Mainlanders (also called Inlanders) are people who live in a region considered a "mainland". It is frequently used in the context of Greater China, referring to Chinese people who live, were born, or have their "native province" in mainland China as opposed to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or Singapore.
In Canada, mainlander is often used on the East Coast by residents of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Deer Island, New Brunswick, Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick or Cape Breton Island. On the West Coast the term is used by people who live on Vancouver Island.
In Taiwan, mainlander can refer to two different groups:
The opposite of waishengren is benshengren who are called "sweet potato" (蕃薯, POJ: han-chû) which comes from the shape of Taiwan. Benshengren includes three distinct groups: the Hoklo (POJ: Hō-ló), the Hakka, and the aborigines.
The translations of waishengren and benshengren into English poses some interesting difficulties. The usual English translation of waishengren is Mainlander, although many waishengren find this translation uncomfortable since it implies that waishengren are not fully Taiwanese. Translating the term benshengren as "native Taiwanese" is also problematic because of confusion with Taiwanese aborigines. 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" (新住民; POJ: sin-chū-bîn). The latter term has not become popular in Taiwan and is extremely unpopular among waishengren themselves.
Chinese Civil War veterans especially are called "old taro" (老芋仔, POJ: lāu-ō·-á, due to the similarity between the shape of Mainland China and taro leaves), or waisheng laobing (外省老兵), "external-province veteran," in Mandarin. In government publications and the media, they are also called "honorable citizens" (榮民).
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 disproportionately large fraction of bureaucrats and military officers.
The formal definition of a mainlander is someone living in Taiwan whose "native province" is not Taiwan. Native province does not mean the province in which one is born, but rather the province whose father's family comes from. Until the early 1990s, identity cards in Taiwan contained an entry for native province. 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. This is especially true when virtually all "mainlanders" born after 1949 were born in Taiwan, not in their "native provinces."
Because of the "native province" 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 Taiwan 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 great majority of waishengren were born in Taiwan, and they do not speak the dialect of their "native province."
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 advocate a more tolerant proposition that waishengren, who sided with the Allies against the reluctant Japanese colony in Taiwan during World War II, are no less Taiwanese than benshengren. 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 should assimilate into a Taiwanese identity which was separate from the Chinese one. By contrast, the supporters of Chinese reunification seemed to believe that all Taiwanese (not just waishengren) should restore a previously marginalized Taiwanese identity without antagonizing a larger pan-Chinese identity.
As of the early 21st century, more and more waishengren see themselves as Taiwanese and as socially distinct from current residents of Mainland China. Unlike those belonging to groups such as the Hakka or Taiwanese aboriginals, waishengren are not encouraged to find their root, and their relationship with anti-China organizations suffers further as a result. Most of them, especially those of the younger generation, make extensive efforts to establish themselves as Taiwanese, sometimes by manifesting good interest in Hokkien Taiwanese culture. At the same time, right-wing discourse alleging that pro-unification waishengren are a fifth column for the People's Republic of China agonizes those mainlanders who regard Taiwan as their new homeland.
Now, the term "mainlander" is used to describe a person, Chinese by race, born and raised in mainland China, thereby avoiding confusion with waishengren. (someone whose ancestors were from the Mainland China, but born in Taiwan, or descended from someone born in Taiwan).
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.
In Hong Kong and Macau (both under the control of People's Republic of China, but not considered part of mainland China), "mainlander" refers to residents of mainland China, or recent immigrants from mainland China.
Mainlanders are sometimes called 表叔, 表姐 (literally cousins), and 阿燦, which were coined by various characters in movies and television series. These terms are considered derogatory and are politically incorrect. Recent immigrants are more politically correctly called 新移民 (literally new immigrants). 阿燦 is especially rude.
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 until the early 1980s, allowing people from Mainland China to apply to be Hong Kong residents if they manage to arrive in the territory.
Many of these early immigrants, especially those who moved from Shanghai in the 1940s and early 50's to escape the Communist government, came to dominate the business world in Hong Kong. In the 1980s and 1990's, Shanghai-born immigrants also occupied prominent roles in the government, including former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa and former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.
After decades of wars, internal conflicts and the Cultural Revolution, there was a large gap in the level of development between Hong Kong and the mainland. Many new immigrants arriving in the late 1970s and early 1980s were thought to be less sophisticated, and preserved many habits from the rural way of lives. A TV series starring 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 optimistic, and were welcome by 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 some have to rely on money from Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to survive. Although only a few do so, new immigrants of this time were held in a negative view.
Exchange student program contributes to this kind of academic communication. Some universities have bonded with other universities as "sister school." By dispatching several outstanding students to the other university every year, they can build a permanent relationship. Exchange program flourished when the interaction between mainland and Hong Kong becoming easier and more frequent. Both sides choose excellent students and expect them to be a culture-bridge. After several months communicating, each delegate can obtain a further understanding about a different culture. That’s really help to build a harmonious society for these young people will probably be the hard-core in future. Exchange student is just like an ambassador dispatched by her country, who also contribute to the multi-culture here. But before the handover, this kind of mixture is absolutely invisible.
But in 1999, the Supreme Court of The HKSAR made a judgment that as long as the person is born in Hong Kong, he will be regarded as a permanent resident and will get the right of abode, even though his parents are not permanent residents of Hong Kong at the time he is born.
Since then, a lot of Mainlanders have come to live in Hong Kong. Every day there is a quota of 150.
Starting from 2003 the mainland authorities loosened control over visiting Hong Kong and Macau of mainland residents. In the past residents from mainland could only visit Hong Kong and Macau for sightseeing as part of tour groups. 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.
Kuah, K.E.; and Wong, S.L. 2001. “Dialect and Territory-Based Associations: Cultural and Identity Brokers in Hong Kong.” in P.T. Lee (eds). Hong Kong Reintegrating with China:P, Cultural and Social Dimensions. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Siu, Y.M. 1996. “Population and Immigration.” in M.K. Nyaw and S.M. Li (eds.) The Other Hong Kong Report 1996. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. pp.326-347.
So, A.Y. 2002. Social Relations between Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong : A Study of Cross-border Families. Hong Kong: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University.
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