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The term Chinese may refer to any of the following:

  • People who reside in and hold citizenship of the People's Republic of China (mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) or the Republic of China (Taiwan). This definition stems from a legal perspective. (Note: even though this is a legal definition, whether citizenship in the Republic of China makes one "Chinese" is subject of some political debate as supporters of Taiwan independence do not consider Taiwan to be part of China)
  • The Zhonghua minzu (sometimes translated as "Chinese nation"), a supra-ethnic concept which includes all 56 ethnic groups live in China that are officially recognized by the government of the People's Republic of China, such as Han, Zhuang, Manchu, Tibetans, and other established ethnic groups who have lived within the borders of China since at least the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). It may also include the Chinese diaspora.
  • People of Han Chinese ancestry, who are often simply referred to as "Chinese" or "ethnic Chinese" in English.

Apart from nationality (legal) reasons, place of residence (geographical factors), race (biological reasons), and ancestry (historical and genealogical factors) are involved in defining "Chineseness".

Chinese-language terms


  • Zhōnggúorén 中國人: refers to a person who holds citizenship of the People's Republic of China or the Republic of China, regardless of ethnicity.
  • Húarén 華人: an overall term to refer to any person of Chinese descent, including those in China and abroad. However, this term is more commonly used in referring to the overseas Chinese community and sometimes overseas Chinese minorities.
  • Húaqíao 華僑: refers to a Chinese national or citizen living in a foreign country, who still holds Chinese citizenship. This term was more commonly used before 1949, when China provided citizenship for many overseas Chinese.
  • Húayì 華裔: refers to an person of Chinese descent living in a foreign country, who does not hold a citizenship from People's Republic of China or the Republic of China.


  • Lou⁵ wah⁴ kiu⁴ 老華僑: used by overseas Cantonese-speakers to refer to a person who has lived outside of China for a long period, usually 10 or more years.
  • Tou⁵ zyu⁵ 土主: literally means "from the soil"; refers to a Chinese person born in foreign country.
  • Zuk¹ sing¹ 竹升: more commonly spelled as "jook-sing" in English, used to describe a westernized person of Chinese descent.


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