Even if President Obama weren't getting to China just now, it would be worth checking out the illustrated feature "Nine Nations of China," by Patrick Chovanec, which has just gone up on our site. Given the visit, it's all the more timely.

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I've mentioned time and again over the years how the big, unified- and imposing-seeming "China" of American imagination should really be thought of as a billion-plus individuals, tens of thousands of contending companies and small businesses, dozens of provincial or regional-loyalty groups, and lots of other subdivisions. In some circumstances, this agglomeration can act as one big, momentarily-unified "country" - especially when the national dignity is thought to be under attack from overseas. In most other cases, the big country of "China" is really a fluid congeries of interests and ambitions.

Patrick Chovanec -- who teaches in Beijing, and whom I knew there -- has provided another way to think about how China is organized and divided. You can see it here. Congrats to him and to Jennie Rothenberg Gritz and Anup Kaphle of the Atlantic's web site for putting it together.

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