Foreigners and the Chinese themselves typically picture China's population as a vast monolithic Han majority, with a sprinkling of exotic minorities living along the country's borders. This understates China's tremendous cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity -- in particular, the important cultural differences within the Han population. It also ignores the fact that China is officially a multinational country, with 56 recognized "nationalities." More important, recent events suggest that China may well be increasingly insecure regarding not only these official nationalities, but also national integration. China is seeing a resurgence of pride in local nationality and culture, most notably among southerners such as the Cantonese and Hakka. Chinese society is also under pressure from the officially recognized minorities, such as the Uyghurs and Tibetans. Cultural and linguistic cleavages could worsen in a China that is weakened by internal strife, inflation, uneven growth, or a post-Jiang struggle for succession. At the National Day celebrations in October 1999, commemorating 50 years of Communist Party rule, frequent calls for "National Unity" underscored the importance China's many ethnic populations will play in its national resurgence.
Asian Perspectives on the Challenges of China: Papers from the Asia-Pacific Symposium, March 7 and 8, 2000, p.5-14