China’s Ethnic Groups in a Nutshell: Minorities Under the Microscope


While most people tend to identify China with the Han ethnic group (and rightfully so, given the fact that there are over 1.2 billion Han Chinese, or approximately 91.65% of China’s population according to the 6th National Population Census of the People’s Republic of China, conducted back in 2010), it is important to realize that there are 55 other ethnic groups that deserve your attention, even if they pale in comparison if we look at sheer numbers.

However, let’s just say that meaningfully understanding China from a cultural, geographical as well as historical perspective without having a firm grasp on the very basics in terms of ethnic groups is sub-optimal to put it mildly and ignorant at worst.

As such, here are a few quick facts worth knowing about the 55 Chinese minorities, ordered from highest to lowest in terms of population based on data gathered through the previously-mentioned 2010 census:

  1. Zhuang, China’s #1 ethnic minority and the only one with a share of China’s population that exceeds 1% (1.27%, to be more precise)
  2. Hui, a Muslim minority that accounts for approximately 0.79% of China’s population
  3. Manchu, accounting for almost 0.78% of China’s population, commonly referred to as the ethnic group behind the Qing Empire
  4. Uyghur, with roughly 0.76%, a minority in the spotlight whenever repression-related topics surrounding the Xinjiang region emerge
  5. Miao, roughly 0.71% of China’s population, found primarily in the Guizhou region
  6. Yi, at 0.65%, an ethnic group found mostly in the southwestern regions of China (especially Sichuan and Yunnan)
  7. Tujia, with almost 0.63%, found primarily in Hunan, Guizhou, Chongqing and Hubei
  8. Tibetan, the largest sub-0.5% minority… 0.47% to be more precise
  9. Mongol, the most (in)famous minority for obvious historical reasons, accounting for roughly 0.45% of China’s population
  10. Dong, at approximately 0.22%, famous for their specific architecture as well as music (Lusheng)
  11. Bouyei (0.215%), located primarily in Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan
  12. Yao (0.21%), located primarily in Hunan, Gnangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangdong
  13. Bai (0.145%), located primarily in Hunan, Yunnan and Guizhou
  14. Korean (0.14%), located primarily around the geographical areas one would expect given its name (Beijing Koreatown, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning)
  15. Hani (0.125%), located primarily in the Yunnan region
  16. Li (0.11%), located primarily in the Hainan region
  17. Kazakh (0.11%), once again as geographical intuition tells us, located primarily in Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjing
  18. Dai (0.095%), located primarily in the Yunnan region
  19. She (0.053%), located primarily in Fujian, Anhui, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Jiangxi
  20. Lisu (0.053%), located primarily in Sichuan and Yunnan
  21. Dongxiang (0.047%), located primarily in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia
  22. Gelao (0.041%), located primarily in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Guangxi
  23. Lahu (0.037%), located primarily in Yunnan
  24. Wa (0.032%), located primarily in Yunnan
  25. Sui (0.03%), located primarily in Guangxi and Guizhou
  26. Nakhi (0.025%), located primarily in Sichuan and Yunnan
  27. Qiang (0.023%), located primarily in Sichuan
  28. Tu (0.022%), located primarily in Gansu and Qinghai
  29. Mulao (0.016%), located primarily in Guangxi
  30. Xibe (0.014%), located primarily in Jilin, Xinjiang and Liaoning
  31. Kyrgyz (0.014%), located (once again as geographical etymology tends to indicate) primarily in Heilongjiang and Xinjiang
  32. Jingpo (0.011%), located primarily in Yunnan
  33. Daur (0.01%), located primarily in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjian
  34. Salar (0.01%), located primarily in Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu
  35. Blang (0.009%), located primarily in Yunnan
  36. Maonan (0.008%), located primarily in Guangxi
  37. Tajik (0.004%), located primarily in Xinjiang
  38. Pumi (0.003%), located primarily in Yunnan
  39. Achang (0.003%), located primarily in Yunnan
  40. Nu (0.003%), located primarily in Yunnan
  41. Evenki (0.002%), located primarily in Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia
  42. Gin (0.002%), located primarily in Guangxi
  43. Jino (0.002%), located primarily in Yunnan
  44. De’ang (0.002%), located primarily in Yunnan
  45. Bonan (0.002%), located primarily in Gansu
  46. Russian (0.001%), located (as dictated by geography) primarily in Xinjiang, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia
  47. Yugur (0.001%), located primarily in Gansu
  48. Uzbek (0.001%), located primarily in Xinjiang
  49. Monba (0.001%), located primarily in Tibet
  50. Oroqen (0.001%), located primarily in Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia
  51. Derung (0.001%), located primarily in Yunnan
  52. Hezhen (0.0004%), located primarily in Heilongjiang
  53. Gaoshan (0.0003%), located primarily in Taiwan (unaccounted for in the census) and Fujian
  54. Lhoba (0.0003%), located primarily in Tibet
  55. Tatars (0.0003%), located primarily in Xinjiang

… aside from that, we are also left with approximately 0.05% citizens categorized as “undistinguished” for the purpose of this census.

Will you be able to memorize all of the above information robotically?

Unless you are an outlier in terms of memorization potential, most likely not.

Should you?


What you should however do in our opinion is simply read this article 2-3 times, bookmark it (old school, we know) and revert to it whenever you come across information related to a Chinese minority. Do just that a few times and you will quickly realize that you end up “getting” China from the perspective of ethnic groups more so than the average Western investor and, quite frankly, even more so that most Chinese citizens.

Is it a walk in the park? Of course not. But as stated ad nauseam here on, we firmly believe in going the extra mile in terms of documentation so as to develop an edge over competitors. Fortunately for you, especially if we are to refer strictly to Western investors and the extent to which they “get” China, the bar is not exactly set very high. It’s ultimately all a matter of putting in the work and seeing how it all adds up. Of course, should you be interested in digging even deeper, the team is here to help, simply reach out and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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