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中國 is usually translated as China, the country, and the underlying meaning is "belonging to China", or "being part of China".

The PRC (People's Republic of China) is written 中華人民共和國, the ROC (Republic of China) is 中華民國, and usually 中國國民 refers to "Chinese Nationals", that is intrinsically meaning (from the term "中國"), "people being nationals of China" (the country).

華人, Chinese, doesn't necessarily mean "belonging to China" but commonly would refer to an ethnic group. There are "華人" - Chinese - in Singapore, Malaysia but they are not "中國人" (citizens of China).

It seems thus that both 中國 and 中華 intrinsically refer to the country, China.

As such, shouldn't 中國國民黨 be more accurately translated as "China's nationalists Party" (or Nationalists Party of China) rather than "Chinese nationalists Party" (the later being the literal meaning as seen in wikipedia), in order to better reflect the intrinsic origin of 中國國民黨, as referred to by the "中國" part?

What are the fundamental differences, if any, between 中國 and 中華?

PS: no politics here please.

Edit: I originally asked "what is the rational behind using China vs Chinese?" but as formulated, the question was irrelevant to the Chinese language (as pointed out by @dROOOze).

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    This is not a Chinese language question. You ask: "What's the rational (sic) behind using China vs Chinese" (to translate terms like 中國國民黨). However, the English word "Chinese" can mean one of multiple things, such as: (1) Something belonging to the country China; (2) Something belonging to the Chinese culture or civilisation; or (3) the Chinese people. "China's Nationalists Party" is non-standard English for "Nationalist Party of China", which is exactly equivalent to the sense (1) of the word "Chinese" ("Chinese Nationalist Party").
    – dROOOze
    Commented May 22 at 6:33
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    In other words, your misunderstanding comes from what the English word "Chinese" means; it does not (solely) mean 華人, and if you have any issues with this, you should go check a dictionary more carefully or ask this at ELL StackExchange.
    – dROOOze
    Commented May 22 at 6:36
  • @dROOOze I am aware that Chinese means multiple things in English., but as I read again how I formulate my 2nd question, I agree with your 1st comment. I'll review my question in a moment.
    – calocedrus
    Commented May 22 at 8:51
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    "Chinese Nationalists Party" (or any Nationalists Party) would be an awkward name in English, we wouldn't pluralize it, because such a party would be about Nationalism, not a collection of individuals who happen to be Nationalists. Commented May 22 at 23:38
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    I do agree that as a name for a political party, Nationalist Party of China would be better than Chinese Nationalist Party because putting the emphasis on China also emphasizes the first sense (i.e. China as a geographic and political entity), whereas Chinese includes this but also includes the sense of 华人 and 中华文化. If only they had asked me. Commented May 22 at 23:47

3 Answers 3

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Difference between 中華 and 中國?

I hesitated in joining the discourse because of OP's plea, "PS: no politics here please"

How do you avoid politics when talking about "nationality", "national identity" of any country? A country's adopted political system and form of government is defined by political ideology, and thus colored by one's pet political views and biases.

Having said that, perhaps it is possible to avoid talking about "politics" if we just confine ourselves to what these terms, 中華 and 中國, mean on a personal level, obviously on the personal level of a "Chinese", using this term very loosely for the moment.

If asked who or what I am, racially speaking, I'll have no other term but to say, I am Chinese, 華人, though I am not a citizen or even a resident of "The People's Republic of China", (commonly called "Mainland China", or 中国大陆, or just 大陆 in short) or of "The Republic of China", (understood to be "Taiwan"; for in the year 2005 the official website of the Presidential Office has added the word "Taiwan" after "Republic of China" to distinguish it from "People's Republic of China", http://news.bbc.co.uk/chinese/trad/hi/newsid_4730000/newsid_4730400/4730413.stm)

To say I am a 中國人 would imply or understood to mean being a citizen of The People's Republic of China. I think even my blood relatives in a small village in Southern China would not consider me a 中國人.

The above is, I believe, clear to most peoples outside of Mainland China of Chinese ethnicity any where in the World, regardless of their citizenship.

So, what is the difference between 中華 and 中國?

My non-political, narrow view is, the former is a matter of ethnicity, (with all the cultural historicity it encapsulates), and which is not bounded by geographical tenement, and the latter a matter of national / constitutional identity, with no implied racial or ethnic content.

Finally, the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China (Adopted at the Third Session of the Fifth National People's Congress, promulgated by Order No.8 of the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on and effective as of September 10, 1980), states that under Article 7:-

"Foreign nationals or stateless persons who are willing to abide by China's Constitution and laws and who meet one of the following conditions may be naturalized upon approval of their applications:

(1) they are near relatives of Chinese nationals;

(2) they have settled in China; or

(3) they have other legitimate reasons"

End.

From the above, i.e. Art. 7 (1), it seems that a person who has ties with "...relatives of Chinese nationals", (meaning a non-citizen person of Chinese ethnicity, i.e. a 華人 from any where in the World), could, without any previous residency in the Country has this "special" privilege, (assuming of course this provision is still in force)

This provision seems to suggest that the Government of The People's Republic of China has a policy of "recognizing" the cultural, historical, racial relevancy of "blood ties" amongst "Chinese people" of the World.

