China Ethnic Distribution and Urbanization

Ethnic distribution

According to APARENTINGBLOG, the territorial distribution of the residents tends to coincide with the ethnic distribution: the eastern regions are those inhabited by the properly Chinese (Han) population, which corresponds to about 92% of the total, while the ‘national minorities’ are distributed in the external region. Moreover, the Han present significant differences both of a cultural (languages) and even of a somatic nature, particularly evident in the comparison between the Han of the N and of the S. The regional varieties of Chinese spoken by the Han often do not allow intercommunication, despite the adoption of the Pekingese variety (Chinese ‘Mandarin’) as the official language and the universal spread of ideographic writing (the real vehicle of communication); however, the Han have quite strong unitary ethnic self-identification. Another 55 officially recognized ethnic groups make up the remaining 8% of the population; given that there are many uncertainties about the real numerical consistency of some ethnic groups (the official statistics sometimes differ greatly from the estimates proposed by the interested groups), the most numerous ethnic groups are Zhuang (1.3%), allocated in the S, Manchu (0, 9%) in the NE, and then Hui in Ningxia, Miao in the SW, Uyghurs in Xinjiang (0.6% each), Tujia (0.6%), Yi (0.6%), Mongols (0.5%), Tibetans (0.4%); overall, the greatest ethnic variety is found in the SO. In consideration of these specificities, some of the minority settlement areas have received statutes of autonomy: so is Inner Mongolia, Ningxia Hui, Xinjiang Uygur, Tibet, Guangxi Zhuang. It should also be added that in these areas the Han presence has been growing rapidly, both for the policies of agroforestry enhancement and for the discovery and cultivation of mineral deposits and for the growing incidence of administrative personnel and, finally, for the significant allocation of troops. For all of this, the percentage of Han permanently settled in the provinces of China external has grown to the point that the numerical prevalence of minority groups has in fact diminished in 4 of the 5 autonomous regions. Even in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, although in the latter the Uyguri, Muslims, have rates of demographic growth much higher than those of the Han; in Tibet, the share of the Tibetan population was almost equalized by the Han and the process seems destined to accelerate, especially after the entry into service (2006) of a railway section of about 1400 km which, reaching 5072 m asl, connects Lhasa (Tibet) with the Chinese network. These three regions are also the only ones in which an opposition to sinization and political dependence on China has manifested itself in more or less decisive forms.


The population and building growth of cities is certainly the most impressive phenomenon of the last decades of the 20th century. The urban population is still only 43% of the total (and consider that centers with just 2000 residents Are registered as urban). Residents in urban areas are however increasing very rapidly, to the point that statistical evaluations are only indicative. If at the beginning of the twentieth century only Shanghai had over 1 million residents, and in the middle of the century there were 6 millionaire cities, currently these are just under 60. 4 of them are recognized as ‘municipalities’, metropolitan areas with of a particular administration: the capital, Shanghai and Tianjin (with 12.7, over 17 and 8 million residents in their respective agglomerations according to 2007 estimates) and Chongqing (6.2 million residents) .

The distribution of the large cities coincides with that of the population, clearly favoring the eastern regions. However, among the most compactly urbanized areas is also southern Manchuria, where Fushun, Benxi and Anshan have developed around Shenyang, born as a commercial and then mainly industrial center, thanks to the local iron and coal deposits, which form a sort of conurbation; Dalian and nearby Lüshun (Port Arthur) represent the port outlets of the region. The area headed by Beijing and its port, Tianjin, is one of the fastest growing and changing urban regions; in particular, the capital is constantly being remodeled by huge urban interventions (the most recent are those carried out for the 2008 Olympic Games),

The middle and lower Chang Jiang basin is home to Shanghai, Nanjing and, further upstream, Wuhan; Shanghai has resumed its role as the main industrial and financial center of the China and, in addition to growing immensely; starting from its historic center, deeply renovated, it has produced a very modern business center (Pudong), a new port (the first of the world for ship movement) and a dozen satellite cities, also taking the opportunity of organizing Expo 2010.

Around the Pearl River, Canton, one of the first trading centers of Asia, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and other cities form a megalopolis of around fifty million residents.

China Ethnic Distribution and Urbanization