Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nine nations: A China primer

I will be away from blogging till at least the weekend, so I came to the computer today feeling some obligation to leave you with something good. I was completely uninspired until Brad DeLong -- again -- came to the rescue by providing me with a link to Patrick Chovanec's Atlantic article on the Nine Nations of China. Like Mr. Chovanec, I was influenced by the 1981 book by Joel Garreau's Nine Nations of North America, in which he redivided Canada and the United States into economic and cultural areas that more reflected reality than the international and state/provincial divisions on most maps. It was a fresh approach that has since gone stale, as lazy people keep referring to it like nothing important has changed since the 1970s. But once again it renders yeoman service by inspiring this new article. I do not endorse the authority of the Nine Nations of China, since I'm about two or three steps above simple ignorance, but I found it interesting. Here's an excerpt:
This week, President Obama makes his first state visit to China. What kind of country will he find there? We tend to imagine China as a monolith: 1.3 billion people sharing the same language, history, and culture. The truth is far more interesting. China is a mosaic of several distinct regions, each with its own resources, dynamics, and historical character.

As a traveler, teacher, and professional investor who has been exploring China since 1986, I’ve come to think of these regions as the Nine Nations of China (inspired, in part, by Joel Garreau’s Nine Nations of North America). Taken individually, these “nations” would account for eight of the 20 most populous countries in the world.

As China’s economy becomes more integrated, these regional differences are taking on greater importance than ever before.

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