The shape of empires past

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Aziz pointed me to this article in Forbes, The New Great Game, which highlights the imperial aspect of the contemporary Chinese regime. It is important to emphasize that there is a striking disjunction between the manner in which the present spatial expanse of the Chinese state emerged, and the fiction which the modern Chinese state promotes to its citizens and abroad. The acquisitions which pushed China to the furthest extent in its history were achieved under the Qinq Dynasty in the 18th century. The Qing are also know as the Manchu dynasty, a pointer to the fact that they were outsiders. The Manchu elite took over the administrative apparatus of the previous Ming dynasty by the 17th century, but they were never wholly Chinese. The reality was that for much of the Qing dynasty China was part of the Manchu Empire. Though exemplary students of Chinese forms in their roles as Emperors of China, the Manchu rulers also remained warlords of the Manchu people, and it is in this capacity (albeit leveraging the resources of China proper) that they conquered the western territories, or pushed beyond Amur river to the north of Manchuria.

To the left is an image which shows the geographical expanses of the major Chinese dynasties over time (earliest to left, the last bottom right). Only one dynasty rivals the Manchus in terms of the territory which they controlled, the Yuan, the Mongol dynasty. Like the Manchus the Mongols ruled China as part of a greater set of domains. Of the remaining the dynasties only the Tang had a robust and wide presence in Central Asia, but this hegemony evaporated by the second half of the Tang.

Turkestan, Tibet and the lands to the north of the Amur (which were later extracted from the Manchu Empire by the Czars) were acquired due to the Manchu’s greater cultural and geographic horizons than the Chinese (or, more accurately, a syngery between the enterprise of the nomad and the economic base of the Han Chinese). Like the Mongols the Manchus had a relatively good relationship with the lamas of Tibetan Buddhism, and the acquisition of Tibet occurred by way of their conflicts with the western Mongols (Oirat). The conquest of Xinjiang occurred as a byproduct of the Manchu involvement in intra-Mongol politics, as the Muslims of the Tarim Basin were chafing under the hegemony of the Dzungar Mongol confederacy. The drive to the north of the Amur would be a natural necessity to buffer the Manchu homeland against the expansion of the Russians into Siberia. Native Chinese dynasties, such as the Ming and Han, were hampered in their forays out of China proper due to their inability to maintain supply lines indefinitely and inflict any final defeat on nomadic populations which coul take advantage of the strategic depth offered by their vast ranges. It is notable that the Chinese dynasty which rivaled, though did not equal, the Manchu achievement in Central Asia were the Tang, of partial nomad background.

The fact that China was part of a Manchu Empire mattered in concrete terms because many of the domains outside of China were administered separately (though later in the 19th century there was a trend toward more thorough integration as part of a modernization drive). The Turks of Xinjiang naturally would not consider themselves Chinese, since China was simply a subcomponent of a set of territories of which also included the city-states of the Tarim Basin. Similarly, the integration of Tibet into the Manchu Empire was cemented by the personal relationship between the lamas and the ruling Manchu, as well as religious affinities between the two peoples. China was a third party actor.

All this makes more sense if you keep in mind the personal aspect of rule of hereditary kingdoms before the rise of the nation-state. George III, the king against who the American colonies revolted, was king of England, Wales and Scotland, Great Britain, as well as Ireland, the United Kingdom. Additionally, he was the Elector of Hanover. The fact that Hanover and the United Kingdom had the same ruler did not mean that these two administrative units were fused, on the contrary one of the concerns of the bureaucratic and aristocratic classes of both domains was that they not become excessively entangled in the international or domestic concerns of the other (the creation of Great Britain was favored by Scotland’s ruling classes because they were excluded from many of the English colonies!). In 1837 Hanover’s personal union with the United Kingdom ended because of the Salian law of inheritance of the throne. Now the connection between these two regions is simply a historical coincidence.

Now imagine if England made a claim on Hanover based on the century of personal union between the two polities. This would be ludicrous. But in The New Chinese Empire the author recounts that several times during diplomatic visits by Russians Deng Xiaoping referred to the territories beyond the Amur which were lost in the 19th century as if they naturally belonged to the modern Chinese state. The reality of course is that these were conquests by the Manchus, and they were losses by the Manchus (though by the latter period the Manchus were far more Sinicized than they had been in the 17th century). For nationalistic and ideological reasons the Communist regime simply pretends as if the era of the Manchus was one where their domains were conceived of as a nation-state. Because the Chinese Empire entered onto the world stage in the 19th century in the post-Westphalian context the qualitatively non-Chinese aspects of rule in Xinjiang, Tibet or Manchuria were elided in terms of their relations with other states.

Most Uighurs naturally are ignorant of these details of history. But these details of history have no doubt shaped the attitudes of ethnic minorities like Uighurs and Tibetans, for their integration into the Chinese state is naturally a thin veneer because it is a novel and new aspect to their experience. China proper emerged in its present form in larg part because of 2,000 years of institutional governance modeled on the precedents set forth in the Han dynasty; most of the Manchu acquisitions naturally lacked this background. The attempt to centralize the Manchu adminstrative apparatus in the 19th century was stillborn because of the death spiral of the dynasty. Only with the rise of the Communists did the Far West became an integral part of the nation.

Note: China is a geographically diverse, but an ethnically homogeneous, “empire.” In the Soviet Union Russians were only ~50% of the population, while in China the Han are ~90%.

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54 Comments

  1. Very useful discussion. The nomad interaction is very important in Chinese (Han) history. It is likely that China spent more time unified than comparable civilisational centres because of the nomad threat.

  2. Does anyone know of a good english-language history of Russian expansion into Siberia?

  3. i read this 10 years ago. wish it had less ethnography and more dense history.

  4. Another reason that China was usually unified is that there are few geographic barriers that separate Eastern China. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond hypothesized that Europe overtook China because Europe was separted into different countries because of geography. China had a huge fleet of exploration in the 1400′s, but got rid of it because there were no rivals challenging it (sound familiar, NASA?). Columbus went to many different European governments before he got Spain to finance his voyage, and after that other countries wanted in on the game. 
     
    It is interesting that the periods of Chinese disunity, like the Warring States, were times of substantial progress. In Europe, the period of greatest unity, the Roman Empire, was the period of greatest technological stagnation. It wasn’t until the Dark ages that someone invented the stirrup.

