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Keywords:

  • century of humiliation;
  • international system;
  • Chinese foreign policy;
  • US–China relations;
  • competition;
  • Qing Dynasty

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order
  4. Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

Chinese elites today draw on the “Century of Humiliation” (1839–1949) as a starting point for their views on how China should interact with other nations. Arguments about the nature of international competition, about the reasons that nations succeed or fail in the international arena, and about the prospects for long-term global peace and cooperation draw not just on China's experiences during that period, but on the vocabulary and debates that Qing- and republican-era intellectuals developed to understand the modern international system.

Today there are at least three views among Chinese elites of the international system and China's role in it. All three start from the implicit premise that today's international system has not changed in its essence from the 19th century: the world is composed of strong and weak nation-states that vie for dominance on the global stage. They differ, however, on whether this state of affairs is permanent and on what global role China should seek. Some assert that the international system still revolves around Western interests that aim to subjugate and humiliate weaker nations, and that China's bitter experiences during the Century of Humiliation should provide a cautionary tale about the dangers of this system. A second viewpoint suggests that the current system is acceptable now that China can play a prominent role in it. They assert that China's period of humiliation has ended, and that China should now seek to ensure the stability of the system and to assure other nations of its commitment to doing so. This view suggests that the potential dangers of a competitive international system can be mitigated by adapting existing institutions and practices. A third line of reasoning suggests that China is in a unique position to fundamentally remake the international system because its experiences of shame and subjugation have given the Chinese people an alternative vision of how international relations can and should be conducted.

China's rise presents observers with a seeming paradox. On one hand, its ascent to a position not just of influence but of a great power is now a foregone conclusion. Chinese elites express pride over the fact that, as a team of scholars and think-tank researchers agreed at a conference in late 2008, “China's status as a power has been established.”1 During the 2009 60th anniversary celebrations for the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) one Politburo member included among China's great accomplishments since the revolution the fact that China has “substantially enhanced its comprehensive national power” and “noticeably upgraded its international position.”2 Yet these statements of confidence are interspersed with reminders of a darker past. China's elites and general populace continue to reference the “Century of Humiliation” (bainian guochi; inline image), the period from the beginning of the first Opium War in 1839 to the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Chinese civil war in 1949. During this time China's effective territorial control shrank by a third, its millennia-old imperial system collapsed, and the country was riven by internal uprisings, invasion, and civil war.

One American commentator noted in 1959 that “The Chinese have one very broad generalization about their own history: they think in terms of ‘up to the Opium war’ and ‘after the Opium war’; in other words, a century of humiliation and weakness to be expunged.”3 Today, Chinese and Taiwanese history textbooks still divide Chinese history in this way,4 and members of China's national legislature have in the past decade called several times for the establishment of an official “national humiliation day” to commemorate these experiences.5 Scholars note that this experience of subjugation and humiliation has become a central element of Chinese identity today, such that “Chinese nationalism is not just about celebrating the glories of Chinese civilization; it also commemorates China's weakness.”6 This constant reference to such a dark period in China's past strikes many observers as peculiar for a nation on the cusp of global dominance. As Orville Schell wrote in 2008, “why would any leader seeking to gain global respect want to constantly remind his people and the world of his country's former humiliation?”7

One answer is that the Century of Humiliation is part of a narrative of loss and redemption that legitimizes the PRC's political system, crediting the CCP with pulling China out of this nadir and into a globally prominent position. Much has been written about the way that Chinese elites today use the memory of national humiliation to promote nationalism and bolster support for a regime that depicts itself as increasingly able to block any current-day attempts by Western powers to again subjugate or “humiliate” China. In its strongest articulation, the Century of Humiliation narrative may be used to strengthen popular anti-foreign sentiment and to justify belligerent actions on the international stage, all in the name of “never forgetting” (wuwang; inline image) the shame of the past.8

While acknowledging the prevalence of the Century of Humiliation narrative as a rhetorical tool for shaping and directing Chinese nationalism, this paper focuses on the substantive lessons that today's Chinese elites take from that period to understand China's role in the contemporary world and in the future. By “elites,” I refer to high-ranking members of the government, the Party, the military, and government-affiliated think tanks and research organizations. While I discuss several strands of discourse and debate over China's aspired position in the world, I do not attempt to systematically determine where exactly the lines of cleavage among these different positions lie (e.g. whether certain institutions tend to favor one line of interpretation over another). This paper focuses rather on the universe of possible arguments that have been proposed in China in recent years, while acknowledging that different arguments have held stronger sway at different times.

I argue that the discourses China's elites developed during the 1839–1949 period in order to understand China's weakness at the time continue to shape China's outlook on how it should engage the international system today. The Century of Humiliation presents not just a cautionary tale about past experiences, but a source of beliefs about how the world works. Both explicitly and implicitly, Chinese elites still use the vocabulary and questions developed during that period to interpret the dynamics of international relations today. Contemporary arguments about the nature of competition among nations, the reasons that nations succeed or fail in the international arena, and the prospects for long-term global peace or cooperation are conducted through terms and assumptions developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order
  4. Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

The Century of Humiliation opened in 1839–42, when the British government forced China to open its ports to the opium trade. In the eyes of most Chinese today it did not end until the Chinese Communist Party won the civil war in 1949 and began to rebuild China's domestic order and international standing. The litany of indignities that China suffered at the hands of foreigners during this period is long and well known. Prior to this point, China's rulers had sat comfortably at the center of a ring of tributary relationships, and their familiarity with any civilization outside of Asia was minimal. Yet starting in the 1840s China was compelled by force of arms into a semi-colonial position, ceding large pieces of its territory to Western nations and Japan, including ports along the coast and the Yangtze River, Manchuria, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. This shame was further compounded in the 1910s and '20s by independence movements in Tibet and Mongolia and by further Japanese incursions into Manchuria. During this period, China lost nearly a third of its territory of effective control. Internally, China was riven throughout the 19th century by massive rebellions and uprisings, which were frequently fanned by popular opposition to the growing foreign presence and to what many Chinese subjects viewed as the Qing court's acquiescence to the demands of “barbarian” invaders. The eventual collapse of the millennia-old imperial system in 1911 led only to more political and social chaos, as China's nominally republican government found itself unable to control large swaths of the country. Brief periods of cooperation between the two major political parties of the day and their eventual victory over local “warlords” were short-term triumphs at best, as China again fell victim to Japanese depredations and to civil war.

The impact of these experiences on China's self-image cannot be overestimated. The Opium War and all that followed were viewed, then and now, as marking an irrevocable break in China's historical trajectory. The events of this period marked China's abrupt transition from a powerful, proud, and unified state to one whose territory was “carved up like a melon” (guafen; inline image) by foreign powers and whose army had been humiliated. Where Chinese rulers and intellectuals had before had little concept of an “international” arena, they now had to grapple with the notion that there existed a global system of power relationships whose dynamics – though almost entirely out of China's control – would determine its fate. The growing sense of national inferiority among intellectual and political elites was particularly intense when they compared China's experience with Japan's: where China had considered itself Japan's superior, an “older brother” from whose culture Japan had derived its own, Japan now showed itself to be far better at adapting to the modern world.9

These experiences cemented a conviction that China lacked the resources and knowledge to successfully integrate itself into the modern international system. The great intellectuals of the late Qing – Kang Youwei, Yan Fu, Liang Qichao, Zhang Binglin, and others – sought the source of China's weakness relative to the Western powers; the reasons why Japan had been able to adapt to the Western incursion while China had not; and the means by which China might regain a strong position within Asia and in the world. This period of loss became one of learning as well, as these figures imported large numbers of foreign texts, on topics ranging from economics and business to political sociology, in an attempt to understand how these more powerful societies operated.

