Keywords: China, Ethnic Minorities, Quing Empire, Chinese Imperial Traditions.
"Empire" has always constituted a key concept for understanding China's political traditions. As it exists today, China represents a nation-state which preserves viable remnants of an imperial past. From the Sino-Manchurian empire its Republican successor regime inherited and adopted two important elements: the territorial basis and the imperial myth of the universal empire. The Quing empire allowed for different identities in the context of an overarching simbolical unity. At the beginning of the 20th century, the newly born Republic of China introduced the concept of a republic composed of five nations. Yet the Han population dominated the political process. The Communist government then re-territorialized the vanished Qing empire. The "ancient regime empire" was transformed into a modern "imperial nation" and universal emperorship was replaced by party autocracy. Nevertheless, the policy of cultural subordination and even exploitation continued. The identity of the modern Chinese nation is deeply rooted in the territorial heritage of the traditional empire, as theorized by the nationalist-minded scholars of historical geography.