Title

Who is Chinese? Identifying the origins of Chinese identity, and examining the issue of government designation vs. personal identification

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2006

Abstract

In discussion of the question ?Who is Chinese?? is complicated by the dual use of the term ?Chinese? as both a political and cultural adjective. This complication exists due to intentional design. The term ?Zhongguo ren,? (Chinese), is used in the Chinese language to describe both political and cultural affiliations. The term ?Hua ren?, (also Chinese), indicates a broader cultural affiliation. Politically, the term ?Chinese? applies to all who fall within borders controlled and defined by the ruling Chinese government. If membership to a culture is comprised of subjective personal associations, those considered culturally ?Chinese? must perceive themselves to share a common history and enlist in a shared identity. Many people outside of the People?s Republic and the Republic of China consider themselves Chinese, identifying a cultural association derived from a historical point of origin. Many people within the political borders of China do not consider themselves Chinese. A conflict exists here where self-identification and government designations do not agree. According to the results of several of my interviews with opinion leaders in Los Angeles, members of the press and broadcast media, and political careerists, the designation ?Zhongguo ren? is not always clearly cultural or political. In this paper I aim to explore the meanings of the terms ?Chinese?, ?Zhongguo ren?, and ?Hua ren?, and to identify instances where government designation does not match personal identification

Advisor

Jan Lin

Department

sociology

Support

Occidental College

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