Mainland Chinese

Mainland Chinese or Mainlanders are Chinese people who live in a region considered a "mainland". It is frequently used in the context of areas ruled by the People's Republic of China, referring to people from Mainland China as opposed to other areas controlled by the state such as Hong Kong or Macau.


Mainlanders in Taiwan

The word mainlander can refer to two different groups:

  1. Waisheng ren (Chinese: 外省人; pinyin: wàishěng rén; literally "extraprovincial person") are people who moved to Taiwan from mainland China after 1945. This group also includes all their descendants born in Taiwan.
  1. Dalu ren (Chinese: 大陸人; pinyin: dàlù rén; literally "mainland people") are residents of mainland China, especially citizens of the People's Republic of China who live in mainland China.

In the context of demographics of Taiwan, the term mainlander most likely refers to waisheng ren.


The translations of waishengren and benshengren into English poses some interesting difficulties. The usual English translation of waishengren is Mainlander, although many waishengren find this translation uncomfortable since it implies that waishengren are residents of mainland China, when they are all residents of Taiwan. Translating the term benshengren as "native Taiwanese" is also problematic because of confusion with Taiwanese aborigines. Most academic literature uses the terms waishengren and benshengren directly. The terms rarely come up in the English-speaking media.

Many supporters of Taiwan independence object to the term "other province people", because it implies that Taiwan is a province of China, and prefer the name "new immigrant" (新住民; POJ: sin-chū-bîn). The latter term has not become popular in Taiwan and is extremely unpopular among waishengren themselves.

Chinese Civil War veterans especially are called "old taro" (老芋仔, POJ: lāu-ō·-á, due to the similarity between the shape of Mainland China and taro leaves), or waisheng laobing (外省老兵), "external-province veteran," in Mandarin. In government publications and the media, they are also called "honorable citizens" (榮民).

Mainlanders make up about 10% of the population of Taiwan and are heavily concentrated in northern Taiwan especially in the Taipei area. Although no longer dominating the government, waishengren still make up a disproportionately large fraction of bureaucrats and military officers.


The formal definition of a mainlander is someone living in Taiwan whose "native province" is not Taiwan. Native province does not mean the province in which one is born, but rather the province where one's father's "ancestral home" is. Until 1996, identity cards and passports in Taiwan contained an entry for native province. The removal of native province from identity cards and replacement with place of birth was motivated in large part to reduce the mainlander/local distinction. This is especially true given that virtually all "mainlanders" born after 1949 were born in Taiwan, not in their "native provinces".

Because of the "native province" definition, someone who is born on Taiwan, but whose father's family roots are not in Taiwan, is generally considered a waishengren. By contrast, someone who is not born in Taiwan, but whose native province is Taiwan (most notably Lien Chan) is generally not considered a waishengren. Similarly, a child that is born to a Taiwanese businessman residing in the PRC would generally not be considered a waishengren.

Furthermore, recent immigrants to Taiwan from Mainland China, mostly from marriages and undocumented migrants, are not considered waishengren, but make up a separate social category. Although the numbers of these people are thought of as small and insignificant by most Taiwanese, it has been pointed out that recent immigrants from Mainland China and their children actually make up a larger population in Taiwan than Taiwanese aborigines.

The distinctions get even fuzzier with mixed marriages and the fact that provincial identity sometimes does not correlate in obvious ways to characteristics such as political orientation or ability to speak Taiwanese. For example, although Mainlanders are often stereotyped as supporting Chinese reunification and opposing Taiwan independence, there are numerous examples where this formula does not hold. Similarly, it is common to find younger waishengren who speak fluent Taiwanese and younger benshengren who cannot speak it at all.

The number of the original waishengren generation who migrated to Taiwan sixty years ago has been dwindling as they age and die. Thus, the great majority of today's waishengren are their descendants born in Taiwan, and they do not speak the dialect of their "native province."


Waishengren are descended from the people who followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan after the Kuomintang lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949. These people included Kuomintang officials, soldiers, merchants, bankers, executives, scientists, intellectuals, refugees, and anyone else who feared Communist rule. Until the 1970s, these people controlled the political systems of Taiwan; this, along with the looting and corruption that occurred under Chen Yi's military government immediately following the Japanese surrender in 1945, generated resentment among benshengren and was one of the main causes of the Taiwan independence movement.

