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Chinese Geography .

Comparison between the population

of Yunnan and Qinghai provinces.

by miquelangel Castillo
mangelcast@gmail.com (February 2004)

1. Yunnan and Qinghai provinces facts sheet

2. Reference framework (Yunnan versus Qinghai).

2.1. People’s life.
2.2. Population situation.
2.3. Education
2.4. Migration

3. Ethnicity.
3.1. Tibetan counterpoint
Chinese Geography .
Comparison between the population of Yunnan and Qinghai provinces.

This report wants to show the diversity in China focusing on two odd provinces. They
offer a surprising background with a variety of spoken and written languages, cultures
and religions, as well as the form of marriage and family, and the foundation for
population development.
When I read the following statement: “China's ethnic minorities have been poor and
backward for centuries, but we are confident of the future," by Wei Jiezheng, a Shui
nationality CPPCC National Committee member from Guizhou Province (People’s Daily
03/03/2001), I decided to study Yunnan and Qinghai situations.
In both cases I wanted to confront the Zhongguo Ren (Chinese people -Han) with the
others, exploring the touchy issue of minorities, and migrations, as both are fringe
provinces with the particularity of being in the (south)west and showing some trends for
the future of the “United China” as the name clearly tells: Zhong Guo (the Central
Country), or the place where everythings starts -and from where everything is controlled-,
for example only one time zone!
Over many years these Western regions have become the "third world" of China and the
gap in economic development between them and the coastal areas has increased. The
majority of the 80 million people in China who live below the poverty line are from the
ethnic minority areas. The government has a special term, lao-shao-bian-qiong (old-
minority-frontier-poverty areas, to describe such regions.

1. Yunnan and Qinghai provinces facts sheet

Yunnan is the most southwestern province in China.The province has an area of 394,000
square km, 4.1 % of the nation’s total. The province borders Guangxi Zhuang
Autonomous Region and Guizhou Province in the east, Sichuan Province in the north,
and Tibet Autonomous Region in the northwest. It shares a border of 4,060 km with
Myanmar in the west, Laos in the south, and Vietnam in the southeast. Qinghai Province
lies on the northeastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in west China, bordering
Gansu and Sichuan provinces, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet
Autonomous Region. It is the origin of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang rivers, with an
area of 720,000 square kilometers, the fourth largest in China.

Qinghai boasts rich natural resources—forests, minerals, water and others that are
crucial to the economic development of China. In addition, numerous small communities
of minorities can also be found in Yunnan where Han Chinese have traditionally -6
centuries- been the majority. I avoided the province of Tibet (TAR) but I found some
interesting insights into its political issue as both provinces are their neighbours.

2. Reference framework (Yunnan versus Qinghai).

Firstly, I offer 4 categories to start understanding our provinces; then I fan across the
sections and draw my attention on education and migration.
Yunnan & Qinghai <CHINA>
Total population (2002): 43.330.000 - 5.165.000

Population growth rate: 10.6‰ - 13.1‰ 7.4 ‰

Life expectancy (average): 64.5 (1990) - 65.6 (1989) 72.2
Ethnicity: 25 groups (38 %) - 5 groups (45 %) 8.2-8.9 %
The first line shows they are not much populated lands, but with a great, and
comparable, ethnicity composition. A couple of population history items make us learn
that their growth rate is still high, Qinghai almost double the state figure, and with a clear
deficit in life quality (8 and 7 years behind the national life expectancy).
Information is non comparable in most cases. Sometimes completely contradictory as in
this case: “inter-provincial migration were 1.022 million and intra-provincial migration
were 302 thousand. This shows that most population migrated within the Qinghai

People’s life. Similar average wage of staff and workers (7.080 yuans in ’97) and
number of hospital beds (about 15 per 10.000 inhabitants) but a third less in medical staff
(14 in Yunnan vs 20 inQinghai).

