“I often begin my classes on Chinese history by asking a question: What is China?
The question is often laughed off, at first. Many students dismiss the challenge of defining China, confident in the knowledge that, like Justice Stewart on another topic, they know it when they see it.
The question is not simply “academic”: today’s headlines about the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ask it implicitly. Are the islands part of China? What is China?”