Mainlanders (also called Inlanders) are people who live in a region considered a "mainland". It is frequently used in the context of Greater China, referring to Chinese people who live, were born, or have their "native province" in mainland China as opposed to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or Singapore.

Other uses of "mainlander"

In Tasmania, mainlander refers to Australians from the other five states and the territories, which are situated on the Australian mainland.

In New Zealand, mainlander refers to a resident of the South Island, which is the bigger island.

In Canada, mainlander is often used on the East Coast by residents of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Deer Island, New Brunswick, Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick or Cape Breton Island. On the West Coast the term is used by people who live on Vancouver Island.

In Hawaii, mainlander is sometimes used to refer to Americans from the continental United States.

In Corsica, the word "continental" (literally, "mainlander") is used by local residents to refer to people born in mainland France.

Chinese mainlanders (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, mainlander can refer to two different groups:
# The "waisheng ren" (zh-cpl|c=外省人|p=wàishěng rén|l=external-province person) are persons who emigrated from mainland China near the end of the Chinese Civil War and their descendants.
#* This is as opposed to the Taiwanese local residents, (本省人; běnshěng rén; "original-province person"), who were in Taiwan prior to the mass exodus near the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War.
# The "dalu ren" (大陸人; dàlù rén; "mainland people") refers to residents of mainland China.
#* This group excludes almost all Taiwanese, including the "waisheng ren", except recent immigrants from mainland China. When Westerners hear the term mainlander in the context of Chinese culture or politics, they generally think of this definition.


"Waishengren" are also called more formally, "waisheng ji ren" (外省籍人), meaning "persons who are external-province natives." In Taiwanese, they are also given the nickname of "taro" (芋仔, POJ: Ō·-á). The term is somewhat pejorative because it refers to the perceived "dirtiness" of some of the early KMT troops. Fact|date=February 2007

The opposite of "waishengren" is "benshengren" who are called "sweet potato" (蕃薯, POJ: han-chû) which comes from the shape of Taiwan.Fact|date=April 2007 "Benshengren" includes three distinct groups: the Hoklo (POJ: Hō-ló), the Hakka, and the aborigines.

The translations of "waishengren" and "benshengren" into English poses some interesting difficulties. The usual English translation of "waishengren" is Mainlander, although many "waishengren" find this translation uncomfortable since it implies that "waishengren" are not fully Taiwanese. Translating the term "benshengren" as "native Taiwanese" is also problematic because of confusion with Taiwanese aborigines. Most academic literature uses the terms "waishengren" and "benshengren" directly. The terms rarely come up in the English-speaking media.

Many supporters of Taiwan independence object to the term "other province people", because it implies that Taiwan is a province of China, and prefer the name "new immigrant" (新住民; POJ: sin-chū-bîn). The latter term has not become popular in Taiwan and is extremely unpopular among "waishengren" themselves.

Chinese Civil War veterans especially are called "old taro" (老芋仔, POJ: lāu-ō·-á, due to the similarity between the shape of Mainland China and taro leaves), or "waisheng laobing" (外省老兵), "external-province veteran," in Mandarin. In government publications and the media, they are also called "honorable citizens" (榮民).

Mainlanders make up about 10% of the population of Taiwan and are heavily concentrated in northern Taiwan especially in the Taipei area. Although no longer dominating the government, "waishengren" still make up a disproportionately large fraction of bureaucrats and military officers.


The formal definition of a mainlander is someone living in Taiwan whose "native province" is not Taiwan. Native province does not mean the province in which one is born, but rather the province whose father's family comes from. Until the early 1990s, identity cards in Taiwan contained an entry for native province. The removal of native province from identity cards and replacement with place of birth was motivated in large part to reduce the mainlander/local distinction. This is especially true when virtually all "mainlanders" born after 1949 were born in Taiwan, not in their "native provinces."