Starting in the 1970s, Chinese nationalist dominance of the government began to recede. This was due to a lack of a political or social theory that would justify continued Chinese nationalist dominance, meritocratic policies which allowed local Taiwanese to move up in the political establishment, and economic prosperity which allowed for social mobility for those outside of the political establishment.

Intermarriage and a new generation raised under the same environment has largely blurred the distinction between waishengren and benshengren.

In the late 1990s, the concept of "The New Taiwanese" became popular both among supporters of Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification in order to advocate a more tolerant proposition that waishengren, who sided with the Allies against the reluctant Japanese colony in Taiwan during World War II, are no less Taiwanese than benshengren. However it quickly became apparent that the notion of New Taiwanese meant different things to supporters of independence and unification. To supporters of independence, the concept of New Taiwanese implied that waishengren should assimilate into a Taiwanese identity which was separate from the Chinese one. By contrast, the supporters of Chinese reunification seemed to believe that all Taiwanese (not just waishengren) should restore a previously marginalized Taiwanese identity without antagonizing a larger pan-Chinese identity.

As of the early 21st century, more and more waishengren see themselves as Taiwanese and as socially distinct from current residents of Mainland China. Unlike those belonging to groups such as the Hakka or Taiwanese aboriginals, waishengren are not encouraged to find their root, and their relationship with anti-China organizations suffers further as a result. Most of them, especially those of the younger generation, make extensive efforts to establish themselves as Taiwanese, sometimes by manifesting good interest in Hokkien Taiwanese culture. At the same time, right-wing discourse alleging that pro-unification waishengren are a fifth column for the People's Republic of China agonizes those mainlanders who regard Taiwan as their new homeland.

Now, the term "mainlander" is used to describe a person, Chinese by race, born and raised in mainland China, thereby avoiding confusion with waishengren. (someone whose ancestors were from the Mainland China, but born in Taiwan, or descended from someone born in Taiwan).


Some prominent waishengren past and present in Taiwan include:

Name Information Birthplace Ancestral Province
Ma Ying-jeou President of the ROC Hong Kong Hunan
Chiang Ching-kuo former President of the ROC Zhejiang Zhejiang
Hau Pei-tsun politician Jiangsu Jiangsu
Hau Lung-pin politician, son of Hau Pei-tsun, current Mayor of Taipei City Taiwan Jiangsu
Hu Shih scholar Shanghai Anhui
Li Ao writer Heilongjiang Shandong
Ang Lee film director Taiwan Jiangxi
Terry Guo entrepreneur Taiwan Shanxi
Morris Chang entrepreneur Zhejiang Zhejiang
Teresa Teng singer Taiwan Hebei
Joey Wong actress Taiwan Anhui
Leehom Wang singer, actor United States Zhejiang
Richie Ren singer, actor Taiwan Hubei
Wilber Pan singer, actor United States Shanghai

Lien Chan has been sometimes denoted a waishengren, often by his political opponents, although the general perception on Taiwan is that he is not. Although he was born in mainland China and his mother was of mainland ancestry, his father's ancestral home was in Tainan, Taiwan.

Recent mainland immigration to Taiwan

Since the mid-1990s, there has been a small amount of mainland Chinese immigration into Taiwan. These immigrants are predominantly female and are often colloquially known as dàlù mèi (大陸妹), which means "mainland girls" (literally: mainland sister). These consist of two categories: female brides of businessmen who work in the mainland; and women who have married rural Taiwanese, mainly through a marriage broker. This population is distinct from waishengren.

"Mainlanders" in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong and Macau, "mainlander" (also called "inlander") refers to residents of mainland China, or recent immigrants from mainland China.


Residents of mainland China are usually called 大陸人 (jyutping: daai6 luk6 jan4)(literally mainlanders), 內地人 (jyutping: noi6 dei6 jan4)(literally people from the inland), or sometimes 內地同胞 (jyutping: noi6 dei6 tung4 baau1) (literally inland compatriot). The third term is often used by rightist institutions, while the second term is neutral, and the first term is commonly used by local Hong Kong Chinese[citation needed] but also used by government issued statements to refer to people from mainland China.[1]

Mainlanders are sometimes called 表叔 (jyutping: biu2 suk1, literally father's male cousin), 表姐 (jyutping: biu2 ze2)(literally female cousin), and 阿燦 (jyutping: aa3 chaan3), which were coined by various characters in movies and television series. These terms are considered derogatory and are politically incorrect. Recent immigrants are more politically correctly called 新移民 (jyutping: san1 ji4 man4)(literally new immigrants). 阿燦 is especially rude.


