The People's Republic of China is a unified, multi-national country, comprising of 56 nationalities. The Han people make up 91.02 percent of the total population, leaving 8.98 percent for the other 55 ethnic minorities. They are Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Uygur, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Bouyei, Korean, Manchu, Dong, Yao, Bai, Tujia, Hani, Kazak, Dai, Li, Lisu, Va, She, Gaoshan, Lahu, Shui, Dongxiang, Naxi, Jingpo, Kirgiz, Tu, Daur, Mulam, Qiang, Blang, Salar, Maonan, Gelo, Xibe, Achang, Pumi, Tajik, Nu, Ozbek, Russian, Ewenki, Benglong, Bonan, Yugur, Jing, Tatar, Drung, Oroqen, Hezhen, Moinba, Lhoba and Gelo. All nationalities in China are equal according to the law. The Constitution protects their lawful rights and interests and promotes equality, unity and mutual help among them.
Chinese population is distributed unevenly with more in the east (more than 300 persons per square kilometer) and fewer in the west (about 40 persons per square kilometer). The national average density of population is 119 per square kilometer (1990 census). The average size of household was 3.7 persons. The proportion of population aged at 0-14 was 26.4 percent, those aged 15-64 was 67.2 percent, and that of people aged 65 and over was 6.4 percent. The Average Chinese life span of the population was 70.8 years--for males was 68.71 years. and females was 73.04 years. (Some of the above data is based on the report from China National Statistics Bureau, FOR YOUR REFERENCE ONLY).
China has a population of 1.2 billion, about half of which are under the age of 30. There are ninety-five cities that have more than 1 million people, including such urban centers are Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Harbin, Chongqing, Nanjiang, Xi'an and Chengdu. Five cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang, and Wuhan) have well over 5 million. Shanghai is the largest city in China with a population of 14 million.
China is NOT the China you know from your grandfather or from your school textbook or from the news media surrounding you today. Even CNN hasn't come close yet. You can not dig a hole in your backyard and expect to get to see the Great Wall and a slow boat will take you forever to reach the China shore. Outside the country, China is an illusion created by sensational journalism. China is NOT the China you read from Chinese newspapers or magazines at home either. The only way to learn about China and her people is to land yourself on the soil of that country, stand among the numerous construction cranes everywhere, inhale the polluted air brought about by cars newly imported or built and to join the crowd, feel the country's heartbeat through your efforts to communicate with the Chinese people.
Nobody has ever said, China is a melting pot but there are 55 ethno-linguistic groups or minority nationalities residing in China.
They differ in language, habit, religion and even physical features. Han is the largest group, accounting for 95% of the population. Others include Zhuang, Miao, Uygur, Tibetan, Mongolian and Korean.
Even among Han people, there are a lot of differences. Northern Hans are taller and characteristically, more straight forward and eat more wheat products. Southerners are shorter and more slim and favor sweets. Hans of the mid provinces, such as Sichuan and Hunan, because of the humidity, favor spicy food. (Chinese people believe eating spicy is among the attributes of a leader since so many earlier communist leaders started out from this region).
Most of the ethnic people are more forthright and simpler than Hans of the east coast. Shanghainese are most famous for their shrewd calculations of every penny but no matter what their characters, if you treat them fair, they will treat you fair.
China has one official language, Chinese. Written Chinese is the same all over the country but when spoken, it is a different story. Putonghua, or Mandarin, is the universal language understood by all educated Chinese. But there are thousands of different dialects in China. The differences in these dialects sometimes are more than two different languages. For "How Are You?", a Beijinger will say, "Ni Hao", while a Guangzhouer will say "Lei Ho". If you are especially linguistically endowed, you can always pick up a few words in dialects but do remember, never try your Shanghai dialect in front of a Beijinger in Beijing.
China once was conquered by the Mongols but in time Mongols became Chinese; therefore, the Yuan Dynasty. China was once conquered by Manchus but in time Manchus became Chinese; therefore, the Qing Dynasty. The Jewish are famous for their resilience to other cultures' influence and for having strong bonds among themselves but you go to Kaifeng today, where once a large Jewish community existed, you will only find some Jewish physical features still remain on local people's faces. The British were the first to open the China market by gun boats in the Opium War (1840) but they didn't make a fortune selling knives and forks. Instead, more and more Westerners can handle chopsticks.