Two lines of conversation followed. One concerned China's internal conditions. Traditionally, dynastic power was believed to rest on a divine mandate that stemmed from the emperor's superior moral and administrative abilities, enabling him not only to rule his own subjects but to attract tribute from neighboring states; an ineffectual ruler was bound to eventually lose that mandate and thus his power. China's loss of regional power was taken to mean that China had lost its moral “mandate” over its neighboring states, due to internal decline that was varyingly thought to be political, social, philosophical, moral, or cultural.10

The second line of discussion centered on the nature of the international system into which China had been so rudely thrust. Chinese thinkers came to believe that modern nation-states interacted with one another in the international arena according to laws that China did not yet well understand. As a result, China had fallen behind while Europe and Japan had surged forward. In 1902 Liang Qichao asserted in his famous work “On the New Citizen” (Xinmin Shuo; inline image) that China was now falling prey to the same patterns of natural rise and decline that applied to all civilizations:

Since the beginning of the world . . . can there have been any fewer than ten million different countries around the globe? Yet of those who exist today, how many are able to occupy a ‘color’[i.e. be marked out as a sovereign nation] on a map of five continents? I say: only about a hundred or so. And how many of those are able to stand strong, to have mastery over the world . . . ? I say: four or five and that's it.11

Liang and many of his contemporaries set themselves the task of uncovering the laws that governed international relations in their own era. They were particularly attracted by a syncretic mix of theories they imported from China's subjugators: constitutional thought from Anglo-American liberals; statism from Germany; evolutionary theory from Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer; and adaptations of all of the above from Japanese translators and theorists. From this amalgamation, often further adapted by Chinese thinkers to square with Confucian theories, these thinkers drew several conclusions about the nature of modern international relations.

They posited, first, that human history was driven by a competitive dynamic. Evolutionary competition between groups of humans – whether families, tribes, or nations – was viewed as both a natural and a necessary feature of human interaction and progress, and as the source of warfare and expansion. Only peoples who comprehended and embraced this dynamic could prevail: as Liang Qichao wrote in 1902, “[H]uman nature does not survive without competition. . . . How has the white people's superiority over other races [i.e. the triumph of colonizing Europe over Asians and Africans] occurred? . . . Other races prefer peace, the white races do not turn away from competition.”12 These thinkers believed that in the modern era, it was as nation-states that different peoples would compete with one another.13 Nation-states that competed successfully rightfully gained a dominant position in the world, and could dictate the terms of engagement with other countries.14 This global order was perceived by most of these thinkers to reflect immutable laws of political organization and evolution, and thus to be unavoidable; weaker nation-states could not “opt out” of competition and hope to survive. Later thinkers suggested variations on this dynamic: Mao Tse-tung, for instance, argued that the fundamental competition was between ideological blocs of nations rather than individual nation-states. Like his Qing predecessors, however, he made clear that simply “sitting out” international competition was not an option; as he noted in a 1949 speech,

The forty years' experience of Sun Yatsen and the twenty-eight years' experience of the Communist Party have taught us to lean to one side, and we are firmly convinced that in order to win victory and consolidate it we must lean to one side. . . . all Chinese without exception must lean either to the side of imperialism or to the side of socialism. Sitting on the fence will not do, nor is there a third road. We oppose the Chiang Kaishek reactionaries who lean to the side of imperialism, and we also oppose the illusions about a third road. . . .15

Second, many of the Qing thinkers argued that human history is progressive and that, although the basic competitive dynamic could not be altered, individual nations could control its direction. Rather than following a cyclical pattern of rise and fall, as Chinese historians had traditionally argued, history was moved forward by peoples – in the modern world, nation-states – who took fate into their own hands and pushed ahead toward dominance. This was contrary to the perceived “fatalism” of Chinese culture, which these thinkers claimed rested on a false assumption that a civilization's rise and fall was beyond its control. Hence, as the late Qing thinker Yan Fu noted,

The Chinese believe that to resolve from order to disorder, from ascension to decline, is the natural way of heaven and of human affairs. The Westerners believe, as the ultimate principle of all learning and government, in infinite, daily progress, in advance that will not sink into decline, in order that will not revert to disorder. . . . China trusts to fate; the Westerners rely on human strength.16

These two beliefs about the nature of modern international relations allowed Chinese thinkers to see their nation as having fallen prey to an evolutionary dynamic that put their country near the bottom of the international heap, while holding out the possibility that China could eventually improve its international status.

These Qing- and republican-era discussions established two further convictions about the nature of the modern international system and China's role in it, and two major questions about what could be hoped for in the future. First, these figures viewed international relations as essentially conflictual, a zero-sum arena in which some nations could be up only if others were down. Second, they asserted that there were fundamental cultural differences between China and the West that helped explain why China had done so poorly in modern international competition. Qing- and republican-era figures argued that China needed to alter its political, social, philosophical, and martial practices in one of two directions. Some rejected Chinese culture as essentially inferior and recommended eschewing it entirely in favor of imported Western ideas; the leaders of the 1919 May Fourth Movement are the most well-known advocates of this view. Others, such as Zhang Binglin, supported the restoration of ancient “Chinese values” (often deriving from a Confucian or Buddhist base), which, they argued, had been lost or degraded in the many centuries since their origin.17 Both groups argued that national success in the modern world was predicated on the existence of certain cultural features that would allow one nation-state to prevail over others.

Alongside these two common convictions were two questions about what the world might look like in the future. Here there was less consensus. The late Qing debates had suggested that modern international relations rested on a fundamental inequality of nations. Many depicted the relationship between strong and weak nations as that between “masters” (zhu; inline image) and “slaves” (nu; inline image). “Imperialism” (diguo zhuyi; inline image) – that is, the ability of strong nations to colonize or otherwise infringe on the sovereignty of weak ones – was perceived as a manifestation of this unequal relationship, as was the ability of strong nations to mistreat Chinese citizens overseas.18 Later thinkers, however, were less accepting of the implications of inequality for China than they were of the basic idea of competition. By the republican period, the desire to bring China up to an “equal” status with the Western powers and Japan became a rallying cry for Chinese citizens angry about their country's long decline.19 Chinese diplomats and politicians began to label China's many enforced agreements with foreign powers “unequal treaties” (bu-pingdeng tiaoyue; inline image) that made it impossible for China to gain power under existing international law, and argued that this was both unjust and unsustainable.20 Most of these writers did not address whether equality among nations could truly coexist with international competition; nor did they say whether China sought to prevail over other nations or simply be “equal” with them. They did, however, insist that cooperation among nations could be established only under conditions of equality, as when Mao wrote in 1949 that his “New China” must “unite in a common struggle with those nations of the world which treat us as equals. . . .”21

Finally, some of these figures believed that the modern condition of competition among nation-states did not preclude cooperation in the distant future. They posited that in the very long term, a final “great unity” or “great peace” (datong; inline image), in which all humanity would be united under a single, universal government, might arise. In his famous work on the topic, Kang Youwei proposed that the evolution of international relations progresses through three stages –“chaos” (luan; inline image) between nations, “small peace” (xiaokang; inline image), and “great peace.”22 However, the mechanism by which the world was to transition from the current state of “chaos” to even a “small peace” was hazy at best in these writings. The premise that came to be accepted during the late Qing and republican periods was that global competition in the nearer term was inevitable, and that China's only way forward was to become a better competitor. “Humiliation” was viewed as a natural, if frustrating, part of the contemporary global order.

Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order
  4. Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

In 1949, as the end of the civil war loomed and the Communist triumph seemed certain, Mao Tse-tung famously declared that “China has stood up.” The CCP's victory was viewed as ending not only decades of on-and-off civil war, but also the Century of Humiliation itself.23 It was at this point that China is believed to have thrown off the shackles of its subjugated, backward past, such that, in the words of a current-day Politburo member, “the establishment of new China . . . put an end to the situation in which old China was split up, the nation was subject to humiliation, and the people experienced untold sufferings.”24

The establishment of long-elusive internal order meant that China could turn its attention to rebuilding its standing in the international arena. The Century of Humiliation provided a cautionary tale for Chinese elites interested in moving their nation forward. For the first several decades of the People's Republic, elites referenced China's experiences of subjugation and humiliation as a reason for being wary of close engagement with other nations. Referencing the experience of being “carved up,” they championed state sovereignty above all other values, and touted the principle of “non-interference in domestic affairs” as the basis for refusing to participate in any international actions seen to undermine it. Practically speaking, this has often meant a stance toward international activities that has been viewed as isolationist, withdrawn, or obstructionist. For instance, China's leaders have for many years presented their concern to respect territorial sovereignty as a primary rationale for not taking part in various multilateral activities and for abstaining from or vetoing various UN Security Council resolutions.25

Today, however, there is little doubt that China's leaders seek a prominent and even a central role in the international arena. Their growing advocacy of Chinese interaction with other nations and with multilateral institutions has led to vociferous debates about whether China can engage in this arena without sacrificing its sovereignty and its principles – and, if it can, what role China should seek in the international system today and in the future. These debates often reference the Century of Humiliation, indicating that that period retains a prominent position in China's memory. Yet there is little consensus on what the Century of Humiliation means for China's stance on the international system today.

Chinese elites today offer at least three views of how China should interact with other nation-states. All three use vocabulary and world views developed during the Century of Humiliation, and all start from the implicit premise that today's international system has not changed in its essence from the 19th century: the world is composed of strong and weak nation-states that vie for dominance on the global stage. They differ, however, on whether this state of affairs is permanent and on what global role China should seek. Some assert that the international system still revolves around Western interests that seek to subjugate and humiliate weaker nations. They suggest that China's leaders should tread cautiously in their interactions with the “strong nations” of the world. A second viewpoint suggests that the current system is acceptable now that China can play a prominent role in it. This view tends to soften the potentially harmful nature of a competitive international system, arguing that this dynamic can be sufficiently modified by tweaking existing institutions and practices. And a third line of reasoning suggests that China is in a unique position to fundamentally remake the international system precisely because its experiences of shame and subjugation have given the Chinese people an alternative vision of how international relations can and should be conducted.

Viewpoint #1: The International System is Harmful for China

While few advocate shunning all interaction, a substantial number of Chinese elites express discomfort about engaging substantially in the international system as it stands. In their view, China remains vulnerable. Such thinkers reference the Century of Humiliation as a major source of their anxieties about Western intentions: President Hu Jintao himself, in a 2004 speech on the main tasks of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), warned that “Western hostile forces have not given up the wild ambition of trying to subjugate us, intensifying the political strategy of Westernizing and dividing up China.”26 PLA Major General Zhu Chenghu has similarly explained (referring to the reasons for China's aggressive military modernization) that “in modern times China suffered over 100 years of being invaded. As the popular saying goes, once bitten by a snake, a person may be afraid of a rope for ten years.”27 Many Western scholars have examined the prevalence of a “victim narrative,” in which Chinese authors complain that Western powers have shown their past and continued determination to subjugate China.28

In addition to using the Century of Humiliation as a direct source of defensiveness, Chinese elites also take lessons from the broader understanding of international relations developed during that period to explain why China should be cautious today. They view international relations as a competitive, usually conflictual, dynamic between nations of unequal status. The competitive language of evolutionism has translated, in the current day, into a great interest in realist and neo-realist theories of international relations.29 Zhu Feng, professor at the School of International Relations at Peking University, recently echoed evolutionary language when he wrote that “international relations always involves the system of ‘competition and heavenly mandates, and the survival of the fittest.’ In world politics, the essence of power is always selfish.”30

These figures do not all accept realism as a general proposition, however. Some argue that the continued existence of a competitive, zero-sum system is not so much natural and universal – as their 19th century predecessors believed – as it is reflective of the worldview of Western powers. They suggest that US discomfort with China's rise derives from this understanding of global dynamics. Zhu Feng argues that, “The international relations theory and historical conclusion about the [risk to the West] of the rise of China were not created by China's experiences but have in fact evolved from Western experiences”– in other words, China's rise only threatens the West because the West itself believes that this is what will happen.31 Similarly, a think tank scholar argues that Western nations seek to prevent China's increasing global prominence because “[the Western nations'] own experience and the rise of all great powers in the past” make them “wary” of threats from a newly-rising power.32 They thus regard realism as a way of explaining Western behavior, while holding out the possibility that international relations need not follow this path.

These figures caution that engagement is highly risky. They assert that because the current international system reflects Western interests, it allows China to engage only as a way of protecting the Western-dominated status quo. Attempts by international institutions or individual Western nations to dictate how China should behave are simply more sophisticated ways of making “unequal demands” on China. Hence Ma Zhengang, director of the prominent think tank the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), has written that, “the international system today has lasted since the end of World War II, and is basically in line with the West's interests and standards . . . the various ‘demands’ always presented to China by the United States and other Western countries in the past have not fundamentally changed, they have just been renamed the ‘China responsibility theory.’ ”33 Similarly, at a 2008 conference on “The Concept of China's International Responsibilities,” a professor from the State Council Development Studies Center, “pointed out that the concept of ‘responsibility’ was first put forward by the colonialist countries; they had interests overseas that were making demands on them, so they demanded that responsibilities be undertaken.”34

As leader of the current international system, the USA bears the brunt of criticism. The most common accusation is that the USA is not willing to let China “rise,” and that US encouragement of China's participation in international organizations is to China's disadvantage. Hence, for instance, “some people are worried that certain countries, especially the United States, may take advantage [of the concept of international responsibility] to impose on China some responsibilities that it cannot undertake in its present stage of economic development, and use this to slow the speed of China's economic development.”35 Should China acquiesce to the US's demands that China shoulder international responsibilities equal to those of the USA, “[China's] vulnerability in China–US relations will increase.”36

A variant of this theme says that the USA is willing to work with a stronger China only because it is in the USA's interest to do so. Hence, for instance, one commentator suggested that Americans' interest in pursuing a closer relationship with China grows out of the USA's desire to solve problems such as climate change in order to maintain its own global standing, and to control China's growing influence over the US economy.37 The 2005 admonition of former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick that China should act as a “responsible stakeholder” in world affairs is is viewed as a challenge or a slap in the face, “hinting that China is not a responsible country at present,” and that “China can only be described as responsible if it works with the United States in maintaining the existing international order.”38 A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) researcher expressed concern that, “the US objective in wanting China to become a ‘stakeholder’ is to get China to undertake international responsibilities that accord with US national interests or ethical standards, hence China should not fall into this trap.”39

In this view, the international system is based on biased interests that cannot be adapted to accommodate a more powerful China. These thinkers argue that the events of the 19th and early 20th centuries prove that Western nations are fundamentally rapacious, greedy, and aggressive. Two academics from the Academy of Military Sciences, for instance, write that Western nations were historically “slave states [that] frequently launched wars of conquest and pillage to expand their territories, plunder wealth, and extend their sphere of influence,” and that this aggressive orientation continues to characterize the West today.40 Any international system that reflects Western civilizational norms is thus pre-committed to a conflictual, unequal dynamic that will prevent either cooperation or the rise of new powers. Such figures add that China does not yet have the power to challenge this status quo, expressing frustration that, as a professor from Beijing Normal University complained, “China is not satisfied with this arrangement, but lacks the capability to manipulate it.”41

Viewpoint #2: China can Work within the Current System

The second viewpoint assumes that China should seek a central role in today's international system, and centers on the terms under which China should participate. These thinkers argue that China is now in a position to successfully interact and compete with other strong nations. They suggest that growing recognition from, and equality or near-equality with, the great powers “erase” the humiliations of China's past. Some posit further that the system itself is evolving, with harsher elements of international competition tempered by multilateral institutions that affirm the equality of their members. They suggest that the current system can adapt to capture the interests and needs of even the weaker nations, and moreover that a powerful, engaged China may be in a position to spearhead such adaptations. In this view, China's robust participation in the present-day international system symbolizes both China's rise from past subjugation and its commitment to this system.