At the time when Hong Kong was colonised by Great Britain, the colony first covered only Hong Kong Island, with a population of only around 6 000, most of whom were fishermen. Other than the indigenous population on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories who had lived in the area before the British arrived, most people in Hong Kong either immigrated from somewhere in mainland China, or were descendants of those immigrants.

The largest influx of population from the mainland was during the Taiping Rebellion (late 19th century) and the Chinese Civil War (1945–1949). The British colonial government maintained a touch-base policy until the early 1980s, allowing people from Mainland China to apply to be Hong Kong residents if they manage to arrive in the territory.

Many of these early immigrants, especially those who moved from Shanghai in the 1940s and early 1950s to escape the Communist government, came to dominate the business world in Hong Kong. In the 1980s and 1990s, Shanghai-born immigrants also occupied prominent roles in the government, including former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa and former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.

After decades of wars, internal conflicts and the Cultural Revolution, there was a large gap in the level of development between Hong Kong and the mainland. Many new immigrants arriving in the late 1970s and early 1980s were thought to be less sophisticated, and preserved many habits from the rural way of lives. A TV series starring Liu Wai Hung (廖偉雄) reflected the life of a new immigrant in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, new immigrants of this time were believed to be hardworking and optimistic, and were welcome by people in Hong Kong.

Starting from the early 1990s many new immigrants to Hong Kong are the spouses of Hong Kong males, and their children. Many of them are not rich, and some have to rely on money from Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to survive. Although only a few do so, new immigrants of this time were held in a negative view.


Since the Handover in 1997, academic exchanges between Hong Kong and Mainland China has become much more common. In 2004, a policy was passed that allowed mainland high school students to apply Hong Kong universities. The Chinese government encouraged more Hong Kong students to study in mainland universities by offering scholarships.

Recent development

Since 1 July 1997, the day when Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, the immigration policies have changed. It is stated that "A person of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the HKSAR to a parent who, at the time of birth of that person, was a Chinese citizen who is a permanent resident, is a permanent resident of the HKSAR and enjoys the right of abode in Hong Kong."

But in 1999, the Supreme Court of The HKSAR made a judgment that as long as the person is born in Hong Kong, he will be regarded as a permanent resident and will get the right of abode, even though his parents are not permanent residents of Hong Kong at the time he is born.

Since then, a lot of Mainlanders have come to live in Hong Kong. Every day there is a quota of 150.

  • A daily sub-quota of 60 are given to children of all ages who are eligible for right of abode in Hong Kong.
  • A sub-quota of 30 are for long-separated spouses;
  • an unspecified sub-quota of 60 for other OWP applicants allocated to the following persons:
  1. Separated spouses irrespective of the length of separation;
  2. Dependent children coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives;
  3. Persons coming to Hong Kong to take care of their dependent parents;
  4. Dependent elderly people coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives;
  5. Those entering Hong Kong for the inheritance of property.

Starting from 2003 the mainland authorities loosened control over visiting Hong Kong and Macau of mainland residents. In the past residents from mainland could only visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing as part of tour groups. The Individual Visit Scheme allows mainland residents of selected cities to visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing on their own. It has boosted tourism in the two special administrative regions.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

Besides, on 28 June 2006, the HKSAR imposed the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. It is a scheme aims at attracting highly skilled or talented persons who are fresh entrants not having the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness in the global market. Successful applicants are not required to secure an offer of local employment before their entry to Hong Kong for settlement. Many Mainland artists and former national sportsmen/sportswomen have applied for the right of abode via this way, such as Li Yundi and Lang Lang (pianist).


The following are some notable people who were born in the mainland and moved to Hong Kong later in their lives.


Further sources

  • Kuah, K.E.; and Wong, S.L. 2001. “Dialect and Territory-Based Associations: Cultural and Identity Brokers in Hong Kong.” in P.T. Lee (eds). Hong Kong Reintegrating with China:P, Cultural and Social Dimensions. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
  • Siu, Y.M. 1996. “Population and Immigration.” in M.K. Nyaw and S.M. Li (eds.) The Other Hong Kong Report 1996. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. pp. 326–347.
  • So, A.Y. 2002. Social Relations between Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong : A Study of Cross-border Families. Hong Kong: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University.
  • Tzeng, Shih-jung, 2009. From Honto Jin to Bensheng Ren- the Origin and Development of the Taiwanese National Consciousness, University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-4471-6.

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