The chinese, and those Hong Kongers who subscribe to the one-china ideology, love to quote the mantra that we are all chinese, one people since time immemorial. What’s more ridiculous is their ideology that the same bloodlines flow within all chinese peoples.
It is a total lunacy, as anyone with an iota of East Asian history would know, the land now known as china is a history of one nation gobbling up other surrounding nations, expanding their territory as they went. The victor’s culture and society would then be forced upon the defeated, and after a few generations of resistance, the latter would eventually forget their own cultural history.
Another scenario is that the surrounding nations finds their own society and culture inadequate, thus adopting the more advanced neighbour’s, and with migration from its neighbours, the former’s identity eventually blurs and became integrated with the latter. This kept up for centuries, different nations united by an imperial power, and by a common culture, and a socio-politics everyone found beneficial, but that by no means makes them one nation.
To say they are one peoples is like saying Europeans are all one peoples because they were once conquered by the Roman Empire, and have been heavily influenced by Graeco-Roman cultures and socio-politics.
Pre-Qin Kingdoms to the first Qin-style Empire
The region now known as china was once filled with different tribes and small nations, with first the Xia holding dominance on the Yellow River delta, conquering neighbouring peoples as they advanced. Eventually someone rose up from within Xia society, overthrew the Xia’s ruling families and established the Shang Kingdom, and in turn someone rose up and overthrew the Shang to establish the Zhou Kingdom.
It was from the Zhou Kingdom when its socio-politics were exported, with surrounding lesser cultures choosing to be the Zhou Kingdom’s client states, or with the Zhou imperial court setting up colonies in unoccupied territories and installing a lesser king as the new state’s ruler. The various client and vassal states battled each other for dominance, some eliminating weaker ones in terms of both political-military power and cultural influence. By the Spring-and-Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, six nation-states were established, with their own form of cultural practices and political society. The people from these six nations saw themselves as their own people, their only commonality is that they profess to submit to the Zhou Kingdom’s overlordship, and sharing common cultural elements, but they were by no means one people.
One of these satellite states to the Zhou Kingdom – the Qin – eventually succeeded in conquering all the other states, including the Zhou overlord, under the famous Qin Emperor. The Qin Emperor then proceeded to do away with many linguistic and social differences, in order to bring about a united society. Even then, the peoples subjected to Qin rule did not see themselves as one people, especially descendants of the former Chu Kingdom, who had a well-known mantra: even if only one Chu family exists, it will be the Chu who will destroy the Qin. When Liu Bang overthrew the Qin Imperial court, he established the Han Empire, keeping the former Qin’s territories and socio-political system, and the subsequent kingdoms and empires kept up this form all the way to the end of the Qing Empire. The people throughout all of this were never one people per say, but merely seeing themselves under one overlord after another, submitting themselves to the same socio-cultural norms out of convenience.
Invaders and Conquerors
Since the Zhou Kingdom, the peoples of the plains were always fearful of the tribal nomads of the north, who would frequently travel south to raid villages and cities, much like how Angles, Saxons and Vikings would raid the British Isles. The Han Empire was the first time where military expeditions were organized to conquer peoples of the north and south, bringing those people into the socio-political fold of the Empire, as well as becoming familiar with the conqueror’s culture and language. At this time was also when the Imperial family set up alliance marriages with kingdoms they are unable to take over, the entourage of the princess married off would also import their culture into the latter’s society.
Three such kingdoms were the Bai-Yue of the south, the Tibetan of the West, and the Xiongnu of the North. The Bai-Yue Kingdom covered most of what is now southern china, extending all the way into northern Vietnam. The Bai-Yue Overlord decided to submit to the Han Empire as a vassal state, and then it was conquered afterwards by the Han. After its conquest, Han subjects migrated into former Bai-Yue territories, importing their cultures, languages and ways of life, with the original inhabitants slowly accepting the new cultures as part of their own. The Tibetan had a marriage alliance with the Han Imperial Family and remained independent all the way until the end of the Qing Empire. The Xiongnu had also had a marriage alliance with the Han after many battles with the Han military, but the alliance were often short-lived. However, the culture and ways of the Han did not influence them as heavily as it did to the Bai-Yue.
Following the Han Empire, peoples such as the Turks and Kazakhs would make incursions and migrations into the land, their homeland would also come under imperial rule from time to time. It was the Tang Empire when a family with Turkish descent took the throne but submitted to the dominant culture, language and social norms of the land. In subsequent centuries, as the previous Empires did before them, when an invader succeeds in endangering the Empire, the Imperial Court would move their capitals further west and south, taking their cultures and language with them, and the original peoples inhabiting the land would find their own overwhelmed. This continued until the Jin and the Mongols succeeded in conquering what is now known as the Chinese civilization in its entirety, and it was during this era when the invaders designated the identity of the “Han peoples” upon the land’s inhabitants, grouping what were once different peoples into one. It was from this era that the land’s inhabitants united under the myth of the Han People to overthrow the invaders and their brutal rule.
The First Republic, the War and the communist dominion
After centuries of imperial rule, some people within the Qing Empire decided to overthrow imperial rule, heavily influenced by Western ideologies, they sought to set up the first Republic under a democratic ideal. There were also others who preferred a constitutional monarchy under the Qing, but they too were influenced by Western ideologies. The common ground between the Republican and Monarchist factions was that of a nation-state: one people, one nation.
Represented by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Republicans wanted a democratic republic for the Han people. People such as Dr. Sun Yat-sen by then were entrenched in the “Han People” myth, in order to provide them with legitimacy to overthrowing the Manchu ruling elites of the Qing Empire. The Monarchists on the other hand preferred a constitutional monarchy similar to that in Britain and Japan, yet their leading proponents such as Liang Qichao also spoke of the Empire’s subjects as one people united under a Confucian society and culture, in order to unite the peoples facing Western colonisation. The Republicans eventually won, and in order to unite the country instead of letting it fracture, they promoted different ethnic groups uniting as the Chinese nation (Zhonghua Nation) to advance the country in the new era.
During the war against Japan, the myth of one people rose up again in order to unite efforts to repel the Japanese. Ironically, it was during this time that the Chinese communists promoted independence for the various ethnic nations around Republican China, instead of uniting the people to fight the Japanese. Following the Japanese defeat at the hands of the Allies, and the subsequent civil war between the Kuomintang and communist which followed, the people was once again united under another myth: the communist utopia. The communist party under mao promoted the propaganda that the various ethnic nations will unite under the communist party in overthrowing imperialism, that peoples had the right to autonomy and self-rule, that they shall be as one people.
The Fallacy continues
The myth of one peoples, as we saw, is just that: a myth. The land what the world know as China was in fact the establishment of kingdoms and empires, and their eventual overthrow, as well as the migration of peoples onto the territories of others, with one culture influencing and overwhelming others. The “Chinese” were never one people but many ethnic nations, and not “one people since time immemorial” as the chinese communist party and the one-china followers love to quote. Therefore, when these people sought to “unite” everyone as chinese, when they sought to have everyone united under one culture, language, history and identity, they are in fact promoting ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide – a crime against humanity.