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silkroad51u0BtDlYJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ Several people have asked me about this article in Foreign Policy, Does Chinese Civilization Come From Ancient Egypt? It’s interesting in terms of cultural commentary, and what it say about open-mindedness among the Chinese public and academy. In many ways the Chinese are much less open-minded than Westerners after decades of Marxism…but in other ways, they are surprisingly liberal in the classical sense. Willing to entertain crazy ideas out of left field.

The hypothesis that the roots of Chinese civilization diffused from ancient Egypt via the vector of a Hyksos migration is definitely a bridge too far. There’s no strong evidence for it from what I’ve seen. But there are different forms of diffusion. As highlighted in the article itself there is good evidence of cultural diffusion of specific elements of Shang technology, such as chariots. The chariot was the weapon of mass destruction of the Bronze Age. Once invented, it spread rapidly from one end of Eurasia to the other (and, into Egypt as well).

But there are still elements of uncertainty as to how it spread. One model is that it was transmitted from one society to another, in a process akin to how guns or influenza might have spread among Native Americans. Then, there is the leapfrog model, whereby long distance migration and travel serve to facilitate diffusion of culture (and genes).

k8882 In the late 2000s I read Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present Reprint Edition, a sprawling and idiosyncratic book which makes the case for the centrality of the Eurasian “Heartland” to world history. The author suggests as an aside that the progenitors of the Shang themselves may have been from the steppe, perhaps Indo-Europeans. At the time I dismissed that as lacking evidence.

But the past half a decade or more has shown us that populations moved a long more in the past 10,000 years than we’d have been led to believe. I am probably more open to an Indo-European influence on early Chinese civilization than I was in the late 2000s. This is where Y chromosomes are helpful. Below are Y chromosomal distributions of some ethnic minorities from northern and western China today:

Screenshot 2016-09-04 19.31.00

And here’s a table of a more diverse set of East Asian groups:

Screenshot 2016-09-04 19.32.30

The question of timescale is important. The Chinese Tatars arrived only in the last few hundred years from the Volga region of Russia. They have a lot of haplogroup I, which seems to be carried over from Pleistocene era West Eurasian populations. In contrast, we know that haplgroup R1a1a, and in particular the Z93 subclade common among South and Central Asians, was present in the Altai region during the Bronze Age because of ancient DNA. And we see R1a1a across many populations in these data. Unfortunately though there isn’t a breakdown between European and Asian subclades, because there has been a long movement back and forth on the steppe in the last 4,000 years (the Uyghurs also carry H, which is typical more of South Asian groups, indicating movement across the Pamirs, as has been historically attested). But the high frequency among the Uyghurs, the low frequency of other West Eurasian Y haplogroups, such as R1b and I (as well as the presence of J), are suggestive (along with autosomal work) of pre-Mongol West Eurasian heritage.

This is obvious to anyone who knows the history of the Silk Road and the European features of the mummies of Xinjiang (not to mention the cave paintings). The ancient DNA and history indicate that very early on a mixed population of western and eastern origins emerged in the heart of Eurasia. The question then is what role did they play in Chinese history? Almost certainly at minimum they were the vector by which the knowledge of the construction of chariots and other aspects of the West Eurasian military-industrial system were transmitted (just as later they were instrumental in the transmission of Buddhism). At maximum, they may have been the seeds around which chariot elites emerged in the Shang period.

The genetic data suggest that if there was a demographic impact, it was very small. The Han Chinese in the data which carry West Eurasian haplogroups are invariably sampled from the far north and west. Regions where assimilation of non-Han minorities to a Han identity has been common. Unlike Europe and South Asia, and like the Middle East, the Y chromosomes in East Asia do not as a whole seem star-shaped. This suggests that the demographic basis of the elites probably dates to the Neolithic, and was indigenous, as opposed to migrants from elsewhere. The role of Indo-Europeans was probably stimulative, rather than directive.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: China 
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舒淇“Seek knowledge even in China”

– Muhammad

One out of five people in the world today are of the Han ethnicity. Colloquially known as Chinese. Like the West China has a long history, and its development can be traced, more or less, over the past 3,000 years. Because of the history of a system of taxation coordinated from the center we also know about aspects of its demographic expansion as a social, cultural, and biological entity from the North China plain south toward the edges of Southeast Asia (e.g., between the Tang and Song there was a shift in taxation from the northern provinces to the southern ones because of demographics). The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China documents the movement out of the north, and eventually the shift of the center of Chinese civilization at an equipoise between the subtropical rice consuming south threading arable sections around rugged panoramas, and the old north, where a continental temperate climate characterized fields of millet and wheat and an open landscape. These environmentally contingent models of economic and agricultural production have even been used to infer broader social-cultural patterns which characterize Chinese civilization, such a recent paper in Science, Large-Scale Psychological Differences Within China Explained by Rice Versus Wheat Agriculture.

history-of-china But when you are focused on the genetic origins and distribution of Chinese populations, the answers are a bit different from the cultural history. In History and Geography of Human Genes L. L. Cavalli-Sforza reported that North and South Chinese were genetically very distinct; with the northern populations being closer to northern Northeast Asians and the southern ones closer to Southeast Asians than either were to each other. He was wrong. Genome-wide analyses make it clear that Chinese populations exhibit relatively little intra-ethnic variation, though the southern groups are closer to Southeast Asians, in particular Tai and Vietnamese, and the northern Chinese are similar to Koreans and other Northeast Asians.

To get a sense of this, I plotted some East Asian HGDP groups with 1000 Genome Chinese on Pcaso. You can manipulate and examine the PCs yourself. What you see is that Southern Chinese are very distinct from the HGDP samples from northern China. The individuals from Beijing span the whole range of Han variation, probably because Beijing is a cosmopolitan city. Across PC 1 the South Chinese are clearly positioned between the North Chinese and Tai and Vietnamese. Fromm this can we conclude that the South Chinese emerge from an admixture event between migrants from the north and indigenous peoples? Not necessarily. Or at least there may be more to the story than a PCA can tell us.

china I ran TreeMix 10 times, and the graph to the left is pretty representative (I rooted with Cambodia and removed some of the groups you can see in the PC). You can view all the other plots in Dropbox. These graphs do seem to suggest that the South Chinese population has received substantial admixture from an indigenous Southeast Asian population. What I’m curious about though is the relationship of central Chinese ethnic minorities like the She people to the Han majority. On the PC plots the She and Southern Chinese are basically in the same position. But not so in TreeMix, where the long branch out toward the She tip indicates some sort of bottleneck or lower effective population. In addition, the Southern Chinese are near the She, but the gene flow is moving from a Tai or Vietnamese group on TreeMix. Why?

One model which we can’t necessarily reject at this point without further investigation is that like the Hui the ethnic minorities across China resemble nearby Han because of gene flow form the Han. Another model is that the Han absorbed in totality indigenous groups very different from the ones which were, and are, resident in the rugged hinterlands, and are today national minorities. Finally, there is the possibility that the North Chinese themselves are complex mixes due to intrusion of Turkic groups between the Han and Sui-Tang, and later back-migration from Central China as the empire expanded in comparison to barbarian groups.

Finally, the genetic homogeneity of Han and many of their national minorities (the Fst values are invariably small) suggests to me that all underwent agricultural expansion during the Holocene, but there was a second stage where the proto-Han marginalized the other groups to become so numerically preponderant. This explains the recent coalescence of ancestries across many of these populations, and the weak genetic differentiation between the Han and minorities.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: China, Genetics 
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553x457xchina-labeled.gif.pagespeed.ic.FPOfoCReDL I was having a discussion on Twitter with Jessica Chong about the nature of Chinese genetic variation. There’s been a fair amount of work on it. But, I have the 1000 Genomes data, in addition to others, and wanted to place them in their proper context myself. First, I did a preliminary PCA, and it was clear that the 1000 Genomes Northern Chinese (CHB) had a lot of Southern Chinese, and the Southern Chinese (CHS) were two distinct clusters (CHB was collected at a university). Looking up the provenance of these samples, it turns out that CHS were collected in Hunan and Fujian. So from these probably corresponded to two clusters I found in the data.

