Imagine we are invited to answer two questions: Is it possible to speak of a Chinese identity, formed in history, which makes China different from the rest of the world? Can the Chinese find an inspiration in it for their future? For an average Chinese person, an affirmative answer to both questions would be so obvious as to obviate the need to ask them. For an average European looking at China from the outside, the answers would be no less self-evident. But the same European would be much more hesitant if posed the questions with respect to Europe. Where does this difference between Chinese and European identity arise? The answer is easily given. A Chinese person is accustomed to thinking of China as a unified cultural and political entity; as an empire. Europeans, on the other hand, think in terms of plurality: a plurality of idioms, cultural regions, religions, and inside religions, confessions. Not to mention, of course, the plurality of nations.
more from Krzysztof Pomian at Eurozine here.