Han nationalism

Han nationalism is a political ideology used to glorify the ethnic Han Chinese people and its uniqueness throughout history. It is often intermingled and mixed with Chinese nationalism.

Han nationalism
Traditional Chinese大漢族主義
Simplified Chinese大汉族主义
Literal meaningGreat Han-ism


Unlike Chinese nationalism, the Han Chinese nationalism has a historic root of being strongly stressed on the Han Chinese people, the dominant ethnic group in China that originates from Huaxia. Han Chinese nationalism had been often used as a rallying force stemming the historical pride of Han Chinese people and the way it developed to become one of the world's earliest civilizations.[1][2]

Since the Han dynasty, ideas of Han Chinese superiority had been frequently used in its attempt to expand the territory. This is best exemplified by the invasions of Korea, Vietnam, conquest of Central Asia, Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia.[3][4][5] This was later inherited by later dynasties of China, notably the Tang dynasty and the Ming dynasty; the Tang dynasty had exerted control beyond the border of old Huaxia, while the Ming dynasty managed to become the major naval power and one of the great empires in medieval history. Han Chinese ideas of superiority were complex, with contrasting Confucian narratives of Han superiority and ones of diversity in the army and the Empire.[6][7][8][9]

Outside territorial ambitions, rallying against non-Han forces who took over China needed Han Chinese nationalist sentiment. The Han nationalist movement had an instrumental role in overthrowing the Mongol-based Yuan dynasty and the Mongol rule of China.[10] Han Chinese nationalism was also an integral part on the rebellion against the Manchu-based Qing dynasty and became increasingly institutionalized following the Century of Humiliation, which was often led by Han Chinese nationalists who considered the Qing dynasty corrupt and immoral and were hostile to Western imperialism.[11][12][13] The Boxer Rebellion in late 19th century had been seen as another specific part of Han Chinese nationalism juxtaposed against Western imperialism in China, where Han Chinese nationalists were against Western and modern ideas and sought to revive old Chinese traditions.[14][15]

Following the fall of the Qing dynasty, Sun Yat-sen had attempted to build a more multi-ethnic nationalism and had notable successes, such as the rise of Nationalist China and the five-colored flag. Despite this, Han Chinese nationalism is predominate in China today, as leaders since 1911 began to stress about the Han nationalist sentiment and the ongoing Han domination in China, as witnessed in both World War II and current People's Republic's domestic and foreign relations.[16]

Han chauvinismEdit

Han chauvinism is an updated version of Han Chinese nationalism, a term which Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong coined in order to describe the chauvinism of the Han Chinese, first on 16 March 1953, in order to criticize the ethnocentrism which existed among the dominant Han people of China. In a party directive which was drafted for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party titled "Criticize Han Chauvinism", Mao said, "In some places, the relations between nationalities are far from normal. For Communists, this is an intolerable situation. We must go to the root and criticize the Han chauvinist ideas which exist to a serious degree among many Party members and cadres ..."[17]

It appeared again in a 1956 speech, titled Ten Major Relations, Mao stated that "on the relationship between the Han ethnicity and minority ethnicities ... we put the emphasis on opposing Han chauvinism".[18] This anti-chauvinistic idea is part of the People's Republic of China's zhonghua minzu conception of China as a multi-ethnic nation, both historically and in the present, which includes not only the Han but also 55 ethnic minorities. This is expressed in the constitution of the People's Republic of China, which states that China is a "unitary [multiethnic] state created jointly by the people of all its ethnicities" and "it is necessary to combat big [ethnic group] chauvinism, mainly Han chauvinism, and combat local [ethnic] national[ist] chauvinism".[19]

The PRC's notions of Han chauvinism and China as a multicultural state have been subjected to criticism, mainly by the western media. One critical view is that the Han Chinese "are less homogeneous than official policy recognizes".[19] Zhonghua minzu has been criticized as an invention of the 20th century, and was adopted by the Communist Party only to criticize the failures of the rival Kuomintang (KMT), which officially promoted zhonghua minzu as part of its nationalist ideology. Many policies have been made to give privilege to minority ethnicities, leading to grudges from some of the Han Chinese.[20]

In post-Mao China, Han chauvinism has been recognized as a threat by successive generations of leadership, including under the leadership of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. However Xi Jinping's concept of a Chinese Dream is believed to have distinctly Han dimensions and to support Han chauvinism even if unwittingly.[21] The fusion of traditional Han chauvinism with KMT style Chinese nationalism as practiced by the modern Chinese state has been described as Han-centrism.[22] Despite this the existence of any racism or discrimination in China is denied strongly by the Chinese government.[23]

