THE YELLOW LAND
(Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi)
Territory: 906,243 km2 (9% of total)
Population: 359 million (27% of total)
Per Capital GDP: $3,855
Exports as % of GDP: 16%
China was born on the banks of the Yellow River, where the silt-laden water, rich alluvial soil, and the harvested wheat all share the same yellow hue. This is China’s breadbasket where buns, dumplings, and noodles, rather than rice, are standard fare. But the fertile Yellow Land is vulnerable to droughts and floods, as well as jealous invaders. Since ancient times, its inhabitants have turned to a strong central government to keep them safe behind high walls and embankments. In ancient times, the emperor’s yellow robes symbolized his absolute command over the natural forces—earth, water, grain—that ensure life.
THE BACK DOOR
(Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong, Hainan)
Territory: 231,963 km2 (2% of total)
Population: 112 million (8% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $6,910
Exports as % of GDP: 82%
In Chinese, the “back door” refers to a way of doing business outside the normal, approved channels. The South Sea coast is China’s Back Door, far enough from the centers of power that nobody will notice if you bend a few rules. As locals put it, “The sky is broad and the emperor is far away.” Officials who were exiled to Yueh, as this land was once known, found it a fearful place whose inhabitants spoke strange dialects—Cantonese, mainly—and feasted on snakes, cats, and monkeys. But its clan-based villages, lush jungles, and rocky inlets offered ideal shelter for smugglers and secret societies to flourish. Unlike their staid northern cousins, these freebooters learned to take risks and profit from them. Other Chinese regard southerners as clever, sharp, and a bit slippery. But as rebels and renegades, emigrants and entrepreneurs, they infuse much needed flexibility and creativity into an otherwise rigid system.
(Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang)
Territory: 216,008 km2 (2% of total)
Population: 147 million (11% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $6,406
Exports as % of GDP: 58%
Sleek, stylish, confident—Shanghai certainly makes an impression. Its steel skyscrapers look like rocket ships ready to blast off into the future, taking China along with it. Shanghai is a very young city by Chinese standards, but the Yangtze River delta—known in ancient times as the kingdom of Wu—has always been the most commercial and cosmopolitan part of China. Like the Low Countries at the mouth of the Rhine, it is a flat watery land crisscrossed by busy canals linking a constellation of trading cities. The Back Door may succeed in breaking the rules, but only the Metropolis has the wealth and dynamism to entirely reshape them. Its treasure fleets nearly discovered Europe a century before Columbus sailed, and of the Nine Nations, it is the only one to have displaced the Yellow Land—several times—as China’s political capital.
Territory: 569,800 km2 (6% of total)
Population: 110 million (8% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $2,303
Exports as % of GDP: 5%
Tucked deep in China’s interior, Sichuan is a rich agricultural basin the size of France, surrounded on all sides by a ring of nearly impassible mountains. These bamboo-covered slopes are home to the panda, its last refuge from a rapidly encroaching world. For man as well as beast, Sichuan has always been China's place of refuge. Throughout history it has served as a secure supply base for China’s rulers, and a place to retreat and regroup in times of invasion and unrest. In World War II, when Japan occupied all of coastal China, loyalist forces relocated their capital to the Refuge to carry on the fight. During the Cold War, vital industries were purposely located in its remote valleys to protect them from the enemy.
(Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan)
Territory: 707,124 km2 (7% of total)
Population: 226 million (17% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $2,402
Exports as % of GDP: 6%
All of the dynamics driving the first four nations converge in the Crossroads. The middle stretch of the Yangtze is a natural transportation and communications nexus. It is the heart of China, pumping the lifeblood of men and material to every other part along capillaries of water, road, and rail. Interrupt this heartbeat—as a freak snowstorm did last year when it hit the Crossroads during Lunar New Year—and the entire country can grind to a halt. But the region’s central strategic position has never translated into political power. Instead, it has always been a zone of competition among its stronger neighbors, a place for their rival armies to march and fight.
(Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi)
Territory: 810,690 km2 (8% of total)
Population: 132 million (10% of total) * 30% non-Han minorities
Per Capita GDP: $1,770
Exports as % of GDP: 6%
The legend of Shangri-La tells of an isolated valley high in the Himalayas, where paradise exists on earth. Local tourism officials claim to have located the real Shangri-La in southwest China, and millions of visitors every year seem to agree. This land is home to some of China’s most iconic and inspiring landscapes: emerald rice terraces, the fairy mountains of Guilin, the raging rapids of Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s also home to a kaleidoscope of ethnic minorities, usually depicted as singing and dancing in colorful tribal costumes. Throw in a clear blue sky and some banana pancakes, and Shangri-La makes for a heavenly vacation.
THE RUST BELT
(Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang)
Territory: 801,553 km2 (8% of total)
Population: 109 million (8% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $3,724
Exports as % of GDP: 15%
Just over a century ago, northeast China—known to the outside world as Manchuria—was a wilderness of dark forests and frigid snow-swept plains. Its only inhabitants were a few hunting and fishing tribes. The foremost of these was the Manchu, which conquered and ruled China as its last imperial dynasty. The arrival of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1898 changed everything, unleashing a flood of migrants and pitting Russia against Japan in a battle to dominate the region. The Japanese prevailed, and in 1931, they made Manchuria part of their empire. They introduced industrial-scale farming and built mines, steel mills, and factories.
(Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet)
Territory: 5,205,114 km2 (54% of total)
Population: 86 million (6% of total) * 30% non-Han minorities
Per Capita GDP: $2,928
Exports as % of GDP: 9%
The land beyond the Great Wall has long captivated the Chinese with its aura of danger and romance. Wild Mongol horsemen, silk-laden caravans, and the inaccessible mysteries of Tibet offer a thrilling contrast to the regulated confines of Chinese life. But what really set this region apart are its vast open spaces. The Frontier comprises over half of China’s territory and just 6 percent of its population
(we handed over a big part of this landmass on a platter to the Chinese
) - a landmass and population density similar to the continental United States west of the Mississippi. Its desolate plateaus, scorching deserts, and snow-capped mountains resemble Nevada or Wyoming more than Beijing.
Territory: 160,313 km2 (2% of total)
Population: 59 million (4% of total)
Per Capita GDP: $9,432
Exports as % of GDP: 30%
The 110-mile strait separating Taiwan from China's mainland is one of the world's great flashpoints. So it may seem surprising that the two provinces on either side comprise a single “nation.” In fact, Fujian and Taiwan are like twins separated at birth—linked by heritage, divided by destiny. Fujian has always looked to the sea. Like the ancient Greeks, its inhabitants turned their backs on their rocky soil, venturing out to fish and trade with distant shores. They established colonies all over Southeast Asia, a far-flung network based on dialect and kinship that thrives to this day. Since such voyages were often prohibited by the emperor, the region’s mariners became skilled smugglers. Today, Fujian remains the center of a worldwide traffic in smuggled Chinese immigrants.
There is a very good interactive map which I do not know how to post here, can someone please do it. BTW, that map is designed by a SAJA desi journalist based in Washington DC.