Population situation. Typical features in underdeveloped economies. The total number

increasing all the time with the age structure changing from young to adult pattern. Death
rate was slightly smaller (7.71 vs 6.95) and average life sexpectancy grew (2.9 years in 9
years vs 5.4 in 8 years).
Birth rate and women's fertility rate for the ethnic minorities are higher than Hans in the
province and the national averages. However, their overall education attainment is lower
than the provincial and national levels. Two- and three-generation families account for an
overwhelming majority of the ethnic households. In addition, the structure of occupation
for the ethnic peoples is rather backward, compared with Hans.
Education . For the vast majority poverty and the cycle of peasant life is only one
generation behind: education is the way out. Since the 60’s both provinces show a
gradual improvement in the overall education level, but we must keep in mind that China
less than 1% of Chinese receive university education and the late budgets come short of
2% of GNP.
I compare some data from the end of 1998 in Yunnan and the 1997 census in Qinghai:
Institutions of higher education 26 vs 4
college education or above: 0,92% vs 1.79%,
senior middle school education 4.11%, vs 6.61%,
junior middle school education 15.93% vs 16.29%,
primary school education 41.25% vs 28.06%.
(il- or semi-)literate aged 15 or above: 8.25 m. (18.5 %) vs 1.4 m., specially high among
But all of them are far below the average national level. It implies that there is a long way
to go to improve their education level. (source: http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/ )
Education is also considered an important front in the country's language unification and
to date most urban schools have done well in teaching students standard Chinese.
However, some schools in the countryside, especially those located in the landlocked
southwestern region, still teach in dialects.
http://www.china.org.cn/english/culture/43647.htm . Both provinces also attach great
importance to training competent teachers for the indigenous minority communities with
the institutes in Kunming and Xinin. But statistics in primary level reflect a great
improvement in ratios but the truth is that the number of schools and quality conditions in
rural areas are greatly overstated.

Migration. In year 1990 908 thousand migrated (1.6 %). A large regional difference
exists in Yunan inter-provincial migration. Southwestern China's provinces was the
largest destination for migrants from Yunnan, followed by southern, eastern and
northeastern provinces. However, intra-provincial migration still dominates. The opposite
is true in Qinghai where Han people increased due to migration to urban settlements
(especially important in 1956-59: 1.116 million) for instance in 1985-90 1.342 million
people migrated, most flowed to cities, made 77.11% of the whole migrants, ethnic
population grew because of natural growth. This fact obeys political reasons, getting a
stronghold on the rich mineral lands of the southwest and to suffocate ethnic solidarity
Beijing has a population transfer programme at work. Besides the official data, M.
Peissel refers in his book The Last Barbarians (1995) the political assimilation of the city
areas (Qinghai was a prison placement for a large number of ideological citizens (over 2
millions in Mao’s purges) and quick steady redistribution of urban settlements. Lately, a
gold rush in the 80’s brought another large contingent of Han migrants that has left the
province with a comfortable majority of 55%. Xinin has become a large capital with more
than 1 million inhabitants.

3. Ethnicity.
The value of ethnicity in China official web pages is shown because of its touristical value
“when visiting Yunnan is a pity if you miss our diversity - 25 minority nationalities- and
even greater pity to enter the minority areas and fail to participate in their festivals”.
Yunnan--a mysterious and beautiful land, is now right at your hands.....touch the land
and talk with its people now...
Yunnan is the second largest ethnic-inhabited province in China, one of the country's
three provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) with an ethnic population of
over 10 million. According to the 1990 census, there were 51 ethnic groups living in
Yunnan (36,4 % while in 2002 rose to the 38.2%). Some 25 minorities live in compact
communities in Yunnan. Ten ethnic minorities living in border areas and river valleys
include the Hui, Manchu, Bai, Naxi, Mongolian, Zhuang, Dai, Achang, Bouyi and Shui,
with a combined population of 4.5 million; those in low mountainous areas are the Hani,
Yao, Lahu, Va, Jingpo, Blang and Jino, with a combined population of 5 million; and
those in high mountainous areas are Miao, Lisu, Tibetan, Pumi and Drung, with a total
population of 4 million.

