Nationality and Ethnicities of China
Historically, China has not been concerned with the separation of ethnicities and minorities. During ancient and imperial China, the divide of Chinese or non-Chinese was marked by borders and imperial rule. If someone was outside of the reach of “China” they were no longer “Chinese,” yet if they were inside the realm of China, they were Chinese. This non-discretional view changed during the Communist Revolution in 1949; Maoist doctrine was heavily influenced by Joseph Stalin, who was very concerned with cultural and ethnic origin.
Today, the People’s Republic of China is officially made up of 55 minorities and the Han majority.
The Han Chinese are the ethnic group that is native to China, constituting for 92% of the population of the People’s Republic of China, and around 20% of the world population, making them the largest ethnic group in the world. Han Chinese are not constrained to China, while they do account for Chinese populations the world over, their most dominant areas are, Taiwan, where they make of 98% of the population, and Singapore, where they make up 78% of the population.
The term “Han” came from the Han Dynasty, which was the first dynasty to rule a fully united China. The imperial reign of the Han Dynasty is noted for the construction of the Great Wall, as well as a golden age for Chinese, arts, culture and military expansion.
Minorities of China
The minorities in China account for roughly 8% of the population. The southern, western, and northern parts of China are where most of the minorities live, while eastern China is mostly Han. Social and cultural integration has become a topic of recent concern.
The acceptance of the ethnic minorities oscillates in a varying degree from group to group, but predominantly there is a view that non-Han minorities are inferior in the sense that they are not as far along in the path of modernization. This stereotyping is known as “Han chauvinism.” Even though there has been some recent violent outbreaks on the grounds of minority unrest, for example the 2008 Tibetan unrest and the September 2009 Xinjiang unrest, most ethnic conflicts have been treated in a non-violent fashion.