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Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (Contemporary Asia in the World) Hardcover – July 31, 2012
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A valuable, and often lively, account of a crucial aspect of modern China. (Gideon Rachman Financial Times)
A future world where the Chinese are at peace with their own past seems a long way away. But that is the place, as this useful study of such a difficult area, where we need to get to. (Kerry Brown Asian Review of Books)
This work is highly recommended for general readers as well as Asia scholars. It is a must for any serious library collection on Asia. Essential. (Choice)
A must-read for anyone interested in post-Tiananmen Chinese nationalism. (Robert Weatherley e-IR)
Wang gives us a critically important book that provides a solid blueprint for understanding contemporary China. (Daniel Metraux Virginia Review of Asian Studies)
A timely addition to the fast-expanding literature on Chinese nationalism. (Xiangfeng Yang Pacific Affairs)
a vivid and well-informed study of post-Mao nationalism and Chinese foreign policy... (Edward Friedman China Quarterly)
A timely and well-researched book, Never Forget National Humiliation qualifies as a landmark in the study of Chinese nationalism. (H-Diplo)
About the Author
Zheng Wang is an associate professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and a global fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
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It was clear before reading Wang's work that China's fall from the center of power and culture in Asia to a heavily penetrated near colony with the events that followed the first Opium War was traumatic and a central event. However, Wang opens new ground by documenting how this trauma was used as a unifying theme by China's leaders in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre when there was no other available ideology that could effectively attract cohesion and broad public support. Certainly the communist themes previously used by the party suffered
a lack of credibility as disparities in incomes and minimal worker protections took hold after the shift to the Four Modernizations. Wang documents carefully how the state inculcated this nationalistic theme through school curriculums and also at major public events. It explains perfectly why younger educated Chinese have become so stridently nationalistic. It also explains the apparent current broad base of support for Xi Jinxing's nationalism. This is an important work.
One consequence of the new nationalism based on "National Humiliation" is that some in the Chinese leadership want revenge against Japan and the West for all the wrongs committed by these foreigners. Some Chinese military have even written novels about fantasies they've had about launching attacks against Japan or the Europeans. This is pretty graphic stuff. There's also the problem that being wed to the past has resulted in a foreign policy that incorporates elements of the former tributary state system. This is a problem since former tributaries are now sovereign states with options to ally with one another or with the West. China no longer rules "all under heaven" for these neighbors. As a result China will have to accept that their regional power will not be hegemonic but rather the sort of dominant position that the U.S. has in the Americas. While the U.S. is certainly respected most states in the Americas are free to reach out beyond the region for economic or other reasons. In fact, China has had growing influence in Latin America. In the same fashion Japan and the ASEAN countries will continue to cut deals with the U.S. and EU despite any Chinese misgivings.
I agree with Wang that the best course for the West is to engage China rather than contain it. After all, capitalism and global economics are still relatively new to China so they can use technical support from more experienced partners. While the West should engage China, China itself would be well advised to mute all the "foreign devil" "big nose" thinking and learn that living well is the best revenge. Being a rich, dominant power in Asia will be a good thing as opposed to the conflict that will surely result from vengeful action as payback. . Mandela's administration in South Africa is a good analogy from domestic politics. By contrast, Nouri al Maliki's Iraq is a perfect example of the conflict and disorder that result from revenge. China would be well advised to follow the former model as they rise.
This book allows you to do that, and to understand that if any international competition comes down to a battle of political wills, the CCP has built a powerful polity based on a constructed history that encourages sacrifice and obedience so that "national rejuvenation" can be realized. Whether this is done for good or ill is a whole other matter, but suffice to say, this book will give the impression that China feels justified taking whatever steps are necessary to redress the anomaly of its weakness in the recent past and regain its predominance in Asia and the world.
Most recent customer reviews
Wang Zheng's work is an academic piece in the best sense; he careful lays out the components that must be considered in passing judgments on a nation...Read more