Walls have always been symbols as much they have been physical barriers. In fact, as physical barriers, they have tended in the past to be ineffective. Perhaps the most obvious example is the Great Wall of China, which stretches in its modern version about 6,000km. It went through various incarnations but was much enhanced by the Ming Dynasty between the 14th and the 17th century. It was designed to protect against raids and invasion from various nomadic groups from the Eurasian steppes. Ultimately, it was rendered ineffective not by construction failure but by internal insurrection, when a peasant revolt upended the Ming dynasty and allied itself to Manchurian forces then outside the wall. Since the succeeding Qing empire included much of Inner Mongolia, the wall became irrelevant. The Berlin Wall was another famous wall that divided not only Berlin but the east of Germany from the west of the country. As it became increasingly obvious that economic prospects were better in the wes...

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