Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 September 2013
This paper focuses on the majority population in the People's Republic of China—the Han—and their various collective identities. The Han play a pivotal role in consolidating the Chinese territory and the multiethnic Chinese nation. Therefore, the governments in the twentieth century have invested substantial efforts in promoting a unitary Han identity. In spite of that, powerful local identities related to native place, occupation, and family histories persist. This essay traces these identities and analyzes their intertwinement. Further, it discusses the question of ethnicity of both the Han and local identity categories, and concludes that while Han enact ethnicity in their relations to other minzu, local identity categories are more social than ethnic. It further posits that moments of confrontation, “degree” of ethnicity, scales of categorization, and relationality of identities are notions that should be given particular attention in the studies of ethnicity in China and elsewhere.