Nationalism In China

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Nationalism played a central role in China’s path to modernity. Numerous scholars have discussed the role nationalism played in transitioning from imperial to today’s China. In many ways and across various regimes, nationalism has been a mean of legitimacy for the authorities. But today, when millions of young Chinese protest in the streets during the Beijing Olympic Torch relay in 2008, the Chinese state has to maintain China’s place on the international scene, as well as dealing with popular nationalists claims. This casts doubts on the idea that nationalism is still an essential source of regime legitimacy today. In this essay, I will demonstrate that if the Chinese Communist Party benefits today from a certain legitimacy inherited from…show more content…
Nationalism did not exist in ancient China. Until the nineteenth century, China was completely isolated from the Western powers. In that way, the Chinese state was not built within a Westphalian system as it did in Europe. The first step of the creation of the Chinese nation is described by Townsend as the “culturalism to nationalism” thesis: the Chinese identity is derived from the culture, and not from a political entity. The idea is that the strong Chinese cultural identity is consistent, despite all the possible different rulers. According to Townsend, the two principles that (i) China was the only true civilization and (ii) rulers led within the Confucian principles, allowed some areas to be led by non Chinese, for example the Mongolians and the Manchus. In that sense, China was described as a “civilization state pretending to be a nation-state” by Lucian Pye . The traditional Chinese self-image is thus defined as “culturalism”, which implies for Kunikida Doppo that China is “ devoid of national consciousness”. This sense of cultural superiority was challenged with the arrival of Western countries and the Opium…show more content…
The great China experienced the humiliation from the West, and reacted on it. In that sense, nationalism and the birth of a nation-state are very modern concepts for China. Joseph Whiley describes China’s shift from a “cultural entity to a political entity”. The origin of this shift are the various crisis that followed the nation humiliation after the Chinese defeat by the British in the 1840-1842 Opium War, and the by the Japanese during the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese war. These defeats are the first confrontation of the traditional Chinese self-image to an expanding West, and the Chinese leaders discovered the utility of nationalism and other western ideas, such as Western technology and

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