The highlighted orange area in the map is what is commonly known as "mainland China".
|Literal meaning||Continental China|
|Alternative Chinese name|
Mainland China, also known as the Chinese mainland, is the geopolitical as well as geographical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It includes Hainan island and strictly speaking, politically, does not include the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, even though both are partially on the geographic mainland (continental landmass).
There are two terms in Chinese for "mainland":
- Dàlù (大陆; 大陸), which means "the continent", and
- Nèidì (内地; 內地), literally "inland" or "inner land".
In the PRC, the usage of the two terms are strictly speaking not interchangeable. To emphasize "equal footing" in Cross-Strait relations, the term must be used in official contexts with reference to Taiwan, with the PRC referring to itself as "the mainland side" (as opposed to "the Taiwan side"). But in its relations with Hong Kong and Macau, the PRC government refers to itself as "the Central People's Government", and Mainland China excluding Hong Kong and Macau is referred as Nèidì.
By 1949, the Communist Party of China's (CPC) People's Liberation Army had largely defeated the Kuomintang (KMT)'s National Revolutionary Army in the Chinese Civil War on the mainland. 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 the control of the Republic of China 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 CPC-controlled government saw itself as the sole legitimate government of China, competing with the claims of the Republic of China, whose authority is now limited to Taiwan and other islands. This has resulted in a situation in which two co-existing governments compete for international legitimacy and recognition as the "government of China".
The phrase "mainland China" emerged as a politically neutral term to refer to the area under control of the Communist Party of China, and later to the administration of the PRC itself. Until the late 1970s, both the PRC and ROC envisioned a military takeover of the other. During this time the ROC referred to the PRC government as "Communist Bandits" (共匪) while the PRC referred to the ROC as "Chiang Bandits" (蔣匪). Later, as a military solution became less feasible, the ROC referred to the PRC as "Communist China"" (中共). With the democratization of Taiwan in the 1990s, the phrase "mainland China" soon grew to mean not only the area under the control of the Communist Party of China, but also a more neutral means to refer to the People's Republic of China government; this usage remains prevalent by the KMT today.
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. 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. 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.
In mainland China
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" (外國保險機構駐華代表機構管理辦法).
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". In some coastal provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu, people often call the area of non-coastal provinces in of Mainland China as "Inland" (内地).
In Taiwan, certain people, the Kuomintang (KMT, "Chinese Nationalist Party") and its supporters use the term "mainland" is to refer to the territory of the PRC (Hong Kong and Macau excluded). This accords with the KMT position that China encompasses both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Since the KMT was the long-time ruling and only party in Taiwan until 2000, and had set up the educational system and taught children the term since its takeover in 1945, the term has been in mainstream use and usually has no particular political connotations, since generations born after the takeover were taught that Taiwan is part of Republic of China, and so is mainland China, and that they are "Chinese".
Government organizations and official and legal documents in Taiwan, including the Republic of China Constitution also use "the mainland" to refer to mainland China, since the ROC government has never recognized the founding of the PRC and because its Constitution does not allow the existence of another state within its territory, constitutional amendments made in the 1990s had to refer to the area occupied by PRC as "mainland", since it is officially considered still part of the ROC territory but just enemy occupied. In contrast, the pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) prefer to use the term "China" instead, referring to the PRC, to imply that Taiwan (ROC) is separate from China. Related to this naming and broader national identity issue, the DPP would also like to amend the ROC constitution to limit its scope and territorial description to the Free area of the Republic of China only and rectify the ROC country name to "Republic of Taiwan" instead, thereby eliminating the need to refer to the "mainland area" and "Free Area" altogether.
In 1992, a high-level political meeting between the ROC and PRC was held in Hong Kong where what became called the "1992 Consensus" developed. This "consensus" essentially reaffirmed that both the ROC (then under KMT administration) and the PRC agree there is only "one China" in a definition that covers both sides of Taiwan Strait, but they differ on their own interpretation of what that "China" means. Each interprets and believes it is the China and has a claim on the territories held by the other. In this context, the term "Mainland China" is agreeable to both sides since they both conceive "China" as including mainland and Taiwan, and therefore need this term to distinguish the two areas. However, since it was the KMT who came to this consensus with China, the Pan Green Coalition does not embrace this term as the Pan Blue Coalition does.
In Taiwan, under the concept of "Mainlander" another comparative term often used is waishengren (外省人; wàishěngrén; "external province person(s)"), which are the people who immigrated to Taiwan from mainland China with the Kuomintang (KMT) around the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, as well as their descendants born in Taiwan. The status of waishengren in Taiwan is a divisive political issue. For many years certain groups of mainlanders were given special treatment by the KMT government which had imposed martial law on Taiwan. More recently, pro-Taiwan independence politicians calling into question their loyalty and devotion to Taiwan and pro-Chinese reunification politicians accusing the pro-independence politicians of playing identity politics. The term "Mainlander" mostly refers to daluren (大陆人; 大陸人; dàlùrén; "mainland person(s)"), meaning people who live in mainland China.
After the Republic of China's relocation to Taiwan, the Kuomintang party-state embued the term dalu with nostalgic overtones, associating it with "the land of the utopian past [and] childhood". Schoolchildren were taught slogans like "Counterattack the mainland!" (反攻大陸！) and "Save our mainland compatriots from the deepest water and hottest fire!" (拯救大陸同胞于水深火熱之中！). The Taiwanese were also told that they were the guardians of traditional Chinese culture until political reunification. However, democratization on Taiwan has led to the rise of voices which denounced traditional attitudes towards the mainland and the ancestral home system, pressing for Taiwanization, Desinicization, and "Taiwan cultural independence" (文化台獨). Concurrently, the mainland Chinese economic reform changed the connotation of "mainland China" to one of "primitiveness, nativeness, and raw cultural material for economic gain", as well as condescention because of Taiwan's comparatively advanced economy. Warlike phrases like "Counterattack the mainland!" saw a revival, but in reference to the economic expansion of Taiwanese businesses. Despite the re-branding of the Kuomintang in the 1990s as a party "native" to Taiwan, Kuomintang continues to produce a variety of mainland-related media such as the television program "Searching for the Strange on the Mainland" (大陸尋奇).
In Hong Kong and Macau
In Hong Kong and Macau, the terms "mainland China" and "mainlander" are frequently used for people from China's mainland. 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) and Immigration Departments.
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".
In the United States' Taiwan Relations Act, the ROC-controlled islands of Quemoy and Matsu were excluded from the definition of "Taiwan". The House Foreign Affairs Committee justified this exclusion on the grounds that "Quemoy and Matsu are considered by both Taipei and by Beijing to be part of mainland China". Quemoy and Matsu are geologically part of the continental mainland.
Other use of geography-related terms are also often used where neutrality is required.
|海峡两岸||海峽兩岸||Hǎixiá liǎng'àn||Hoi2 haap6 loeng5 ngon6||Hái-kiap lióng-gān||The physical shores on both sides of the straits, may be translated as "two shores".|
|两岸关系||兩岸關係||liǎng'àn guānxì||loeng5 ngon6 gwaan1 hai6||lióng-gān koan-hē||Reference 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 sāndì||loeng5 ngon6 saam1 dei6||lióng-gān sam-tè||An 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 sìdì||loeng5 ngon6 sei3 dei6||lióng-gān sù-tè||When referring to either Hong Kong or Macau, or "two shores, four places" when referring to both Hong Kong and Macau.|
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