Because of the "native province" definition, someone who is born on Taiwan, but whose father's family roots are not in Taiwan, is generally considered a Mainlander. By contrast, someone who is not born in Taiwan, but whose native province is Taiwan (most notably Lien Chan) is generally not considered a Mainlander. Similarly, a child that is born to a Taiwanese businessman residing in the PRC would generally not be considered a "waishengren".

Furthermore, recent immigrants to Taiwan from Mainland China, mostly from marriages to Taiwanese businessmen, mail-order brides, and undocumented migrants, are not considered "waishengren", but make up a separate social category. Although the numbers of these people are thought of as small and insignificant by most Taiwanese, it has been pointed out that recent immigrants from Mainland China and their children actually make up a larger population in Taiwan than Taiwanese aborigines.

The definitions get even fuzzier with mixed marriages and the fact that provincial identity sometimes does not correlate in obvious ways to characteristics such as political orientation or ability to speak Taiwanese. For example, although Mainlanders are often stereotyped as supporting Chinese reunification and opposing Taiwan independence there are numerous examples where this formula does not hold. Similarly, it is common to find younger "waishengren" who speak fluent Taiwanese and younger "benshengren" who cannot speak it at all.

The great majority of "waishengren" were born in Taiwan, and they do not speak the dialect of their "native province."


"Waishengren" are descended from the people who followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan after the Kuomintang (KMT) lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949. These people included KMT officials, soldiers, merchants, bankers, executives, scientists, various other intellectuals, and anyone else who sensed that the Communist regime would ultimately be worse, and had the connections and money to escape mainland China. Until the 1970s, these people controlled the political systems of Taiwan; this, along with the looting and corruption that occurred under Chen Yi's military government immediately following the Japanese surrender in 1945, generated resentment among "benshengren" and was one of the main causes of the Taiwan independence movement.

Starting in the 1970s, nationalist dominance of the government began to recede. This was due to a lack of a political or social theory that would justify continued nationalist dominance, meritocratic policies which allowed local Taiwanese to move up in the political establishment, and economic prosperity which allowed for social mobility for those outside of the political establishment.

Intermarriage and a new generation raised under the same environment has largely blurred the distinction between "waishengren" and "benshengren".

In the late 1990s, the concept of "The New Taiwanese" became popular both among supporters of Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification in order to advocate a more tolerant proposition that "waishengren", who sided with the Allies against the reluctant Japanese colony in Taiwan during World War II, are no less Taiwanese than "benshengren". However it quickly became apparent that the notion of New Taiwanese meant different things to supporters of independence and unification. To supporters of independence, the concept of New Taiwanese implied that "waishengren" should assimilate into a Taiwanese identity which was separate from the Chinese one. By contrast, the supporters of Chinese reunification seemed to believe that all Taiwanese (not just "waishengren") should restore a previously marginalized Taiwanese identity without antagonizing a larger pan-Chinese identity.

As of the early 21st century, more and more "waishengren" see themselves as Taiwanese and as socially distinct from current residents of Mainland China. Unlike those belonging to groups such as the Hakka or Taiwanese aboriginals, "waishengren" are not encouraged to find their root, and their relationship with anti-China organizations suffers further as a result. Most of them, especially those of the younger generation, make extensive efforts to establish themselves as Taiwanese, sometimes by manifesting good interest in Hokkien Taiwanese culture. At the same time, right-wing discourse alleging that pro-unification "waishengren" are a fifth column for the People's Republic of China agonizes those mainlanders who regard Taiwan as their new homeland.

Now, the term "mainlander" is used to describe a person, Chinese by race, born and raised in mainland China, thereby avoiding confusion with "waishengren". (someone whose ancestors were from the Mainland China, but born in Taiwan, or descended from someone born in Taiwan).


Prominent mainlanders in Taiwan include:
* John Chang, politician, born in mainland China.
* Hau Pei-tsun, politician, born in mainland China.
* Hau Lung-pin, politician, born in Taiwan, son of Hau Pei-tsun.
* Li Ao, writer, born in mainland China.
* Ang Lee, film director, born in Taiwan.
* Ma Ying-jeou, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), born in Hong Kong.
* Pai Hsien-yung, writer, born in mainland China.
* James Soong, politician, born in mainland China.
* Taylor Wang, first ethnic Chinese astronaut, born in mainland China.
* Henry Lee, forensic scientist, born in mainland China.

