Chexit: could China break up?

Historic China, homeland of the Han Chinese, is only about half the area of the current People`s Republic, Tullock points out. Outlying areas like Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet were added by imperial conquest. Their ethnic minority populations have a long history of periodic revolt. Even Taiwan, now the base of the Nationalist Republic of China, was seized by the Chinese only in 1662, decades after the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

But Tullock also notes—in an observation confirmed by modern genetic research—that “the southern Chinese and the northern Chinese are quite different. You can tell them apart. The southern Chinese are shorter. There`s a substantial Turkic element [from repeated barbarian invasions] in northern China.”

Which could matter—at a time when the level of economic development in China`s southern coastal provinces is rapidly diverging from that of the interior.

Most American China-watchers don`t see a breakup on their radar screen. But Tullock is used to being in a minority.

“When I got to China [in 1948],” he says, “there were only two officials in the U.S. consulate who were not pro-Communist, myself and the commercial attaché. Everyone—not just State Department officials, but missionaries, businessmen—was so antagonistic to the Nationalists that they more or less thought anyone would be better.” This expatriate antagonism, he believes, stemmed from a fundamental naiveté about Asia`s different, sometimes distressing, moral code.