|The provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou together with western Hunan are ethnically diverse, although Han Chinese are clearly in the majority. In Yunnan and Guizhou the minority populations are 32 percent and 26 percent respectively, though they are under 4 percent in Sichuan. At least twenty-six minority groups can be found in Yunnan. Among the largest are Miao, Yi, Dong, Tujia, Hani, Tibetans and Lisu.
Much of the area was formerly part of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Until recent times, several important urban centers were predominantly populated by non-Han peoples, for example Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan.
The climate generally ranges from cool temperate to tropical depending on elevation and latitude. It is mainly minority groups who inhabit the mountains and high plateaus over 1,200 meters.
Despite the existence of rich natural resources, road and rail transportation and telecommunications remain undeveloped over most of the region. Only the Sichuan Basin, highly industrialized, rich in energy sources and mineral resources, and linked by rail and river to Yangzi, matches inner China's productivity and wealth. There is a wide gab in living standards between Sichuan and the rest of the region and between the Han and the other nationalities within the region.