Mainland China, also known as the Chinese Mainland, China Mainland, or the Mainland Area of the Republic of China is the geopolitical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC) since October 1, 1949. It includes Hainan, which is an island province in the South China Sea, but it excludes the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, even though both are mostly on the geographic continental landmass (the "mainland").
The Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国出境入境管理法) defines two terms in Chinese that are translated to "mainland":
- Dàlù (大陆; 大陸), which means 'the continent'. It includes Hong Kong and Macau.
- Nèidì (内地; 內地), literally 'inland' or 'inner land'. It excludes Hong Kong and Macau.
In the People's Republic of China, the usage of the two terms is strictly speaking not interchangeable. To emphasize the One-China policy and not give the Republic of China (ROC) "equal footing" in Cross-Strait relations, the term must be used in PRC's official contexts with reference to Taiwan (with the PRC referring to itself as the "mainland side" dealing with the "Taiwan side"). But in terms of Hong Kong and Macau, the PRC government refers to itself as "the Central People's Government".
The term "mainland area" is the complementary term to "free area of the Republic of China" used in the ROC Constitution by the Government of the Republic of China.
In the 1930s, the region faced Japanese invasion. By 1949, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 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 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" (共匪) while the PRC referred to the ROC as "Chiang Bandits" (蒋匪; 蔣匪). Later, as a military solution became less feasible, the ROC referred to the PRC as "Communist China"" (中共). 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.
People's Republic of China
In the People's Republic of China, the term 内地 ('inland') is often contrasted with the term 境外 ('outside the border') for things outside the mainland region. Examples include "Administration of Foreign-funded Banks" (中华人民共和国外资银行管理条例; 中華人民共和國外資銀行管理條例) or the "Measures on Administration of Representative Offices of Foreign Insurance Institutions" (外国保险机构驻华代表机构管理办法; 外國保險機構駐華代表機構管理辦法).
Hainan is an offshore island, therefore geographically not part of the continental mainland, and was in fact controlled by ROC forces for almost a full year after the founding of the PRC until the 1950 Battle of Hainan Island. 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 the People's Republic within the geographical mainland. Nonetheless, Hainanese people still refer to the geographic mainland as "the mainland" and call its residents "mainlanders". In some coastal provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu, people often call the area of non-coastal provinces of mainland China as "Inland" (内地).
Hong Kong and Macau
Hong Kong and Macau are both sovereign territories of the People's Republic of China. However, due to the One Country Two Systems policy, the two regions maintain a high degree of autonomy, hence they are considered not to be part of mainland China.
Geologically speaking, Hong Kong and Macau are both connected to mainland China in certain areas (e.g. the north of the New Territories). Additionally, the islands contained within Hong Kong (e.g. Hong Kong Island) and Macau are much closer to mainland China than Taiwan and Hainan, and are much smaller.
In Hong Kong and Macau, the terms "mainland China" and "mainlander" are frequently used for people from PRC-governed areas (i.e. not Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau). The Chinese term Neidi (內地), meaning the inland but still translated mainland in English, is commonly applied by SAR governments to represent non-SAR areas of PRC, including Hainan province and coastal regions of mainland China, such as "Constitutional and Mainland Affairs" (政制及內地事務局) 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 内地 "inner land", with the note that they refer to the "customs territory of China".
Republic of China (Taiwan)
In the Republic of China, there are differing opinions as to the neutrality of the term "mainland China". However, the term is considered somewhat more neutral than historical terms used to describe the territories under the control of the People's Republic of China (PRC) (which is in turn led by the Communist Party of China (CPC)).
Since 1949, the Republic of China on Taiwan (led by the Kuomintang/Nationalists (KMT/GMD)) has referred to the territories under the control of the Chinese Communist Party with several different names, e.g. "(territory controlled by the) Communist bandits", "occupied/unfree area (of China)" (as opposed to the "free area of the Republic of China"), "Communist China" (as opposed to either "Nationalist China" or "Democratic China"), "Red China" (as opposed to "Blue China"), and "mainland China (area)". In modern times, the term "Communist bandits" is generally considered both inflammatory and offensive by supporters of the Kuomintang and other Pan-Blue political parties [the KMT and other aligned parties believe that "China" encompasses both sides of the Taiwan Strait], so it is no longer used by them. Similarly, terms implying illegal occupation (of the mainland) or an intent to reclaim the mainland tend not to be used by both Pan-Blue and Pan-Green individuals. Therefore, only the terms "Communist China" or "mainland China" are still commonly used by Taiwanese (Chinese) people aligned with Pan-Blue ideologies. Somewhat synonymous to the term "Communist China" is the term "People's Republic of China (PRC)" (which is either considered to encompass Hong Kong and Macau or isn't, due to the confusion and ambiguity of One Country Two Systems). Meanwhile, the term "mainland China" is often simply abbreviated to "the mainland" among speakers of Chinese in Taiwan or from Taiwan.
However, the Pan-Green Coalition in Taiwan, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) [the DPP and other aligned parties usually support Taiwanese independence to a certain degree], tend to be opposed to suggestions that Taiwan is part of China, regardless of the subtlety of said suggestions. Referring to the territories under the control of the Chinese Communist Party as "mainland China" suggests that Taiwan is part of China. That is, the term "mainland China" suggests that Taiwan is a "satellite island" of China, and that Taiwan is tethered to China (much in the same way that one might say that "Kinmen is tethered to Taiwan"). Therefore, Pan-Green individuals tend to prefer the term "China", rather than "mainland China", since the term "China" suggests that Taiwan and China are two separate countries. Pan-Green Taiwanese might also prefer to refer to China as "Communist China" or "the People's Republic of China (PRC)" or "Red China". However, these terms suggest that there exist "two Chinas". Certain Pan-Green Taiwanese believe that there exist "two Chinas" and that the Republic of China (ROC) and Taiwan are one and the same, so they would be more inclined to use these terms (compared to those who believe that the ROC is illegally occupying Taiwan). Individuals in Taiwan who are aligned with Pan-Green ideologies might be more inclined to refer to the People's Republic of China as "the Communist bandits" or "occupied/unfree area" (compared to those aligned with Pan-Blue ideologies), due to their negative (or indifferent) views towards mainland China and the Chinese Communist Party, though they generally don't have any intention of "reclaiming the mainland".
Other use of geography-related terms are also often used where neutrality is required.
||Hoi2 haap6 loeng5 ngon6
||The physical shores on both sides of the straits, may be translated as "two shores".
||loeng5 ngon6 gwaan1 hai6
||Reference to the Taiwan Strait (cross-Strait relations, literally "relations between the two sides/shores [of the Strait of Taiwan]").
||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.
||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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Hong Kong protest: What is mainland China hearing?[...] But on the Chinese mainland, it took a while for the story to be picked up
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