China is homogeneous

Updated 31 August 2011

Despite China’s vast size and population, China is rather homogeneous; because it has been largely isolated from the rest of the world – mountains to the east and south, oceans to the west and the wilds of Siberia to the north.

China is homogenous and is made up of:

  • Population of >1.3 billion, growing at 0.6% and slowing; mainly due to the one-child policy, even though it applies to 2/3 of the total population. This is a worry and a concern that China will “grow old before it gets rich“.
  • Males outnumber females to such an extent that kidnapping of young girls by families with a boy in order to have a ready-made bride when she grows up is becoming an issue in some rural areas. This imbalance is due to the combination of an ancient desire to have sons rather than daughters and the one-child policy. This policy is being relaxed but a demographic time bomb has already been lit.
  • Ethnic groups and languages: 92% Han, with 55 ethnic minorities, each with its own language. The main ones being Tibetan, Mongolian and Uighur; single written language Mandarin as labelled in the West is readable by all though some in the more remote provinces speak dialects that have a remote resemblance to Mandarin. Manchu has more or less disappeared and absorbed.
  • Chinese language – commonly called Mandarin by the west, but actually termed Zhongwen (language of the middle kingdom) or Hanyu (or Han language) from which is derived the Japanese term Kanji, meaning ‘Han words’ – is a nearly unique pictogram language.  There is no alphabet, although the government is trying very hard to introduce Pinyin, a phonetic version of Mandarin based on Roman characters. If two Chinese from different regions find they cannot understand what the other is saying, they resort to finger writing the words on the palms of their hands!
  • But most urban and some rural kids now learn English as the international language of trade and communications – not least caused by IT being mostly English-based (American if you insist). One author, Ted Fishman, says that as many Chinese spoke English as a second language as there are English speakers in the US, Canada and UK combined.
  • Religions: mostly atheist, only 30% consider themselves to be religious. 200m are TaoistBuddhist, 65m are registered Christians and c20m are Muslims.
  • Most of the Muslims are Hui’s (who are ethnic Chinese, converted around the 1300 CE, many with the surname Ma apparently Chinese shorthand for Mohammed) and Uighur’s who migrated from the Altai Mountains around 800 CE onwards. The latter mostly live in Xi