  5. chemdude, 
     
    1) re: geography, diamond’s thesis is plausible. but i think it is notable that china south of the yangtze is actually rather fragmented by geography (e.g., the isolation of sichuan). for europe the fragmentation is also in the south. one of the issues is that complex states started in the south in europe, and in the north in china. less developed regions tend to exhibit greater political fragmentation. so in europe you had a situation where: 
     
    a) less developed + less geographically fragmented 
    b) more developed + more geographicall fragmented 
     
    china 
     
    a) more developed + less geographically fragmented 
    b) less developed + more geograpically fragmented 
     
    of course, the relatively isolated positions of the british isles and scandinavia has no analog in china. 
     
    2) re: maritime exploration, the chinese state did have threats, but they were all along their interior. the mongols continued to the menace the chinese state until the manchus coopted them (the khalka) or exterminated them (the oirat). in terms of short term return on expenditure it does seem that it was rational to cease massive naval expeditions which yielded symbolic, as opposed to concrete, returns. 
     
    3) re: european colonialism of the new world, the more i read about it the less it seems that europeans were really as jazzed up about the new world as we americans like to assume. there was after all over 100 years until successful colonization of the new world by non-iberian powers. even in iberia itself the new world seems to have long been more a region to extract rents as opposed to actually create new value. the settlement of new england was spurred in the 1630s by puritans who left an england hostile to their beliefs, but after this decade there was relatively little immigration, and even some back-migration during the 1650s to cromwell’s domains. to a great extent the utilization of the new world as a safety valve for malthusian excess is a feature of the 18th century, especially with the arrival of masses of scotch-irish. in contrast, it seems that in new england and quebec the distinctive subcultures prospered only through massive endogenous growth (17th century new england has among the highest recorded average female fertilities of any societies recorded). 
     
    4) there was technological improvement during the dark ages. the stirrup is a little overused because it was relatively common in northern china already in the 4th century, so it is a case of cultural diffusion, not endogenous innovation (in addition to which, there was a centuries long latency in terms of its ubiquity, google the stirrup controversy with charles martel to see the historigraphy of this topic). rather, the introduction of the moldboard plough and the 3-field system in northern france and the low countries resulted in a strong shift in the economic center of gravity to that region by the early middle ages. it does seem that the disruptions spur innovation in a schumpterian manner. but…it does seem that in some ways it took europe a long time to reach the same scale of development as the roman empire, perhaps not until the aristotelian renaissance of the 13th century. certain architecture techniques were lost and had to be rediscovered, and european cities took a long time to reach the density of classical ones. so the shift is not always monotonic in a simple manner. in fact, i think the disruptions in the pre-modern era as a source of innovation are easy to document for culture, but less so for technology. mostly because technological change was so slow before ~1500.

  6. Part of the problem of Americans like Ross Terrill attempting to use their version of history to counter the mainstream Communist Chinese interpretation of history in a bid to de-legitimize the contemporary Chinese state is that it is literally pissing into the wind. For one thing, those most critical people that need to be convinced cannot be convinced. The average Zhou six pack in Chengdu is no more interested in the political disintegration of the existing system anymore than the Standing Committee member in Zhong Nan Hai. The second factor is that undoing the manipulation of history (or remanipulating it) to serve the present circumstances does not necessarily change the present circumstances.  
     
    Manchuria wasn’t always an intrinsic part of the Chinese state as defined by the communist party. It is now; the Manchus are entirely assimilated and the population identify as Chinese. Inner Mongolia wasn’t always an intrinsic part of the Chinese state (Forgetting for the moment the amusing notion of letting nomads define what is “their” land). Again, it is now; the Mongolians are mostly assimilated and the population identify as Chinese. Xinjiang wasn’t always an intrinsic part of the Chinese state. It is now, with the Uighurs reduced to an ever shrinking marginalized minority. Tibet wasn’t always an intrinsic part of China either… but it will be! 
     
    The problem of course with all the knuckleheads chanting Free Tibet or Free Turkestan is the fact that they are not dissimilar to the more doctrinaire hard liners in China (forgoing for the moment the vast power disparity as to what either faction can effect on the ground; that is the difference between everything and nothing). Both are wedded to ideological pillars that limit their horizons. Chinese nationalism and Marxism/Leninism for one, vacuous Western Liberalism for the other. The Chinese can no more turn the Tibetans and Uighurs into happy singing and dancing minority ethnics than Westerners can actually turn them into viable independent nations. However, there is where the aforementioned power imbalance tilts the game in favor of the Chinese. While the Chinese state cannot demand their love, the power of the state can be used to command their obedience, weaken their relevance, or simply destroy them altogether. 
     
    The contemporary Western liberal operates under the prettiest of delusions. Denial of HBD and that equality of opportunity doesn’t equal equality of outcome is only one of their problems. This manifests itself actually plenty of times regarding Tibet in Xinjiang when they complain that the minorities are not as economically successful as the Han emigres, as if the Chinese state were actually responsible for the income disparities. If they aren’t even willing to acknowledge reality in America, how could they do it in China. The second denial is that it assumes history is at an end and that the Chinese will fail in their attempts to incorporate it’s former imperial territory into national territory. The root of this is the perpetual self-serving myth that the good guys win in the end. They don’t. Fact of the matter is, repression works. It always has. History is not a series of inevitabilities, it is made and changed by those with the power to compel it to. Repression (arrests and state coercion) + demographic shift (Han immigration and population control) + Self serving propaganda = Final Chinese victory.

  7. do you think han will settle in tibet itself? there seem biological barriers due to the elevation.

  8. re: chemdude. on second thought, i would say 
     
    1) periods of political collapse tend to correlate with cultural change & innovation. 
     
    2) but the technological innovation is more a function of the phase of reunification and consolidation, at least the early phases. but once pre-modern polities reach their climax they ossify and stagnate. 
     
    IOW, technological innovation is a lagging indicator. as an example, the early 20th century model was that bronze age greece collapsed due to the invasion of iron wielding dorians. the reality is that iron was used by hittites 400 years before the mycenaean collapse, and spread slowly and gradually to replace bronze. but, the greek “dark ages” were a period of great cultural shifts, so that much of the civilization which emerged after 800 BCE had qualitatively changed from what it had been in 1200 BCE (they had to “rediscover” writing, for example). the initial cultural shifts presaged a more general creative explosion after consolidation of the new order. 
     
    anyway, thaz my tentative model….