This view is reflected in the growing enthusiasm with which China has sought to join global institutions and negotiations. Chinese leaders have over the past decade become increasingly quick to declare their willingness to participate in multilateral activities to solve global problems, as exemplified in a 2009 statement by the PRC ambassador to the UN:

China [has] constructively participated in, and made important contributions to, the processes of resolving . . . international hot-spot issues . . . China strives to undertake international responsibilities and obligations, successively joined more than 130 governmental organizations, and signed more than 300 international multilateral treaties. China took part in 22 UN peacekeeping actions, cumulatively dispatched nearly 20 000 man-hours of peace-keeping personnel, and is now the country that has dispatched the most peacekeeping personnel among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.42

China's participation in intrusive activities like peacekeeping is particularly notable given its long-standing opposition to “interference” in other nations' domestic affairs. As Allen Carlson points out, although PRC leaders have carefully framed such activities as conforming to this principle, in fact they have “gradually modified China's stance on intervention and, by extension, sovereignty's role in international politics.”43 Statements by Chinese elites also suggest that at least some of them view certain interventionist diplomatic instruments as legitimate. One notable example is found in a discussion of North Korea's nuclearization and the apparent failure of the Six Party Talks; the author, the deputy director of Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), suggests that:

we should explore and introduce the idea of ‘coercive diplomacy’ and pool the common energy and wisdom of the [other] five parties . . . [Since the Cold War ended], in important regional security affairs, ‘coercive diplomacy’ has always been a basic means for resolving problems eventually.44

He adds that, in his view, the results of “coercive diplomacy” have not always been “conclusive” in instances such as the Kosovo War or the East Timor independence movement – instances in which China vociferously protested against international involvement – but goes on to say that it is still a better tool than any other available for dealing with the DPRK. Thus, while reserving judgment on past events, he expresses a willingness to consider, in some instances, diplomatic actions that go against earlier stated principles.

China's participation in such activities seems to indicate a degree of acquiescence to the present-day international system. Numerous policy and academic elites have stated a commitment to this system, saying that “as a newly rising great power, China needs more time to learn the rules of the game among the great powers and should respect and be sensitive to those rules,”45 and that China seeks to stabilize, rather than to upend, the current global order.46 Three beliefs explain their enthusiasm for joining today's international system.

The first is that China's increasing prominence both allows and obligates it to take on an influential role vis-à-vis other nations. In this view, China's successes indicate that it is no longer the “sick man of Asia”: these writers emphasize that “China has [recently] played an eye-catching role whether in global political and regional affairs or in world economic and financial development,”47 and that “to a certain extent, China has already become an indispensible important force in global political and economic affairs.”48 These thinkers assert that China's growing influence and power have fundamentally altered global power relations, such that its active participation is now needed to maintain the current order. Hence the authors of China's 2008 Defense White Paper declared – in a statement far stronger than in previous iterations of the biennial report – that:

China has become an important member of the international system, and the future and destiny of China have been increasingly closely connected with the international community. China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world, nor can the world enjoy prosperity and stability without China.49

China is thus depicted as having overcome the humiliations and subjugations of the past; indeed, some suggest that the very concept of “humiliation” has become defunct now that China is receiving the attention and recognition it has long craved. As one commentator wrote in China Daily after the conclusion of the successful Beijing Olympics, “having realized the ‘dream of the century’, perhaps it is time to relegate the ‘Century of Humiliation’ to history where it belongs. . . . The glow of the Games should have dispelled any lingering bitterness from the humiliating defeats China suffered at the hands of imperialist aggressors in the past century.”50

Chinese elites tout membership in multilateral organizations such as the G-20 by noting that it indicates that China is viewed not only as a partner but as an equal to other strong nations. A commentator on the 2009 US–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) wrote approvingly that, “The premise of ‘dialogue’ is equality, meaning that the status of both sides of the dialogue is equal. The essence of ‘dialogue’ is listening . . . [it] differs from negotiations in that it seeks as much mutual understanding as possible . . . ‘dialogue’ does not involve competition to gain the initiative.”51 Participation as an “equal” in global organizations and conversations shows that China is widely acknowledged to have overcome the inferior status under which it chafed for so many years, joining the ranks of the strong nations (or, as Liang Qichao would say, those that have a “color on the map”). Another commentator on the S&ED pointed out that:

the Obama administration understands the importance and the necessity for the United States as the biggest developed country to engage in cooperation with China, the biggest developing country . . .  In order to play an important role in major international and regional issues, the United States needs to cooperate with China, and the two should not cut the ground from under each others' feet or come into conflict with one another.52

The near-equalization of China's power with that of the greatest global “hegemon” means that China will no longer be forced into a losing competition.

Second, with their entrée to this elite club, many Chinese elites argue that China must participate in global conversations. They assert that with China's rising power comes not only the ability but also the responsibility to engage in a substantial way with other nations. In a sense, participation under the current rules of the international system is the price of membership; hence as an official from China's Ministry of Commerce noted, “China is an implementer and thorough participant in the current international setup; how China takes part in preserving and developing the current international order is an important step in striving for status as an equal member.”53 These figures suggest that as China's interests expand, so also should its willingness both to protect these interests and to uphold the system that allows it to do so: as one commentator recently wrote, “China's rapid development means that China possesses global interests and must also undertake more international obligations corresponding to its level of development.”54 These “obligations” include participating enthusiastically in existing international institutions and negotiations to address problems of global concern.

Most importantly, they include proving to the world that China is committed to the current system. Hence although the language of “responsible stakeholdership” ruffled feathers when first proposed, it since seems to have become a largely accepted term that China's leaders frequently use to display their good intentions and the progress they have made toward fulfilling global expectations of their expanded role.55 In a statement to the UN General Assembly in 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao explained China's participation in the Millennium Declaration in terms of China's willingness to act as a “responsible, large developing country,” and went on to list the many ways in which China has aided the least developed nations – thus taking on the role traditionally filled by the strong powers –“though [we are ourselves] not rich.”56

Third, the stated commitment of these Chinese elites to the current international system includes the critical caveat that they only support those aspects of it that protect against the sorts of “humiliations” that their nation suffered. Rather than taking for granted a conflictual, zero-sum vision of international politics, they argue that the world has evolved, such that competition need not lead to conflict. One scholar recently suggested that although nation-states still compete with one another, they no longer fight for survival but only for influence:

Offensive realism [i.e. a zero-sum view of international politics] . . . ignores the significance of process in international politics while insisting on the unchanged nature of states: 300 years ago, states struggled to survive; today, states are struggling to survive; 300 years later, states will struggle to survive. . . . Actually, since the advent of the Westphalian system in 1648 the death rate for members has fallen dramatically, despite continuing warfare and inequities of power. . . . Great powers do indeed compete with each other for allies, influence, economic opportunities and natural resources, but they seldom wage wars at will. . . . States do pursue survival, but most consider their right of survival not particularly endangered.57

The standards by which the actions of a strong nation are judged have thus changed, such that strong nations may no longer overrun the rights and interests of weak ones. While acknowledging a continued distinction between strong and weak nations, these thinkers stress the development of international institutions that mitigate the potentially harmful ramifications of this distinction. They posit further that China's increasingly strong position ensures both that China will not be harmed, and that, more generally, no single nation will be able to manipulate this system in favor of its own selfish interests as in the past. In this way, they assert, the international system may increasingly come to represent the interests of strong and weak nations, thus providing even the weak nations with a degree of equality and respect.