Why, perhaps "Blood is thicker than Politics"?

In Reply to your Comments:-

Quote:- "In that sense, I'd say that "Politics is thicker than blood"

Ah, we are straying dangerously into the forbidden arena of nationalistic politics now :)

My take on the underlying purport of Art. 7 is not, as you hope, to make all and sundry to become a 華人, (which by definition is a matter of ethnicity), but to become a 中国人, a broad term to mean an acquired Constitutional entity, like one could become a United States' citizen, (and get called an "American"), but that does not make a black African become a white Caucasian just by swearing on the Constitution of the United States of America.

Though Art. 7 is framed, (purposely I might add), broadly in my view to appear politically correct so as not to be seen as racially chauvinistic, its practical application is actually quite narrow.

The unspoken idea / intent of Art.7 is to entice peoples of the large, (and rich, we are talking about the 1980s here), Chinese diaspora to return into the bosom of the Fatherland, and not to give easy citizenship to all and sundry.

So, "Blood is still thicker than politics"

If you are not a 華人, you have almost zero chance of getting approved under Art.7 :)

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  • More interesting insights! To add to your answer: when I visited Taiwan 20yrs ago, I would be asked about my origins. Once I could master some very basic mandarin, I started to return the question to my interlocutors. There's been many times when the reply from these curious Taiwanese was "我是中國人", which surprised me (given my ignorance of the history of Taiwan at the time and my even deeper ignorance about politics, I would have expected 我是台灣人). I could even detect a pinch of surprise that I could ask the question, as if they meant "of course 我是中國人, can't you see it?".
    – calocedrus
    Commented May 24 at 7:32
  • And to pursue my comment, most of those who asked about my origins were kids. So, one can avoid politics when talking about "nationality", "national identity". As for the article 7, if I interpret correctly your English translation, that would mean that I could become 中国人 simply by abiding to the PRC constitution, and either being married to a PRC citizen, or if I decide to spend my life in China (the territory). But I could never become a 華人 (by nature, ethnically speaking). In that sense, I'd say that "Politics is thicker than blood".
    – calocedrus
    Commented May 24 at 7:43
  • Please see my longish reply in my Answer Column. Commented May 24 at 8:29
  • Well, we do agree (cf my earlier comments), except that I didn't mean to bias your take on the article 7 :-) And so, I am missing something in this article since, purely based on its text, I thought that given the facts that I am a "Foreign national", "willing to abide by China's Constitution and laws", and I meet "one of the following conditions": having "settled in China", I could get approved, at least I had the chance to, even as a non 華人. So there seem to be some implied (or explicit, cited elsewhere) conditions that exclude me from becoming 中国人.
    – calocedrus
    Commented May 27 at 6:55
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I would say you have pretty much answered your question here:

華人, Chinese, doesn't necessarily mean "belonging to China" but commonly would refer to an ethnic group. There are "華人" - Chinese - in Singapore, Malaysia but they are not "中國人" (citizens of China).

I met people from Singapore who described themselves as 华人, distinguishing themselves from citizens of the P.R.C. who would be 中国人 but also indicating that they share a common culture and ancestral connection with them, and probably speak a Chinese dialect.

My sense is that 中国 has more "political" overtones, tied closely to the P.R.C. or its predecessors, whereas 中华 doesn't, it's more about culture and origins.

That can't be always true though. There is a song 四海都有中国人, "Chinese are Everywhere Within the Four Seas", referring to the Chinese diaspora outside China, but most of these people would not be citizens of the P.R.C.

Regarding 中國國民黨, I would agree that since they have 中國 in it, it would be better to translate it as Nationalist Party of China, with the emphasis on China as a geographic and political entity.

You can contrast that with the official name of China, 中华人民共和国, the "Republic of people that are 中华-ese", which does seem to be saying that it could potentially be about more than geography, just as Israel (I think) is theoretically not just for Jews who happen to live in that part of the world.

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  • Your answer tends to align with my intuition, except that I would not say that "中国 has more "political" overtones", well at least from a "neutral" point of view: 中国 is the country. and no matter who will govern that country (the current government or another one, say a democratic one), 中国 will remain that country. However it would definitely have that political overtone when standing from the point of view of say, Taiwan R.O.C. If you agree, and could try to add a bit more insights about the difference between 中国 and 中华, I'll accept it. As it is, it's already as close to what I'd expect.
    – calocedrus
    Commented May 24 at 4:46
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华 meaning Chinese has a much longer history of practical use than 中, which means 中原 for a long time in history.

It is interesting to see there seems to have difference between the two 中国 used in the names of the two major political parties in modern history of China.

In 中国国民党, the 中国 means Republic of China, there is no doubt of that.

In 中国共产党, the 中国 might mean People's Republic of China, but considering the name was given at the time of its foundation in 1921, it could also mean Republic of China, because at that time there was yet a country named People's Republic of China, and it was believed that the first leader of communist party Mr. Li Dazhao李大钊 could have attended the first congress of the party in Shanghai, but that he thought it was not as important as the ceremony of the founding of 少年中国学会 that was to be held at the same time in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, so he chose not to attend.

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