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While each island group displays a variant of the Polynesian cultural tradition and all are united by over a century of colonial administration, residents maintain cultural identities specific to the home archipelago and home island.These identities are beginning to blend into a general national identity as a result of modern transportation, education, and communication networks. French Polynesia includes 121 islands scattered across more than 1,930,500 square miles (five million square kilometers) in the southern Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America.These languages have become more homogeneous, and Tahitian is beginning to replace local languages.Older Chinese residents speak the Hakka dialect, but younger generations speak French and often Tahitian. The Territory flies both the French flag and its own flag which shows a red outrigger canoe on a yellow background over a blue sea.

Residents who favor independence from France advocate a return to a more traditional Polynesian culture. Tensions between the majority Polynesian ethnic group and the minority European and Chinese communities are due to economic inequalities between those groups and persistent cultural differences.

Nearly 80 percent of the residents are of Polynesian or mixed Polynesian ethnicity, approximately 12 percent are of European ancestry and 8 percent are of Chinese decent.

The population is concentrated in the urban and suburban areas of northern Tahiti, which has nearly 150,000 residents.

The island groups were formed by undersea volcanoes and include steep volcanic peaks, high islands with fringing coral reefs and large lagoons, and coral atolls surrounding submerged volcanoes.

The capital city, Papeete, is on the island of Tahiti, the largest of these islands and the first to experience European conquest. The population as of July 2000 is 249,110 on the inhabited islands.

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