  9. At last a more accurate narrative has been posted on the idea of there being a historical China. Really can anyone believe that the Manchu, after conquering the Ming Empire, quickly moved to dump their own heritage for the prestige of calling themselves Chinese. After all, why immediately after conquering the Ming Empire, did the Manchu implement a law (The Queue Order – 剃髮令), requiring all Ming Chinese men adopt the Manchu hairstyle. The hairstyle (Queue) consisted of the hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples and the rest of the hair braided into a long ponytail. The ponytail was never to be cut for it would justify execution as treason. The Queue was forcefully introduced to the Chinese by Nurhaci in the early 17th century after the Qing (Manchu) Empire defeated the Ming forces in northern China, and annexed all of the Ming territory into the new Ching (Manchu) Empire. Once firmly in power, Nurhaci commanded all Chinese men in the areas he had conquered to adopt the Manchu hairstyle. The Manchu hairstyle was significant because it was a symbol of submission to Manchu rule. The queue also aided the Manchu in identifying those Chinese that refused to accept Manchu domination after the collapse and extinction of Ming (Chinese) Empire. There again, why was a law enfored, in Beijing, requiring all people of Manchu blood, to live in the north of the city, and the non-Manchu (the Chinese) to live in the south of the city 
     
    This honest view of history also brings light to the reality of the Yuan Dynasty, which in truth was never a real state on its own, but instead a province of the Mongol Empire. If anything the Yuan Dynasty was a toy for Kublai Khan who liked the theatre of pretending to be a celestial being, in the Chinese tradition. Really, the Mongols came from the other side of the Great Wall, the side designated by the Chinese, as the land of the barbarians (NON CHINESE). This was why the Great Wall was built, and thus, the Great Wall was more than a barrier to northern tribes, it represented the northern boarder of the Ming Empire (in fact all south east Asian empires, including the Chin, Han, Wu, Tang, Sung etc.) 
     
    I will write more tonight on this very interesting subject after I finish reading my latest issue of “Evolution and Human Behavior”. In the July issue, there is an article which correlates nicely with the fate of past Chinese empires, and the fate of the present Communist Chinese Empire. 
     
    Evolution and Human Behavior 
     
    Volume 30, Issue 4, Pages 261-273 (July 2009) 
     
    The evolution of conformist social learning can cause population collapse in realistically variable environments 
     
    Hal Whiteheada, Peter J. Richersonb 
     
    Received 26 June 2008; accepted 8 February 2009. published online 22 April 2009. 
     
    Abstract  
     
    Why do societies collapse? We use an individual-based evolutionary model to show that, in environmental conditions dominated by low-frequency variation (“red noise”), extirpation may be an outcome of the evolution of cultural capacity. Previous analytical models predicted an equilibrium between individual learners and social learners, or a contingent strategy in which individuals learn socially or individually depending on the circumstances. However, in red noise environments, whose main signature is that variation is concentrated in relatively large, relatively rare excursions, individual learning may be selected from the population. If the social learning system comes to lack sufficient individual learning or cognitively costly adaptive biases, behavior ceases tracking environmental variation. Then, when the environment does change, fitness declines and the population may collapse or even be extirpated. The modeled scenario broadly fits some human population collapses and might also explain nonhuman extirpations. Varying model parameters showed that the fixation of social learning is less likely when individual learning is less costly, when the environment is less red or more variable, with larger population sizes, and when learning is not conformist or is from parents rather than from the general population. Once social learning is fixed, extirpation is likely except when social learning is biased towards successful models. Thus, the risk of population collapse may be reduced by promoting individual learning and innovation over cultural conformity, or by preferential selection of relatively fit individuals as models for social learning. 
     
    a Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4J1 
    b Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA 
     
    Corresponding author. 
    ☆ This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the National Science Foundation of the United States. 
     
    PII: S1090-5138(09)00019-1 
    doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.02.003 
     
    © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 
     
    http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138(09)00019-1/abstract

  10. Razib, Regards the Han and high altitude Tibet: Ship enough million in and some will manage to reproduce. Also, bring in some genes and fix the problem at a genetic level. That fix is coming. Might take 10-20 years. But the empire will last much longer.

  11. Uhh, what’s the historical justification for the current US government and its control of this continent? Nothing other than military conquest followed by displacement / marginalization of the previous inhabitants. How is this any different than what is going on in Tibet / Xinjiang? (Other than what was done in America was 100x more brutal.) 
     
    We have our own historical propaganda just as the current Chinese government does. See Howard Zinn, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and all that.

  12. Ship enough million in and some will manage to reproduce. Also, bring in some genes and fix the problem at a genetic level. That fix is coming. Might take 10-20 years. But the empire will last much longer. 
     
    i don’t doubt the ability. the key is the will. even the totalitarian soviet union had a hard time populating siberia.

  13. Uhh, what’s the historical justification for the current US government and its control of this continent 
     
    i’m not saying that a state *needs* justification. just the description of what happened. just because the american south built its prosperity on slavery 200 years ago doesn’t mean that the contemporary consensus would allow just a zero-cost-labor solution ;-)

  14. i’m not saying that a state *needs* justification 
     
    Razib: I know you’re not, but that seems to be the motivation of others who comment on this issue.

  15. Steve Hsu, 
     
    One difference is that the US, at least, had a change of heart somewhere during its lifetime and feels genuine shame for some historic mistakes. The Chinese are committing crimes as we speak and they don’t seem very much bothered by it all. That’s a difference.

  16. Randall and Jing, the Chinese do not appear to be interested in shipping a lot of their people to Tibet right now. The ones that go are there for purely economic reasons and — I’m not saying they don’t put down any roots at all — but they are fairly transitory. A lot of them are technically illegal under Chinese law. If the government were really trying to swamp Tibet demographically, they would make migration legal and encourage Chinese people to live throughout Tibet rather than all crowding in to Lhasa. 
     
    Also, do empires always win? What happened to the British in Ireland. Yes, they did manage to get almost everybody in Ireland to speak English, but, no, they never did get them to start thinking of themselves as an integral part of England.

