies to the majority Han Chinese.

Guarantee of rights and interests

The PRC's Constitution and laws guarantee equal rights to all ethnic groups in China and help promote ethnic minority groups' economic and cultural development. One notable preferential treatment ethnic minorities enjoy is that they are exempt from the population growth control of the One-Child Policy. Ethnic minorities are well represented in the National People's Congress as well as governments at the provincial and prefectural levels. Some ethnic minorities in China live in what are described as ethnic autonomous areas. These "regional autonomies" guarantee ethnic minorities the freedom to use and develop their ethnic languages, and to maintain their own cultural and social customs. In addition, the PRC government has provided preferential economic development and aid to areas where ethnic minorities live. The "regional autonomies" are also to protect ethnic minorities' freedom of religion, however, the issue of freedom of religion in the PRC is, in itself, highly controversial and debatable.

Undistinguished ethnic groups

"Undistinguished" ethnic groups are ethnic groups that have not been officially recognized or classified by the central government. The group numbers more than 730,000 people, and would constitute the twentieth most populous ethnic group of China if taken as a single group. The vast majority of this group is found in Guizhoumarker Province.

These "undistinguished ethnic groups" do not include groups that have been controversially classified into existing groups. For example, the Mosuo are officially classified as Naxi, and the Chuanqing are classified as Han Chinese, but they reject these classifications and view themselves as separate ethnic groups.

Citizens of mainland China who are of foreign origin are classified using yet another separate label: "foreigners naturalized into the Chinese citizenship" (外国人入中国籍). However, if there is a newly naturalized citizen who already belongs to a recognized existing group among the 56 ethnic groups (e.g. Han Chinese, Korean, Russian, Gin, Kazakh, etc.), then he or she is classified into that ethnic group rather than the special label.

Taiwan aborigines

The PRC government officially refers to all Taiwanese aborigines as Gaoshan, whereas the ROC government of Taiwanmarker recognizes 14 groups of Taiwanese aborigines. The term Gaoshan has a different connotation in Taiwan than it does in mainland China. While several thousands of these aborigines have migrated to Fujianmarker province in mainland China, most remain in Taiwan. Due to the contested political status and legal status of Taiwan, the PRC classification of Taiwanese aborigines may be controversial.

World religions in China and their most common affiliations

See also


  2. Constitution of the People's Republic of China, 4 December 1982. Retrieved on 27 February 2007.
  3. "China's Fresh Approach to the National Minority Question," by George Moseley, The China Quarterly
  4. PRC official publication "Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China (2005)"
  5. Google search for "ethnic minorities" in the domain
  6. Google search for "ethnic groups" in the domain
  7. Google search for "national minorities" in the domain
  8. Communiqué on Major Data of 1% National Population Sample Survey in 2005
  9. 之十五:控制人口增长成绩巨大 坚持基本国策任重道远
  10. 中国民族
  11. Ethnic Minorities in China

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