In History and Geography of Human Genes L. L. Cavalli-Sforza reported that Southern Chinese formed a clade with Southeast Asians, while Northern Chinese formed one with Northeast Chinese. Genome-wide results don’t seem to support this inference. The Han do exhibit north-south structure. But, they’re not that diverse for more than one billion individuals (Fst lower than Intra-European). As observed in whole genome sequence analyses the Han Chinese have undergone massive demographic expansion over the past 5,000 years.

I decided to run TreeMix to explore this issue further. I was prompted by the observation that North and South Chinese often show gene flow from northern and southern East Asian ethnic groups. I pushed the data set’s number of migrations to 10. This is high, I wouldn’t normally do this, but I wanted to see if there was any consistent gene flow to Han Chinese, even if it wasn’t one of the marrow edges. The results are below in the plots.

This what I can say:

1) The North Chinese have a faint migration edge from nonspecific northern Asians. Probably this is a composite signal of the past few thousand years. Or, they’re an old signal of the absorption of groups from antiquity such as the Rong and Di.

2) The Southern Chinese do have closer affinities to southeast Asian groups and ethnic minorities in the south. The group I labeled “South_China2” is more Southeast Asian in affinity than “South_China.” These are probably Hunanesse and Fuijianese respectively. I drew these conclusions from the fact that the “South_China” group is often near a node close to the She minority, which is present in Fuijian. In contrast, the “South_China2” cluster is often near the Tuija group, which is present in Hunan.

3) Though the North and South Chinese groups are placed on different branches of the graph in these trees note the strong migration edge, especially into the Fuijian cluster. They’re genetically not that far apart. Observe that on the PCA the southern groups seem between Southeast Asians proper, and Northern Chinese.

4) The Yakut are donors to lots of groups in North China. I’m pretty sure that this is a signal of the Turkic expansions, which the Yakut have affinities too because they’re Turkic.

5) Many of the native ethnic groups of China proper don’t seem to be that different than Han Chinese. In fact, they resemble Han in their own region. This might be gene flow, or, it might just be that the Han for whatever reason were the demographic winners over the last 4,000 years in China proper and marginalized the other groups.












• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: China 
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How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work:

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

The story emphasizes that labor costs are not the primary issue here. There is the natural discussion of skill levels, and the sheer number of Chinese works coming online. But there simply is no way that Foxconn City could exist in the United States today. There is no way I can deny the massive quality of life improvements in China over the past generation. But, the flip side of this is that a way of life has now emerged organically in places like Shenzen which is rather reminiscent of late 19th and early 20th century dystopian visions of the industrial future.

• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, China, Technology 
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With the current economic malaise in the developed economies and the rise of the “B.R.I.C.s” you hear a lot about “China” and “India.” There is often a tacit acknowledge that China and India are large diverse nations, but nevertheless in a few paragraphs they often get reduced to some very coarse generalizations. What’s worse is when you compare China and India to nations which simply aren’t on their scale. For example, over at Brown Pundits there is sometimes talk about India vs. Bangaldesh/Pakistan/Nepal/Sri Lanka. The problem is that the appropriate comparison are specific Indian states, not the whole nation. Uttar Pradesh, the largest Indian state in population, is actually in the same range as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Similarly, when comparing social metrics in Bangaldesh vs. India, one should focus on culturally similar regions, such as the state of West Bengal, not the sum average of India as a nation.

Similarly, we look at frenetic Chinese growth and worry about how they are “leaving us behind” (from an American perspective). But do take a step back to wonder how much the Chinese are leaving the Chinese behind?

Below are two charts which show the yawning chasm within these mega-nations on the scale of states (at a finer grain the variation is even greater). First a rank order of Chinese provinces by GDP PPP, with comparable nations interspersed within. PPP values shouldn’t be taken too literally, and the Chinese data seem to overestimate the values on a province level basis by 10-15%. But you get the general picture.

If these data are correct Shanghai is equivalent to a middle income European nation. With a population of ~25 million that’s not a bad analogy. In contrast isolated Guizhou is in the range of India. Guizhou also has the highest fertility in China, at 2.2.

Now let’s look at India.

Large South Indian states like Tamil Nadu, population ~70 million, have fertility rates around those of Northern European nation-states! In contrast, the huge population states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have fertility profiles similar to Sub-Saharan Africa.

• Category: Science • Tags: China, Data Analysis, India 
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Representatives of Szechuan and Shangdong cuisine

The Pith: The Han Chinese are genetically diverse, due to geographic scale of range, hybridization with other populations, and possibly local adaptation.

In the USA we often speak of “Chinese food.” This is rather peculiar because there isn’t any generic “Chinese cuisine.” Rather, there are regional cuisines, which share a broad family similarity. Similarly, American “Mexican food” and “Indian food” also have no true equivalent in Mexico or India (naturally the novel American culinary concoctions often exhibit biases in the regions from which they sample due to our preferences and connections; non-vegetarian Punjabi elements dominate over Udupi, while much authentic Mexican American food has a bias toward the northern states of that nation). But to a first approximation there is some sense in speaking of a general class of cuisine which exhibits a lot of internal structure and variation, so long as one understands that there is an important finer grain of categorization.

Some of the same applies to genetic categorizations. Consider two of the populations in the original HapMap, the Yoruba from Nigeria, and the Chinese from Beijing. There are ~30 million Yoruba, but over 1 billion Han Chinese! Even granting that the Yoruba seem excellent representatives of Sub-Saharan African genetic variation (not Bantu, but not far from the Bantu), there are still more Han Chinese than Sub-Saharan Africans (including the African Diaspora). So it’s nice that over the past few years there’s been a deep-dive into Han genetics. A new paper in the European Journal of Human Genetics focuses on the north-south difference among Han Chinese, using groups flanking them to their north and south as references, Natural positive selection and north–south genetic diversity in East Asia.

First, let’s back up for a moment. Who are the Han? Where did they come from? The details aren’t simple, insofar there wasn’t a “Han Homesteading Act” which pushed the frontiers of Chinese culture and civilization to a limit demarcated by a national boundary line. But overall the shift in Chinese society over the past ~3,000 years been outward from a northern focus to the south. 2,000 years ago China proper, the zone where dominant Han ethnic habitation overlapped with Chinese political hegemony, consisted primarily of the Yellow River plain. Though the Han Dynasty extended their empire south toward Vietnam the landscape was still predominantly non-Han outside of a few locales beyond the Yangtze. During the Han Dynasty even the Yangtze River basin was still somewhat liminal. This changed between the year 0 and 1000. The collapse of the Han Dynasty in the 3rd century led to what are sometimes termed the Chinese Dark Ages. During this period of political fragmentation much of northern China was dominated by barbarian dynasties, and Han political elites controlled the commanding heights only in the south. With the rise of the Tang in the 7th century the shift to the Yangtze River which had occurred in the interregnum solidified. Economically, demographically, and to some extent culturally, what during the Han Dynasty would have been defined as a zone of barbarian habitation, or marginal Han civilization, had become the center of gravity of the Sinic world by 1000. The domains of the Han by this period began to push far south of the Yangtze, and some of the most preeminent intellectuals came out of relatively isolated southern provinces such as Fujian, on the coast between the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas. In the next 1,000 years the Han spread through many sections of southern China which were previous redoubts of aboriginal peoples. Yunnan for example likely did not become majority Han until the past few centuries.

This poses a question: was this expansion of the Han a biological process, or a cultural one? It seems likely some of both. There are even customs particular to some Chinese dialect groups, such as the Cantonese, which may have a pre-Han origin. This amalgamation combined with the widespread geographic diversity of China is a perfect laboratory for evolutionary processes. In Plagues and Peoples William H. McNeill notes that demographic expansion by Han peasants (as opposed to military or bureaucratic outposts) into much of southern China during the early Imperial period was limited due to diseases. One presumes that transforming the landscape would have some mitigating effect on the power of pestilence, but admixture and selection may also have allowed the biologically inoculated Han to occupy areas which were previously no-go.

