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Population     Regional Autonomy for Minority People     Fifty-six Ethnic Groups     Spoken and Written Language

 

 

Population

China is the most populous country in the world, with 1.25909 billion people at the end of 1999, about 22 percent of the world’s total. This figure does not include many Chinese in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Taiwan Province and Macao Special Administrative Region.

The population density in China is 130 people per sq km. This population, however, is unevenly distributed. Along the densely populated east coast there are more than 400 people per sq km; in the central areas, over 200; and in the sparsely populated plateaus in the west there are less than 10 people per sq km.

The following table gives an overall view of the composition of the population of China : Urban/Rural : The population in cities and towns makes up 30.4 percent ; and that in rural areas, 69.6 percent. Sex : The male population is 50.8 percent; and the female population, 49.2 percent. Age : People 14 years or younger make up 25.7 percent; those from 15 to 64, 67.6 percent; and those 65 or older, 6.7 percent.

The following table gives an overall view of the composition of the population of China : Urban/rural The population in cities and towns makes up 30.4 percent; and that in rural areas, 69.6 percent. Sex : The male population is 50.8 percent; and the female population, 49.2 percent. Age : People 14 years or younger make up 25.7 percent; those from 15 to 64, 67.6 percent; and those 65 or older, 6.7 percent.

When New China was founded in 1949, China had a population of 541.67 million. Owing to China’s stable society, rapid production development, improvement of medical and health conditions, insufficient awareness of the importance of population growth control and shortage of experience, the population grew rapidly, reaching 806.71 million in 1969. In the early 1970s, the Chinese government realized that the over-rapid population growth was harmful to economic and social development, and would cause great difficulties in the fields of employment, housing, communications and medical care; and that if China could not effectively check the over-rapid population growth, and alleviate the tremendous pressure that the population growth was exerting on land, forests and water resources, the worsening of the ecology and the environment in the coming decades would be disastrous, thus endangering the necessary conditions for the survival of humanity, and sustainable social and economic development. Then the Chinese government began implementing a family planning, population control and population quality improvement policy in accordance with China’s basic conditions of being a large country with a poor economic foundation, a large population and little cultivated land, so as to promote the coordinated development of the economy, society, resources and environment. Since then birth rates have steadily declined year by year. China’s birth rate dropped from 34.11 per thousand in 1969 to 15.23 per thousand at the end of 1999; and the natural growth rate decreased from 26.08 per thousand to 8.77 per thousand, thus basically realizing a change in the population reproduction type to one characterized by low-birth, low-death and low-increase rates.

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Regional Autonomy for Minority People

Equality, unity, mutual help and common prosperity are the basic principles of the Chinese government in handling the relations between ethnic groups. The Constitution of the PRC specifies that all ethnic groups are equal. The state guarantees the lawful rights and interests of the minority peoples. Discrimination against or oppression of any ethnic group is prohibited; all acts that undermine the unity of the ethnic groups or create splittism among them are forbidden. Big-ethnic group chauvinism, mainly Han-chauvinism, or chauvinism on a local level, is banned. Every ethnic group has the freedom to use its own spoken and written languages, and to retain or change its customs.

In accordance with these basic policies, China practices a system whereby national minorities exercise regional autonomy. where national minorities live in compact communities autonomous organs of self-government are established under the unified leadership of the Central Government. The minority people shall exercise autonomous rights, be masters in their own areas and administer the internal affairs of their ethnic group. The National Minority Regional Autonomy Law adopted in 1984 by the Second.

Session of the Sixth National People’s Congress provides specific guidelines for guaranteeing that the constitutionally decreed national minority regional autonomy system is carried out. In addition to five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, founded on May 1, 1947; Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, founded on October 1, 1955; Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, founded on March 5, 1958; Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, founded on October 25, 1958; and Tibet Autonomous Region, founded on September 9, 1965), China currently has 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (or, in some cases, “banners”), in addition to more than 1,300 ethnic townships. Self-government in autonomous national minority areas is effected through the people’s congress and people’s government at the particular local level. The chairperson or vice-chairperson of the standing committee of the people’s congress and the head of the government of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county should be from the area’s designated minority people.Organs of self-government in regional autonomous areas enjoy extensive self-government rights beyond those held by other state organs at the same level. These include enacting regulations on autonomy and special regulations corresponding to local political, economic and cultural conditions, having independent control of the local revenue, and independently arranging and managing construction, education, science, culture, public health and other local undertakings. The Central Government has greatly assisted in the training of minority cadres and technicians through the establishment of national minority universities (colleges) and national minority cadre schools to supplement regular colleges and universities. It has, in addition, supplied the national minority autonomous areas with large quantities of financial aid and material resources in order to promote their economic and cultural development.

China's Ethnic Minority Population and Distribution (Date of the Fourth National Census, July 1, 1990)

EthnicGroup

Population(100,000)

Major Areas of Distribution

Mongol

48.024

 Inner Mongolia,Xinjiang,Liaoning,Jilin,Heilongjiang,Gansu,Hebei,
 Henan,Qinghai

Hui

86.120

 Ninxia,Gansu,Henan,Hebei,Qinghai,Shandong,Yunnan,Xinjiang,Anhui,
 Liaoning,Heilongjiang,Jilin,Shaanxi,Beijing,Tianjin