Lien Chan sometimes is pejoratively denoted as a mainlander, although the general perception on Taiwan is that he is not. Although he was born in mainland China, his father's family had roots in Taiwan.

Recent mainland immigration to Taiwan

Since the mid-1990s, there has been a small amount of mainland Chinese immigration into Taiwan. These immigrants are predominantly female and are often colloquially known as "dàlù mèi" (大陸妹), which means "mainland girls" (literally: mainland sister). These consist of two categories: female brides of businessmen who work in the mainland; and women who have married rural Taiwanese, mainly through a marriage broker. This population is generally seen as socially distinct from "waishengren".

Chinese mainlanders (Hong Kong)

In Hong Kong and Macau (both under the control of People's Republic of China, but not considered part of mainland China), "mainlander" refers to residents of mainland China, or recent immigrants from mainland China.


Residents of mainland China are usually called 大陸人 (literally mainlanders), 內地人 (literally people from the mainland), or sometimes 內地同胞 (literally inland compatriot). The third term is often used by leftist institutions, while the second term is neutral, and the first term is derogatory.

Mainlanders are sometimes called 表叔, 表姐 (literally cousins), and 阿燦, which were coined by various characters in movies and television series. These terms are considered derogatory and are politically incorrect. Recent immigrants are more politically correctly called 新移民 (literally new immigrants). 阿燦 is especially rude.


At the time when Hong Kong was colonised by Great Britain, the colony first covered only Hong Kong Island, with a population of only around 6 000, most of whom were fishermen. Other than the indigenous population on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories who had lived in the area before the British arrived, most people in Hong Kong either immigrated from somewhere in mainland China, or were descendants of those immigrants.

The largest influx of population from the mainland was during the Taiping Rebellion (late 19th century) and the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). The British colonial government maintained a touch-base policy until the early 1980s, allowing people from Mainland China to apply to be Hong Kong residents if they manage to arrive in the territory.

Many of these early immigrants, especially those who moved from Shanghai in the 1940s and early 50's to escape the Communist government, came to dominate the business world in Hong Kong. In the 1980s and 1990's, Shanghai-born immigrants also occupied prominent roles in the government, including former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa and former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.

After decades of wars, internal conflicts and the Cultural Revolution, there was a large gap in the level of development between Hong Kong and the mainland. Many new immigrants arriving in the late 1970s and early 1980s were thought to be less sophisticated, and preserved many habits from the rural way of lives. A TV series starring Liu Wai Hung (廖偉雄) reflected the life of a new immigrant in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, new immigrants of this time were believed to be hardworking and optimistic, and were welcome by people in Hong Kong.

Starting from the early 1990s many new immigrants to Hong Kong are the spouses of Hong Kong males, and their children. Many of them are not rich, and some have to rely on money from Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to survive. Although only a few do so, new immigrants of this time were held in a negative view.


Since the handover in 1997, the academic exchange between Hong Kong and mainland China became much more common. In the year of 2004, a policy that allowed mainland high school students to apply for studying in Hong Kong universities has passed. The universities in Hong Kong began to admit students from mainland high school. It’s a breakthrough allowing students with different backgrounds learning and growing together. On the other hand, the Chinese government encouraged more Hong Kong local students to study in the mainland universities by offering scholarship or superiority with a much lower admission score. As a result, in the universities in Hong Kong, you can hear more students speaking Mandarin in campus. By the same token, in mainland, the students from Hong Kong take more percentage, comparing with 10 years ago.

