In China itself, you will see the same disunification even amongst Han Chinese who speak different dialects. Despite being in the same province of Guangdong (广东省), the Cantonese (广府人), Hakka (客家人) and the Teochews (潮州人) draw very distinct lines to separate themselves from one another. Probably this is somewhat understandable since Cantonese (粤语) is a Yue Chinese dialect , Hakka (客家话) is a Gan dialect and Teochew (潮州话) is a Min Chinese dialect.
But even in Fujian Province (福建省), very clear boundaries are drawn to separate people who speak the Minbei (闽北话), Mindong (闽东话), Minnan (闽南话) and in Minnan itself, there are also clear-cut lines drawn to separate the people who speak the Amoy dialect (厦门话), Zhangzhou dialect (漳州话), Quanzhou dialect (泉州话) and Teochew dialect (潮州话).
The reason for this is simply because the Han Chinese race is simply too big. With a population of around 1.4 billion worldwide, many different groups of Han Chinese developed the mindset to think that they are separate from one another. The contributing factor is due to how the Han Chinese in different regions in such a big country like China have developed a lifestyle / form of speech as they deem fit according to where they live in.
It is still prevalent today when you hear terms such as Gaginang (自己人) being used by Teochew speaking people to refer to one another within the same community. 'Ga Gi Nang' is never used to refer to a fellow Han Chinese, it is strictly used to refer to Han Chinese of the Teochew dialect only. Cantonese speakers are never referred to as 'Ga Gi Nang', neither are people who speak other dialects referred to as 'Ga Gi Nang'.
The reason why Genghis Khan was able to unify all the Mongol tribes under his leadership was due to the small population size of these Mongol tribes. Today, there are only around 6 million Mongols (蒙古族) in the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国) and barely 2.8 million Mongols in the country of Mongolia (independent). This totals up to only around 9 million people and the figure was likely even smaller around 750 years ago.
The number of Teochew dialect speakers today are already at around 12-15 million. Therefore, you can see why Han Chinese are so disunified. You can't compare the Han Chinese with the Mongols - the difference between the population size already speaks volumes.
There are only around 50 million Koreans in South Korea, which gives rise to Korean ultranationalists popping up all over the internet and supporting each other despite the differences they have with one another. Small population sizes are the main factor to which ethnic races are able to unify and recognise each other as one big family. China obviously does not have a small population size.
The extent of disunity in China is almost as if everyone is of a different ethnic race now. If you ever visit any forums based in China, you will see what I mean. There are forums based in Guangdong Province which has Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew quarrelling with one another over 芝麻绿豆的小事 such as 'Which dialect group has the purest Han Chinese?' and all sorts of irrelevant stuff.
While it is correct to say that greater population size leads to greater diversity, ethno-national unity is ultimately a product of political policy. Take, for example, language: it is well-known among linguists that language is capable of changing rapidly within a population. Examples: English in India, Turkish in Anatolia, French in France, Mandarin in Taiwan and Singapore, Russian in former Soviet states, and so on so forth. Indeed, it is arguable that China itself is experiencing a rapid and en masse linguistic homogenization, with 70+% of people under the age of 25 now speaking Mandarin, where before it was less than 40%.
To illustrate the effects of national policy, consider the case of Japan. Japan is normally thought to be an ethnically and linguistically homogeneous country. Yet, consider the case of Japan's mutually unintelligible 'dialects', which are rarely talked about today. Masayoshi Shibatani in 1990 wrote:
"Different dialects [in Japan] are often mutually unintelligible. For example, the speakers of the Kagoshima dialect of the southern island of Kyushu would not be understood by the majority of the people on the main island of Hongshu. LIkewise, northern dialect speakers from such places as Aomori and Akita would not be understood by the people in the metropolitan Tokyo area or anywhere toward Western Japan..."
Such a situation is, in effect, little different from China's with respect to the presence of mutually unintelligible, regionally localized 'dialects'. But Japan's modernization process, which included the promulgation of a standard language drawn from Tokyo speech, proceeded apace to eliminate the regional differences and to foster an unified identity. Today, no one believes that the core Japanese islands belong to different ethno-national entities.
By contrast, the PRC began as an unitary multi-ethnic state, and from the start wavered between promoting the ideology of a homogeneous nation versus that of a heterogeneous one. The government of China still makes a show, for example, of conserving minority cultures, customs, and languages, especially in areas where it is under international scrutiny. In its treatment of regional differences between Han Chinese, the PRC is also in debate over whether it wants to preserve/eliminate those differences. The result, in combination with the greater liberalism and multi-culturalism embedded in international discourse today, is that of an agonizing see-saw between national and local identity, such that today's Chinese youths are themselves divided on whether nation comes first / region comes first.
Eliminating patois has been the policy of nation-states from the time there were nation-states. China is simply a latecomer to the party, with all the complications thereof.
Edited by Eidolon, 07 April 2014 - 04:03 PM.