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Mainlanders are those humans who live, or were born, in a mainland.

In Taiwan, Mainlander can refer to two different groups:

  1. The waisheng ren (外省人), meaning "external-province person," refers to persons who emigrated from from Mainland China near the end of the Chinese Civil War and their descendants.
    • This is as opposed to the Taiwanese local residents, the bensheng ren (本省人 "original-province person"), who have been in Taiwan for centuries.
  2. The Dalu ren (大陸人) refers to residents of Mainland China.
    • This group excludes almost all Taiwanese, including the waisheng ren, except recent immigrants from Mainland China, such as those made Republic of China citizens through marriage.

This article is about the first group, waisheng ren, the Mainlanders of Taiwan.

Table of contents
1 Names
2 Definition
3 History
4 People


Waisheng ren are also called more formally, waisehng ji ren (外省籍人), meaning "persons who are external-province natives." They are also given the nickname of Ou7-a2 (芋仔), meaning "taro," in the Taiwanese language. The term is somewhat pejorative because it refers to the perceived "dirtiness" of some of the early KMT troops.

The opposite of waisheng ren is bensheng ren who are called "yam" (蕃薯) which comes from the shape of Taiwan. Bensheng ren includes diverse groups such as Hakka speakers and aboriginals.

The translations of waisheng ren and bensheng ren into English poses some interesting difficulties. The usual English translation of waisheng ren is Mainlander, although many waisheng ren find this translation uncomfortable sense it implies that waishengren are not fully Taiwanese. Similarly translating bensheng ren as "Taiwanese" is something that almost all Taiwanese would find objectionable. Translating the term bensheng ren as "native Taiwanese" is also problematic because of confusion with Taiwanese aboriginals. Most academic literature uses the terms waishengren and benshengren directly. The terms rarely come up in the English-speaking media.

Many supporters of Taiwan independence object to the term other province people, because it implies that Taiwan is a province of China and prefer the name "new immigrant". The latter term has not become popular in Taiwan and is extremely unpopular among wai-sheng-ren themselves.

Chinese Civil War veterans especially are called Old Ou7-a2 (老芋仔), or Waisheng lao bing (外省老兵), "old external-province soldiers," in Mandarin.

Mainlanders make up about 10% of the population of Taiwan and are heavily concentrated in northern Taiwan especially in the Taipei area. Although no longer dominating the government, waishenren still make up a disproportionate large fraction of government bureaucrats and military officers.


The formal definition of a Mainlander is someone living in Taiwan whose native province is not Taiwan. Until the early 1990s, identity cards in Taiwan contained an entry for native province, which was largely the native province of one's father's family. The removal of native province from identity cards and replacement with place of birth was motivated in large part to reduce the Mainlander/local distinction.

Because of this definition, someone who is born on Taiwan, but whose father's family roots are not in Taiwan, is generally considered a Mainlander. By contrast, someone who is not born in Taiwan, but whose native province is Taiwan (most notably Lien Chan) is generally not considered a Mainlander. Similarly, a child that is born to a Taiwanese businessman residing in the PRC would generally not be considered a wai-sheng-ren.

Furthermore, the small number of recent immigrants to Taiwan from Mainland China, mostly from marriages to Taiwanese business and from undocumented migrants, are not considered waishengren, but make up a separate social category.

The definitions get even fuzzier with mixed marriages and the fact that provincial identity sometimes does not correlate in obvious ways to characteristics such as political orientation or ability to speak Taiwanese. For example, although Mainlanders are often stereotyped as supporting Chinese reunification and opposing Taiwanese independence there are numerous examples where this formula does not hold. Similarly, it is common to find younger waishenren who speak fluent Taiwanese and younger benshenren who cannot speak it at all.


The Mainlanders are descended from the people who followed Chiang Kai-Shek to Taiwan after the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War. Until the 1970s, Mainlanders controlled the political systems of Taiwan; this generated resentment among bensheng ren and was one of the main causes of the Taiwan independence movement.

Starting in the 1970s, Mainlander dominance of the government began to recede. This was due to a lack of a political or social theory that would justify continued Mainlander dominance, meritocratic policies which allowed local Taiwanese to move up in the political establishment, and economic prosperity which allowed for social mobility for those outside of the political establishment.

Intermarriage and a new generation raised under the same environment has largely blurred the distinction between waishengren and benshengren.

In the late 1990s, the concept of "The New Taiwanese" became popular both among supporters of Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification in order to emphasize the fact that waishengren are fully Taiwanese. However it quickly became apparent that the notion of New Taiwanese meant different things to supporters of independence and unification. To supporters of independence, the concept of New Taiwanese implied that waishenren would assimilate into a Taiwanese identity which was separate from the Chinese identity. By contrast to supporters of Chinese reunification, the concept implied that all Taiwanese (not just waishengren) which have a strong Taiwanese identity within a larger Chinese identity.

As of the early 21st century, almost all waishengren see themselves as Taiwanese and as socially distinct from current residents of Mainland China, and in contrast to groups such as the Hakka or Taiwanese aboriginals, there has been no effort or interest to develop a distinctive Mainlander identity and most waishengren, especially those of the younger generation, make extensive efforts to establish themselves as Taiwanese. At the same time, part of Taiwanese political discourse is a suspicious by some that waishengren are a fifth column for the People's Republic of China.


Prominent Mainlanders in Taiwan include:

Lien Chan sometimes is pejoratively denoted as a Mainlander, although the general perception on Taiwan is that he is not. Although he was born in Mainland China, his father's family had roots in Taiwan.

In Tasmania, mainlander refers to Australians from the other six states.

In the South Island of New Zealand, mainlander refers to a resident of the South Island, while in the North Island, the opposite applies.

In Canada, mainlander is often used on the East Coast by residents of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, or Cape Breton Island. On the West Coast the term is used by people who live on Vancouver Island.