Tuesday, October 30, 2007

China perspective

Following on from China bad US worse

The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity.

(The opening words from Romance of the Three Kingdoms written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century on the fall of the Han Dynasty.)

That observation of China can equally be applied to other places. Europe has cycled through variations of central control and separate states. The current trend is back to a single unit, larger than any previous and as a federation to be sure, but united. Russia is of course another example, with the collapse of the Soviet empire feeding into the new Europe.

Federations like the US and Australia cycle through from strong central government to an equally strong autonomy at state level. The cycle at present is trending to central control and I suspect these two federations are fairly dynamic, with rapid changes occurring.

In the case of China we tend to think of a history shrouded in the mists of time, we us the word China to pull together an enormous diversity. We tend to think of one homogenous country and people, bound tightly together.

Yet even China has been dynamic over the past century, despite the perception of a powerful central government. Before I launch into those aspects of diversity I put a thought out there for consideration:

Picture a new division in China, the unthinkable to some perhaps, but a powerful economic unit composed of mainland Southern China Guangdong (Canton), Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is probably no accident that these three places share geography as well as potential for economic and market unity.

While we ponder that I’ll visit the wider picture, relying heavily on Wiki here:

The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group based on the 2000 census, where some 91.5% of the population was classified as Han Chinese (~1.2 billion). Besides the majority Han Chinese, China recognizes 55 other "nationalities" or ethnic groups, numbering approximately 105 million persons, mostly concentrated in the northwest, north, northeast, south, and southwest but with some in central interior areas.

Speech and writing of China essentially span six linguistic families. Most of them are phonetically dissimilar and mutually unintelligible. Han languages include what we know as Cantonese and Mandarin and their many variants. Non-Han minority languages include Mongolian and Tibetan.

Tibet, of course, would be more than happy to regain its autonomy, having never accepted the imposed Chinese rule. To the far west of the country Xinjiang is peopled with folk you would fail to recognise as Chinese, and they are Muslims like their neighbours.

Manchuria was a separate country until they invaded China. It sits in the North East corner of the country and has a mixed ‘Chinese’ Russian background. Again these people don’t easily relate to a greater China.

As for the traditional Han states, down the cost of China, north and south are separated by language, culture and attitude. The south, Guangdong, have always been a fiercely independent people, not to mention entrepreneurial.

It is the furious economic drive which could be the wedge which breaks up China as we have known it. In a country where the army actually run enormous enterprises, mainly in the south, it’s not hard to visualise the split occurring. If the South tires of the burden imposed by the rest of the country it’s hard to see how a split could be stopped.

I’m just going through some of the economic factors that might support my far fetched thoughts. We’ll be back with them.

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