Here’s the abstract of the paper:

Recent reports have identified a north–south cline in genetic variation in East and South-East Asia, but these studies have not formally explored the basis of these clinical differences. Understanding the origins of these variations may provide valuable insights in tracking down the functional variants in genomic regions identified by genetic association studies. Here we investigate the genetic basis of these differences with genome-wide data from the HapMap, the Human Genome Diversity Project and the Singapore Genome Variation Project. We implemented four bioinformatic measures to discover genomic regions that are considerably differentiated either between two Han Chinese populations in the north and south of China, or across 22 populations in East and South-East Asia. These measures prioritized genomic stretches with: (i) regional differences in the allelic spectrum for SNPs common to the two Han Chinese populations; (ii) differential evidence of positive selection between the two populations as quantified by integrated haplotype score (iHS) and cross-population extended haplotype homozygosity (XP-EHH); (iii) significant correlation between allele frequencies and geographical latitudes of the 22 populations. We also explored the extent of linkage disequilibrium variations in these regions, which is important in combining genetic association studies from North and South Chinese. Two of the regions that emerged are found in HLA class I and II, suggesting that the HLA imputation panel from the HapMap may not be directly applicable to every Chinese sample. This has important implications to autoimmune studies that plan to impute the classical HLA alleles to fine map the SNP association signals.

The authors do not focus on phylogenetic relationships and the historical inferences one can make from them much. For example they don’t posit any complex migration scenario to explain the pattern of genetic substructure in China today. Instead the spotlight is on differences in allele frequencies which seem outside of the normal expectation, and so might have been targets of selection. To frame that appropriately in a phylogenetic context they pooled a wide range of data sets together (HGDP, HapMap, SVGP) and generated a PCA which illustrates the relationships of East Asian populations on a two dimensional plot. The figure is rather hard to make out because of similarities in color coding, but the basic result is shown to the left. You see a north-south axis within China, and some separation from groups to the north and south. Interestingly some Chinese ethnic minorities are within the range of variation of the Han. There are many reasons this could be. They might have been already nested within the original Han range of variation before the demographic expansion of the latter. There could have been extensive gene flow between the Han and minorities, in particular in the direction of the latter if the Han were far more numerous. And of course many Han dialect groups could simply be culturally assimilated minorities if you go back far enough. A combination of these with various weights in different contexts is certainly the best approximation to what occurred. Pure replacement and pure cultural diffusion seems untenable as a robust explanation. Additionally, the best check for the relationship between Han and minorities is to look for the differences within the same province. So Han from Yunnan should be cross-referenced with ethnic minorities from the same locale, instead of Han from Guangdong being proxies for “South Chinese.” I suspect that the gap between the Dai and the southern Chinese is partially an artifact of undersampling Han from those particular isolated regions of China where they live cheek-by-jowl with Dai.

But the rationale for this paper was to shine a light on the effects of natural selection on the Han genome and possible adaptations, not the systematics of East Asian human populations. As noted in the abstract they used several methods to get at this issue. They looked to see the correlation between allele frequencies and latitude. The logic presumably being that latitude is correlated with climate and other geographical parameters which serve as environmental selection pressures. All things equal northern climes for example will have fewer pathogens and parasites. Consider the value of a frost season in killing many surface soil organisms. Second they also looked at differences in Fst between Han of the north and Han of the south. Fst is a measure of between population genetic differences. As it converges upon zero there’s basically no difference between the populations in question, while a value of 1.0 would indicate that all the variation is partitioned across the two groups so that you could use a marker to perfectly distinguish membership in a population for an individual. The authors had an average difference between north and south Han in mind, and looked for genomic regions where the differences were far greater than expectation. They also looked at the contribution of a given SNP to the variation you saw illustrated in the PCA. Big contributions to the inter-population variation obviously indicate differences across populations. Finally, they also looked at haplotype structure as a signature of natural selection. While Fst focuses on specific points in the genome, haplotype structure elucidates patterns across genes, sequences of markers. Natural selection tends to homogenize genomic regions temporarily as a particular variant rises in frequency and drags along its neighbors in a selective sweep hitchhike. The two methods they used have different powers to detect selective events; iHS is better at catching sweeps in mid-stream, where allele frequencies are not fixed. XP-EHH on the other hand picks up nearly completed sweeps. These two methods complement each other and rely on similar logic. Again, like Fst the authors focused on regions of the genome which were at the tails of the expected distribution given pairs of populations with the genetic distances which one sees across the total genome.

What did they find? Here’s a table which shows you some genes:

MAF latitude cor FST(CHB vs CHS) XP-EHH iHS (CHB) iHS (CHS) SNP loadings Genes
2.1 × 10−5(rs6901084) 0.50% 0.5% (positive) 0.01% 0.01% 0.10% HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQA1-2, HLA-DOB, PSMB9, BRD2, TAP2, PSMB8, TAP1, HLA-DMB, HLA-DMA, HLA-DOA
2.0 × 10−4(rs4489283) No evidence 0.5% (positive) 0.50% 0.50% 0.10% NRG1
6.6 × 10−5(rs2370969) No evidence 0.1% (negative) 0.50% 0.10% 0.10% WDR48, GORASP1, TTC21A, AXUD1, CMYA1, CX3CR1, CCR8, SLC25A38, LAMR1, MOBP
9.3 × 10−4(rs6762261) No evidence No evidence 0.10% 0.50% 0.50% EPHB1
9.5 × 10−4(rs986148) No evidence 0.1% (positive) 0.10% NA

The first thing that jumps out at me is HLA. These genes are involved in immune response, and are extremely polymorphic. If you’re going to see regional differences correlated with ecology, this is where you’d look. The expansion of the Han to the south of China was probably accompanied by changes in the type of immunological portfolio which was the norm among the peasants. It isn’t in this table, but other genes found at the intersection of tests are LPP and ADH. The former has been implicated in celiac disease, while the latter is an alcohol dehydrogenase locus. When it comes to natural selection disease matters a lot, but so does digestion. I don’t have a good explanation for the patterns here, but there are differences in cuisine within China. Rice is dominant in the center and south, while wheat and millet dominate the north. I would be interesting to know if there are also variations in alcohol production and consumption. China is in many ways equivalent to Europe, and there are differences between north and south in ADH and cultural norms in the amount and nature of alcohol consumption. Finally you have something like NRG1, which seems to be a locus of neurological function. This doesn’t exhibit difference across the two Han classes, but seems to have been the target of natural selection within the overall population. Perhaps the social norms of the culture and society of Han China reshaped the personality profiles of the population?

Going back to the analogy with cuisine: like food the components and elements of genetic variation are shaped by different forces. Modern Italian cuisine for example has a dependence upon the basic elements which were common in Italy 2,000 years ago (e.g., olive oil), but it has changed a great deal with the Columbian Exchange (e.g., tomatoes). Descent shapes the possibilities of future culinary options by fixing some constraints and preferences (traditional Jewish food is light on shellfish!). But over time new variants can arise and alter the original base. Additionally, there are local adaptations. The Cajuns are descended from Acadians, from the maritime provinces of Canada. Obviously spicy crayfish concoctions were not part of their original culinary portfolio, but they had to make due with the options that they had in their new ecology. There’s a strong correlation between warmer climes and spice, probably having to do with the anti-bacterial properties of many of these non-nutritious additives. (from what I know South Indian and South Chinese cuisines are both much spicier than North Indian and North Chinese fare). Within any broad family of cuisines one must acknowledge both the unity and diversity. And the same applies within a cultural-genetic macro-region on the scale of China.

Image credit: Rolf Muller

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The term “BRICs” gets thrown around a lot these days. At least it gets thrown around by people who perceive themselves to be savvy and worldly. In case you aren’t savvy and worldly, BRICs just means Brazil, Russia, India and China. The huge rising economies of the past generation, and next generation. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

The BRIC thesis recognizes that Brazil, Russia, India and China…have changed their political systems to embrace global capitalism. Goldman Sachs predicts that China and India, respectively, will become the dominant global suppliers of manufactured goods and services, while Brazil and Russia will become similarly dominant as suppliers of raw materials. It should be noted that of the four countries, Brazil remains the only nation that has the capacity to continue all elements, meaning manufacturing, services, and resource supplying simultaneously. Cooperation is thus hypothesized to be a logical next step among the BRICs because Brazil and Russia together form the logical commodity suppliers to India and China. Thus, the BRICs have the potential to form a powerful economic bloc to the exclusion of the modern-day states currently of “Group of Eight” status. Brazil is dominant in soy and iron ore while Russia has enormous supplies of oil and natural gas. Goldman Sachs’ thesis thus documents how commodities, work, technology, and companies have diffused outward from the United States across the world.

But there are big quantitative differences between these nations as well. Below the fold are some charts which I think illustrate those differences.