Qinghai is inhabited by 5 ethnic groups, and the population of minority ethnic groups has
reached 2.35 million, or 45.5 percent of the province’s total (2000). Besides the Han,
China’s majority, there are the Tibetans, accounting for 21.89 percent of the province’s
total population; the Huis, accounting for 15.89 percent; the Tus, Salars and Mongolians
accounting for 8.85 percent of the province’s total. The whole province has administrative
jurisdiction over one city -Xining, one prefecture-Haidong and six autonomous
prefectures. The minority autonomous regions make up 98% of the entire province.
Xining, the capital of Qinghai, is the political, cultural and economic center with a
population close to one million.

The Hui and Naxi minorities can be woth mentioning here. The Huis are an important
one in Qinghai and The Naxis could be an example for Yunnan’s mosaic. The Tibetan
aspect is dealt with later.
The Huis are an industrious people. Their development and progress have been
facilitated, however, by adopting the Han language and living with the Hans. Since the
Yuan and Ming dynasties, large numbers of Hui peasants joined the Hans and people of
other nationalities in reclaiming wasteland, farming and grazing in the hinterland and
along border regions. The majority of Huis believe in Islamism and are key playes in the
Ningxia Hui and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regions. Also autonomous counties
were established in Menyuan and Hualong of Qinghai Province. Two outstanding Huis
in Chinese history were astronomist Jamaluddin and Yunnan navigator Zheng He.
During the Yuan Dynasty, the first compiled a perpetual calendar. During the Ming
Dynasty, the Hui navigator Zheng He led massive fleets in making visits to the African
eastern coast.

Naxi people, fewer than 300,000, live mostly in Yunnan. In the 1253>1912 period, they
ruled southwest China on behalf of whatever imperial dynasty was in power in Beijing,
from the Yuan dynasty, through the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today the Naxi mostly
occupy high mountain valleys and the foothills to the Himalayan plateau. Most Naxi are
farmers, growing grain and vegetables in the valleys. Some tend livestock. The most
important urban center of Naxi culture is Lijiang, a mid-sized town that is home to
businesspeople, doctors, and artists. The Naxi language is distantly related to the
Tibetan language. A system of Roman letters has recently been developed for writing the
Naxi language, providing a more efficient method than the religious Dongba picture

Tibetan counterpoint. In recent times Tibet's people and their culture have gained
increasing attention as they wrestle with the problem of finding a political space in the
rapidly changing modern world. There is concern over whether the nearly four million
Tibetans living in China today will be able to hold onto their heritage and allow it to
proliferate in the future. The Language has thre main vaiants: Central Tibetan, spoken
around Lhasa, in an area now called the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The
second is Khams, spoken east of the TAR in Sichuan, Yunnan, and in some parts of
Qinghai. The third dialect group is Amdo, spoken north of the TAR, in Qinghai, Sichuan,
and Gansu provinces. In western sources Tibet counts as a unit, but Chinese sources
only refer to TAR –similar to explaining a foreigner that Catalan is spoken outside
I offer now chinese sources: http://www.tibetinfor.com/tibetzt/ssmz_en/tibetan/001.htm
A number of autonomous administrations have been established in 5 different provinces
since the 1950s. They include the TAR (officially established in 1965), Tibetan and
Kazak Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province; in Gansu Province; in Sichuan
Province; and the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. The
Tibetans have since embarked on a road of socialist transformation, cautiously but
steadily. Communications facilities also grew rapidly. There was no highway in Tibet
before liberation –from whom!? Completed projects are Qinghai-Tibet highway (1954),
the Sichuan-Tibet highway (1954), the Yunnan-Tibet highway (1976) and the Qinghai-
Tibet Railway starting from Xining has already reached Golmud in Qinghai. In the 80’s
policies to enable the Tibetan people to recoup their strength and make up for the
damage they had suffered during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976). The Tibetan
language and customs and habits are enjoying respect and the outstanding heritage of
Tibetan culture has been carried forward.