Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The term generally excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
There are two terms in Chinese for "mainland". Namely, Dalu (), which means "continent," and Neidi ( / ), literally "inner land." In the PRC, the usage of the two terms are generally interchangeable and there is no prescribed method of reference in any jurisdiction. To emphasize "equal footing" in cross-strait relations, the term is 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".
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" ( ) while the PRC referred to the ROC as "Chiang Bandits" ( ). Later, as a military solution became less feasible, the ROC referred to the PRC as "Communist China"" ( ). 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.
Usage of the term
In Taiwan, the term "mainland" is often used to refer to mainland China (Hong Kong and Macau excluded), by the Kuomintang (KMT, "Chinese Nationalist Party") and its supporters, who share the view that China encompasses both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Since the KMT was the long-time ruling party in Taiwan, the term is in mainstream use in Taiwan and often has no political implications. Government organizations and official and legal documents in Taiwan also use "the mainland" to refer to mainland China. In contrast, the pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party use the term "the Chinese mainland" to imply that Taiwan is separate from China.
In Taiwan, under the concept of "Mainlander" another comparative term often used is waishengren (), 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 (), meaning people who live in mainland China.
In the United States' Taiwan Relations Act, the ROC-controlled islands of Quemoy and Matsu were excluded from the definition of "Taiwan", and are regarded as parts of mainland China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee justified this exclusion on the grounds that "Quemoy and Matsu are considered by both Taipei and by Peking to be part of mainland China." Quemoy and Matsu are geologically part of the continental mainland.
In Hong Kong and Macau
In Hong Kong and Macau, the terms "mainland China" and "mainlander" are frequently used for people from China mainland. This usage is not geographically accurate, however, as much of the land area of both Hong Kong and Macau are peninsulas connected to the continent. The Chinese term , meaning the inland but still translated mainland in English, is commonly applied by SAR governments to represent non-SAR areas of PRC, including Hainan and coastal regions of mainland China, such as "Constitutional and Mainland Affairs" ( ) 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 "inner land", with the note that they refer to the "customs territory of China".
In mainland China
In the PRC, the term ("Inland") is often contrasted with the term ("outside of the border") for things outside of the mainland region. Examples include "Administration of Foreign-funded Banks" ( ) or the "Measures on Administration of Representative Offices of Foreign Insurance Institutions" ( ).
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 People's Republic of China in the geographical mainland. Nonetheless, Hainanese people still refer to the geographic mainland as "the mainland" and call its residents "mainlanders."
Other use of geography-related terms are also often used where neutrality is required.
||H ixi li ng' n
||hoi2 haap6 loeng5 ngon6
||The physical shores on both sides of the straits, may be translated as "two shores".
||li ng' n gu nx
||loeng5 ngon6 gwaan1 hai6
||Reference to the Taiwan Strait (cross-Strait relations, literally "relations between the two sides/shores [of the Strait of Taiwan]").
||li ng' n s nd
||loeng5 ngon6 saam1 dei6
||An extension of this is the phrase "two shores, three places", with "three places" meaning mainland China ( / ), Taiwan ( / ) and either Hong Kong ( ) or Macau ( / ).
||li ng' n s d
||loeng5 ngon6 sei3 dei6
||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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