China is the most populous nation on Earth. The largest ethnic group in the world is the Han, who alone account for over 1 billion of China's total population of 1.1 billion. In comparison, the population of the United States (the world's third most populous country) is only 265 million people, less than one-fourth the size of China's population. In addition to the Han, China recognizes fifty-five ethnic minorities with a total population of 91.2 million. The largest minority, with a population exceeding 15 million, is the Zhuang, a Buddhist people related to the Thai. The lands occupied by China's minorities have great size and importance compared to their small population. All together, two-thirds of China's territory is inhabited by minorities.
This chapter begins with an overview article on the Chinese people as a nationality. Separate articles are devoted to a number of representative ethnic groups, including the Han. Other large minorities in China profiled elsewhere include the Mongolians (see the chapter on Mongolia in Volume 6), the Koreans (see Korea in Volume 5) and the Kazaks (see Kazakstan in Volume 5).