ChinaChina is a big country in the Far East—who knew?—currently trading under the name People’s Republic of China. If you look at the statistics, the interesting thing is that China and the U.S.A. are almost precisely the same size, 3.7 million vs. 3.8 million square miles. China is of course much more populous: 1,356 million people v. 319 million.Other stats, those for China given first: GDP $13.4 trillion. v. $16.7 trillion., GDP per capita $9,800 v. $52,800, total fertility rate 1.55 per woman v. 2.01, mean IQ 105 v. 98. The numerically dominant ethny in China is Han Chinese, 92 percent.
This is American Renaissance, though, and what we talk about is race and ethnicity, so let’s look at a different map. I’ve taken this one from Hermann’s Historical Atlas of China, a classic of historical cartography, first published in 1935 but updated many times since.[caption id="attachment_34537" align="alignnone" width="300"] China: Base Ethnies[/caption]This map shows the base populations in various regions by ethnicity. The big pale yellow area at the left is Tibetans; the pink and purplish area above is Central Asian peoples, mostly Turkic; the strip of beige coloring across upper center is Mongolians; most of the rest, the darker yellow coloring, is Han Chinese.You can see that less than half the territory of the People’s Republic is Chinese in base ethnicity. One-quarter is Tibetan; one-sixth Turkic; one-tenth Mongolian. Metropolitan China, the part of the People’s Republic that is Han Chinese in base ethny, is basically China of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) plus Manchuria.[caption id="attachment_34539" align="alignnone" width="300"] China In AD 1580[/caption]There has of course been much settlement in these non-Chinese areas in recent decades. Mongolians are now actually outnumbered in Inner Mongolia (that beige strip in the first map). The base populations still push back against Chinese occupation, though. Even in Inner Mongolia there are occasional ethnic riots. [China's Inner Mongolia 'under heavy security', BBC, May 30, 2011]These non-Chinese populations, although they occupy big areas, are numerically small. Ignoring Chinese settlers, the density of Tibetans in the Tibetan region is about eight per square mile, which is very low, equivalent to Australia or Iceland. The U.S.A. population density, for comparison, is 83. The Uighurs, etc. in East Turkestan are about 20 per square mile, the Mongolians in Inner Mongolia about 12.The density of Chinese in metropolitan China, by contrast, is 660 people per square mile, the same density as Britain but of course in an area twenty times bigger. That’s a sensational number for such a big region, some of which is desert, mountain, or forest.That is the first key fact about China. For many centuries China has been operating at the Malthusian limit. Population was less in former times; but agricultural technology was also inferior.The Han Chinese are autochthonous. They have always been in China, at any rate North China. “Always” of course means “since the great out-of-Africa dispersals of 50 to 30 thousand years ago.”Genetically the Han are a mix of ancient Northeast Asian and Southeast Asian stocks, in proportions 72:28. Much of that mix happened in historic times. North China was the arena for power struggles to control the empire. When the Empire was weak it was also subject to invasion from further north and west. These episodes sent floods of refugees to the South, where they mixed with local populations.Cavalli-Sforza et al., in The History and Geography of Human Genes, give a finer cut than my PowerPoint slide, which I took from National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 project. They emphasize the genetic distance between North and South Chinese:
North China and South China belong to different major clusters, thus confirming the suspicion that, despite millennia of common history and many migrations, a profound initial genetic difference between these two regions has been in part maintained.The authors subdivide the North Chinese into North and East Central groups, the South Chinese into South Central and Southeast groups. They buttress their findings with an analysis of Chinese surnames that shows good agreement with the genetic groupings.The characteristic feature of Chinese history has been what the discredited Marxist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, in a different context, called “punctuated equilibrium”: spells of unchanging stability interspersed with periods of great disorder—the “dynastic cycle.”The core Han ethny and its culture always remained intact, but there was essentially no constitutional progress, as the historian Demetrius Boulger observed very pithily in 1881:
It is the peculiar and distinguishing feature of Chinese history that the people and their institutions have remained practically unchanged and the same from a very early period … All is now as it was.[History of China, Chapter 7]A more recent historian, S.A.M. Adshead, has described this as “the triumph of state over society.” [China in World History ]Schools in Britain used to teach, and perhaps still do, a subject called “British Constitution.” In the late 1950s the standard textbook was by a scholar named Taswell-Langmead, confusingly titled English Constitutional History. It took the student through all the developments, from the tribal councils of the old Teutons, through Magna Carta, Parliament, Cromwell’s Commonwealth, the Glorious Revolution, political parties… all the way to universal suffrage and the modern cabinet system.For a 15-year-old schoolboy Taswell-Langmead was a formidable book: over 800 pages of small print.A book titled Chinese Constitutional History would be much slimmer. You could not possibly fill 800 pages on that subject. I don’t see how you could fill eight.As a land empire, the Chinese system of course included some border peoples of non-Han ethnicity. Some of these persons played significant roles in Chinese history. Here is just one: An Lushan, a Chinese general of Sogdian origin. (The Sogdians were a Central Asian people speaking an Indo-European language. Alexander the Great married one.) An Lushan ignited a terrible civil war that broke the back of the glorious Tang dynasty in the middle of the eighth century.The great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, in his typology of the major races, listed East Asians as “severe, haughty, desirous [by which he meant acquisitive]” and “ruled by opinion.” That kind of classification is of course deeply deplored nowadays, but Linnaeus, in that last point, was on to something.A good way to study national character is through the nation’s proverbs and idioms. Chinese is very rich in expressions urging conformity: “The leading bird is the first to be shot,” and so on.We nowadays know that natural selection has been operating across historical time, so there are speculations as to the evolutionary origins of the Chinese national character. One of the best of such recent speculations is by Ron Unz:
In an interview a few years ago, [Chinese geneticist Bruce Lahn] casually mentioned his speculation that the socially conformist tendencies of most Chinese people might be due to the fact that for the past 2,000 years the Chinese government had regularly eliminated its more rebellious subjects, a suggestion that would surely be regarded as totally obvious and innocuous everywhere in the world except in the West of the past half century or so.[How Social Darwinism Made Modern China by Ron Unz, The American Conservative, March 11, 2013
America and China compared and contrastedNow, America, formally the United States of America, a big country in the Western hemisphere, familiar enough to us here to need no detailed description. I’ll just go over a few of the facts relating to ethnicity and race.The numerically dominant ethny is non-Hispanic whites at 66 percent. This is a decline since 1950, when the census showed us as 90 percent white, ten percent black, and other races and ethnies at trace-element levels. Note that this is basically the result of deliberate public policy: the 1965 Immigration Act and the subsequent abandonment of enforcement of laws against illegal immigration.On the other hand, taking the territory that today forms the 48 contiguous states: At the time of the founding, the population of that territory was only 62 percent white, with 22 percent Indian and 16 percent black. Subsequent immigration made us whiter, but we are now headed back again towards eventual minority status.The progress of that reversal is well-known. The post-WW2 cultural revolution spread cosmopolitanism, moral universalismb and expressive individualism from WASP and Jewish elites to the general population, culminating in the 1965 Immigration Act and today’s cult of “diversity.”The underlying causes are still debated. Certainly the reversal, and the accompanying phenomenon I have called “ethnomasochism,” are very singular events. As Professor Eric Kaufman has put it:
Indeed, it is easy to forget that few of the world’s dominant ethnic groups, if any, have yielded to pressure from contending subaltern ethnies. Less than 10 percent of the world’s states are ethnically homogeneous, and in a third of states, the majority group constitutes less than half the population. However, dominant ethnic groups like the Romanians of Romania or the Persians of Iran generally do not feel compelled by political and economic rationality to recognize minority group desires … Instead, nation-building, assimilation, or ethnic hegemony has been the typical response, as it has been throughout most of American history. [The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America by Eric P. Kaufmann (2004).]Like Britain, and unlike China or indeed most other countries—France, for example—the U.S.A. has undergone constitutional evolution across its history, treasuring the forms, words, and principles of our original Constitution while adapting the details to changing times.
The Chinese in AmericaNow, the Chinese in America. This final section comes with some editorial matter up front. My point of view here is one I call “salt in the stew” multiculturalism. I take for granted that:
Representatives from the far West were concerned about the competence and competitive threat presented by Japanese immigrants, and their rhetoric suggests they viewed the Japanese as racially equal or superior …[From The Culture of Critique by Kevin MacDonald, on congressional debates leading to the 1924 Immigration Act.]
Further reading!Finally, some book recommendations. I have been the China books guy for literary editors at magazines and newspapers since the early 1980s. I get ’em all. Not only have I read a million China books, I’ve gotten paid for reading them! (Most recently, just last week.)Here are four that made a particular impression on me recently.