Cover for The Making of the Chinese State

The Making of the Chinese State:
Ethnicity and Expansion on the Ming Borderlands

Cambridge University Press external link icon (2006; also available as paperback and ebook)

In this innovative and well-crafted study of the relationships between the state and its borderlands, 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, the author 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 the borderland "non-Chinese" populations. The story told here, however, extends beyond the imperial period. Just as Ming emperors considered it essential to reinforce a sense of universal order by demarcating the "non-Chinese," modern-day Chinese rulers also find it critical to maintain the myth of a unified multinational state by officially recognizing a total of fifty-six "nationalities."