List of territorial entities where Chinese is an official language

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Countries/territories in which Chinese is an official language.
  Official language (As Mandarin in China and Taiwan)
  Co-Official language (As Cantonese in Hong Kong alongside English, in Macau alongside Portuguese. As Mandarin in Singapore alongside English, Malay and Tamil.)

The following is a list of territorial entities where Chinese is an official language. While those countries or territories that designate Chinese as an official language use the term "Chinese", as Chinese is a group of related language varieties, of which many are not mutually intelligible, in the context of the spoken language such designations are usually understood as designations of specific varieties of Chinese, namely Cantonese and Standard Mandarin.[1] In the context of the written language, written modern standard Chinese is usually understood to be the official standard, though different territories use different standard scripts, namely Traditional Chinese characters and Simplified Chinese characters.

Today, Chinese has an official language status in five countries/regions or territories. In China and Taiwan, it is the sole official language as Mandarin, while in Singapore (as Mandarin) it is one of the four official languages. In Hong Kong and Macau it is a co-official language as Cantonese, alongside English and Portuguese respectively. Chinese is also an official language in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Chinese was added as an official language in the United Nations in 1973, when the General Assembly made Chinese a working language.[2][3]


Nearly every historic Chinese dynasty and state has had some form of Chinese as an official language. The spoken language of bureaucrats and officials, also known as Mandarin has usually been based on the local speech of capital city. Historical governments associated with Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have also used Classical Chinese as an official written language, but for inter-personal communication used their respective native languages. Other states and countries that have used written or spoken Chinese in an official capacity include, Manchukuo, Ryukyu Kingdom and Lanfang Republic.

Chinese varieties as official languages[edit]


Location Population (2017)[4] Written variety Standardized form
 Hong Kong 7,191,503 Traditional Chinese
Written Cantonese
Hong Kong Cantonese
 Macau 648,550 Traditional Chinese
Written Cantonese

As special administrative regions of China, Hong Kong and Macau list the ambiguous "Chinese" as their official language, although in practice, the regionally spoken Cantonese dialect is used by the government as the official variant of Chinese rather than Mandarin as on the mainland.

Cantonese is also highly influential in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the language originated. Despite Mandarin's status as the official language of China, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) has allowed local television and other media in Guangdong Province to be broadcast in Cantonese since 1988 in order to countermeasure against Hong Kong influence. Meanwhile, usage of the country’s other dialects in media is rigorously restricted by the SARFT, with permission from national or local authorities being required for a dialect to be the primary programming language at radio and television stations.[5] Despite its unique standing relative to other Chinese dialects, Cantonese has also recently been targeted by the SARFT in attempts to curb its usage on local television in Guangdong. This created mass demonstrations in 2010 that resulted in the eventual rejection of the plans.


Location Population (2017)[4] Written variety Standardized form
 People's Republic of China 1,379,302,771 Simplified Chinese Standard Chinese
 Republic of China (Taiwan) 23,508,428 Traditional Chinese Taiwanese Mandarin
 Singapore 5,888,926 Simplified Chinese Singaporean Mandarin

While the Mandarin dialect group consists of closely related varieties of Chinese spoken natively across most of northern and southwestern China, a form based on the Beijing dialect has been established as the national standard and is official in the People's Republic of China, Singapore and Taiwan. However, in the latter two jurisdictions as well as in Hong Kong and Macau, local languages have influenced the spoken vernacular form of Mandarin.

Status of other Chinese variants[edit]

In China, the public usage of varieties other than Standard Mandarin (Putonghua) is officially discouraged by the government and nearly all education and media is conducted in the standard variant, with a notable exception being Cantonese in Guangdong media and public transportation. As a result, younger populations are increasingly losing knowledge of their local dialects. However, in recent years, there has been limited activity in reintroducing local dialects at schools through cultural programs and broadcasting restrictions on dialects have been somewhat slightly uplifted.

Although Mandarin is official variant of Chinese in Taiwan, Taiwanese Hokkien and Hakka are widely spoken and used in media. Additionally, they are also taught at the primary school level and are used in public transportation announcements.[6] There is also a thriving literary scene for both Taiwanese and Hakka alongside Mandarin. In 2002 the Taiwan Solidarity Union proposed making Taiwanese an co-official language, but this was criticized by both Blue and Green politicians as promoting Hoklo chauvinism at the expense of Hakka and the Aboriginal language.[7] In December 2017, Hakka was recognized as a national minority language, allowing it to be used for official purposes in townships where speakers form at least half of the population.[8]

In Singapore, the public usage of varieties other than Standard Mandarin is discouraged as in China. The Singaporean government has actively promoted the Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC) since the 1980s and forbids non-cable broadcasting and Chinese language medium of instruction in non-Mandarin varieties. However, since the mid-1990s, there has been a relaxation in allowing non-Mandarin broadcasting via cable networks and a massive following of Hong Kong television dramas and pop culture, which are in Cantonese.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mair, Victor H. (1991). "What Is a Chinese "Dialect/Topolect"? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. 29. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  2. ^ Resolution 3189 (XXVIII) Archived 13 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine Inclusion of Chinese among the working languages of the General Assembly and the Security Council (18 December 1973)
  3. ^ Resolution 3191 (XXVIII) Archived 13 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine Inclusion of Chinese among the working languages of the General Assembly, its committees and its subcommittees and inclusion of Arabic among the official and the working languages of the General Assembly and its Main Committees: amendments to rules 51 to 59 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly
  4. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
  5. ^ "Code of Professional Ethics of Radio and Television Hosts of China" (in Chinese). State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT). 2005-02-07. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  6. ^ 大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法 (statutory languages for public transport announcements in Taiwan) (in Chinese)
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Hakka made an official language". Taipei Times. Retrieved 29 December 2017.