• Category: Science • Tags: Brazil, BRICs, China, Data Analysis, Indian, Russia 
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Uyghur boy from Kashgar

Every few years a story crops up about “European-looking” people in northwest China who claim to be of Roman origin. A “lost legion” so to speak. I’ll admit that I found the stories interesting, amusing, if implausible, years ago. But now it’s just getting ridiculous. This is almost like the “vanishing blonde” meme which always pops right back up. First, let’s quote from The Daily Mail,* DNA tests show Chinese villagers with green eyes could be descendants of lost Roman legion:

For years the residents of the remote north western Chinese village of Liqian have believed they were special.

Many of the villagers have Western characteristics including green eyes and blonde hair leading some experts to suggest that they may be the descendants of a lost Roman legion that settled in the area.

Now DNA testing of the villagers has shown that almost two thirds of them are of Caucasian origin.

The results lend weigh to the theory that the founding of Liqian may be linked to the legend of the missing army of Roman general Marcus Crassus.

In 53BC, after Crassus was defeated by the Parthians and beheaded near what is now Iran, stories persisted that 145 Romans were captured and wandered the region for years.

As part of their strategy Romans also hired troops wherever they had conquered and so many Roman legions were made up not of native Romans, but of conquered men from the local area who were then given training.

250px-Statue-AugustusLet’s start from the end. The last paragraph indicates a total ignorance of the nature of military recruitment during the late Republic. In the year 110 BC the Roman army was composed of propertied peasants. These were men of moderate means, but means nonetheless. They fought for the Republic because it was their duty as citizens. They were the Republic. Due to a series of catastrophes the Roman army had to institute the Marian reforms in 107 BC. Men with no means, and who had to be supplied with arms by the Republic, joined the military. This was the first step toward the professionalization of the Roman legions, which naturally resulted in a greater loyalty of these men to their leaders and their unit than the Republic. Without the Marian reforms Sulla may never have marched on Rome. By 400 AD the legions were predominantly German in origin, and supplemented with “federates,” who were barbarian allies (though alliances were always subject to change). But in 53 BC this had not happened yet. The legions who marched with Crassus would have been Roman, with newly citizen Italian allies in the wake of the Social War. The legions of the Julio-Claudians were probably still mostly Italian, a century after Crassus (service in the legions, as opposed to the auxiliaries, was limited to citizens, who were concentrated among Italians). So that objection does not hold.

But really, do we need the Roman hypothesis? Those big blonde Romans? Here’s one section of the piece: “Archaeologists discovered that one of the tombs was for someone who was around six foot tall.” Because of issues of nutrition the Roman soldiers were notoriously short relative to the Celts and Germans (who had more meat and milk in their diet). Perhaps they had the potential for greater height, which they realized in the nutritional surfeit of…China?

Anyway, there’s a straightforward explanation for the “Chinese Romans”: they’re out of the same population mix, roughly, as the Uyghurs. Before the year 1000 AD much of what is today Xinjiang was dominated by peoples with a European physical appearance. Today we call them Tocharians, and they spoke a range of extinct Indo-European dialects. It seems likely that there was also an Iranian element. The archaeology is rather patchy. Though there were city-based Indo-Europeans, it is clear that some of them were nomadic, and were among the amorphous tribes that the ancient Chinese referred to as the “Rong and Di.” The Yuezhi and Wusun were two mobile groups who left China in the historical period and are recorded in the traditional annals.

Meanwhile, between 500 AD and 1000 AD the Indo-European substrate of the Tarim basin was absorbed by Turkic groups coming from Mongolia. They imposed their language on the older residents, but genetically assimilated them. The modern Uyghurs are a clear hybrid population. In the papers published on the Uyghurs they shake out as about a 50/50 West/East Eurasian mix. But the DODECAD ANCESTRY PROJECT has them in the sample, and here’s how they break down by a finer grain:

Uyghurs are the third population from the bottom. Below them are the Yakut and Chinese. The Yakut are the northernmost Turkic people, and the Turkic element which settled in Xinjiang and assimilated the Tocharians was from the north. The Chinese-like element may simply be that the proto-Uyghurs were already admixed with the Han populations, or, that that element has a geography-conditional cline where the Yakuts are at an extreme. In any case, the other components of Uyghur ancestry are not East Asian. Like many European popualtions the Uyghurs have a West Asian and Northern European aspect, but they lack the South European ancestry. This is important, because it is dominant in both the Tuscans and North Italians. If the “Roman Chinese” are genuinely Roman, they will have this specific southwest European ancestry, which will put them at a distinction from the Uyghurs.

As it is, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. On the order of 4,000 years ago the domestication of the horse allowed for the expansion of Indo-European populations from east-central Eurasia across the steppe. Eventually they they also percolated into the underpopulated zones between the taiga and the highlands around the Himalayan massif. I believe that these were the groups which introduced nomadism and agriculture to the Tarim basin, and their genetic and cultural impact was a function of the fact that they simply demographically swamped the few hunter-gatherers who were indigenous to the region.

In the period between 1000 BC and 1000 AD the flow of people reversed. The expansion of the Han north and west, and the rise of a powerful integrated state which could bully, and could also be extorted, changed the dynamics on the steppe and in the oasis cities beyond. The vast swaths of Central Asia which were Indo-European in speech became Altaic in speech. But many of these populations absorbed the Indo-European groups, and came out genetically admixed. A clear residual of West Eurasian admixture can also be found among peoples who presumably never interacted much with Indo-Europeans, such as the Mongols, though at lower levels.

The villagers of Liqian are a different part of the story. Clearly substantial numbers of “barbarians” were assimilated into a Han identity on the northern frontier. In the case of tribes such as the Xianbei and Khitan they even did the assimilating themselves, through top-down sinicizing edits. In areas like Gansu these elements contribute a greater proportion of the ancestry, and just as the Uyghur are Turkic speaking, and yet have equal portions of West and East Eurasian ancestry, so the people of Liqian are Chinese speaking, and have equal portions of West and East Eurasian ancestry.

I find it curious that the piece above didn’t mention Uyghurs at all. No idea if politics was involved, but I won’t be surprised if I get some angry Han and Uyghur comments because of what I’m saying here (I’m not totally clear what these sorts of commenters are angry about really, they’re usually pretty inchoate).

Addendum: East and West Eurasian ancestry seems pretty equitably distributed among the Uyghurs. But the number of genes which code for racially salient traits are far smaller than the total set which can be used to estimate ancestry. So within a large enough population allelic combinations across loci will segregate so that some individuals exhibit a “pure” ancestral phenotype. What colloquially might be termed a “throwback.” This little boy comes strikingly close.

* I am aware of the reputation of this newspaper. Nevertheless, it’s being picked up by the international press and some blogs, so I’m going to address it.

Image Credit: Gusjer

• Category: History, Science • Tags: Archaeogenetics, China, Genetics, Genomics, Uyghurs 
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I am about two-thirds of the way through Why the West Rules-for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, and I have to agree with Tyler Cowen’s assessment so far. The author is an archaeologist, and though a little less shy in regards to general theory than most in his profession, he still seems to exhibit the tendency to focus on thick-detail without any elegant theoretical scaffolding. In some ways it is an inversion of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, which manifests an economist’s preference for stylized system-building at the expense of the messy residual. Why the West Rules has added almost no broad-brush theoretical returns beyond what you could find in Guns, Germs and Steel and The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Though the author has a lot of scrupulously footnoted detail which probably makes Why the West Rules a worthy read.

But this post isn’t a review of Why the West Rules, rather, it’s a lament as to the total intellectual unpreparedness of the West’s intellectual class for the de facto end of the age of white supremacy,* the high tide of which is documented in the final chapters of this book (I skimmed them chapters ahead of time). The de jure end of the age of white supremacy probably spanned the victory of the allies during World War II down to desegregation in the United States in the 1960s. But despite the official end of the ideology of white racial superiority, the white-majority nations of the world were and are objectively superior in metrics such as Human Development Index. On a per capita basis they will remain so for a while longer:

And yet the trend lines are converging between East Asian and developed white Western nations. We are now moving beyond the time when we can talk about ‘the West vs. the Rest.’ There are ~1.3 billion Chinese in China itself, which is approximately the total number of people of white European descent in the world.** In much of Africa China is a rising economic and social presence. There are likely more expatriate Chinese in Africa than there are expatriate whites. Enter “China + any region of the world” into Google, and you’ll come back with plenty of interesting results.

