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  Ethnic minorities in China  

For a list of ethnic groups in China, see List of ethnic groups in China.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) is a multi-ethnic unitary state and, as such, officially recognizes 56 nationalities within China including the Han majority. Although the 55 national minorities comprise only about 8% of mainland China and Taiwan's population, this is still a sizable population at over 107 million. In addition to these officially recognized nationalities, there are PRC nationals who privately classify themselves as members of unrecognized ethnic groups. Also, foreign nationals who have become Chinese citizens form yet another separate group.

In general, the officially recognized nationalities reside within mainland China, with the exception of the Taiwanese aborigines. The Taiwanese aborigines are classified as a single one of the 55 national minorities, Gaoshan, even though they represent several linguistically and culturally diverse ethnicities. Hong Kong and Macau do not use this ethnic classification system, and figures by the PRC government do not include the two territories.

In the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), these ethnic minority nationalities, together with the Han majority, make up the greater Chinese nationality known as Zhonghua Minzu.


The Long-horn tribe, a small branch of ethnic Miao in the western part of Guizhou Province.

Although most of the nationalities can be seen as ethnic groups, the correspondence is not one to one. For example, many Hui people are indistinguishable from Han Chinese except for the fact that they practice Islam. Conversely, Hakka are often thought of as an ethnic group, but they are generally considered to be within the subgroups of the Han ethnicity. Sometimes, a nationality can contain a diverse grouping of people, such as the Miao nationality, various groups of which variously speak different dialects of Hmong-Mien languages, Kadai languages, or Chinese, and practice a variety of different cultural customs. Other cases result in smaller ethnic groups being classified together with another, such as the case with the Muslim Utsuls of Hainan being classified as part of the Hui people, the linguistically and ethnically diverse Taiwanese aborigines being classified under the label Gaoshan, and the Chuangqing being classified as part of the Han nationality.

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 Dynasty, whose emperors were themselves Manchu and not members of the Han majority. Chinese ethnic theory is heavily influenced by that of the Soviet Union[citation needed].

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

See also: List of ethnic groups in China

Guarantee of Rights and Interests

The PRC's Constitution and laws guarantee equal rights to all nationalities in China and help promote nationalities' economic and cultural development. One notable preferential treatment nationalities 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 perfectural levels. The PRC has also implemented "regional autonomy" in areas populated by nationalities, where heads of these regions are members of national minorities themselves. These "regional autonomies" guarantee 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 nationalities

Main article: Undistinguished ethnic groups in China

"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 20th most populous ethnic group of China if taken as a single group (which it is not). The vast majority of this group is found in Guizhou 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 an existing group among the 56 ethnic groups that describes a newly naturalized citizen (e.g. Han Chinese, Korean, Russian, Gin, Kazakh, etc.), then he or she is classified into that ethnic group rather than the special label.


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