  17. Razib, Im not sure how much more difficult it is for Han Chinese to live in Tibet than it is for Tibetans due to biological differences. Steve Sailer noted that Europeans were more prone to miscarriages in La Paz than the Amerindians as proof, but he didn’t cite just mow much more prone to miscarriages they were and in any case it isn’t immediately applicable to the Chinese, nor does a say a 50% rise in miscarriage incidents lead to a 50% decrease in total fertility.  
     
    In any case, El Alto which is at an even higher altitude than La Paz has a population that is nearly 20% European according to wiki which depending on how you count is anywhere between 25% to 100% higher than the total relative European population of Bolivia.

  18. but he didn’t cite just mow much more prone to miscarriages they were and in any case it isn’t immediately applicable to the Chinese 
     
    it probably is. high altitude produce similar weird adaptations, but the problems are pretty general in terms of oxygen levels across low altitude populations. in any case, here’s an old article on han and tibetan babies in lhasa. where there’s a will there’s a way, but if china continues to enforce the one child policy i’m not sure that parents will want to take on the extra marginal risk without a lot of inducement (i’m also not convinced that parents will want to take on the risk of genetic engineering to raise their child in high altitudes). 
     
    El Alto which is at an even higher altitude than La Paz has a population that is nearly 20% European according to wiki which depending on how you count is anywhere between 25% to 100% higher than the total relative European population of Bolivia. 
     
     
    come on now. N = 1? the wiki entry also says the city is experience a lot of high growth in the past few decades. i’m not denying that low altitude populations can exist at high numbers through migration and churn. i’m talking about a sustainable population. the lowlands of latin america are mostly mestizo, european and african. the highlands are not. that’s just a fact. and the spanish hand 300 years. granted, there are many more chinese, but even today tibet autonomous province is mostly tibetan. you can relocate 10 million chinese by fiat, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. it hasn’t happened yet, and it doesn’t look like the autonomous province is offering up economic opportunities comparable to xinjiang or the coastal cities.

  19. Maciano: “the US … feels genuine shame for some historic mistakes.” 
     
    Ha ha — yeah, you, me and Howard Zinn feel some shame. Most everyone else, not so much. 
     
    In 100 years some affluent Chinese intellectuals will write some books about what a shame it is what happened in Tibet/Xinjiang in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Everyone else will wonder what they are talking about. 
     
    War Nerd: “I don’t live this double life, benefiting from the fact that my house is built on some other tribe’s land and then pretending to regret that. I’ll always remember having to study Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and everyone sobbing for the poor Indians, but nobody’s gonna give them the land back. I mean, one way or the f*#king other: either you give them the land back, or you admit you’re a predator and you eat meat.” 
     
    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2009/05/conquest-david-day.html

  20. the more i read about it the less it seems that europeans were really as jazzed up about the new world as we americans like to assume 
     
    Certainly true of the English. The only titled person to emigrate was Lord Fairfax, in the mid-18th Cent. If you check out the list of VA gentry in Fisher’s book, they’re all from second or third string gentry, if that, in England. Possible exceptions are a few “distressed gentry” who fared poorly under Cromwell (e.g. Lee family). In the 17th Cent there was a large male preponderance and a large importation of indentured servants. Clearly, it was regarded as an undesirable place to live, despite the fact that the economic and physical standard of living was higher in VA than in England by 1700. 
     
    There’s also ample material on how difficult it was for the French to get people to settle in Louisiana.

  21. In 100 years some affluent Chinese intellectuals will write some books about what a shame it is what happened in Tibet/Xinjiang in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Everyone else will wonder what they are talking about. 
     
     
    i would bet on this too. moderate confidence.

  22. Yeah, Steve Hsu nailed it—I’d been planning to make exactly the same sort of point. 
     
    Remember, a couple of hundred years of political control is really a pretty long time in the scheme of things. Maybe someone should couple match those maps showing the historic expansion of “China” with maps showing the geographical extent of “America” during those same two centuries years. 
     
    Even leaving aside all those “uncivilized” indian tribes, what about giving California, Texas, and a bunch of other big American states back to Mexico? America grabbed them much, much more recently than China grabbed those various outlying provinces.  
     
    Wonder how American politicians would react to Chinese leaders, intellectuals, and journalists all starting to demand that that America disgorge all its occupied Mexican holdings, and passing around maps showing the “correct” legal borders of America…

  23. > Clearly, it was regarded as an undesirable place to live, despite the fact that the economic and physical standard of living was higher in VA than in England by 1700. 
     
    That is quite surprising – not with regards to hoi aristoi, but certainly with regards to everyone else.  
     
    I wonder if fear of indians was a part of it – that’s certainly the sort of danger that human cognitive biases might be prone to overrate.  
     
    I’m sure the longest-settled regions were safer – but, keeping in mind that over 90% came to farm, we can well imagine that the most of the best economic opportunities existed more towards the frontier. Curious about how late such conflicts persisted, I googled some information: 
     
    This 1675 wave of bloodshed is interesting since it involved deaths near Richmond, which was fortified since 1745 and lies only 50 miles from Jamestown. 
     
    Here, from some random web page, is another grim event, this one only 60 years before the Revolution: 
     
    In the spring of 1715, the Yamasee formed a confederation with other tribes and struck at the white settlements in South Carolina. Several hundred settlers were killed, homes burned and livestock slaughtered. The frontier regions were emptied; some fled to the relative safety of North Carolina and others pushed on to even more secure Virginia. Charleston also received large numbers of frightened settlers. At the height of the fighting, it appeared that the tribal confederation’s overwhelming numerical superiority would end in the white settlements’ complete destruction in the region. This would have been a virtual certainty if the confederacy had successfully drawn the Cherokee into their cause.

  24. Thanks Razib, that one is actually available through a branch affiliated with my local library. 
     
    Jing, one of my pet peeves is using “literally” non-literally. 
     
    Slavery was not actually zero-cost. Slaves just received a smaller portion of their product than could be gotten in a normal labor market (ignoring the cost of purchasing slaves in the first place). 
     
    Otto Kerner, the British may be out of (southern) Ireland. But they seem to have settled Cornwall, Wales & Scotland just fine.

  25. > i would bet on this too. moderate confidence. 
     
    I agree. I’m quite interested in what factors bring out the sympathy and universalism in place of the exaggerated chauvanism and hardness of the past, as manifest in both belligerence and slaveholding.  
     
    Obviously biological changes may have occurred in the West since Rome, but it seems likely that prosperity is a good deal more salient.  
     