But from what I can tell Westerners, of all colors, are totally intellectually unprepared for the radical shift in geopolitics which is occurring as we speak. Kvetching about China’s trade surplus does not intellectual preparedness make. Most white liberals have an anti-colonialist outlook, and favor the liberation of peoples of color in the face of white supremacy. But this normative framework only makes sense in light of a model whereby white domination and agency are the preeminent considerations in the lives of the people of color. In much of the world that is not necessarily the case anymore. In Australia you have an inversion of the old narrative, insofar as an commodity boom driven by Chinese demand has arguably kept that nation’s economy relatively buoyant!

The white supremacy model (WSM) isn’t only found among white people. It’s very dominant among colored people who reflect on these issues. Indians are haunted by British colonialism. Latin Americans by Yankee imperialism. Middle Eastern Muslims by the Jewish-Western condominium. The Chinese still remember the de facto colonialism which their nation was subjected to after the Opium Wars.

In graphic terms what you have as a model is like so:


In the late 19th century the whole world became Greater Europe’s playground. Non-European thinkers had to respond to the European challenge. There was no other game in town. To some extent that response continued and elaborated after the collapse of European political hegemony in the 1950s and 1960s; ergo, postcolonialism.

This is probably more accurate today than the old model, and will certainly be more accurate within the next generation:


Because of its population and economic dynamism China will naturally come to rival Greater Europe in its influence and impact on the rest of the world. No other nations besides East Asian ones have shown an ability to match Greater Europe in HDI. The map to the left of literacy rates is I believe a good predictor of potential median HDI and per capita economic productivity ceilings for the next generation or two. South Asia is the world leader in absolute concentrated human misery, both in illiteracy and malnutrition. I think India will be influential and powerful because of raw numbers, but there is no worry that it will be a per capita power. Africa is prospering thanks to the Chinese fueled commodity boom, but it too is low on the human and institutional capital totem pole to leverage its demographic dynamism. Australia is too small in population to be influential. If the trends in its economy remain, that it becomes in large part a commodity source for China, then I think it will be prey to being muscled by the East Asian superpower just as Latin American nations traditionally were by the United States, even without military intervention, because of the asymmetry in economic dependency. Latin American nations like Brazil are populous and on the ‘ascension graph’, but they have problems with wide variance in human capital, just like India.

In civilizational terms we are not going from a unipolar world to a multipolar world. We’re going from a unipolar world to a bipolar world. This means that there must be a revision to our intellectual toolkit. Critics of the West, whether they’re white or colored, still have a superficial understanding of the Dead White Men and their history. Islamic revisionists who make a case for the centrality and superiority of their tradition do so with the West as an explicit or implicit counterpoint. The indigenous traditions of India, Africa, or China, were not relevant to these arguments. Europe was the sun, around with other civilizational planets circled.

Not so any longer. Consider these headlines: China workers killed in Pakistan and Algeria: Xenophobia against Chinese on the rise in Africa. Or Brazil’s huge new port highlights China’s drive into South America. China eyes rail link to Chittagong. A pushcart war in the streets of Milan’s Chinatown. ‘Too Asian’? – Worries that efforts in the U.S. to limit enrollment of Asian students in top universities may migrate to Canada.

This is a different dynamic than the rise of the one-dimensional Arab and Soviet petro-states of the 1970s in a qualitative sense. China and its Diaspora are a full-throated economic counterweight to the two century international geopolitical and cultural dominance of Greater Europe. It is also a different dynamic than the migration of various colored peoples into Western nations after World War II, where these groups are slotted into the lower social and economic rungs, and draw hostility and contempt from some whites and patronizing sympathy and self-interested bureaucratic-managerial concern from others. Japan and the “Asian Tigers” were limited by their demographic modesty when set next to Greater European nations like the United States.

How should people readjust to this world? Obviously following economic statistics and political events are essential to recalibrating with judicious perspective and caution. The world’s intellectual classes, Western and non-Western, have been conditioned to white supremacy for so long that no one remembers a time when it was any different.*** One of the ironies of WSM is that non-whites rarely know the history or culture of other non-whites to the same extent that they know that of whites. In other words, South Asians know their history and that of whites, Africans know their history and that of whites, East Asians know their history and that of whites, etc. (the main exception may be Korea, which was colonized by the Japanese). It’s ironic because the implicit inference of WSM is that non-whites have common interests against the white master race. Though this is admittedly rational because the concerns, values, and motivations of the masters are more relevant than those of other helots. The term ‘master race’ has positive connotations while a ‘the cancer of human history’ has negative ones, but no matter, both indicate that the object of concern is worthy and of note. But the blind-spot in this mode of thinking is that colored people who supposedly have solidarity are totally ignorant of each other’s respective substance.

This was all of purely academic interest until the resurgence of East Asia, and China in particular. It is for example well known that Chinese have a strong racial consciousness. During the Maoist period this was dampened by ideology. China’s objective lack of development for most of the 20th century almost certainly suppressed some of the racial disdain which is an element of Han chauvinism. But the Chinese, like East Asians in general, have a degree of race consciousness which expresses on the surface to an extent that would be surprising and alarming to most whites, excepting perhaps Afrikaners, some white American Southerners, and partisans of nationalist parties in Europe. This predates the modern era insofar as the Chinese have a long history of dehumanizing ‘barbarians’ and looking down on dark-skinned peoples (e.g., see the reports of the legation sent to the Khmer kingdom of Funan, which lingered upon their nakedness and darkness of complexion). But the real genesis of contemporary attitudes may be rooted in the synthesis of Chinese folk attitudes and early 20th century racial anthropology, already evident in the writings of principals in the May Fourth Movement.

Contrary to the Chung Kuo science fiction future history I have no expectation that Han racism will lead to a genocidal war of extermination against the black and brown peoples of the world. Rather, the attitudes in common circulation in China and other East Asian nations must be understood by any politician, diplomat or businessman, who wants to operate in that region. Any dark-skinned South Asian who expects “Asian” fellow-feeling in China may be in for a surprise. Chinese opinions of people of African descent are even more checkered. During the days of Japan Inc. cultural fluency was already seen to be critical, but because China is one order of magnitude more populous than Japan in 30-40 years it will be much more of an international social and economic presence. Interestingly 20% of individuals on the internet are already Chinese nationals, vs. 5% of Japanese (though the difference in penetration rates is 30% vs. 80%).

Where does this leave us? By the end of our lives those of us in early adulthood will live in a bipolar world. China and the West will together be drivers of consumption. When it comes to development aid or investment in poorer nations the West will have a substantive rival. These two will hold up the sky together. With this will come more prominence of Chinese culture, and a necessity for an understanding of that civilization’s history, its values. Though I’m making a pragmatic and utilitarian case for understanding and knowledge here, I do want to enter into the record than an appreciation of the history of the Chinese is an understanding of the history of a substantial proportion of humanity. It is part of our common history, just as Greece and Rome are.

With that, at the end of this post are a list of books which I’ve found useful, and obviously memorable, in trying to understand the shape of the Chinese past, and how the present came to be. Personal preference and bias is obviously operative. The fact that a standalone work on Xun Zi is listed below, and Mencius is not, says a lot about my personal evaluation of the two in relation to each other.

* I use “white” as a compound of both genetic and cultural qualities. So, Turks are not classified as white in this sense, while Ashkenazi Jews are, even though both groups are equivalently white when compared to “reference” populations which no one would deny are white, such as the English, in a genetic sense. So a person of Turkish ethnic origin who converts to Christianity, such as Boris Johnson’s ancestor (originally Bey), can generally be accepted as white because of their appearance. In contrast, someone who has noticeable non-white appearance, a South Asian for example, remains non-white despite their Christianity.

** You can do the back-of-the-envelope pretty easily. Europe, + 0.70 X USA + Canada + Australia + New Zealand + 1/3 Latin America is a good approximation. Of course a substantial proportion of the other 2/3 of Latin Americans have some white European ancestry, but whiteness a privilege which generally comes only through purity of blood, so they can be ignored.

*** I would peg the closing of the previous multipolar world to the second half of the 18th century, though the fact of European dominance did not ripen until the Opium Wars, which illustrated that even the greatest of non-Euroepan powers was ineffectual against European military mobilization.


