Here’s a fascinating look at the Manchu legacy in China as it applies to territorial governance, minorities policy and the way the current state sees itself. I thought this was telling:
So, we had an incident a few years ago, in which a very well-known and well-respected scholar of Qing history [Yan Chongnian 閻崇年.—Ed.] was at a book signing in Wuxi 無錫. He had published a number of books, was well known on television as a scholar with the ability to tell complicated stories in ways that could attract large audiences. And his line on the Qing, and on the Manchus, was that this was all a big story of national unification – which is, in fact, what The China Story would like us to think. At this book signing he was attacked by a man waiting in line who didn’t want his book signed, but in fact slapped the professor in question and called him a traitor, called him a Hanjian 漢奸, somebody who had betrayed the Han people, because he had tried to make the Manchu conquest seem ‘prettier’ (in this man’s opinion, anyway) than it really was. He quite clearly saw this as a question of alien conquest and invasion – massacre, murder, rape and all the rest of it.
The official story in China is that it’s one big happy family of nationalities in which the Han just happen to be the most prominent and numerous and which the Communist party is historically ordained to lead. The thing is that this points to similarities between the Manchu and the Party: while both are of China – and while the CPC is overwhelmingly Han in its ethnic makeup - both also form a ruling caste with distinct vocabularies, internal cultures, rituals and procedures not originally native to Han culture. Some of the tensions involved in this can maybe be seen in professor Yan’s unfortunate encounter. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in China’s territorial disputes. It would be kind of ironic if the Party ended up being viewed as selling out the Han by failing to defend the territorial legacy left by the Manchu with sufficient vigour.