Regional discrimination in China

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Regional discrimination in China or regionalism is overt prejudice against people based on their places of origin, ethnicity, sub-ethnicity, language, dialect, or their current provincial zones. China's sheer size and population renders much demographic understanding tied to locality, and there is often little life movement outside of a citizen's province of birth. Historically, internal migration has been tightly controlled, and many barriers to free movement exist today. Treatment of ethnic minorities and Han Chinese regional groups can hinge on preferential assumptions based on places of upbringing, and is often most pronounced towards those born external to urban zones.

When Chinese migrant settle in a new region, local residents can develop social attitudes and prejudgments based on the newcomer's place of birth. If a large volume of new residents relocate from a particular area, regionalism can manifest as sub-ethnic bias and provoke social tension.[1]

Currently, the CCP defines regionalism as adverse action or negative attitudes against another based on their home province. The Chinese state acknowledges this as a detrimental yet pervasive prejudice.[2]

Regional discrimination there can also be discrimination against person or a group of people who speak a particular language dialect.

The hukou household registry is a system that has been criticized as an entrenchment of social strata, especially as between rural and urban residency status, and is regarded by some as a form of caste system.


Regionalism has long been part of society in China. Generally, southern China is thought to be more regionalist than northern China. The Hakka people, despite being considered Han Chinese. This is thought to have led to various conflict such as the Taiping Rebellion and Hakka-Punti Wars.

In mainland China[edit]

In Higher Education Entrance Examination[edit]

A university usually sets a fixed admission quota for each province, with a higher number of students coming from its home province. As the number and quality of universities vary greatly across China, it is argued that students face discrimination during the admission process based on their region. For example, compared to Beijing, Henan province has fewer universities per capita. Therefore, an applicant in Henan needs a significantly higher score than his Beijing counterpart to attend the same university. This is similar to regional universities in other countries that receive subsidies from regional governments in addition to or in place of the national governments' funding.[3]

In recent years, varied admission standards have led some families to relocate for the sole purpose of advancing their children's chances of entering university.[4]

In recruitment[edit]

In China's early days, the application of civil servant is mainly offered to the local Hukou (household registration). The residence registration normally appears on personal identification documents and has led many employers and local governments to discriminate based on the permanent residence of applicants. For example, the Beijing Municipal Government had a hiring policy that restricted non-residents of the city to work in only 12 out of 204 types of jobs.[5]

In urban and rural areas[edit]

After the Communist Party took power of mainland China, the Chinese government began using the family register system to control the movement of people between urban and rural areas. Individuals were broadly categorised as "rural" or "urban" workers. Urban dwellers enjoyed a range of social, economic and cultural benefits while China's 800 million rural residents were treated as second-class citizens.[6]

The millions of people who have left village life remain stuck at the margins of urban society, and have been blamed for issues of rising crime and unemployment. Under pressure from their cities' citizens, regional governments continue to impose discriminatory rules. For example, the children of "Nong Min Gong" (rural workers) are not allowed to enter city schools. They must live with their grandparents or uncles in order to go to their local hometown schools. They are called home-staying children by Chinese governments. In 2005, Chinese researchers reported that there are about 130 million home-staying children living away from their parents.[7]

Against specific areas[edit]

As a result of unbalanced economic development, unfair discrimination usually follows the specific regional stereotyping held by a society.

Discrimination against people from Henan: Many rural farmers and migrant workers from Henan suffer abusive consequences from the privileged state system and media portrayal. The reasons for discrimination include: having the largest farmer population in China, huge quantities of rural workers migrating to cities, and continuous emigrating refugees and victims from natural calamities and political tragedies in the 20th century.[8]

Discrimination against people from Beijing: Because Beijing dwellers enjoy the privileges powered by central authorities, anti-discrimination advocates consider them as vested beneficiaries. Therefore, they suffer from hostilities and disdain by people from other regions in China.[9]

Discrimination against people from Shanghai: As the migrants – the majority from southeast to central areas of China – flow increasingly into Shanghai, they are often blamed for the rising crime and unemployment. These migrants are often attracted by the Shanghai Hukou (Household Registration) for its convenience and social benefits. Consequently, sometimes Shanghai dwellers are also despised and counter-discriminated by people from rural regions.[10][11]

In Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

In both Special Administrative Region of People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and Macau, some people discriminate against the mainland Chinese, call them "dai luk lou", meaning they are from the mainland.[12] Immigrants from the provinces and autonomous zones outside of Guangdong Province who are predominantly Mandarin-speaking and have no knowledge of indigenous languages such as Cantonese, Teochew, or Hakka, are called "北佬" or "北姑" (literally, "Northern guys" or "Northern sluts"). In particular, at the beginning of the 1980s, Guangdong saw a massive influx of out-of-province immigrant workers who did not have the habit of taking showers on a regular basis[citation needed], and they were especially socially distanced. Also, those people were seen as not really Cantonese people or punti as a lot of them did not bother to learn Cantonese, citing it as unnecessary. The difference in ideas of issues related to Hong Kong and Canton region also triggered the ethnic tensions.[13]

See also[edit]