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China Passes Japan as Second-Largest Economy:

After three decades of spectacular growth, China passed Japan in the second quarter to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States, according to government figures released early Monday.

The milestone, though anticipated for some time, is the most striking evidence yet that China’s ascendance is for real and that the rest of the world will have to reckon with a new economic superpower.

The recognition came early Monday, when Tokyo said that Japan’s economy was valued at about $1.28 trillion in the second quarter, slightly below China’s $1.33 trillion. Japan’s economy grew 0.4 percent in the quarter, Tokyo said, substantially less than forecast. That weakness suggests that China’s economy will race past Japan’s for the full year.

Lots of prose. Here’s another way to explore relationships, via Google Data Explorer.

• Category: Science • Tags: China, International Affairs 
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The post is titled the Chinese Muslims, not the Muslims of China. One may make a semantic distinction here in that the latter connotes the residence of a Muslim community within Chinese society, while the former indicates members of Chinese society who happen to be Muslim. Such black and white dichotomies are naturally artificial, but to a large extent the Uyghurs of Xinjiang fall into the category of a group of Muslims (of Turkish language) who happen to fall within the boundaries of the modern Chinese state (thanks to that inheritance of the Chinese state of the full expanse of the Manchu Empire of the 18th century). On the other hand, the Hui people are arguably more a Chinese people who happen to be Muslim.

For more on the topic, please see my blog post at the Islam in China website. It was submitted a while back, but it only went up recently.

• Category: Science • Tags: China, Islam, Religion 
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Last month I pointed to a paper on Chinese population structure, Genomic Dissection of Population Substructure of Han Chinese and Its Implication in Association Studies. One to note was that the average FST differentiation Han populations was on the order of 0.002, while those differentiating Europeans was on the order of 0.009. Below are the various Han population, along with Japanese. CHB = Beijing, while CHD = Denver. The Denver sample is probably biased toward Cantonese and Fujianese, since most American Chinese are from these two groups. As a point of reference, here are South Asian genetic distances.

• Category: Science • Tags: China, Genetics 
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In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin:

He grew up playing in the narrow, crowded streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown. He has lived and worked there for all his 61 years. But as Wee Wong walks the neighborhood these days, he cannot understand half the Chinese conversations he hears.

Cantonese, a dialect from southern China that has dominated the Chinatowns of North America for decades, is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.

It’s more complicated than that, as the article notes that Cantonese replaced the closely related dialect of Taishanese. Another interesting twist is that the new wave of migrants are themselves not necessarily native speakers of a Mandarin dialect as they are generally from Fujian. Rather, Standard Mandarin is a lingua franca among common people in the Chinese world now in a manner it may not have been when the earlier waves of South Chinese arrived in the United States. In Singapore and Taiwan the Chinese also derive from various regions of Fujian, but Mandarin is an official language, and the monolingualism in dialects is only common among the old.

This is just a specific case of a general dynamic; French, German and Italian all replaced numerous regional dialects, some of which still retain local vitality. Just as Taiwan’s predominantly Fujianese population accepts Standard Mandarin, so Switzerland’s dialect speaking population accepts Standard German as the official public face of the language (no matter that privately they may converse in Swiss German).

Though linguists and anthropologists bemoan the decline of diversity and local flavor, when it comes to communication this is probably a good thing for the individuals and the societies in which they live. Not only is language often a divisive fault line, but it serves as a barrier to the exchange of ideas and socialization. Whatever marginal cognitive benefits are accrued to individuals who learn multiple languages, on the balance uniformity of speech opens up many possibilities of coordinated action. Even the ancients knew that.

Note: Of course with the dying of a language with a large body of literature some aspect of immediate comprehension and memory of the past vanishes. When it comes to dialect traditions I obviously weight the loss of collective memory less because I tend to perceive oral cultures as encoding cross-cultural values by and large. There may be a thousand twists on the tale of the “Trickster god,” but moral of the story is rather the same. In any case, when the last native speaker of Sumerian died no doubt there was a subtle shift in perceptions of the story of Gilgamesh, but I think such losses are a small cost to pay for mutual intelligibility.

Addendum: According to Peter Brown in The Rise of Western Christendom the shift from Syraic dialects to Arabic among the Christian populations of the Levant and Mesopotamia was the tipping point in terms of conversion to Islam. So from some perspectives unintelligibility and separation of language are beneficial. Consider Hasidic Jews and Amish who have long been resident in the United States but continue to speak dialects of German amongst themselves (in my experience the Amish speak English without any accent except for a somewhat quaint aspect, but I have read and heard Hasidic Jews who speak English with a very strong accent which indicates they learned the language in their later teens at the earliest).

• Category: Science • Tags: China, Language 
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Just wanted to put some concrete data from China’s Cosmopolitan Empire out there. Most people know that the Tang Dynasty witness the rise of South China, defined as the Yantgze river valley and on south, as the economic and demographic engines of China (though arguably the plains around the Yellow river remained the cultural and political heart of China). There were several censuses across Chinese history.

– Between the census of 742 and 1080 the population of North China rose by ~25%. The population of South China rose by ~325%. The reasons for this are many, but one of the primary ones was the introduction and improvement upon of Champa rice (the pre-Champa strains dominant at the beginning of the Tang died out by the Song Dynasty).

– The transformation of South China from isolated cities and a few densely populated pockets of cultivation,(e.g, around lake Tai) to a region where Han agriculture was omnipresent witnessed a shift from using animals (oxen, buffalo, etc.) to human labor.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: China, History 
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The Tang Dynasty is to a great extent a contemporary favorite because of the norms of the modern day West. It was a notionally native dynasty which was also open to outside influences and was strengthened by its cosmopolitan tenor. The merit-based industry of the Song lacks scale and romantic glamor. The Ming withdrew from the world after the the voyages of Zheng He. And the Manchus were outsiders and so were more exotic than cosmopolitan. During the ancient Han Dynasty the Chinese were the world for all practical purposes.

This tendency of co-opting the Tang for modern needs, a case-study of China as a cosmopolitan empire, not only is flat and lacks nuance, but ignores other aspects of this period in Chinese history which Western moderns may find unappealing. The Tang were characterized by the dominance of aristocratic values, a cabal of elite noble lineages in the capital who for all practical purposes monopolized the bureaucracy. Its foreign conquests were often done via native proxies, and divide and conquer (sound familiar?). During the second half of the Tang period the dynasty was in decline, and was given to bouts of persecution of disfavored foreign religions (all except for Daoism), and massacres of foreigners. All this is not to say that the Tang were “bad.” Or frankly “good.” It seems that such judgments bear less fruit than a genuine descriptive examination of the history and culture of this distinctive period in Chinese history. That is what China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty does, even if the title naturally catches the attention of the typical Western reader.

I come to this with some knowledge of this region and period, having read works such as T’ang China: The Rise of the East in World History. A more accurate title for China’s Cosmopolitan Empire might have been “China’s Last Empire,” insofar as I have pointed out before that the Manchu administered areas outside China proper differently from China for most of that dynasty’s history. Of course the claim that the Tang are native, while the Manchu are foreign, is to some extent a matter of art. The Li family of the Tang dynasty likely emerged out of the milieu of partly barbarized borderland warlords who dominated north China after the fall of the Han. Likely they had Turk and Xianbei ancestors, and they maintained many of the customs and outlooks of these non-Han peoples. Emperor Taizong fought like a nomad when necessary with native skill. The early Tang developed symbiotic relationships with nomadic federations such as that of the Uyghurs to buttress their Empire and guard their borders, relationships cemented by the fact that the early Tang emperors could move with ease among the barbarians because of shared experiences, values and background. When Taizong broke the Turks he took upon himself a barbarian title in addition to his role as emperor of China, subsuming within himself what had previously been rival opposites. It is notable the early Tang apparently also practiced the horse sacrifice on occasion, a common feature of Central Eurasian societies.

Of course unlike the Manchu and the Yuan (Mongol) the Tang were not alien overlords despite their partial Central Eurasian provenance. The Li family claimed descent from Laozi, patronized Chinese high culture on a grand scale, and the emperors themselves were civilized aesthetes who produced original poetry. Unlike the Yuan and Manchu the non-Han populations which settled in China proper during the early generations of the Tang dynasty were not given a superior status to the natives, and on the contrary like the Li family themselves many of these individuals assimilated to a Han identity and constructed false genealogies to elide the fact of their foreign provenance. It would be wrong to suggest I think that the Tang produced a hybrid culture, rather, they fostered a cosmpolitanism with Chinese characteristics.

