With the recent coronavirus outbreak, there has been a lot of information being conveyed in both traditional and simplified Chinese. This is allowing some useful comparative analysis of the tone of voice plus writing style.

I saw something that indicated a direct (Google) translation using software applications or dictionaries, but was wondering if it was a correct usage.

On the traditional Chinese version of the text it said:

以下建議針對在過去14天內去過中國的人 所有旅行者:


And on the simplified Chinese version of the text it said:

以下建议针对在过去14天内去过中国的人 All travellers所有旅行者:


Obviously there is some problem with the translation, but my question is specifically about the use of the term 中國大陸/中国大陆 for both traditional and simplified Chinese as I am sure that there are some issues with this. I believe that there are similar questions in the past, but it would be good if someone is able to clarify this.

  • I feel like it depends on the political view of that person. Many taiwanese simply refer to PRC as China, not mainland China.
    – 魏小淇
    Feb 5, 2020 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


How do mainland Chinese and non-mainland Chinese people refer to China?, ...about the use of the term 中國大陸/中国大陆...

Let me first relate an interesting experience.

Many decades ago I was visiting the US via Hawaii. At the Hawaiian airport Immigration counter the officer asked where I was headed, (meaning my ultimate port of call), I answered "the United States" Whoa!, she gave a semi-angry stare and said, "This is the United States"

Being blessedly born with a nimble mind, I casually answered, "I meant the mainland" This seemed to avoid an unpleasant march to the "briefing room" She stamped my passport and I was on my way to the United States.

Now if this had happened in say, British Hong Kong before "unification", and I said I was on my way to "中國", I don't think the Hong Kong immigration officer would have bated an eyelid. But what if it happens now after unification when, politically, (using this term loosely), Hong Kong is part of 中國 just as Hawaii is part of the United States?

I tell this incident to highlight the fact that such questions and answers could potentially cause misunderstandings.

Having said that, and as for myself, being a member of the Worldwide Chinese diaspora, I couldn't refer to China as 大陸, which simply means "mainland", just as Continental United States is the Mainland for Hawaii, simply because I am not a citizen of the People's Republic of China living on any number of Chinese territorial islands, like Hong Kong for which mainland China is 大陸, "the Mainland"

So, for people like me, of Chinese descend whose ancestors left China for Nanyang, (the Southern Seas), generations ago, would simply refer to China as 中国, just like someone from any other country would.

Of course anyone, including non-Chinese citizens, could refer to the People's Republic of China as 中國大陸/中国大陆 and no one would bate an eyelid, perhaps not even Chinese immigration officers; but I could be wrong of course, depending on the level of "political" understanding of such officers.

  • It seems like we need a geographical reference to China as well as a political reference :p That way if you were asked where you are going, then you can use the geographical reference, and if you were asked where you are from (i.e. citizenship) then you can use the appropriate political reference (depending on where you are). Feb 3, 2020 at 22:55
  • Yes, and if you ask a Taiwanese it gets even more complicated because from 中國's point of view, Taiwan's 大陸 is mainland China which considers Taiwan, (regardless of politics), as part of mainland China; but from Taiwan's point of view China is part of Taiwan. So "Unification" from Taiwan's point of view means mainland China unite with Taiwan and not Taiwan unite with mainland China. Why that is so would require me to go into the 19th Century political history of the two "Territories" which goes beyond the narrow scope of the matter under discussion. Feb 4, 2020 at 5:26
  • I guess when something is written in Simplified Chinese it is intended solely for people from People's Republic of China (中華人民共和國 - that's pretty clear right?). And when something is written in Traditional Chinese it is intended for everyone else that understands Chinese (the language). So I wonder how people in countries like HK, Singapore, Taiwan, etc. would use as a common term for referring to China? Feb 4, 2020 at 22:36

I think the logical way is to refer to mainland China as "mainland China" (中国大陆).

If you just use "China" (中国), there will always be confusion. Does it include Hong Kong and Macau? Does it include Taiwan (which is under the rule of The Republic of China)?

However, this seemingly simple practice is surprisingly difficult to implement. In reality there is a lot of confusion.

  • 1
    Quote:- "In reality there is a lot of confusion" A philosopher, forgot who, once said, "...the people admire more what is confused than what is complex." The topic under discussion is both confused and complex, and logic has nothing to do with it. Feb 9, 2020 at 11:05

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