The Making of the Chinese State
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Leo Shin traces the roots of China's modern ethnic configurations to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Challenging the traditional view that China's expansion was primarily an exercise of incorporation and assimilation, Shin argues that as the center extended its reach to the wild and inaccessible south, the political interests of the state, the economic needs of the settlers, and the imaginations of the cultural elites all facilitated the demarcation and categorization of these borderland 'non-Chinese' populations. Similarly, modern-day Chinese rulers also find it critical to officially recognize a total of fifty-six 'nationalities'.