Exchange student program contributes to this kind of academic communication. Some universities have bonded with other universities as "sister school." By dispatching several outstanding students to the other university every year, they can build a permanent relationship. Exchange program flourished when the interaction between mainland and Hong Kong becoming easier and more frequent. Both sides choose excellent students and expect them to be a culture-bridge. After several months communicating, each delegate can obtain a further understanding about a different culture. That’s really help to build a harmonious society for these young people will probably be the hard-core in future. Exchange student is just like an ambassador dispatched by her country, who also contribute to the multi-culture here. But before the handover, this kind of mixture is absolutely invisible.

Recent development

Since 1 July 1997, the day when Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, the immigration policies have changed. It is stated that "A person of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the HKSAR to a parent who, at the time of birth of that person, was a Chinese citizen who is a permanent resident, is a permanent resident of the HKSAR and enjoys the right of abode in Hong Kong."

But in 1999, the Supreme Court of The HKSAR made a judgment that as long as the person is born in Hong Kong, he will be regarded as a permanent resident and will get the right of abode, even though his parents are not permanent residents of Hong Kong at the time he is born.

Since then, a lot of Mainlanders have come to live in Hong Kong. Every day there is a quota of 150.
* A daily sub-quota of 60 are given to children of all ages who are eligible for right of abode in Hong Kong.
* A sub-quota of 30 are for long-separated spouses;
* an unspecified sub-quota of 60 for other OWP applicants allocated to the following persons:
#Separated spouses irrespective of the length of separation;
#Dependent children coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives;
#Persons coming to Hong Kong to take care of their dependent parents;
#Dependent elderly people coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives;
#Those entering Hong Kong for the inheritance of property.

Starting from 2003 the mainland authorities loosened control over visiting Hong Kong and Macau of mainland residents. In the past residents from mainland could only visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing as part of tour groups. The Individual Visit Scheme allows mainland residents of selected cities to visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing on their own. It has boosted tourism in the two special administrative regions.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

Besides, on 28 June 2006, the HKSAR imposed the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. It is a scheme aims at attracting highly skilled or talented persons who are fresh entrants not having the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness in the global market. Successful applicants are not required to secure an offer of local employment before their entry to Hong Kong for settlement. Many Mainland artists and former national sportsmen/sportswomen have applied for the right of abode via this way, such as Li Yundi and Lang Lang (pianist).


The following are some notable people who were born in the mainland and moved to Hong Kong later in their lives.
*Anson Chan, politician, born in Shanghai.
*Wong Jim (aka. James Wong), musician, born in Guangdong.
*Lau Chin Shek, politician, born in Guangdong.
*Tang Hsiang Chien, businessman, born in Shanghai.
*Tung Chee Hwa, politician, born in Shanghai.
*Wong Kar-wai, filmmaker, born in Shanghai.

Chinese mainlanders (Hainan)

Although the island of Hainan is not politically separate from China in the sense that Taiwan or Hong Kong/Macau are, consciousness of Hainan as an island leads local Hainanese to refer to recent immigrants from the Chinese mainland as "mainlanders" (大陆人 da4 lu4 ren2) or 'inlanders' (内地人 nei4 di4 ren2). In the 1990s, when there was a rapid influx of mainlanders looking to get rich quick from the province's status as a Special Economic Zone, there was considerable local resentment towards the new arrivals.Fact|date=August 2007


[ Ku, A. 2001. “Hegemonic Construction, Negotiation, and Displacement: The Struggle over Right of Abode in Hong Kong.” International Journal of Cultural Studies, no.4(3): 259-278.]

Kuah, K.E.; and Wong, S.L. 2001. “Dialect and Territory-Based Associations: Cultural and Identity Brokers in Hong Kong.” in P.T. Lee (eds). Hong Kong Reintegrating with China:P, Cultural and Social Dimensions. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Siu, Y.M. 1996. “Population and Immigration.” in M.K. Nyaw and S.M. Li (eds.) The Other Hong Kong Report 1996. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. pp.326-347.

So, A.Y. 2002. Social Relations between Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong : A Study of Cross-border Families. Hong Kong: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University.

[ Tang, H.H. 2002. New Arrival Students in Hong Kong: Adaptation and School Performance. M.Phil thesis, Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong.]

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