In this altered world, the critical foundation of interdependent, equality-based international relations is the principle of multilateralism. These thinkers portray multilateralism as “the main platform for discussing and coping with . . . major international issues”58 and as “an effective way to deal with common challenges facing humanity.”59 The UN is seen as the world's premiere practitioner of “multilateral diplomacy,” and is strongly supported by Chinese elites as a curb on strong nations. Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxin, for instance, is reported to have explained that, “the reason the United Nations was founded and UN Charter was written is so that future matters in the world cannot be dictated by one single country or a group of countries.”60 The UN is depicted as reflecting an international consensus that allows for legitimate intervention in state affairs under a limited, well-articulated set of conditions. When the PLA Navy sent out three ships to the Horn of Africa in December 2008 for anti-piracy operations, its representatives asserted that China's commitment to “safeguarding world peace and promoting common development” could be exercised through participation in international security activities provided that these were UN-led, multilateral operations.61

This new-found commitment to multilateralism includes a condemnation of the “unilateralism” that continues to characterize the actions of some nations. This applies to strong nations, of course – the US bears much criticism in this regard – but also to weaker ones. Hence Zhu Feng, in the discussion of North Korean nuclearization mentioned earlier, decries North Korea's “unilateralism”; he asserts that in abandoning the Six-Party Talks, the DPRK is

breaking the heart of the international forces represented by China which supported the DPRK's abandonment of nuclear weapons by allowing the satisfaction of the DPRK's reasonable national interests. The DPRK has disregarded the dignity of the Six Party Talks and the propriety of its own state behavior, stirred up disputes, aggravated the situation, ignored the international community's common desire for stability, cooperation, and prosperity . . . it has let down China, with all its sincerity in hosting the Six Party Talks. . . .62

In this view, multilateralism allows for the legitimate use of “coercive diplomacy” to rein in unilateralist states.

These three beliefs present, in sum, a somewhat contradictory set of commitments. On one hand, there is a commitment to upholding the stability of the existing system and maintaining essentially competitive interactions among nations. Those who hold this view suggest that the baser instincts of a competitive system can be curbed by multilateral institutions that were established by Western powers, and display pride in China's improved ability to essentially force cooperation with other nations through its growing international influence. On the other hand, they imply that the system is continuing to evolve, and that China can play a central role in this evolution, while remaining coy about whether the system might transform itself entirely in the future. For this question, we must turn to the third line of debate.

Viewpoint #3: China can Change the System

Finally, some figures propose that China can, in the longer run, “take part in amending and framing the international rules of the game” or even, “eventually become a framer of international rules,”63 creating and leading a new international system superior to the current one. This third view derives elements from both of the previously-discussed viewpoints: its adherents agree, with those who are suspicious of current arrangements, that the present-day international system is inadequate to meet the needs and interests of many nations including China; and they suggest, along with those in the second camp, that China is now in a position to actively shape the international system. However, where those two viewpoints accepted the 19th century premise that competition is inevitable, this one asserts that this premise is simply wrong.

One prominent PLA figure recently asserted – in direct contradiction of the “might makes right” dynamic embraced by many 19th century thinkers – that strength does not always equal victory, nor is war necessarily the right path to win international prominence: “In its most powerful times, the United States fought a war in Vietnam. While it was strong, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Yet both of these countries were eventually forced to withdraw in a disgraceful way.”64 China's call for a “New Security Concept” in 2002 generalized such conclusions to postulate that, “As proven by history, force cannot fundamentally resolve disputes and conflicts, and the security concept and regime based on the use of force and the threat to use force can hardly bring about lasting peace.”65 President Hu Jintao, in putting forth his vision of a “harmonious world” at a recent UN Assembly meeting, stated that, “Security is not a zero-sum game, and there is no isolated or absolute security,”66 and includes the term “win–win” as part of his long-term vision of international relations.

Such statements posit that conflictual, zero-sum relations between nations are disadvantageous even to nations that occupy a strong position in the system. They remark that the USA's continued adherence to what they label a “Cold War mentality”– that is, the view that strong nations must compete against one another – makes it impossible to establish cooperation or lasting peace.67 Instead, they say, the international system needs to be fundamentally remade to reflect those values that China has long articulated, first in its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and more recently in the “New Security Concept”: “dialogue,”“cooperation,” and “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.”68 In so doing, the world will move beyond “conventional alliance-based systems of security” and allow “states to treat each other as neither friend nor foe.”69

These thinkers assert that China is uniquely qualified to move the international system toward this non-conflictual, equality-based model. They believe that China can, and perhaps must, reshape the global system, saying that “the rise of China is bound to bring about a realignment of the international power structure, changes to the rules of the game, as well as redistribution of the wealth of the world.”70 Like their Qing predecessors they assert that there are fundamental civilizational differences between China and the West that shape the vision each has of international relations, but they now present China's perspective as superior. PLA Major General Zhu Chenghu asserts that China will be able to:

achieve, in a peaceful way, the goal [of international power and prestige] that cannot be achieved by means of war. . . . The United States and other Western countries . . . themselves took the course of expansion by means of war, so they thought that China would take the same course as it developed. In fact, China can become more ‘introverted’[neixiang; inline image, i.e. focused on internal issues] even as it becomes more powerful.71

Some of these figures claim that an orientation toward “peace and harmony” has always been a fundamental part of Chinese culture. Daniel Lynch notes the assertion of one prominent Party member that China traditionally conducted its relations with other nations on the basis of Confucian concepts such as “benevolence, propriety, morality and harmony,” and that this view was shattered only by its negative interactions with the Western powers and Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries.72 President Hu Jintao's vision of a “harmonious world” is often depicted as deriving from ancient Chinese principles.73

Many others, however, argue that the source of China's superiority lies not in age-old cultural characteristics but rather in its own experiences during the Century of Humiliation. They posit that China is uniquely qualified because of its experiences as a humiliated nation to create a future world order based on a different set of principles. By relying on what one scholar of Chinese nationalism has called “the moral authority of their past suffering,” Chinese elites are able to suggest that they are more committed to peace and equality than are the Western nations, and thus are better-suited to come up with a new international system that would safeguard the rights of all nations.74 Hence, when a member of the National People's Congress in 2007 again proposed the creation of a “national humiliation day” to commemorate Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, he explained that, “An outstanding nation is one that will always keep its history firmly in mind . . . Remembering the humiliating part of history will help Chinese people feel urged to safeguard peace. . . .”75

Such commentators acknowledge that past “rising powers” have fallen into the same conflictual dynamic that characterized 19th century relations, but claim that China will do things differently. The PRC ambassador to Britain explained the roots of China's superior vision thus:

On the question of why would China be an exception since all the powers in history claimed hegemony, Fu said hegemony was neither part of China's culture and tradition, nor its immediate and long-term interest. China has never been a country that enjoyed war. The essence of Chinese culture opposes aggression and hegemony . . . The Chinese people were victims of aggression and bullying, and will never agree to make their own country one of hegemony. The development and power of China today was not achieved through war. Rather, it was achieved through equitable trade and cooperation with the rest of the world. Hegemony is definitely not an approach that best meets China's interests.76

This vision suggests a contrast not only to Western-originated great power politics, but also to earlier Chinese visions of international relations. As we saw previously, Mao in his 1949 speech claimed that there was no “third way”– all nations must take sides in the epic struggle between communism and capitalism. Yet today, according to one Chinese think tank scholar, the PRC may act as a model that can “provide valuable guidelines for a world looking for a ‘third way.’ ”77 The New Security Concept calls on all nations to “discard the old way of thinking and replace it with new concepts and means to seek and safeguard security,” to “seek common security through mutually beneficial cooperation,” and to adhere to principles of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.”78 Many of China's elites believe that by adhering to these principles, the world can finally move ahead to the “great peace” postulated so long ago.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order
  4. Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

China's elites today hold a fairly consistent view of where China has come from, but diverge significantly on where it is going. The three viewpoints presented in this paper portray strikingly different visions of how China should engage with the world, today and in the future. Yet all three employ the Century of Humiliation not only as a historical touchstone for China's aspirations, but also as a source of assertions and debates about what is possible and desirable in international relations. The 19th- and early 20th-century beliefs that the international arena is conflictual and that different civilizations have different capacities to prevail, and the questions about whether equality and peace are possible, all remain central to contemporary discussions about China's role in the world.

Today's elites draw on China's experiences during the Century of Humiliation, just as their Qing and republican predecessors did, to explain why China was left behind during the 19th and 20th centuries. For late Qing intellectuals, the lesson to be drawn from these experiences was that China had been forced into a world of evolution, competition, and inequality. Peace might lie on the other end of this history, but only after an unavoidable and protracted struggle among nations. There was no way forward to the “great peace” except through war. As a weak nation, China needed to build its internal capacities to stave off future indignities by the “strong nations.” The Western-dominated international system that had so subjugated China was viewed with suspicion, and early PRC leaders refused to engage with other countries on the “unequal,” competitive terms that they believed characterized this system. Hence China's long-touted “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” coined by then-Premiere Zhou Enlai in 1953 and enshrined in China's constitution in 1982, assert that China will only engage with other nations when their interactions are conducted according to the principles of “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.”79 For those Chinese elites who did not believe – and still do not believe – that Western powers are capable of engaging with China as equals, these principles necessitate limited interaction.

As China's prominence on the world stage has grown, however, its elites have increasingly come to question the premises that drove this reluctance. Many still accept that competition lies at the heart of relations between nations, but believe that China can now successfully compete with the strongest powers. They leave open, however, the question of whether competition inevitably results in the downgrading of some nations' status as others rise; although one Western scholar has claimed that the Chinese view of today's world is that nations must “humiliate or be humiliated,”80 in fact many Chinese elites suggest that rising nations can bring others along with them. Their vision hinges on an essential shift from the Qing view of competition: it surmises that a form of “equality” among nations can be achieved even as nation-states contend over influence and resources. Others argue that the very notion of international competition is a historical vestige, created by Western powers based on their own experiences, but inapplicable to the current era. These figures posit that China is uniquely qualified to lead the world into a better future. They assert that China's experiences of humiliation and shame provide it with a clearer understanding than other nations of the price of inequality and the value of peace, and argue that the goals of global peace and equality cannot be attained under the current, Western-originated international system.

The basic questions of how nations should interact and whether international peace is feasible are not unique to the Chinese. While the vocabularies and debates through which they explore these issues are historically specific, drawing on the concerns and worldviews of their Qing- and republican-era predecessors, examination of elite rhetoric suggests that many of the basic foundations of the Western-founded international system are not under question. Chinese elites still discuss foreign policy in terms of China's “national interest”; they do not question the existence of nation-states; and one of their most precious principles, that of state sovereignty, is largely derived from the Western concept of the state that was scrutinized so carefully by Qing intellectuals. As China's international influence grows still further, its elites will continue to draw on both the theories of the past and the realities of the present in order to determine what behavior befits a great power.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Century of Humiliation: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order
  4. Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World?
  5. Conclusion
  6. References
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  • Zhu, Feng, “Zhongguo Jueqi: Zhuding Shi Monan de Licheng” [China's Rise: Destined to be a Process of Tribulation], Lüye, (24 May 2008) at <http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4bbb81fb01009g3u.html> (searched date: 12 January 2010).
  • Zhu, Feng, “Erci Heshi Hou de Chao Heweiji: Liufang Huitan Yu ‘Qiangzhi Waijiao’ ” [The DPRK Nuclear Crisis after the Second Nuclear Test: The Six Party Talks and “Coercive Diplomacy”], Xiandai Guoji Guanxi, 2009-07 (July 2009), pp. 4450.
Footnotes
  • 1

    Li Nan, “ ‘Zhongguo de guoji zeren guan’ yanjiuhui zongshu”[Summary of Seminar on “The Concept of China's International Responsibility”], Dangdai Yatai 2008–06 (November/December 2008), p. 151.

  • 2

    Liu Yunshan (Politburo member), “Jifa aiguo reqing, zhenfen minzu jingshen, ningju renmin liliang”[Stimulate a passion for patriotism, inspire national spirit, and pool the people's efforts], transcript of a public speech, Renmin Ribao (14 April 2009), p. 2.

  • 3

    Richard Harris, “China and the World,”International Affairs, 35-2 (April 1959), p. 162.

  • 4

    See, e.g. Xu Jianjun and He Shaohua, eds, Daxue Junshi Jiaocheng[College Military Course of Study] (Changsha: Zhongnan University Press, 2004); “ ‘Fayang youliang chuantong chongsu zhanli’-Ma Zongtong guofang zhengce zhidao xili zhi er”[President Ma's National Defense Policy Guidance Series, Article Two: Carry Forward Outstanding Traditions, Rebuild Fighting Spirit], Qingnian Ribao (9 February 2009), at <http://news.gpwb.gov.tw/newsgpwb_2009/news.php?css=2&rtype=9&nid=74998> (searched date: 7 July 2009). William Callahan similarly notes that, “It would not be an exaggeration to argue that the master narrative of modern Chinese history is the discourse of the century of national humiliation.”William A. Callahan, “National Insecurities: Humiliation, Salvation and Chinese Nationalism,”Alternatives, 29-2 (2004), p. 204.

  • 5

    China Fails to Designate National Humiliation Day,”Renmin Ribao (29 April 2001), at <http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/english/200104/29/eng20010429_68888.html> (searched date: 20 August 2009); Callahan, “National Insecurities,”op. cit.; William A. Callahan, “Historical Legacies and Non/Traditional Security: Commemorating National Humiliation Day in China,” Paper presented at Renmin University, Beijing, April 2004, at <http://www.durham.ac.uk/resources/china.studies/Commemorating National Humiliation Day in China.pdf> (searched date: 3 February 2010).

  • 6

    Callahan, “National Insecurities,”op. cit., p. 202.

  • 7

    Orville Schell, “China: Humiliation and the Olympics,”The New York Review of Books, 55-13 (14 August 2008), at <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21715> (searched date: 22 August 2009).