If you are reading this now likely you will have read my review of Empires of the Silk Road. It was fascinating to read China’s Cosmopolitan Empire in the wake of that work because the intersection of concepts, facts and trends were palpable. The Tang dynasty was a period when China was a Central Eurasian power, operating in a three-way game with the Turks to the north and the Tibetans to the south. The scope of the Tang’s reach is evident when one considers that in 751 Chinese proxy forces (there were very few Han in the notional Chinese force) were defeated by outriders of the Abbasid Caliphate along with their Tibetan allies at the river Talas. Up to this point Chinese and Muslim political and culture influence vied in the Fergana valley, which today spans parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is likely that the battle itself is important only in hindsight, but it marks a convenient turning point when Central Asia irrevocably shifted its focus west to the world of Islam, and lost its ancient connections to the east and China.

Those connections were not, and are not, trivial. The few generations of the Tang were at the tail end of what sometimes is termed the “Buddhist Age.” During this period Buddhism served as a common cultural connection across much of Asia to the east of Persia. Though the city states of Central Asia were multireligious, it is arguable that Buddhism was the most prominent of those religions. It was from Central Asia that Buddhism arrived in China, and flourished in the centuries after the fall of Han. Though Buddhism was likely in decline relative to what we now term Hinduism in South Asia, it was still a relatively vital cultural force, and far more prevalent in what are today Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in the east in Bengal. In Empires of the Silk Road Christopher Beckwith argues that many Indian concepts and institutions which came to shape Islamic culture during the Abbasid Caliphate were actually transmitted via Buddhism (it is clear that there were Buddhists in Sindh when the Arab armies conquered it). The Barmakid family which was extremely powerful during the early years of the Abbasids was of course from the Buddhist priesthood of Balkh. And just as ideas flowed west from Buddhist northwest India, so they flowed east from Buddhist Central Asia. Indian Buddhist eminences also took the route through Central Asia to China to spread their teachings or aid in translations. During these early centuries Buddhism was an exotic foreign religion in China, not indigenized, and the Silk Road was the vector via which came a stream of foreign sacred objects and texts from India. To the east the Silla kingdom of Korea and the Fujiwaras of Japan patronized Buddhi
sm as part of their imperialistic project, resulting in several decades in which Buddhistmonks could take advantage of an international network which flowed uninterrupted from South Asia to Japan.

Of course very few Indian or Central Asia monks went to Japan. Rather, much more likely was that Indian, Central Asian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhists would meet in Chang’an, the capital of the Tang which also lay at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Though India was the Jerusalem of Buddhism, China quickly became its Rome and Constantinople. The process of indigenization of Buddhism in China was lent a helping hand by the armies of the caliphs, as the 7th century progressed the Muslims pushed into Afghanistan and the marches of South Asia, and conquered the Buddhist and Hindu kings who patronized the great monasteries. Prominent Buddhists, such as the Barmakid family, no doubt converted to Islam. With the Tang withdrawal from Central Asia after 750 Islam totally absorbed the former Buddhist city-states. The international was broken, and China had to rely on its own resources. It is an odd parallelism that to a great extent the eruption of Islam, and its absorption of the lands from with Europe and China were evangelized in their respective dominant institutional religions, led to the rise of a self-conscious Christian West and Buddhist East. Europe was the faith, and the faith was Europe, because Islam and swallowed whole the domains of eastern Christianity. Similarly, as the centuries progressed the holy sites of Buddhism were to fall under the sway of Islamicized Turkish warlords (this dynamic was unfortunately on display with the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan).

But the resources of Buddhism in China were many. The Tang era is generally thought to be the period when Buddhism was most powerful and esteemed as an institutional religion across the Chinese class structure. The anti-Buddhist Confucian Han Yu was speaking from a position of weakness in relative comparison to the disdain or contempt which later Confucian scholars would exhibit toward Buddhism. It must also be noted that Buddhism was not officially the most favored religion during this period, Daoism was. One of the ways in which the Tang ruling family emphasized their Chinese character was their descent from Laozi, and they tacitly tolerated attacks upon Buddhism as a debased foreign religion which was inappropriate for the Chinese by prominent Daoists. This is a contrast to what occurred during the reign of Khubilai Khan, who favored the Buddhists and forced the Daoists to cease their attacks. Nevertheless, this is a case where the Tang did not eat their own dog food; Buddhism was patronized extensively, given favor, and the monasteries accumulated great wealth. The similarities to medieval Catholic Christianity are manifold, as bequests by wealthy individuals were often a form of operational tax evasion, and Tang armies marched with the blessing of Buddhist abbots. Buddhist ideas spread across China, and stories were told of how ignorant individuals were sent to hell for sacrificing animals to native gods. The monasteries became so powerful that during the later years of the dynasty there was a great persecution which ultimately destroyed Buddhism’s status as an elite religion, and reserved for it the role of the opium of the masses. When the first Jesuits arrived in China they dressed as Buddhist priests to assimilate, but found they received no hearing from the powers that be. They were dismissed due to their low status as clerics in a popular religion. That is, Buddhism (in later years the Catholic missionaries tried very hard to make their religion distinctive from Pure Land Buddhism).

By the end of the Tang Buddhism was no longer a foreign religion which held some glamor for the elite. Rather, it was an indigenized popular cult. Tang cosmpolitanism seemed to exhibit a tendency whereby the foreign transmuted and became native. Whereas earlier rebellions relied on Daoism, institutional Buddhism became a new avenue for secret societies and organizations of sedition. In fact, during the 18th and 19th century Hui Islamic revivalists had to use terms derived from Pure Land Buddhism in the course of fomenting revolt because symbolism from that sect had percolated into the consciousness of the general Chinese population to the extent of it becoming common semantic currency. One aspect of the later Tang that led to the emergence of the Song which might be of foreign provenance was the rise of military bands cemented by bonds of fictive kinship. This is not a novel idea, as it as occurred in several societies, but in light of the central role of real kinship in the Confucian order, and the strong Turkic influence on the Tang, one has to wonder if this is the Central Eurasian comitatus emerging in a Chinese context, totally extracted and now assimilated. But one must not make too much of this, even if the Song Dynasty arose in part propelled by traditions and customs which the Tang imported from the steppe, it became the civilian Chinese dynasty par excellence.

This deeper texture often renders characterizations of cosmopolitan or xenophobic trite. A simple narrative of the Tang is that the period between 600 and 750 was one of cosmopolitan expansionism, while that after 750 was one of slow long xenophobic decline. Descriptively this is not false, but it is not as if China was insulated from the rest of the world, and moved along an endogenous track. The Buddhist Age, in which Tang China was the preeminent state, gave way after 750 to what was operationally an Islamic Age, when the Abbasid Caliphs were for one century near a world empire, from the borders of China to the margins of the Atlantic. The inward focus of the Tang was partially a function of a collapse of a greater world order which had nourished them and against which they had tested their mettle. The trade routes which allowed for the Sogdians to flourish frayed, with the arc of the Caliphate expanding outward and cutting the ties which bound the older civilized centers together. Though I am cautious about a hydraulic metaphor, it seems not too much a stretch that the rise of Islam and the decline of the Tang operated in concert.

Obviously I’ve just skimmed some interesting points in this book. I haven’t discussed literature, city planning, rural life or the nature of the mercantile cities of the lower Yangtze. It’s all in there and all worthy of note, but, I want to get back to the point about cosmpolitanism. There were many foreigners in China during this period. Tang Guangzhou was a city dominated by foreigners, with Arabs being especially prominent. In much of northern China Uyghurs dominated money-lending. There are many physical depictions of people of western Eurasian appearance in artifacts from the Tang period. Where are these people’s genes? I pointed out that one problem with an Indo-European origin for ancient Chinese in Empires of the Silk Road is that the genetic data seem clear that the Han people are very distinct from those to the west. And, that groups like Uyghurs are recent hybridization events between two distinct gene pools from western and eastern Eurasia. There are isolated cases of prominent generals in ancient China who were of reputed western origin who turn out to have genes which indicate that they were western. But the modern data from China show very little (if any) western ancestry.