    Then there’s surveillance/transparency – maybe. No doubt, people in the path of Alexander, Rome, Persia, or Napoleon had some knowledge of what was coming, but it may have been cruder than what we have had in recent times in terms of knowledge about the Soviets or Nazis. Since empire helps protect the homeland against other empires, greater awareness of what other nations are up to, if in fact that exists now, should tend to cool things down – perhaps nonlinearly due to feed-forward/knock-on effects. 
     
    Then there’s the rise of women, with their more sympathetic and merciful nature, to sociocultural equality (which I suspect was caused mostly by the industrial revolution’s erecting a brain economy in place of a grain-and-war economy, and a brain-and-economy war system in place of a war system where muscle and spartanism were relatively more salient).  
     
    Finally, in regards to the modern west, we live in a culture created by Britain/USA, Germany, and France. Ravagement of the German homeland was fairly limited – I think(?) – from the 30 Years War to the 20th century, and I’m not sure France was much ravaged before 1914. The Brit-USA anglo culture, the most dominant one of all, exists on island homelands which are very much the least-ravaged of modern world history. No doubt this has reduced chauvanism and the exercise of cruelty. 
     
    It seems like most of these influences are going to apply to China’s future. Consider her current GDP /head at PPP (US$6,000), her growth rates since the end of tard-o-nomics in 1978, and her psychometric characteristics. Production could reach $25k a head in just 15 years, by 2025. It might take a little longer if the rate slows down a little. Japan went from 9k in today’s dollars (at PPP) to 25k in 20 years (1980 to 2000). Somewhat more inventions to adopt from abroad exist now than existed for Japan during her time of rapid growth. So, 25k seems likely within 15 to 25 years. 
     
    There also seems to be limited reason for China vs West conflict in the future, in my humble opinion. Hyper-expansionist ideologies like fascism and Marxism-Leninism seem to be chilling out these days (and the threat from radical islamism is debatable and/or more limited). The main limited resource in the world seems to be energy, particularly the portable energy used for transportation. Converting the world to a coal + battery system or a nuclear + battery transportation may be painfully expensive – but it’s very hard to imagine how some kind of clash with China could possibly be preferable.

  26. Otto Kerner, the British may be out of (southern) Ireland. But they seem to have settled Cornwall, Wales & Scotland just fine. 
     
    you mean english, not british :-) i think in the case of scotland the relative distinction between that nation and england despite 250 years of union is rather striking. the scots use civil law for example. and the scottish national party is a relatively vibrant outfit. in contrast, despite the minority persistence of welsh it seems that that nation’s small size and proximity to england has allowed it to become an adjunct to its neighbor to a far greater extent.

  27. Otto Kerner, When do empires lose? When they are outnumbered or exhausted or see no incentive in winning. Does that remotely describe the Chinese in the early 21st century? Emphatically NO. 
     
    England in Ireland: Yet the white Englishmen who spread across America won because they won the demographic battle. They are currently losing a new demographic battle. But in the 18th and 19th centuries they were on a demographic roll. 
     
    Maciano, I feel no shame for what people did a couple of hundred years ago. I think the white people who claim to feel shame are just trying to do status signaling to demonstrate how much higher their status is than white people who aren’t as liberal. 
     
    Razib, The Chinese could selectively relax the One Child Rule for Han in Tibet or for government servants or doctors in Tibet. Just because they haven’t decided yet to do a full court press demographic battle against the Tibetans (which could cost them very little to do) doesn’t mean they won’t do it later. 
     
    RKU, So what side are you going to come down on when it comes to the ceding of the American southwest back to Mexico?

  28. “Otto Kerner, the British may be out of (southern) Ireland. But they seem to have settled Cornwall, Wales & Scotland just fine.” 
     
    Hmm, if by settled you mean replaced the natives with Anglo Saxons, then no, they havent – not even in Cornwall. Actually Ireland is more settled with English people than either Scotland, or Wales, although their descendants consider themselves Irish now, of course.  
     
    and the scottish national party is a relatively vibrant outfit. in contrast, despite the minority persistence of welsh it seems that that nation’s small size and proximity to england has allowed it to become an adjunct to its neighbor to a far greater extent. 
     
    Actually the language, Welsh, is more vibrant than Irish ( Gaelic) in ireland, or Scottish-Gaelic in Scotland. Wales is quite different to England, seems like a different country and not just a region ( I cant say the same about Cornwall despite the celtic crosses and Cornish flags). 
     
    The UK has about 5 nationalist-separatist parties – Plyd Cymru in Wales, A Cornish nationalist Party ( Cornwall is merely a county so independence is a pipe dream), the Scottish Nationalists (SNP), Sinn Fein, and the English Democrats. It also has pan-British nationalisms opposed to either the EU or immigration- the BNP and the UKIP.  
     
    These are not insignificant parties – in the recent Elections the party of Government came behind the Cornish Nationalists in Cornwall, the SNP in Scotland, Sinn Fein in NI ( where they dont organise) and close to PC in Wales – and across the Kingdom as a whole behind the UKIP ( United Kingdom Independence Party). The BNP – a once fringe outfit with roots in Neo-Nazism – polled 1 million votes. 
     
    A dis-united Kingdom.

  29. Razib, The Chinese could selectively relax the One Child Rule for Han in Tibet or for government servants or doctors in Tibet.  
     
    the rule isn’t applied to people in rural areas anyhow, depending on circumstances. the point is that you seem to assume that just because the chinese state wants X the individual chinese will do whatever they want even at the expense of their own self-interest. i’m skeptical that they will make that particular effort (in terms of various monetary and non-monetary inducements). probably cheaper to just keep troops there since the local population isn’t large. 
     
    Actually the language, Welsh, is more vibrant than Irish ( Gaelic) in ireland, or Scottish-Gaelic in Scotland.  
     
    yes, i know the distinction linguistically. but that’s why i noted that scottish gaelic wasn’t even that common in the lowlands. i was to understand that the lowlanders tended to speak broad scots, which is related to english. my assertion was simply based on the relative vitality of SNP vs. plaid cymru, and the fact that wales seems more political integrated with england than scotland is (wales was fused with england long before scotland, so that stands to reason).

  30. also, a mild reality check on the vital chinese: they’re going to start getting old soon (even if the one child policy is reversed, the inertia is going to move them for a while).

