Mainland China

"Mainland China" is a geopolitical term defined as the territory governed by the People's Republic of China (including islands like Hainan or Chongming), excluding dependent territories of the PRC, and other territories within Greater China. By convention, the territories that fall outside of the Chinese mainland include:

Mainland China
中国大陆 / 中國大陸[upper-roman 1]
The geopolitical term "Mainland China" (the highlighted area as shown above) defined as territories under direct administration of the People's Republic of China, including islands of Hainan and Zhoushan etc.
Largest cities
Official languageStandard Chinese
Ethnic groups
see Ethnic groups in China
9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi)
 2019 census
147/km2 (380.7/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard Time)
Driving sideright
Calling code+86
ISO 3166 codeCN
Internet TLD
Today part ofPeople's Republic of China
Mainland China
Simplified Chinese中国大陆
Traditional Chinese中國大陸
Literal meaningContinental China
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese中国
Traditional Chinese中國
Literal meaningInland China
Mainland Area of the Republic of China
Simplified Chinese中华民国大陆地区
Traditional Chinese中華民國大陸地區

Overseas Chinese, especially Malaysian Chinese and Chinese Singaporeans, use this term to describe people from the "ancestral land".


In the year 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People's Liberation Army had largely defeated the Kuomintang (KMT)'s National Revolutionary Army in the Chinese Civil War. This forced the Kuomintang to relocate the Government and institutions of the Republic of China to the relative safety of Taiwan, an island which was placed under its control after the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II in 1945. With the establishment of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the CCP-controlled government saw itself as the sole legitimate government of China,[1] competing with the claims of the Republic of China, whose authority is now limited to Taiwan and other islands. This resulted in a situation in which two co-existing governments competed for international legitimacy and recognition as the "government of China". With the democratisation of Taiwan in the 1990s and the rise of the Taiwanese independence movement, some people began simply using the term "China" instead.[2]

Due to their status as colonies of foreign states during the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the phrase "mainland China" excludes Hong Kong and Macau.[3] Since the return of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and 1999, respectively, the two territories have retained their legal, political, and economic systems. The territories also have their distinct identities. Therefore, "mainland China" generally continues to exclude these territories, because of the "One country, two systems" policy adopted by the PRC central government towards the regions.[4] The term is also used in economic indicators, such as the IMD Competitiveness Report. International news media often use "China" to refer only to mainland China or the People's Republic of China.

Political use

People's Republic of China

The Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国出境入境管理法) defines two terms in Chinese that are translated to "mainland":[5]

  • Dàlù (大陆; 大陸), which means 'the continent'.
  • Nèidì (内地; 內地), literally 'inland' or 'inner land'. It excludes Hong Kong and Macau.[6]

In the People's Republic of China, the usage of the two terms is strictly speaking not interchangeable. To emphasise the One-China principle and not give the Republic of China (ROC) "equal footing" in Cross-Strait relations, the term must be used in PRC's official contexts with reference to Taiwan (with the PRC referring to itself as the "mainland side" dealing with the "Taiwan side"). But in terms of Hong Kong and Macau, the PRC government refers to itself as "the Central People's Government".

In the People's Republic of China, the term 内地 ('inland') is often contrasted with the term 境外 ('outside the border') for things outside the mainland region. Examples include "Administration of Foreign-funded Banks" (中华人民共和国外资银行管理条例; 中華人民共和國外資銀行管理條例) or the "Measures on Administration of Representative Offices of Foreign Insurance Institutions" (外国保险机构驻华代表机构管理办法; 外國保險機構駐華代表機構管理辦法).[4]

Hainan is an offshore island, therefore geographically not part of the continental mainland. Nevertheless, politically it is common practice to consider it part of the mainland because its government, legal and political systems do not differ from the rest of the People's Republic within the geographical mainland. Nonetheless, Hainanese people still refer to the geographic mainland as "the mainland" and call its residents "mainlanders".[7]

Before 1949, Fujian Province (ROC), consisting of the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, was jointly governed alongside Fujian Province (PRC) as a unified Fujian Province under successive Chinese governments. The two territories are generally considered to belong to the same historical region, Fujian Province, which has been divided since 1949 as a result of the Chinese Civil War. However, because they are not controlled by the PRC, they are not included as part of "mainland China."

Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong and Macau are both sovereign territories of the People's Republic of China. However, due to the One Country, Two Systems policy, the two regions maintain a high degree of autonomy, hence they are not governed as part of mainland China.

