China's people speak quite different languages, as I noted here in the update.
And Strategypage writes that corruption in China--which prompts riots and demonstrations out in the provinces--is difficult for Peking to control because China is not a unitary state where orders from the center are followed by the peripheral regions:
Senior officials admit it exists, but because of the decentralized form of government, it's very difficult for the people in the capital to clean up the corruption in the provinces. The officials out in the countryside may be stealing, but they are also keeping an eye on things for the central government. Without loyal provincial officials, there is no nation of China, just a collection of provinces, which have been independent nations in the past.
Yet another reason why I don't know whether China will emerge in a generation or two as an enemy, a peer competitor to us, or a friend--or even a country at all.
I think Mark Steyn has commented on this, so it is hardly original with me, but I do wonder if China will break apart (not necessarily violently) and become a geographic rather than a political description.
Is China moving in an opposite direction that Europe is going--a geographic term that is attempting (well, the Brussels EU bureaucracy wants it even if the people aren't as thrilled) to become a term describing a political entity?