Relations with Chinese nationalismEdit

Although Han Chinese nationalism and Chinese nationalism are different in terms of ideology, with the latter often focusing a more multi-ethnic nationalism, however due to historical and current control of China by the ethnic Han Chinese the two have been connected and frequently used together. The concept was first debated in early 20th century; one of those debating it was Zhang Taiyan, who strongly opposed to the idea of a proposed multi-ethnic nationalism of Yang Du and Liang Qichao and stressed the Han ethnic bloodline as evidence for the greatness of China and rejected any notion for a multiethnic China, being skeptical of non-Han ethnic groups like Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans and Turkic Muslims.[24] Zhang Taiyan strongly criticized non-Han ethnic groups, notably Manchus, accused the Manchus and other non-Han peoples as oppressors and believed they were impossible to be assimilated, if not say, understanding Han Chinese culture and customs.[24] There were, however, significant proponents of a multi-ethnic form of Chinese nationalism as well, and Tibet remained independent during the rule of the Republic of China.[25][26]

The multifaceted image of the Han Chinese nationalism further developed in the buildup of modern Chinese statehood. Han Chinese nationalists had developed a hostile opinion towards ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans, viewing them as dangers for Chinese state due to its cultural differences and lack of any sympathy to ethnic Han Chinese — resulting with several conflicts in 1930s and 1940s.[27][28][29][30] Han Chinese nationalism also played a part in World War II, when the Second Sino-Japanese War occurred, where the Han Chinese people frequently suffered, and fought, against the Japanese. Han Chinese also desired to reclaim territories where Han Chinese saw it as ancestral homeland in the aftermath of World War II; this has been inherited by the People's Republic of China and largely downplayed the idea of a singular, unified multiethnic Chinese nationalism promoted by Beijing itself.[31][32]

In ethnic relationsEdit

Although the current Chinese government has largely attempted to promote the idea of a multiethnic nationalism instead of a singular ethnic nationalism, scholars and analysts have pointed about the lack of an agreed-upon definition of Chinese nationalism may have impacted on China's political decision with regard to other non-Han people and non-Chinese nations.[33][16][34][35]


Since liberating Tibet in 1950, Han Chinese nationalists, with support from the PRC government, have been distributing historical documents which portray Tibetan culture as barbaric in order to justify Chinese control of the territory of Tibet; as such, many members of Chinese society have a negative view of Tibet. Han Chinese continue to maintain the view that Tibet was historically a feudal society which practiced serfdom/slavery and that this only changed due to Chinese influence in the region in order to liberate the Tibetans from its own backwardness and China's duty is to bring civilization to Tibetans.[36][37][38] Furthermore, Han nationalists openly endorse Princess Wencheng, an ancient Chinese princess who purportedly married king Songsten Gampo of Tibet and introduced Buddhism to Tibet.[39] Further, Han Chinese extremists believe that Tibetans [and Mongols, Uyghurs] are actually part of the wider Han Chinese family with different genetics.[36][40]


Since being conquered in 1758, Uyghurs from Xinjiang have had issues with the Chinese government. Han migration dating back to the Qing Dynasty led to the increasing sinicization of the region which the policy further extended to ethnic relations.[41] Han and Hui people often live closer to Uighurs and many developed a negative stereotype of them.[42]


Inner Mongolia has been largely pacified since the 20th century, thanks to massive Han migration and intermarriage; Mongols have been perceived to be better integrated into the society than that of Uyghurs and Tibetans.[43] However, this is also where the infamous Inner Mongolia incident happened, leading to deaths of 16,000 to 27,000 Mongols.[44] Further policies deemed to be anti-Mongol by the Han Chinese government had led to 2011 Inner Mongolia unrest and was followed by another wave of unrest in 2015 against the exploitation and misuse of Mongol lands, as well as perceived bias in favor of ethnic Han Chinese.[45]


Scholars have noted that the People's Republic of China largely portrays racism as a Western phenomenon which has led to a lack of acknowledgement of racism in its own society.[46][47][48] The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported in August 2018 that Chinese law does not define "racial discrimination" and lacks an anti-racial discrimination law in line with the Paris Principles.[49] In modern times, publicized incidents of discrimination against Africans have been the Nanjing anti-African protests in 1988 and a 1989 student-led protest in Beijing in response to an African dating a Chinese person.[50][51] Police action against Africans in Guangzhou has also been reported as discriminatory.[52][53][54][26] Reports of racism against Africans in China grew during the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China.[55][56][57] In response to criticism over COVID-19 related racism and discrimination against Africans living in China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed that the country has "zero tolerance" for discrimination.[26] Black foreigners of African descent have also faced racism and discrimination in China.[58][59]

Han ethnocentrismEdit

Han nationalists believe that the current influence from the West has downgraded the development of China's own cultural customs, and as such, become instrumental on leading the increasing traditionalist movement, which started in 2001. Participants come together both online and in person in cities across China to revitalize their utopian vision of the authentic “Great Han” and corresponding “real China” through pseudotraditional and traditional ethnic dress, Confucian ritual, and anti-foreign sentiment.[34][60] This is often followed with the idea of Han people being the center of mankind and reignited the idea of cultural and ethnic chauvinism. This phenomenon has been called Han-Centrism by sinologists Thayer and Friend.[22]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit