In 214 BC a Qin dynasty army finally conquered (on its third attempt) what is now Guǎngdōng and eastern Guǎngxī, overpowering the Zhuang people, who found sympathy in the northern regions with the Yao (Mien) and Miao (H’mong) people.
Unlike the Zhuang, who were ultimately immersed in Chinese customs and eventually assimilated, the Yao and Miao remained in the hill regions and were often cruelly oppressed by the Han. There was continuous conflict between the Chinese and the hill tribes, leading to uprisings in the 1830s and again during the Taiping Rebellion, which began in Guǎngxī. Compounding these conflicts was the rough land and its great distance from central power.
The Qin built China’s first canal (Ling Canal), but made little headway with it. The province was a backwater until the 20th century when anti-Kuomintang forces began to modernise it in the 1920s. WII devastated much of the progress. Herculean transport infrastructure laid down in the 1960s to supply Vietnam in its war against the US – and more recently, tourists flocking to Guìlín – have energised the province economically.