One immediately wonders about the adequacies of the samples we have now. The HapMap had 45 unrelated Chinese from Beijing. The overseas samples are mostly from people who
se families are derived from Fujian or Guangdong. But what about Guangdong? Where did the foreigners in Guangzhou go? The easiest explanation is that they were all massacred as is described in the histories. But could all foreigners in China have been massacred? Were they all recognizably foreign? As it happens Chinese speaking Muslims carry a significant western quanta of ancestry, even if it is the minority. The origin stories for this group all derive from men who arrived from western Asia, so this stands to reason. And, it shows that western ancestry does exist in some Chinese populations in China proper. So is there another reason that it is not evident among the Han? I will give a reason that Greg Cochran gave years ago for why the area around Rome is not dominated by Greek genes: the foreigners lived in cities, and the cities were demographic sinks. The cultural cosmpolitanism of Tang China had important long term historical consequences. But its genetic cosmpolitanism was less significant because the locus of that cosmpolitanism was centered around evolutionary dead-ends. The cities of yore live on in faded memory, but their blood has long gone extinct.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: China, History 
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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%.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: China, History 
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More results for the WVS 2005. I added some demographic data by province as well. I want to pool the “northern” and “southern” provinces soon. I’d appreciate Chinese readers input on the categories if there isn’t something straightforward.

• Category: Science • Tags: China 
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The comments below in regards to Chinese regionalism were informative. But for those of us without a more direct connection with China works can be wanting, so I thought looking at the World Values Survey would be interesting as there is a regional breakdown within it. Below the fold are a series of barplots where the different segments equal 100%. As you can see I took the first response and sorted by that. The sample sizes for some of the provinces are not high. Just ignore Chongqing where N = 1. But I am curious if Chinese readers are note regional differences just by visual inspection. Unfortunately I assume most non-Chinese (like myself) immediately know the location of only a few provinces, so the visual impact will be diminished for us. I will have a follow up post going down the list of WVS questions tomorrow. On the charts referring to “neighbors,” those are mentions of people they would like not to live next too. On the freedom question, it refers to how much freedom people feel they have in their life. You can go to the WVS site to clear up confusions in the legend…I produced the charts quick & dirty from my own copy of the WVS data set. In the future I’ll probably combine some of the provinces into macroregions (e.g., north, south, west) to increase sample size, but that’s for later. The only thing I wonder, what’s up with the wide variance in mentioned fear of the gay?

Region N
CN: Beijing 68
CN: Hebei Province 65
CN: Shanxi Province 81
CN: Liaoning Province 129
CN: Heilongjiang Province 126
CN: Shanghai 67
CN: Jiangsu Province 26
CN: Zhejiang Province 89
CN: Anhui Province 113
CN: Fujian Province 73
CN: Jiangxi Province 65
CN: Shandong Province 269
CN: Henan Province 106
CN: Hubei Province 133
CN: Hunan Province 41
CN: Guangdong Province 110
CN: Guangxi Province 96
CN: Guizhou Province 65
CN: Yunnan Province 84
CN: Shaannxi Province 62
CN: Chongqing 1
CN: Xinjiang 51
CN: Hainan Province 70
CN: Ningxia Province 25
• Category: Science • Tags: China 
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Update: After the comments I’m rather sure that though the WSJ piece was well written and generally right on specific facts (excepting the fact that Sun Yat-sen was not born outside of China as the author claimed) it is grossly misleading. I have no idea if the author had some agenda to push, but it does make me wonder as to how many boring articles the WSJ rejected only to accept the somewhat bizarre claims articulated in the piece they published. End Update

The WSJ has a long article up, China’s Ethnic Fault Lines, which emphasizes the difference between Chinese speakers from various regions, who are all notionally “Han,” though those of the south may refer to themselves as “Tang” in remembrance of the dynasty which witnessed a shift of China’s center of gravity south.* It’s a long piece with a lot of facts, but I have feeling that it tries too hard to suggest that the Han Chinese identity is a recent construction and that Cantonese and Fujianese have submerged separatist inclinations. From what I know those from south of the Yangtze have been essential players in the Chinese bureaucratic state for 1,000 years, so even hinting at an analogy with the separatism of Turks and Tibetans from western China is grossly misleading. The mercantile people of south China, especially Fujian, have long had to battle a central government, generally based out of the plains of northern China, which would have preferred that they focused on primary production. But despite this deep division in worldviews young men from Fujian were well represented in the bureaucracy. More recently both Mao and Deng Xiaoping were from south of the Yangtze. There are some tensions between people from different parts of China, as there are in any country, but the author seems a very knowledgeable person who might be leading some astray here by conflating expected regional & linguistic tensions with atavistic nationalisms submerged (I’ve seen some ethnic shell games before).

This all matters because the subtext of the piece is that China is more diverse than you think, and a possible near future powder keg. 91% of Chinese are Han, but if you look at mutually unintelligible dialects the index of diversity can crank up (what a language or a dialect is is to a large extent political; e.g., Croation vs. Serbian). On the other hand, if the glass is mostly full and you ignore dialect diversity for the purposes of separatist movements, and note that the huge increase in ethnic minorities in China to 9% is probably part of the same phenomenon as the doubling of Native Americans in the USA between 1990-2000, China looks rather homogeneous (the “new” Native Americans in the USA are probably likely to be less activist about their rights and identity than those who were Native American for many censuses in a row). Instead of a north-south dynamic the bigger issue seems to be the interior-coast economic chasm, which is obviously cuts across the Han vs. Tang division mentioned in the piece.

On the specific issue of the real nationalisms in China’s west it seems Xinjiang and Tibet are going to have different futures. I’ve been hearing that Xinjiang is 40% Han for the past 15 years, so I suspect they’re undercounting so as not to exacerbate resentments. With demographic marginalization the future is set & sealed (many of south China’s non-Han groups exist as demographic islands surrounded by Han majorities). Tibet on the other hand is a different case because it seems that non-Tibetans experience enough physical discomfort that no one will want to settle down permanently. Extended occupation instead of absorption will be necessary so long as the locals are not quiescent (Lhasa is as 12,000 ft, 3,650 meters!).

I would like to hear from Chinese readers or those who live in China as the plausibility of the claims of the article above.

Note: The World Values Survey can be broken down by language spoken at home. I see no great difference between dialect groups and Mandarin speakers in regards to national pride. Also, here are supposed numbers for the number of people in China who speak Mandarin:

Just over 53% of the population of China or 690 million people are able to speak Mandarin, according to the Xinhua news agency. In China’s cities, about 66% speak Mandarin, while only 45% speak it in the countryside. Around 70% of people between the ages of 15 and 29 speak the language, while only 30% of those over 60 can speak it.

The numbers seem a littler lower than others online. Additionally, Mandarin is not a regional identity, while in contrast Cantonese is a dialect with a strong regional association. Here is a map of dialect groups.

* The Han was China’s first robust dynasty and established in many ways the patterns of Chinese culture which persist down to the present, and was also the institutional model for its government down to ~1900. The Tang was China’s second great dynasty, and pushed the state’s boundaries both south and west, and to a great extent was the period when southern China was sinicized.

• Category: Science • Tags: China 
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From page 17 of Neo-Confucianism in History:

…Already by the 1050s southerners accounted for the majority of the literary men; within a century southerners would tower over intellectual culture, as they would continue to do for centuries to come. By the 1070s officials from the south had come to dominate policy-making offices. Literati knew this, but in the latter half of the eleventh century they were divided over the solution. Some called on the court to institute regional quotas for the civil service examinations but defended a system that would favor talent above regional representation….

This describes the period of the Northern Song. Though militarily and politically the Song were a subpar dynasty, in terms of cultural and economic production they were exceptional. In fact it is common for historians to wonder why the Song efflorescence did not lead to a Chinese industrial revolution and Great Divergence. In any case, I am struck by the aspects of geographic determinism evident during the Song period, and the analogies one can draw to the Germanic-speaking world in the 17th and 18th centuries as recounted in Tim Blanning’s The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815. While the Rhineland, the Netherlands and north German ports saw the emergence of robust proto-capitalist commercial cities facilitated by cheap water transport, the cities of the Central European Austrian domains still remained primarily centers of royal pomp and bureaucratic administration. The same contrast is clear during the Song dynasty between the inland northern cities, and those urban areas with access to water transport, particularly in the south.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: China, History 
Razib Khan
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