Other than China, no empire of such cultural and ethnic diversity has survived modern statehood and the twentieth century in one piece. While the concept of ethnicity is certainly modern, it is clear that, empire-wide, Chinese cultural and local identities have undergone repeated shifts and transformations in recent centuries. This book does not see immutable cultural differences behind ethnic conflict and coexistence. Imperial policies could simultaneously promote cultural diversity and assimilation, and the different strands in imperial discourse, or the spaces beyond the imperial gaze, allowed many individuals and groups the flexibility to redefine and relocate themselves. There is much evidence, while China's leaders continue the search for a unity that is as inclusive as empire yet as integrated as the nation-state, and while its diverse population responds to the opportunities and pressures of post-socialism and globalization, that all these uncertainties and spaces persist.
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