According to the latest estimates, the largest ethnic group, accounting for 91.9% of the total population, is the Han. The Han form a majority in most of the settled east and south but remain a minority, despite continuing immigration in the west.
The remaining 8.1% of the population is comprised of minority groups. Because of their predominance in strategically sensitive border areas, they hold a political and economic importance disproportionate to their numbers. The largest minority, at last estimate was the Zhuang, a Buddhist people, related to the Thai, who are primarily concentrated in Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guangdong. Other large minorities were the Manchu, concentrated in Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning; the Hui, a Chinese-speaking Muslim people concentrated in Ningxia, Gansu, Henan, and Hebei; the Uygur, a Muslim Turkic people of Xinjiang; the Yi, formerly called Lolo, a Buddhist people related to the Tibetans and concentrated in Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou; the Miao, in Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, and Guangxi; and the Tibetans, concentrated in Xizang (Tibet), Qinghai, and Sichuan. Other minority nationalities, with estimated populations of more than one million, included the Mongolians; Tujia; Buyi; Koreans; Dong; Yao; Bai; Hani; Li; and the Kazaks, concentrated in Xinjiang, Gansu, and Qinghai.
The ethnic minorities have been exempt from nationally imposed birth limits; the 1990 census recorded an increase in the minority population of 24.7 million, or 37.1%, since 1982, compared with an increase of 10.9% among the majority Han during the same period. Two or more children per minority couple are generally allowed instead of the one-child norm promoted among the Han.