  31. Curious about how late such conflicts persisted, I googled some information 
     
    re: native threat, it persisted until the french & indian war in a serious manner (as opposed to quixotic revolts which occurred after this period). without the french the native confederacies couldn’t play off the european superpowers (the british being the other principals), and lacked sources of materiel to arm themselvse. this was a famous dynamic in new york with the iroquois, but was also an issue in the south with the creek and other indian groups. my memory fails as to exactly when whites outnumbered natives in what is now the united states, but i believe it was around 1700. 
     
    also, north america was still receiving convicts down to the revolution. americans complained about this, because they were not happy with the lower orders washing ashore. new england had stringent immigration restrictions for much of this period, which was practical in those colonies because of they enormous natural increase. in contrast the southern colonies and to a lesser extent the mid-atlantic where more dependent immigration to bolster the population. australia become a convict colony after the 13 colonies were no longer an option.

  32. > I feel no shame for what people did a couple of hundred years ago 
     
    I largely agree. Agree or disagree, there are definitely two separate periods of USA “moral history” to contemplate.  
     
    The USA expansionism before WWII gets analyzed, for me, largely in terms of the different worldwide norms of that time, and why those norms were what they were. (This relates to questions about China today.) 
     
    The Cold War is a different context. Harsh deeds from that period are for me mainly evaluated based on just how necessary one thinks they were in response to expansionist Marxism-Leninism.

  33. if people feel pride about some group X (past or present) with whom they associate, they should also feel shame if that’s warranted. well, unless they’re children or the typical human, left or right (who tend to focus on one component of the pride-shame dyad depending on preference) :-) but there’s probably no “objective” way to assess the net value of a group or identity aside from extreme cases; e.g., anti-slavery activists in the 18th century or nazis. there are anationalist types (e.g., libertarians like will wilkinson and bryan caplan, or, likely a significant portion of the oddballs who read this weblog) for whom group identity seems to matter naught, so the question is moot in that case.

  34. The USA expansionism before WWII gets analyzed, for me, largely in terms of the different worldwide norms of that time, and why those norms were what they were. (This relates to questions about China today.) 
     
    yes, and we should actually study what people in the past thought rather than project out caricatures. i was surprised to find out that there was a lot of opposition to the mexican-american war and expansion into the southwest. some of it was nakedly pragmatic (e.g., northerners who didn’t want more slave states, a few southerners who were worried about too many mexicans being added to the american population), but some of it on the part of whigs like abraham lincoln was basically a complex mixture of self-interest, idealism and a conception of what america was about. clear i didn’t know jack shit. prompted me to read more american history. 
     
    (my AP US history teacher actually spent a lot of time on polk’s term, but not enough to offer dissents from those who opposed manifest destiny)

  35. Demographic issues facing China and the West are not really comparable as the author of that article is extrapolating far too much from the US and Western Europe. The OECD states simply have far too many entitlement programs that cannot be sustained for an elderly population that is living far longer and a younger population that is no longer large enough to support them. The simple answer is to slash benefits, a task easier said than done given the attitude of baby boomers and their massive voting power.  
     
    While China will also be seeing an increasingly larger share of retirees, but they are simply not a major drain on the fiscal position of the state. Only a fraction of the elderly are covered by any pension programs and where they are covered, the payouts are miniscule. The figures in the article aren’t anywhere near representative. A $162 a month pension as mentioned by one interviewer is a luxurious rarity by Chinese standards, even the $50 a month if even paid out is very generous. Of course since the Chinese can’t vote, the elderly can’t vote to appropriate resources from workers.  
     
    I simply don’t see how this is a cause of instability in China. I have yet to see a revolution fostered by the 65+ demanding more welfare benefits and wider medical coverage. The people entering retirement within the coming decade will have grown up during the Great Leap Forward; compared to eating boiled tree bark, a lack of affordable health care is small potatoes. The greatest challenge for the Chinese state is, and will continue to be, finding gainful productive employment for the multitudes of aspiring young. 
     
    Entering an era of demographic aging and decline with a shrinking productive worker base and massive future welfare obligations is different than entering it with a massive underutilized and increasingly productive worker base and no social security system to speak of. Chinese hospitals will literally (and I’m not being figurative this time!) throw people out on the street to die if they can’t pay for treatment. Incredibly harsh but ultimately more sustainable and realistic than treating everyone who comes in with a tooth ache and leaving the taxpayer with the bill.

  36. jing, to be clear i don’t endorse the conclusions of the article. just wanted to point out the chinese population as a whole has personal considerations in terms of supporting aging parents which might sap “vitality” a bit, at least in regards to any hypothetical imperialist designs.

  37. I wonder if fear of indians was a part of it – that’s certainly the sort of danger that human cognitive biases might be prone to overrate. 
     
    There was also a strain of disapproval of the settlers’ treatment of the Indians, and later of slavery. One of my distant relatives was a sea captain who went back to England and married a Quaker. She refused to visit Virginia because of her disapproval of slavery. See also, John Donne’s address to a party setting out for the New World.  
     
    The Jamestown colony lost 90% of its population in the hard year of Our Lord 1722. Mostly to malnutrition and disease, but the Indians tried to finish them off. There was also a mass attack around 1744, but only 300 colonists were killed. There was an attack around 1775 but it posed no existential threat. 
     
    They had a huge death rate from infections disease, but I don’t know how much it discouraged immigration. 
     
    I’m sure the longest-settled regions were safer – but, keeping in mind that over 90% came to farm, 
     
    In VA they discovered that by far the most profitable crop was tobacco, so the whole colony became organized around export.  
    In some ways, VA had the features of a colony with an extractive industry, rather than a balanced economy, including a shortage of women.  
     
    I don’t know how to study it, but there’s probably a genetic sorting process involved in which people who emigrate have increased tolerance for risk and novelty. Also, dissatisfaction with authority and tradition. It would be difficult to tell whether someone came to escape limited prospects in England, or for the chance to get rich growing tobacco, but the motives probably selected for a different type of individual.

  38. Jing, that’s a very interesting point about aging in China as opposed to aging in the West. 
     
    Razib,  
     
    > a lot of opposition to the mexican-american war and expansion into the southwest. some of it was nakedly pragmatic (e.g., northerners who didn’t want more slave states 
     
    Yeah, my impression (which is of modest value) is that the western territories caused or at least precipitated the Civil War. It’s one thing to have rival regions with different economic interests, and a hot moral issue like slavery. But what we had was the two rivals constantly striving and fighting by the mile and by the inch to maintain their power by keeping parity in the western territories, each paranoid that the other would seize the upper hand there and wind up ruling the entire USA and/or dominating its economic system. I feel like that’s what precluded peaceful tolerance. It seems like an exhausting and nerve-wracking scenario. 
     
