The largest ethnic group is the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.9% of the total population. The remaining 8.1% are Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uygur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Mongolian (5 million), Tibetan (5 million), Buyi (3 million), Korean (2 million), and other ethnic minorities.
There are seven major Chinese dialects and many sub dialects which are considered part of the Chinese language. Mandarin (or Putonghua), the predominant dialect, is spoken by over 70% of the population. It is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. About two-thirds of the Han ethnic group are native speakers of Mandarin; the rest, concentrated in southwest and southeast China, speak one of the six other major Chinese dialects. Non-Chinese languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur and other Turkic languages (in Xinjiang), and Korean (in the northeast).
The Pinyin System of Romanization
On January 1, 1979, the Chinese Government officially adopted the pinyin system for spelling Chinese names and places in Roman letters. A system of Romanization invented by the Chinese, pinyin has long been widely used in China on street and commercial signs as well as in elementary Chinese textbooks as an aid in learning Chinese characters. Variations of pinyin also are used as the written forms of several minority languages.
Pinyin replaced other conventional spellings in China's English-language publications. The U.S. Government also adopted the pinyin system for all names and places in China. For example, the capital of China is spelled "Beijing" rather than "Peking."
Religion plays a significant part in the life of many Chinese. Buddhism is most widely practiced, with an estimated 100 million adherents. Traditional Taoism also is practiced. Official figures indicate there are 18 million Muslims, 4 million Catholics, and 10 million Protestants; unofficial estimates are much higher.
The Chinese Constitution affirms religious toleration subject to several important restrictions. Consistent with these restriction, the Chinese Government places restrictions on religious practice outside officially recognized organizations. Only two Christian organizations--a Catholic church without ties to Rome and the "Three-Self-Patriotic" Protestant church--are sanctioned by the Chinese Government. Unauthorized churches have sprung up in many parts of the country, and unofficial religious practice is flourishing. In some regions authorities have tried to control activities of these unregistered churches. In other regions registered and unregistered groups are treated similarly by authorities, and congregates worship in both types of churches.
In 1999, China banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement and has since implemented a crackdown on the movement. Reliable reports indicate that thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are in re-education through labor camps; hundreds are in prisons or psychiatric facilities. More than 200 practitioners reportedly have died in prison as a result of mistreatment and torture.
With a population of over 1.261 billion and an estimated growth rate of 0.93%, China is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted with mixed results to implement a strict family planning policy. The government's goal is one child per family, with exceptions in rural areas and for ethnic minorities. Official government policy opposes forced abortion or sterilization, but allegations of coercion continue as local officials strive to meet population targets. Recent international efforts, including those funded by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), are demonstrating to government officials that a voluntary, noncoercive approach to family planning can be effective in promoting sustainable population growth. The government's goal is to stabilize the population early in the 21st century, although some current projections estimate a population of 1.6 billion by 2025.
Population: 1,261,832,482 (July 2000 est.)
0-14 years: 25% (male 168,040,006; female 152,826,953)
15-64 years: 68% (male 439,736,737; female 413,454,673)
65 years and over: 7% (male 41,200,297; female 46,573,816) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.9% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 16.12 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 6.73 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.4 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
at birth: 1.15 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 28.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.38 years
male: 69.6 years
female: 73.33 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.82 children born/woman (2000 est.)
noun: Chinese (singular and plural)
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Muslim 2%-3%, Christian 1% (est.)
note: officially atheist
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic groups entry)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 81.5%
female: 72.7% (1995 est.)