Most Chinese are not religious. They are, however, quite superstitious though they will deny this. But you don't give a clock as a gift to a Chinese because the word clock in Chinese is pronounced Zhong, the sound that applies to the meaning of "death". Four is not a lucky number, as it also sounds like "death". Eight is a good number in south China because, in local dialect, it sounds like "prosper".
Chinese love dining and drinking. If you are working with Chinese Mongolians or some other ethnic Chinese party, drinking is almost mandatory - it is a demonstration of hospitality and sincerity and you are expected to enjoy the warmth that the 120 proof liquor will bring to your heart. If you can't drink, make up reasons beforehand--say you have doctor's order against any drinking. Tell your local Chinese translator. Usually he/she will be your best and personal protector. If you do drink some, in spite of "doctor's order", you give immense face to your host. If you really can't drink, you should still raise your cup during the toast, put the cup to your lip, making a gesture. Give a Chinese a pear and he will give you back a peach. If he doesn't have a peach readily available, he will remember it and returning you the peach will become of his life's goal.
A Chinese friend is the best friend you can ever have in your life. The culture has it that a true friend will "put knives in both sides of his chest" when it is needed. Confucius' philosophy is that Yi, or friendship/camaraderie is higher than any other relationship.
Chinese don't show emotion easily. They rarely "burst into laughter". A joke that will bring down the house in the West may only get a cordial chuckle out of Chinese. But when your host one day, gives out a hearty laugh with you, you know you are getting a friend.
Foreigners show their anger but Chinese remember the humiliation. Chinese may know more about your culture than you know about theirs. Chinese know Mickey Mouse and McDonald's but do you know Monkey King or Long Hua Chicken Don't believe in Chinese movies that win Cannes or other international movie awards. If real life is depicted in those movies, they will not win awards. And if they do win awards, there will surely be no Chinese audience. So far, there has yet to be seen, a Chinese movie transforming real life into art.
When you go to rural areas where people see few foreigners, you will attract attention. Don't assume they think as you think. They are wondering why your eyes are blue, your nose is big and then, why you are wearing such outlandish clothing or such serious suits. They will wonder how Polaroid can give you immediate pictures. They are not wondering what it would be like if they were in your shoes.
Chinese society gives ultimate respect to their elders. A young foreign executive will probably have to learn how to respect his older Chinese counterpart and demonstrate it in a sincere manner. Such respect will flatter the Chinese as he knows you are probably smarter than he is, yet you give him so much face. This paves the way to the contract table.
Chinese women usually do not take key business positions but if your negotiation counterpart is a woman, do demonstrate special respect. She deserves it and she will let you know. She has to be exceptionally outstanding to make it to that position among all the men contenders.
Children are treasured in China. They are the modern day emperors and empresses especially as most families have only one child. Proverb has it that all parents expect their sons and daughters to be "Dragons and Phoenixes" so they will glorify the family. The subject of children is the best starting point for you to get familiar with your host but don't ask in your first meeting.
Don't ask when 12 other people are present. When you do ask about children, always start with your own kids, or your friends' kids. With kids' talk, you get to the inside of the circle.
Chinese pay attention to the quality in products and will pay top dollar for it. Chinese newspapers have again and again reported the strict food processing procedures carried out in Kentucky Fried Chicken stores. Therefore, KFC ranks among the best and busiest food outlets in Shanghai.
Chinese recognize that many of the ways foreigners do things are better than their own but they will not openly say it. Once they are exposed to such ways, they will pick them up smoothly. That is why there is the report that the overall quality level of the workers in Motorola's Tianjin Plant is even higher than in the states. Chinese say, "when you are a piece of white page, you can color it whatever way you want."
Chinese are usually single purpose minded. If need be, they will sit all day long to split a hair into a hundred strands. When you visit a silk embroidery factory, you will see that with your own eyes.
Chinese will not open a gift in front of the giver, but only in private. Therefore, don't insist on Chinese opening the gift in front of you or others. This way, if he doesn't like your gift, both he and you will not be embarrassed.
A Chinese may not be offended if you pronounce his name wrong but he will feel your effort if you do try to say it right. The most frequent mistake English speaking people make is reading ANG as aen as in bang, instead of ah-n, or ong. Zhang is the number one Chinese surname, probably totaling 200 million. There are also Dangs, Fangs, Tangs, Yangs and Wangs totaling another 100 million. If you read these 4 characters wrong, you are not making 400 million people happy.