Atlantic Magazine has a short article up, entitled, “The Nine Nations of China.” It is written by Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Tsinghua University, and it basically consists of an interactive map that seeks to make the well-worn (and pretty well-known) point that China is not monolithic (did I just hear someone call for stopping the presses?) (h/t James Fallows) This article is coming out now to coincide with President Obama’s China visit:

This week, President Obama makes his first state visit to China. What kind of country will he find there? We tend to imagine China as a monolith: 1.3 billion people sharing the same language, history, and culture. The truth is far more interesting. China is a mosaic of several distinct regions, each with its own resources, dynamics, and historical character.

I am not sure how these nine regions were determined and when I pressed the link for what appears to be a fuller explanation, I got sent to an error page. But I know that knowing these nine regions is important because the article tells me so:

As China’s economy becomes more integrated, these regional differences are taking on greater importance than ever before. Each of the Nine Nations faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities in carving out its own competitive niche. Anyone who wants to do business in China, make policy towards China, or simply comprehend the dramatic changes happening there should understand the Nine Nations and the role each of them is playing in shaping China’s future.

My problem I see with this map is that it is exactly that. A map. And as a map, it distinguishes among regions geographically and that is not how I view many aspects of China. Just by way of an example, I see Beijing having commonalities with Shanghai just because they are two powerful and relatively sophisticated big cities. Different as these two cities are (and they are plenty different, in their cultures, in their attitudes and even in their languages), they still share many commonalities in terms of business.
Help me out here. What do you think?
UPDATE: Mr. Chovanec has done a nice post on his blog explaining his map a bit more. And Jottings from the Granite Studio has weighed in as well.

Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog ( Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.