"Greater China" is an informal term used to refer a geographic area that shares commercial and cultural ties dominated by Han Chinese. The precise area is not always entirely clear, but normally encompasses mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.Singapore is also regarded as part of the definition by some, although it is not as geographically close to mainland China as the rest of the countries included nor has it ever politically been a part of it.
The term has been used for a long time, but with differing scope and connotations.
In the 1930s George Cressey used it to refer to the entire Chinese Empire, as opposed to China proper. Usage by the United States on government maps in the 1940s as a political term included territories claimed by the Republic of China that were part of the previous empire, or geographically to refer to topographical features associated with China that may or may not have lain entirely within Chinese political borders.
The concept began to appear again in Chinese-language sources in the late 1970s, referring the growing commercial ties between the mainland and Hong Kong, with the possibility of extending these to Taiwan, with perhaps the first such reference being in a Taiwanese journal Changqiao in 1979.
The English term subsequently re-emerged in the 1980s to refer to the growing economic ties between the regions as well as the possibility of political unification. It is not an institutionalized entity such as the EU or ASEAN. The concept is a generalization to group several markets seen to be closely linked economically and does not imply sovereignty.
The term is often used to avoid invoking sensitivities over the political status of Taiwan. For some Asians, the term is a reminder of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere", a euphemism for the region controlled by Imperial Japan during the Second World War.