    Now imagine if the continent had ended 200 miles west of the Mississippi River. I think everyone would have been a lot more chilled out. Everyone knows northerners cared about the implications of expanding slavery for the market value of free labor, as well as caring about slavery qua pure moral issue. The only question would be the relative salience of those two feelings. Certainly a war might have happened eventually, or not, but if so it would have been decades later.

  39. Jing: 
     
    Yes, that’s a very interesting analysis. 
     
    I’ve frequently heard it argued that China’s current lack of any reasonable “social safety net” (universal pensions+medical care) produces significant problems because it forces people into over-saving and under-consuming. Isn’t the government talking about adding a basic medical-care system for exactly this reason, thereby allowing more of China’s future economic growth to be self-generated by consumption? Given the astronomical inefficiency and corruption of America’s health care system, I’d think that China could provide a pretty reasonable state-run one for basic needs at a minuscule fraction of the cost. 
     
    At this stage of its economic development cycle, I personally think that China could benefit from at least a pinch of “Socialism.” Obviously nothing like America’s terribly debilitating hyper-Socialism, but a pinch nonetheless.

  40. Now imagine if the continent had ended 200 miles west of the Mississippi River. I think everyone would have been a lot more chilled out. Everyone knows northerners cared about the implications of expanding slavery for the market value of free labor, as well as caring about slavery qua pure moral issue. The only question would be the relative salience of those two feelings. Certainly a war might have happened eventually, or not, but if so it would have been decades later. 
     
    this exposition reminded me of the pearl by steinbeck :-) 
     
    from what i have read the american negotiator, nicholas trist, screwed polk over. polk wanted everything as far south as *at least* what is now the northern 1/3 of mexico, and of course many southern imperialists dreamed of a tropical slave empire as far south as the yucatan and naturally encompassing most of the caribbean. with the 3/5th clause this would have been a natural hedge against the likelihood of northern population growth due to its economic dynamism.

  41. At this stage of its economic development cycle, I personally think that China could benefit from at least a pinch of “Socialism.” Obviously nothing like America’s terribly debilitating hyper-Socialism, but a pinch nonetheless. 
     
    china still has a massive number of efficient state run firms right? from what i recall it’s basically just a way to soak up labor to prevent restiveness. swapping this sort of commanding heights socialism for a more conventional welfare-state is probably in the future. 
     
    one thing i wonder about third world nations: they aren’t stuck with an expectation that people retire at 65, right? so they can design social security systems based on modern acturial tables, instead of stuff from the 1930s.

  42. At some point a person’s productivity declines (different by individual). As it becomes more common to be working at age 75, will aging people ever accept decrements in pay commensurate with declining productivity? (Or do they already?) In the East? In the West? Decreasing salary is what a rational homo economicus market would yield, but we know things don’t always work that way.

  43. At this stage of its economic development cycle, I personally think that China could benefit from at least a pinch of “Socialism.” 
     
    This is being fought over at the highest policy levels. 
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4686&page=0 
     
    “The rise of the team of rivals arrangement may result in fewer policies aimed at maximizing GDP growth rates at all costs. Instead, it might give way to policies that provide due consideration to both economic efficiency and social justice. Already, the ongoing global financial crisis has driven the leadership to change its emphasis from export-led growth to encouraging domestic demand, which means addressing rural needs. An ambitious land reform plan, which was adopted in the fall of 2008, promises to give farmers more rights and market incentives to encourage them to subcontract and transfer land. This strategy aims to increase the income of farmers, reduce economic disparity, promote sustainable urbanization, and ultimately end the century-long segregation between rural and urban China. Some analysts think that this land reform, along with a nearly $600 billion stimulus plan announced in November that favors railroad construction and rural infrastructure development, will greatly boost the country?s domestic economy and hopefully propel China through the current economic crisis.”

  44. I’m unable to feel guilt/shame about anything done by people other than me. I even start to dislike people if they apologize for something someone else did! The way I see it, you’re just putting down someone else (which you could have done more straight-forwardly) while expecting credit for humility.

  45. You know, I don’t really care very much about what happened in the U.S. or in China hundreds of years ago. I have never been known to spend any time writing about how important it is that China give back Dzungaria to the Mongols, or Taiwan to the aborigines. I just don’t like to see people getting beat up and conquered now, today. Obviously, various people will continue to be beaten up and bullied, on large and small scales, in different places in the world for the foreseeable future. I know who I’m rooting for.

  46. It is important to put aside the idea of ?what if?, or ?the Americans stole California from Mexico?, or ?Europe was built on slavery?, if a real discussion on race, in any country is to be correctly debated. While all of these statements/comparisons are true, historically, they only have meaning if used as a means of understanding, and finding a solution, to similar issues, in our modern time, in specific countries, such as The People?s Republic of China.  
     
    I am sure that Californians (Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and Mexicans)would have no desire to hand back their land to Mexico. This is certainly not the case in Tibet and Xinjiang. The question that has to be asked then, is what has gone wrong in China?s attempt to gain respect and loyalty from the Tibetans and Uygurs.  
     
    1. In Tibet, like Xinjiang, the economy is dominated by ethnic Han (at least Chinese people pretending to be Han). 
     
    2. The Chinese, in general are atheists, whose only loyalty is to the god of money. 
     
    3. The Chinese government has redirected so much water from Tibetan river systems, that much of the grassland, of past, is now desert, forcing Tibetan Pastoralists off their land and into a life of poverty within the cities, where they work for Han Chinese. 
     
    4. The Chinese government has become extremely aggressive, developing mining projects throughout Tibet, but few Tibetans have been employed. In fact the majority of mining jobs in TIbet, are held by the Han majority. 
     
    5. In Tibet, the Communist Party (The Overlord) is controlled by the Han Chinese with the local Tibetans operating as messengers. 
     
    6. In Xinjiang, the majority of City businesses are owned and operated by Han Chinese. 
     
    7. Again, the Uygur are deeply religious, whereas the Chinese are atheists, or should I say, prefer to worship the god of money. 
     