  • 8

    On the use of the Century of Humiliation to justify popular anti-foreign nationalism, see, e.g. the work of Peter Hays Gries, particularly “Narratives to Live By: The ‘Century of Humiliation’ and Chinese National Identity Today,” in Lionel M. Jensen and Timothy B. Weston, eds., China's Transformations: The Stories Beyond the Headlines (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), pp. 112–128; China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004). See also Callahan, “National Insecurities,”op. cit.; Paul A. Cohen, China Unbound: Evolving Perspectives on the Chinese Past (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), pp. 148–184.

  • 9

    See Rebecca E. Karl, Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), Chapter 6, for a discussion of Qing formulations of the relationship between China and Japan.

  • 10

    Joseph R. Levenson, Confucian China and its Modern Fate: The Problem of Intellectual Continuity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966); Young-tsu Wong, “Remolders of Tradition: Reformist Thought in Nineteenth Century China,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1971); Y.C. Wang, Chinese Intellectuals and the West, 1872–1949 (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1966); Lin Yü-sheng, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Anti-Traditionalism in the May Fourth Era (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979).

  • 11

    Liang Qichao, “Xinmin Shuo”[On the New Citizen], in Liang Qichao, Yinbingshi Zhuanji 4 [Collected Works from the Ice-Drinker's Studio Volume 4] (Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju Yinxing, 1936), p. 1.

  • 12

    Liang Qichao, “On the New Citizen,”op. cit., p. 18, 22.

  • 13

    The basis on which nation-states would be able to successfully compete against one another was usually thought to be rooted in domestic political organization. See, e.g. Alison Adcock Kaufman, “Adapting the West: The Syncretism of Liang Qichao's ‘On the New Citizen’ ” (Paper presented to the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, 2–5 September 2004), pp. 24–28. The link between domestic political organization and international competitiveness is a key element of political debates inside China both during the Qing period and today, though they lie outside the scope of this paper.

  • 14

    For more on the “might makes right” formulation of these theories, particularly in the work of Baron Kato Hiroyuki, who heavily influenced some Chinese thinkers of this period, see Michio Nagai, “Herbert Spencer in Early Meiji Japan,”The Far Eastern Quarterly, 14-1 (1954), pp. 55–64; Don C. Price, “From Might to Right: Liang Qichao and the Comforts of Darwinism in Late-Meiji Japan,” in Joshua A. Fogel, ed., The Role of Japan in Liang Qichao's Introduction of Modern Western Civilization to China (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, 2004), pp. 68–102.

  • 15

    Mao Tse-tung, “On The People's Democratic Dictatorship,” speech given in commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 30 June 1949, in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. 4 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1969), pp. 411–424, at <http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4-65.htm> (searched date: 7 July 2009) emphasis added.

  • 16

    From Yan Fu, “Lun Shibian Zhiji”[On the Urgency of Change in the World] (1895) quoted in James Reeve Pusey, China and Charles Darwin (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, 1983), p. 51.

  • 17

    See, e.g, Young-tsu Wong, Search for Modern Nationalism: Zhang Binglin and Revolutionary China, 1869–1936 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989).

  • 18

    Liang Qichao, “Selections from Diary of Travels through the New World,” transl. Janet Ng, Earl Tai and Jesse Dudley, Renditions, 53/54 (2000), p. 209; Kevin Scott Wong, “Encountering the Other: Chinese Immigration and Its Impact on Chinese and American Worldviews, 1875–1905,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan, 1992).

  • 19

    Zhitian Luo details the way that Chinese students overseas reacted to their government's acquiescence to Japan's “21 Demands” in 1915, declaring that “they would rather die as fighters than live as slaves.”Zhitian Luo, “National Humiliation and National Assertion: The Chinese Response to the Twenty-One Demands,”Modern Asian Studies, 27-2 (May 1993), p. 302.

  • 20

    Dong Wang, “The Discourse of Unequal Treaties in Modern China,”Pacific Affairs, 76-3 (Fall 2003), pp. 403–405. Wang's article provides an excellent overview of the way that a concern with “equality” and “mutual respect”– or their absence – became central to Chinese national identity during the 1920s.

  • 21

    Mao Tse-tung, “On the People's Democratic Dictatorship,”op. cit., emphasis added.

  • 22

    For more background on Kang's great work on the “Great Peace,” as well as a (contested) translation of the work itself, see Kang Youwei, Ta T'ung Shu: The One World Philosophy of K'ang Yu-wei, transl. from the Chinese with introduction and notes by Laurence G. Thompson (Norwich, UK: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1958).

  • 23

    It is not quite as simple as this; Peter Hays Gries notes, for instance, that there are in fact several dates that vie for the title of the official “end of the Century of Humiliation,” including the Korean War (which the CCP and PLA to this day say that China won). See Gries in Jensen & Weston, op. cit., p. 118.

  • 24

    Liu Yunshan, “Stimulate a passion for patriotism. . . . ” See also, e.g. Li Changchun, “Ba xin Zhongguo chengli 60 zhounian qingzhu huodong de baogui jingshen caifu zhuanhua wei kaichuang Zhongguo tese shehui zhuyi shiye xin jumian de qiangda jingshen liliang”[Convert the Precious Spiritual Treasure of the Activities to Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of New China Into Great Spiritual Power for the Creation of a New Situation in the Cause of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics], Renmin Ribao (26 October 2009), op. cit., p. 2.

  • 25
  • 26

    Hu Jintao, “Renqing xinshiji xinjieduan wojun lishi shiming”[Understand the New Historic Missions of our Military in the New Period of the New Century], 24 December 2004 at <http://gfjy.jiangxi.gov.cn/HTMNew/11349.htm> (searched date: 11 July 2008).

  • 27

    Wu Yurong, “Meiguo yaoqiu Zhongguo duideng junshi touming bu heli, ye wufa shixian”[The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible], Dongfang Zaobao (13 November 2009).

  • 28

    See especially the works of Peter Hays Gries, supra note 8.

  • 29

    See, e.g. Daniel Lynch, “Chinese Thinking on the Future of International Relations: Realism as the Ti, Rationalism as the Yong?”China Quarterly, 197 (March 2009), particularly pp. 98–99; Lei Guang, “Realpolitik Nationalism: International Sources of Chinese Nationalism,” Modern China, 31-4 (October 2005), pp. 487–514.

  • 30

    Zhu Feng, “Zhongguo jueqi: Zhuding shi monan de licheng”[China's Rise: Destined to be a Process of Tribulation], Lüye (24 May 2008), at <http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4bbb81fb01009g3u.html> (searched date: 12 January 2010).

  • 31
  • 32

    Cui Liru, “China's Rise vs. International Order Evolution,”Xiandai Guoji Guanxi[English language edition], 18-1 (January–February 2008), p. 5.

  • 33

    Ma Zhengang, “Zhongguo de zeren yu ‘Zhongguo zeren lun’ ”[China's Responsibility and the ‘China Responsibility Theory’], Guoji Wenti Yanjiu 2007–03 (May–June 2007), p. 2.

  • 34

    Ding Yifan, paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit. p. 152.

  • 35

    Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit.

  • 36

    Wang Te-chen, “Zhong-Mei yuedi duihua zhuanjia cheng yiti guangfan”[China–US Dialogue Will Start Toward the End of This Month; Expert Says the Subjects Will be Wide-Ranging], Da Gong Bao (22 July 2009).

  • 37

    Xiang Lanxin, “G2 dui Meiguo yiwei kan shenme?”[What does the G2 Mean to the United States?], Huanqiu Shibao (4 June 2009), p. 14.

  • 38

    Guan Shaopeng, professor at the School of Diplomacy, paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit. pp. 151–152.

  • 39

    Zhou Qi, paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit., p. 150.

  • 40

    Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, eds, The Science of Military Strategy[English translation] (Beijing: Military Science Press, 2005), p. 93.