Tibetan

45.931

 Tibet,Qinghai,Sichuan,Gansu,Yunnan

Uygur

72.070

 Xinjiang

Miao

73.836

 Guizhou,Hunan,Yunnan,Guangxi,Sichuan,Hainan,Hubei

Yi

65.785

 Sichuan,Yunnan,Guizhou,Guangxi

Zhuang

155.558

 Guangxi,Yunnan,Guangdong,Guizhou

Bouyei

25.483

 Guizhou

Korean

19.234

 Jilin,Liaoning,Heilongjiang

Manchu

98.468

 Liaoning,Jilin,Heilongjiang,Hebei,Beijing,InnerMongolia

Dong

25.086

 Guizhou,Hunan,Guangxi

Yao

21.370

 Guangxi,Hunan,Yunnan,Guangdong,Guizhou

Bai

15.981

 Yunnan,Guizhou

Tujia

57.250

 Hunan,Hubei

Hani

12.548

 Yunnan

Kazak

11.108

 Xinjiang,Gansu,Qinghai

Dai

10.254

 Yunnan

Li

11.125

 Hainan

Lisu

5.746

 Yunnan,Sichuan

Va

3.520

 Yunnan

She

6.347

 Fujian,Zhejiang,Jiangxi,Guangdong

Gaoshan

0.029

 Taiwan,Fujian

Lahu

4.115

 Yunnan

Shui

3.471

 Guizhou,Guangxi

Dongxiang

3.737

 Gansu,Xinjiang

Naxi

2.778

 Yunnan,Sichuan

Jingpo

1.193

 Yunnan

Kirgiz

1.435

 Xinjiang,Heilongjiang

Tu

1.926

 Qinghai,Gansu

Daur

1.215

 Inner Mongolia,Heilongjiang,Xinjiang

Mulam

1.606

 Guangxi

Qiang

1.983

 Sichuan

Blang

0.824

 Yunnan

Salar

0.875

 Qinghai,Gansu

Maonan

0.724

 Guangxi

Gelo

4.382

 Guizhou,Guangxi

Xibe

1.729

 Xinjiang,Liaoning,Jilin

Achang

0.277

 Yunnan

Pumi

0.297

 Yunnan

Tajik

0.332

 Xinjiang

Nu

0.272

 Yunnan

Ozbek

0.148

 Xinjiang

Russian

0.135

 Xinjiang

Ewenki

0.264

 Inner Mongolia,Heilongjiang

Deang

0.155

 Yunnan

Bonan

0.117

 Gansu

Yugur

0.123

 Gansu

Jing

0.187

 Guangxi

Tatar

0.051

 Xinjiang

Drung

0.058

 Yunnan

Oroqen

0.070

 Inner Mongolia,Heilongjiang

Hezhen

0.043

 Heilongjiang

Moinba

0.075

 Tibet

Lhoba

0.023

 Tibet

Jino

0.180

 Yunnan

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Fifty-six Ethnic Groups

China is a united multi-ethnic nation of 56 ethnic groups. According to the fourth national census, taken in 1990, the Han people made up 91.96 percent of the country’s total population, and the other 55 ethnic groups, 8.04 percent. As the majority of the population is of the Han ethnic group, China’s other ethnic groups are customarily referred to as the national minorities.

The Han people can be found throughout the country, though mainly on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River and the Pearl River valleys, and the Northeast Plain. The national minorities, though fewer in number, are also scattered over a vast area(see the attached table, and can be found in approximately 64.3 percent of China, mainly distributed in the border regions from northeast China to north, northwest and southwest China. Yunnan Province, home to more than 20 ethnic groups, has the greatest diversity of minority peoples in China. In most of China’s cities and county towns, two or more ethnic groups live together. Taking shape over China’s long history, this circumstance of different ethnic groups “living together in one area while still living in individual compact communities in special areas” continues to provide the practical basis for political, economic and cultural intercourse between the Han and the various minority peoples, and for the functioning of the autonomous national minority areas system.

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Spoken and Written Language

The Han people have their own spoken and written languages. Chinese belongs to the Han-Tibetan language family. It is the most commonly used language in China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world. Written Chinese emerged in its embryonic form of carved symbols approximately 6,000 years ago. The Chinese characters used today evolved from those used in bone and tortoise shell inscriptions more than 3,000 years ago and the bronze inscriptions produced soon after. Drawn figures were gradually reduced to patterned strokes, pictographs were reduced to symbols, and the complicated graphs became simpler. Early pictographs and ideographs were joined by pictophonetic characters. In fact, there are six categories of Chinese characters: pictographs, self-explanatory characters, associative compounds, pictophonetic characters, phonetic loan characters, and mutually explanatory characters. Chinese words are monosyllabic. A large proportion of Chinese characters are composed of an ideogramatic element combined with a phonetic element. Many non-Chinese sometimes get the feeling that there are an unlimited number of Chinese characters. How many Chinese characters are there exactly? The Qing Dynasty Kang Xi Dictionary, completed in 1716, contains more than 47,000 characters. The eight-volume Hanyu Da Cidian (Chinese Lexicon) published in 1986-1990 contains over 56,000 characters. However, only about 3,000 characters are in common use. In addition to their functional value as symbols for records and communications, Chinese characters have an aesthetic value as calligraphy.

All China’s 55 minority peoples have their own languages except the Hui and Manchu, who use Chinese; 21 of these have a written form, using 27 kinds of languages. Five language families are represented in China : 29, including Zhuang, Dai, Tibetan, Yi, Miao and Yao, are within the Han-Tibetan language family; 17, including Uygur, Kazak, Mongolian and Korean, are within the Altaic language family; three, the Va, Deang and Blang, are within the South Asian language family; Tajik and Russian belong to the Indo-European language family; and Gaoshan is an Austronesian language. The Jing language has yet to be classified typologically. Nowadays, classes in schools in predominantly national minority areas are taught in the local language, using local language textbooks.

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  Information provided by China National Tourism Administration.

 

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