From Academic Kids

Mainlanders are those humans who live, or were born, in a mainland. Implicit in the term, needless to say, is its defining opposite, islanders: there are no "mainlanders" in the landlocked U.S. state of Utah. Around the globe "mainlander' has many connotations.


Chinese mainlanders (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, Mainlander can refer to two different groups:

  1. The waisheng ren (外省人), meaning "external-province person," refers to 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, the bensheng ren (本省人 "original-province person"), who have been in Taiwan prior to the mass exodus near the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War.
  2. The Dalu ren (大陸人) refers to residents of Mainland China.
    • This group excludes almost all Taiwanese, including the waisheng ren, except recent immigrants from Mainland China, such as those made Republic of China citizens through marriage.


Waisheng ren are also called more formally, waisheng ji ren (外省籍人), meaning "persons who are external-province natives." They are also given the nickname of Ou7-a2 (芋仔), meaning "taro," in the Taiwanese language. The term is somewhat pejorative because it refers to the perceived "dirtiness" of some of the early KMT troops.

The opposite of waisheng ren is bensheng ren who are called fnshǔ meaning "sweet potato" (蕃薯) which comes from the shape of Taiwan. Bensheng ren includes diverse groups such as Hakka speakers and aboriginals.

The translations of waisheng ren and bensheng ren into English poses some interesting difficulties. The usual English translation of waisheng ren is Mainlander, although many waisheng ren find this translation uncomfortable sense it implies that waishengren are not fully Taiwanese. Similarly translating bensheng ren as "Taiwanese" is something that almost all Taiwanese would find objectionable. Translating the term bensheng ren as "native Taiwanese" is also problematic because of confusion with Taiwanese aboriginals. 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". The latter term has not become popular in Taiwan and is extremely unpopular among waishengren themselves.

Chinese Civil War veterans especially are called Old Ou7-a2 (老芋仔), or Waisheng lao bing (外省老兵), "old external-province soldiers," in Mandarin. In government publications and the media, they are also called Rongming (榮民), meaning "honorable citizens."

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 disproportionate large fraction of government bureaucrats and military officers.


The term is often used to denote a Chinese person born and raised in mainland China. There are, however, negative conotations used in Taiwan. In these cases, mainlander is used to describe someone (born and raised on the mainland) from a lower socioeconomic background - a person that exhibits poor social skills and manners, uneducated, bush-league, and or unrefined.

The formal definition of a Mainlander, however, is someone living in Taiwan whose native province is not Taiwan. Until the early 1990s, identity cards in Taiwan contained an entry for native province, which was largely the native province of one's father's family. 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.

Because of this 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 Taiwanese 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 Taiwanese 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 correctly 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 emphasize the fact that waishengren are fully Taiwanese. 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 would assimilate into a Taiwanese identity which was separate from the Chinese identity. By contrast to supporters of Chinese reunification, the concept implied that all Taiwanese (not just waishengren) which have a strong Taiwanese identity within a larger Chinese identity.

As of the early 21st century, almost all waishengren see themselves as Taiwanese and as socially distinct from current residents of Mainland China, and in contrast to groups such as the Hakka or Taiwanese aboriginals, there has been no effort or interest to develop a distinctive Mainlander identity and most waishengren, especially those of the younger generation, make extensive efforts to establish themselves as Taiwanese. At the same time, part of Taiwanese political discourse is a suspicious by some that waishengren are a fifth column for the People's Republic of China.

Now, the term Mainlander is used to describe a person, Chinese by race, born and raised in mainland China, thereby avoiding confusion with Taiwanese (someone who may be Chinese by race, but born in Taiwan, or decended from someone born in Taiwan).


Prominent Mainlanders in Taiwan include:

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-1990's, there has been a small amount of Mainland immigration into Taiwan. These immigrants are predominantly female and are often colloquially known as dalu xiaomei (大陸小妹), which literally means "little sister from the mainland". 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.

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Chinese mainlanders (Hong Kong)

In Hong Kong and Macau (though under People's Republic of China control, 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), or sometimes 內地同胞 (literally Chinese from the mainland). They are sometimes called 表叔, 表姐 and 阿燦, which are coined by the characters of movies and television episodes. Recent new immigrants are also called 新移民 (literally new immigrants).


At the time when Hong Kong was colonised by Great Britain, the colony covered only the Hong Kong Island, with a population of only around 6 000, which are mainly fishermen. Most people in Hong Kong were migrated from somewhere from the mainland, or their descendants, except the indigenious population on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories before the British arrived.

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, which people from China can applied to be residents of Hong Kong if they manage to arrive at Hong Kong, until the early 1980s.

After decades of wars, internal conflicts and the Cultural Revolution, there is a large gap on the level of development between Hong Kong and the mainland. Many new immigrants arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s are thought to be culturally less-developed, and preserved many habits from the rural way of lives. The TV episode (by 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 optimisitc, and were welcome by the 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 a few has to rely on money from Comprehensive Social Security Assitance to survive. Although only a few do so, new immigrants of this time were usually blamed for being lazy and non-productive.

Starting from 2003 the mainland authorities has loosened the control over visiting Hong Kong and Macau of mainland residents. In the past residents from mainland can only visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing by joining packed tour group. 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. Though economy is boosted and recovered, these tourists are blamed to be rude, speaking loudly in public places, not queueing up, etc. But generally they are welcome by the public.


People who were born in the mainland and move to Hong Kong some time.

Mainlanders elsewhere

In Tasmania, mainlander refers to Australians from the other five states (or the territories).

In New Zealand, mainlander refers to a resident of the South Island.

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

In Laos, a similar term is used that distinguishes Mainland Chinese from those originating elsewhere, especially Hong Kong and Taiwan. The English equivalent to the Lao term is "big land". Lao immigrants to Canada, in English speech, use the term "mainlander" to express this.



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