    8. Xinjiang was traditionally a pastoral economy with families migrating with the seasons. The Chinese, throughout their history, have never been pastoralists, and in fact regard such life culture as that of barbarians. 
     
    9. Today, Xinjiang is the bread basket of China. China has developed a huge wheat agri-business, in Northern Xinjiang, using underground water to irrigate the fields. The result, is such overkill, that today most wells used by the pastoral Uygur are dry. Even worse, the underground aquifer has been drained to the extent that the land is collapsing. In fact, there are parts of Urimchi (The capital city of Xinjiang), where the land has totally collapsed. Yet, knowing of this problem, the Chinese government has done nothing. Believe me when I say, the Chinese are good talkers about environmental responsibility, but in practise, thay remain totally destructive. 
     
    10. Again, the Chinese government has invested heavily in mineral mining in Xinjiang, yet, the majority of those employed in the mines are Han Chinese. 
     
    What this all means is that, because the eyes of the world are on Tibet and Xinjiang, the Chinese have implemented an immense publicity campaign, which of course shows the caring nature of the Central Government. In truth, ethnic minorities are treated like vermin which the greater Han populous despises. I know racism exists in all countries. However, in China it is an accepted way of life, with no attempt to change. 
     
    Putting all of the racial problems encounter by Chinese nationals (Tibetans, Uygurs etc.) aside, I would say that the treatment of African blacks in China, by Han Chinese, is 100 times worse. The Han have carried the same attitude with them into Africa, and this is why they are so despised by the common person throughout Africa. 
     
    I expect more.

  47. Regarding problems encountered by Han Chinese, living at high altitude, well, they are immense. Most Han Chinese spend considerable time in hospital due to breathing difficulties, with Han women having to leave for the low lands when pregnant and to give birth. Without doubt, the stocky Northern Mongolian phenotype of the Tibetan, combined with a unique altitude adaptation, of increased blood serum nitric oxide (NO) levels, and a faster breathing pattern, indicate conclusively, the Tibetans long period of habitation at high altitude. Since not a single Han Chinese, nation-wide, has either of these attributes, how is it possible for the Chinese Communist Party to claim Tibet as being part of China. Obviously, the Chinese hold on Tibet is solely due to water. 
     
    http://www.pnas.org/content/104/suppl.1/8655.full.pdf+html 
     
    http://www.zoology.wisc.edu/courses/611/Part2/Readings/5HumanHighaltitude.pdf 
     
    http://206.188.20.250/projects/pchurch/AT%20BIOLOGY/PAPERS/Tibetan%20Women%20Oxygen%20-%20evolution%20in%20action.pdf 
     
    http://www.lri.ccf.org/pathobio/erzurum/documents/PROCNATLACADSCIUSAErzurum2007.pdf

  48. If I may continue OT,  
    RE: Eoin 
    A dis-united Kingdom.Yorkshire have an independence movement, if not quite fully fledged yet. 
     
    If you look at a population density map of the UK they’re on the periphery of the heartland. It may not be coincidence that the BNP are strongest in the North West of England, although their headquarters are in the south.

  49. World trouble is problem of low IQ type people who do not care for past (history) and lack ability for future planing. Such people are doomed to make the same mistake again and again.

  50. Just a quick note, I just finished re-reading East of the Sun. It is a good book, especially when read by the first third-or-so of “China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Asia,” which tells the other side of the story, and also emphasizes the difference between China and the Qing Empire.

  51. . Since not a single Han Chinese, nation-wide, has either of these attributes, 
     
    there’s been a nation-wide census of all han chinese for these attributes? arguments don’t benefit from unwarranted exaggeration.

  52. Weird to see Chinese nationalists here. The site has hardly any American/British etc nationalists — wonder why the difference (or maybe these as “Han” nationalists, paralleling white nationalists. That would make more sense). 
     
    An ageing population creates demographic dependency issues regardless of the number or type of social programs. China is rapidly aging, and the experience of Korea/Taiwan/Japan suggests that the imperial gvt in Beijing will find it hard to turn the taps back on. I doubt Tibet will even be majority Han due to migration. Possibly the same with Xinjiang south of the Tien Shan — its a backwater for a reason. 
     
    The successful trick isn’t “swamping” — it’s co-option of local elites. Han-identified ethnic Tibetans (like Manchurians, Hui, etc).

  53. Co-option doesn’t work, at least not alone without demographic swamping and wholesale cultural assimilation/annihilation. The problem with co-opting is that it creates a temporary loyalty that only lasts as long as the state does. Many of the elites in the central Asian Stans were lukewarm about the dissolution of the Soviet at least compared to their counter parts in Eastern Europe. Yet in the end, they moved with the tide and sensing weakness at the center after the failed putsch decided to strike out on their own and form their own power blocks. Despite being heavily Sovietized or Russified to the extent that they barely spoke their own languages proficiently and whose thought patterns echoed their Russian counter-parts, as witnessed by their post-Soviet Russian style of autocracy, they none less decided on independence sensing the mood of their less Sovietized masses. Never forget, a co-opted elite are an opportunistic elite. Reliable only with someone looking over their shoulders. 
     
    I suppose you can call me a Han nationalist. In a way, my intellectual journey mirrors that of none too few Jews of the Cold War. From Trotskyite left to the “unconventional” Right (I’m a fan of Steve Sailer). Only my metamorphoses was more accelerated and complete than theirs were. There are stranger people than a Han nationalist whose ideology synthesizes American Conservatism of the belle epoque (pre-FDR), with race realism and the undisguised advocacy of the interests of a very extended family. For example, the tens of millions of Americans who could delude themselves into thinking that Sarah Palin was the unheralded messiah of American Conservatism and the Republican Party. Or the anti-Chinese nationalists. People who can simultaneously attribute generalized phenotypes to the Chinese race while insisting that they their existence as a cohesive group is a myth! All the while quixotically championing the causes of failed ethnoses whom they are completely unrelated to or will ever have any contact with.

  54. the han are not an extended family. at least genetically. at least if you include within points of reference the rest of the east asian peoples. they’re a cultural construct. in any case, i think the window for interesting conversations is closing for this thread, so closed. 
     
    though some readers might be interested in this new article, China Strong
    According to all sources, the People’s Republic of China is strong. The nation is united, the military unmatched, the economy vibrant, and the people ever joyful.

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