As if produced by magic, all the 56 different ethnical groups are presented in their traditional costumes any time an official event takes place. Their colourful costumes, their traditional customs and culture are praised in many pictorials and newspapers. Many minorities are even exempt from the one-child-policy. Herds people are allowed to raise three children! What an advantage in this land of restrictions!
The truth is, there are in fact 56 minorities, or rather counting 55 and leave one for the main ethnic group, the Han Chinese. But imagine: Han Chinese make out about 93 % of the total population. Travelling the main tourists routes, you might not even meet one of the 55 members of the other groups.
Most likely you will find intact communities of different tribes in the bordering regions of China. Manchuria in the north-east is influenced by a Russian population; Inner Mongolia still dominated by the Mongol group; in remote XinJiang province the Turkic-descended Uigurs are outnumbering the Han Chinese. The population of the other western provinces bordering Nepal, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kirgistan down to Laos and Vietnam are largely influenced by migration processes.
Don't conclude, that because of their enormous share of the total population, the Han Chinese represent a homogeneous group. Every region's Han Chinese people feel different and more over superior towards the other region's! Dishes and customs vary substantially according to different climate, agriculture and sources of income.
An ambitious young lady in her modern office on 55th floor in Shanghai might have a closer match to her counterpart in New York than to her ethnical sisters in a remote valley in Anhui province, just some 300 km away.
There is a permanent debate about the superiority of southern and northern Chinese up to the highest ranks in Government!
Whilst Beijing people enjoy a lot of noodles and dumpling with their meals, people Shanghai can rely on the outcome of the fertile Yangzi Delta, rice and river fish. Whereas the people from Guangzhou apparently 'eat everything that moves'!
Ethnic itself might not be the key to the Chinese people. They are, like everywhere else in the world, all individuals and should be respected as such.
Even though there might be times when sheer desperation takes overhand whilst struggling with Chinese mentality, a smile from somebody is waiting around the corner!