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Home >> China Travel Guide >> China's Ethnic Groups

China's Ethnic Groups

Fifty-six ethnic groups
China is a united multi-ethnic nation of 56 ethnic groups. As the majority (91.6 percent) of the population is of the Han ethnic group, China's other 55 ethnic groups are customarily referred to as ethnic minorities.

The Han people can be found throughout the country, mainly on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River and the Pearl River valleys, and the Northeast Plain. The 55 ethnic minorities, though fewer in number, are also scattered over vast areas and can be found in approximately 64.3 percent of China, mainly distributed in the border areas of northeast, north, northwest and southwest China. Yunnan Province, home to more than 20 ethnic groups, has the greatest diversity of ethnic groups in China.

Over China's long history, repeated instances of ethnic group migrations, opening up new land for cultivation, emigration, relocation of the ruling dynasty, and a host of other reasons, gave rise to the situation of ¡°living together over vast areas while some living in compact communities in small areas.¡± This 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 regional ethnic autonomy system.

Regional ethnic autonomy
Regional Ethnic Autonomy Equality, unity, mutual help and common prosperity are the basic principles of the Chinese government in handling the relations between ethnic groups. In accordance with these basic principles, China practices a regional ethnic autonomy system. Where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, autonomous organs of self-government are established under the unified leadership of the state.
The minority people exercise autonomous rights, are masters in their own areas and administer their own internal affairs. Besides, the state makes great efforts to train ethnic minority cadres and professional technicians in institutions of higher learning, and universities, colleges and cadre schools for ethnic minorities. The Central Government also actively aids the ethnic autonomous areas with funds and materials so as to promote the development of the local economies and cultures.

The Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy adopted in 1984 at the Second Session of the Sixth NPC is the basic law specifically guaranteeing that the constitutionally decreed regional ethnic autonomy system is carried out. Today, in addition to the five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Uygur, Guangxi Zhuang, Ningxia Hui, and Tibet autonomous regions), China has 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (known, in some cases, as "banners"), as well as over 1,100 ethnic townships.

The organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas are the people's congresses and people's governments of autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties (banners). The chairperson or vice-chairpersons of the standing committee of the people's congress and the government head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county (banner) shall be citizens of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned.

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