Geologically speaking, Hong Kong and Macau are both connected to mainland China in certain areas (e.g. the north of the New Territories). Additionally, the islands contained within Hong Kong (e.g. Hong Kong Island) and Macau are much closer to mainland China than Taiwan and Hainan, and are much smaller.

In Hong Kong and Macau, the terms "mainland China" and "mainlander" are frequently used for people from PRC-governed areas (i.e. not Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau). The Chinese term Neidi (內地), meaning the inland but still translated mainland in English, is commonly applied by SAR governments to represent non-SAR areas of PRC, including Hainan province and coastal regions of mainland China, such as "Constitutional and Mainland Affairs" (政制及內地事務局)[8] and Immigration Departments.[9] In the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (as well as the Mainland and Macau Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) the CPG also uses the Chinese characters 内地 "inner land", with the note that they refer to the "customs territory of China".[10]

Republic of China (Taiwan)

In Taiwan (the Republic of China), "mainland area" is a legal term used in the 1991 Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China, though the constitution does not define the geographical boundaries of the mainland area. In the corresponding Cross-Strait Act, the "people of the mainland area" are defined to be those under the jurisdiction of the PRC, excluding Hong Kong and Macau. By contrast, Taiwan and its offshore islands are defined as part of the "free area of the Republic of China".[11]

Views of the term "mainland China" (中國大陸) vary on Taiwan. The KMT had previously referred to the territories under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by several different names, e.g. "(territory controlled by the) Communist bandits", "occupied/unfree area (of China)", "Communist China" (as opposed to either "Nationalist China" or "Democratic China"), "Red China" (as opposed to "Blue China"), and "mainland China (area)". In modern times, many of these terms have fallen out of use. The terms "mainland China" (中國大陸) or "the mainland" (大陸) still remain in popular use, but some also simply use the term "China" (中國). The former term is generally preferred by the Pan-Blue Coalition led by the KMT, while the latter term is preferred by the Pan-Green Coalition led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposes the term "mainland" and its suggestion that Taiwan is part of China. This has caused many political debates.[12][13]

Other terms

Other geography-related terms which are used to avoid mentioning the political status of the PRC and ROC.

Pinyin Jyutping Hokkien POJ Description
海峡两岸海峽兩岸Hǎixiá liǎng'ànHoi2 haap6 loeng5 ngon6Hái-kiap lióng-gānThe physical shores on both sides of the straits, may be translated as "two shores".
两岸关系兩岸關係liǎng'àn guānxìloeng5 ngon6 gwaan1 hai6lióng-gān koan-hēReference to the Taiwan Strait (cross-Strait relations, literally "relations between the two sides/shores [of the Strait of Taiwan]").
两岸三地兩岸三地liǎng'àn sāndìloeng5 ngon6 saam1 dei6lióng-gān sam-tèAn extension of this is the phrase "two shores, three places", with "three places" meaning mainland China, Taiwan, and either Hong Kong or Macau.
两岸四地兩岸四地liǎng'àn sìdìloeng5 ngon6 sei3 dei6lióng-gān sù-tèWhen referring to either Hong Kong or Macau, or "two shores, four places" when referring to both Hong Kong and Macau.

See also




  1. Jeshurun, Chandran, ed. (1993). China, India, Japan and the Security of Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS. p. 146. ISBN 9813016612.
  2. "為何陸生希望自己被稱內地?使ЯРЫЖ 用中國、內地、大陸等詞彙前,你懂背後的意識形態?". The Storm Media. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2022. 綠軍所用的正式名稱,尊重獨立國體的一種正式稱呼,這種稱呼本身也不帶有任何敵意,敵意存在與否其實代表著內戰是否結束,在稱呼上特別要小心。
  3. So, Alvin Y.; Lin, Nan; Poston, Dudley L., eds. (2001). The Chinese Triangle of mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong : comparative institutional analyses. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313308697.
  4. LegCo. "Legislative council HK." Mainland Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Bill. Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  5. "《中华人民共和国出境入境管理法》(中英文)Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China". Archived from the original on 2021-03-10. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  6. "Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao Emergency Service Information". Mainland Affairs Council (Taiwan). 22 March 2009.
  7. 海南人为什么喜欢叫外省人叫大陆人?. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  8. Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. "Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China." Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  9. Chinese version Archived 2009-11-27 at the Wayback Machine, English version Archived 2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics on Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (輸入內地人才計劃數據資料), Immigration Department (Hong Kong).
  10. English Text Chinese text Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Additional Articles to the Republic of China Constitution, 6th Revision, 2000
  12. Wachman, Alan (1994). Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization. M.E. Sharpe. p. 81.
  13. DPP is firm on China name issue. Taipei Times (2013-07-14). Retrieved on 2013-07-21.


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