  • 41

    Liu Jinghua, paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit., p. 152.

  • 42

    Zhang Yesui (PRC Ambassador to the UN), “Nuli kaichuang duobian waijiao xin jumian (Zhuwai dashi tan waijiao er)”[Strive to Create a New Situation in Multilateral Diplomacy: Part 2 of Chinese Ambassadors on Diplomacy], Renmin Ribao (24 July 2009), p. 14.

  • 43

    Allen Carlson, “Helping to Keep the Peace (Albeit Reluctantly): China's Recent Stance on Sovereignty and Multilateral Intervention,”Pacific Affairs, 77-1 (Spring 2004), p. 10.

  • 44

    Feng Zhu, “Erci heshi hou de Chao heweiji: Liufang huitan yu ‘qiangzhi waijiao’ ”[The DPRK Nuclear Crisis after the Second Nuclear Test: The Six Party Talks and “Coercive Diplomacy”], Xiandai Guoji Guanxi, 2009-07 (July 2009), p. 47.

  • 45

    Shen Yi, “Consensus Based on Mutual Respect and Equality: the Cornerstone of ‘Strategic Reassurance,”Pacnet, 73A (12 November 2009), p. 1; at <http://csis.org/files/publication/pac0973a.pdf> (searched date: 29 December 2009).

  • 46

    Niu Xinchun, “The Coming Sino–U.S. Clash? – A Review of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi[English language edition], 18-2 (March–April 2008), p. 89.

  • 47

    Zhang Rui, “Zhong-Mei zhanlüe yu jingji duihua de liangdian yu kandian”[Highlights and Viewpoints on the Sino–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue], Zhongguo Jingji Shibao (30 July 2009), at <http://www.cet.com.cn/20090730/l1.htm> (searched date: 12 August 2009).

  • 48
  • 49

    Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's National Defense in 2008 (Beijing: Information Office of the State Council, 2009), “Preface,” English translation online at <http://english.gov.cn/official/2009-01/20/content_1210227.htm> (searched date: 3 March 2009) emphasis added.

  • 50

    Hong Liang, “Time to Drop the Baggage of History,”China Daily (2 September 2008), at <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2008-09/02/content_6988865.htm> (searched date: 19 November 2008).

  • 51

    Lu Ning, “Zhong-Mei zhanlüe yu jingji duihua kaishi ‘pingqi pingzuo’ ”[China–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue Begins on an “Equal Footing”], Beijing Qingnian Bao (29 July 2009), at <http://bjyouth.ynet.com/article.jsp?oid=54473637> (searched date: 23 August 2009).

  • 52

    Zhang Rui, “Highlights and Viewpoints on the Sino–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue,”op. cit., emphasis added.

  • 53

    Zhong Chuanshui, paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit. p. 154.

  • 54

    Zhang Rui, op. cit.

  • 55

    See, e.g., a recent commentary by Shen Yi, professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai's Fudan University, who gives a number of examples to prove that “China has done a lot to prove that it wants to be a responsible great power.”Shen Yi, “Consensus Based on Mutual Respect and Equality,”op. cit.

  • 56

    Wen Jiabao, Speech at the UN High-Level Meeting on Millennium Development Goals, New York (25 September 2008), at <http://www.nyconsulate.prchina.org/eng/xw/t515274.htm> (searched date: 19 December 2009).

  • 57

    Niu Xinchun, “The Coming Sino–U.S. Clash?”op. cit., pp. 87–88.

  • 58

    Zhang Yesui, “Strive to Create a New Situation in Multilateral Diplomacy,”op. cit.

  • 59

    Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxin, quoted in “China denounces unilaterism [sic], external interference in its internal affairs,”Renmin Ribao (7 March 2004), at <http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200403/07/print20040307_136759.html> (searched date: 3 February 2010).

  • 60

    Ibid.

  • 61

    The General Political Department of the PLA, “Di wu jiang: wei weihu shijie yu cujin gongtong fazhan fahui zhongyao zuoyong”[Lesson Five: Giving Play to the Importance of Safeguarding World Peace and Promoting Common Development], National Defense Education website of Yichun City, Jiangxi (June 2006), at <http://www.ycgfjy.com/Article_show.asp?ArticleID=2284> (searched date: 10 September 2009).

  • 62

    Zhu Feng, “The DPRK Nuclear Crisis after the Second Nuclear Test,”op. cit., emphasis added.

  • 63

    Rear Admiral Yang Yi, Sr. Colonel He Congnian, both paraphrased in Li Nan, “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China's International Responsibility’,”op. cit. pp. 154–155.

  • 64

    Wu Yurong, “The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible,”op. cit.

  • 65

    China's Position Paper on the New Security Concept,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China (31 July 2002), at <http://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/gjs/gjzzyhy/2612/2614/t15319.htm> (searched date: 16 August 2009).

  • 66

    Chinese President Calls for Building Harmonious World,” Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America (24 September 2009), at <http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/t607038.htm> (searched date: 24 October 2009).

  • 67

    See, e.g. Xia Liping, “Lun Zhongguo guoji xin linian zhong de xin anquan guan”[The New Security Concept in China's New Thinking of International Strategy], Guoji Wenti Luntan, 34 (Spring 2004), pp. 4–23, English translation at <http://www.irchina.org/en/news/view.asp?id=317> (searched date: 20 August 2009).

  • 68
  • 69

    Shi Jing, “Getting China Right: The Chinese World Order and Asia–Pacific Regional Integration,”Xiandai Guoji Guanxi[English language edition], 18–6 (November–December 2008), p. 86.

  • 70

    Zhu Feng, “China's Rise: Destined to be a Process of Tribulation,”op.cit.

  • 71

    Wu Yurong, “The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible,”op.cit.

  • 72

    Daniel Lynch, “Chinese Thinking on the Future of International Relations,”op. cit., p. 96.

  • 73

    See, e.g. the essay on “Harmonious World: China's Ancient Philosophy,” (5 October 2007) posted to the websites of Chinese embassies worldwide, at <http://mu.china-embassy.org/eng/xwdt/t369665.htm> and <http://na.chineseembassy.org/eng/xwdt/t410254.htm> (searched date: 20 January 2010), etc.

  • 74

    Peter Hays Gries, China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy, quoted in Schell, “Humiliation and the Olympics,”op. cit., p. 50.

  • 75

    China Calls for ‘Humiliation Day,” Associated Press (16 March 2007), <http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2007/03/15/3756318.html> (searched date: 3 February 2010).

  • 76

    Ambassador Fu Ying, “Is China a Power? – Ambassador Fu Ying's Speech at Oxford University” (18 May 2009), at the website of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland <http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/ce/ceuk/eng/sghd/t563034.htm> (searched date: 9 August 2009).

  • 77

    Jiang Yong, “China and the World Can Enjoy Co-prosperity,”Xiandai Guoji Guanxi[English language edition], 19-1 (January–February 2009), p. 18.

  • 78
  • 79

    China's leaders have openly admitted that these principles stem directly from China's own loss of sovereignty during the Century of Humiliation. See, e.g. Ding Yuanhong, (former Ambassador of China to EU and Council Member of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs), “Hexie shijie yu Zhong-Mei guanxi”[A Harmonious World and the China–U.S. Relations (sic)], Heping yu Fazhan, 2007-04 pp. 1–3; Wen Jiabao, “China Committed to Reform and Opening Up,” Speech at General Debate of 63rd Session of UN General Assembly (26 September 2008), at <http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zmgx/t515276.htm> (searched date: 9 December 2009).

  • 80

    Callahan, “National Insecurities,”op. cit., p. 202.