As a consequence of its economic reforms China is currently experiencing internal migration at an unprecedented scale. An estimated 120 million people, or more than 15 per cent of the total rural labour force in China, have for different lengths of time left their places of origin to settle mainly in urban centres. Most of them go to the southern and eastern economically booming regions, but quite a few have chosen to go to ethnic minority areas in the border regions of the People's Republic. These areas, which have often been described and perceived of as economically and culturally backward, are also subjected to new largescale in-migrations of mainly Han Chinese. Han Chinese – whether officially classified or identifying themselves as such – make up a considerable proportion of the population in most so-called minority areas in China today. A number of recent (mostly sociological) studies have contributed to knowledge of the policies and consequences of sending Han to minority areas since 1949. Especially with regard to Tibet, the actual scope of Han migration remains a hotly debated issue. However, while the number of ethnographic studies of various ethnic minorities in China has increased markedly during the last 15 years (since it became possible to do fieldwork in minority areas of the People's Republic), the Han Chinese living in the same areas have rarely been subjected to this kind of fieldwork-based study. Most researchers of ethnic minorities in China have been struck by the pervasiveness of the discourse on the Han as a more “advanced” (xianjin) nationality. But this discourse has not been thoroughly analysed in relation with how different groups of Han Chinese, living themselves among non-Han peoples in minority areas, reproduce, neglect, dispute or contribute to this discourse.