The “Century of Humiliation,” Then and Now: Chinese Perceptions of the International Order

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Alison Adcock Kaufman

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.
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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
* An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Toronto. The author thanks Robert Adcock, Thomas Bickford, Avery Goldstein, and Karrie Koesel for their comments on that paper. The opinions presented in this paper are my own and do not represent the views of CNA. Pacific Focus, Vol. XXV, No. 1 (April 2010), 1–33. doi: 10.1111/j.1976-5118.2010.01039.x © 2010 Center for International Studies, Inha University

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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. Key words: century of humiliation, international system, Chinese foreign policy, US–China relations, competition, Qing Dynasty.

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; ), 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
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.

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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; ) the shame of the past.8

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

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pp. the Party. when the British government forced China to open its ports to the opium trade. and governmentaffiliated think tanks and research organizations. Both explicitly and implicitly. The litany of indignities Transformations: The Stories Beyond the Headlines (Lanham. 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: Subjugation as Part of the Natural Order The Century of Humiliation opened in 1839–42. MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Inha University . the reasons that nations succeed or fail in the international arena. but a source of beliefs about how the world works. 112–128. 148–184. See also Callahan. China’s New Nationalism: Pride.4 / Pacific Focus While acknowledging the prevalence of the Century of Humiliation narrative as a rhetorical tool for shaping and directing Chinese nationalism. 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 military. cit.” op. 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. The Century of Humiliation presents not just a cautionary tale about past experiences. pp. 2004). © 2010 Center for International Studies. Chinese elites still use the vocabulary and questions developed during that period to interpret the dynamics of international relations today. 2006). China Unbound: Evolving Perspectives on the Chinese Past (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon. 2003).. while acknowledging that different arguments have held stronger sway at different times. Politics. This paper focuses rather on the universe of possible arguments that have been proposed in China in recent years. Paul A. “National Insecurities.g. and Diplomacy (Berkeley. CA: University of California Press. By “elites.” I refer to high-ranking members of the government. 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. 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. Cohen. whether certain institutions tend to favor one line of interpretation over another). Contemporary arguments about the nature of competition among nations.

The events of this period marked China’s abrupt transition from a powerful. then and now. Chapter 6. Inha University . 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. ) by foreign powers and whose army had been humiliated. 2002). Yet starting in the 1840s China was compelled by force of arms into a semi-colonial position. Japan now showed itself to be far better at adapting to the modern world. Manchuria. as marking an irrevocable break in China’s historical trajectory.9 9. China was riven throughout the 19th century by massive rebellions and uprisings. Karl. including ports along the coast and theYangtze River.“Century of Humiliation. Prior to this point. NC: Duke University Press. The Opium War and all that followed were viewed. as China’s nominally republican government found itself unable to control large swaths of the country. See Rebecca E. This shame was further compounded in the 1910s and ’20s by independence movements in Tibet and Mongolia and by further Japanese incursions into Manchuria. and their familiarity with any civilization outside of Asia was minimal. and Taiwan. China lost nearly a third of its territory of effective control. Internally. proud. The eventual collapse of the millennia-old imperial system in 1911 led only to more political and social chaos. Hong Kong. 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. © 2010 Center for International Studies. China’s rulers had sat comfortably at the center of a ring of tributary relationships.” Then and Now / 5 that China suffered at the hands of foreigners during this period is long and well known. for a discussion of Qing formulations of the relationship between China and Japan. and unified state to one whose territory was “carved up like a melon” (guafen. 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. an “older brother” from whose culture Japan had derived its own. ceding large pieces of its territory to Western nations and Japan. Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Durham. 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. During this period. 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. Where Chinese rulers and intellectuals had before had little concept of an “international” arena.

Zhang Binglin. 1979). © 2010 Center for International Studies. Traditionally. Yan Fu. Confucian China and its Modern Fate: The Problem of Intellectual Continuity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Inha University .D. As a result. Y. China’s loss of regional power was taken to mean that China had lost its moral “mandate” over its neighboring states. how many are able to occupy a ‘color’ [i. NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1966). as these figures imported large numbers of foreign texts. Two lines of conversation followed. 1971). The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Anti-Traditionalism in the May Fourth Era (Madison. Chinese Intellectuals and the West. . 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. and the means by which China might regain a strong position within Asia and in the world. One concerned China’s internal conditions. Young-tsu Wong. be marked out as a sovereign nation] on a map of five continents? I say: only about a hundred 10. Wang. China had fallen behind while Europe and Japan had surged forward. the reasons why Japan had been able to adapt to the Western incursion while China had not. University of Washington. Lin Yü-sheng. philosophical. and others – sought the source of China’s weakness relative to the Western powers. In 1902 Liang Qichao asserted in his famous work “On the New Citizen” (Xinmin Shuo.C. ) 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 . “Remolders of Tradition: Reformist Thought in Nineteenth Century China.6 / Pacific Focus These experiences cemented a conviction that China lacked the resources and knowledge to successfully integrate itself into the modern international system. or cultural. moral. social. Dissertation. Liang Qichao.10 The second line of discussion centered on the nature of the international system into which China had been so rudely thrust. on topics ranging from economics and business to political sociology. WI: University of Wisconsin Press. dynastic power was believed to rest on a divine mandate that stemmed from the emperor’s superior moral and administrative abilities.e. an ineffectual ruler was bound to eventually lose that mandate and thus his power. . can there have been any fewer than ten million different countries around the globe? Yet of those who exist today. 1966). enabling him not only to rule his own subjects but to attract tribute from neighboring states. in an attempt to understand how these more powerful societies operated. due to internal decline that was varyingly thought to be political. This period of loss became one of learning as well. Joseph R. Levenson.” (Ph. The great intellectuals of the late Qing – Kang Youwei. 1872–1949 (Durham.

to have mastery over the world . . 22. 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. Alison Adcock Kaufman. The Role of Japan in Liang Qichao’s Introduction of Modern Western Civilization to China (Berkeley. 18.11 Liang and many of his contemporaries set themselves the task of uncovering the laws that governed international relations in their own era. ed. Don C. ? I say: four or five and that’s it. They were particularly attracted by a syncretic mix of theories they imported from China’s subjugators: constitutional thought from Anglo-American liberals.” op.g. They posited. particularly in the work of Baron Kato Hiroyuki. Liang Qichao. . .. that human history was driven by a competitive dynamic. p. 14. tribes. See. 2–5 September 2004). How has the white people’s superiority over other races [i. CA: Institute of East Asian Studies. p. . first. “From Might to Right: Liang Qichao and the Comforts of Darwinism in Late-Meiji Japan. statism from Germany. often further adapted by Chinese thinkers to square with Confucian theories.“Century of Humiliation. 55–64. and adaptations of all of the above from Japanese translators and theorists. Liang Qichao. Inha University . the white races do not turn away from competition. or nations – was viewed as both a natural and a necessary feature of human interaction and progress. For more on the “might makes right” formulation of these theories. Evolutionary competition between groups of humans – whether families. these thinkers drew several conclusions about the nature of modern international relations. “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. 1936). pp. pp. 24–28. 2004). e. it was as nation-states that different peoples would compete with one another.14 This global order 11. “Herbert Spencer in Early Meiji Japan. “On the New Citizen. 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.13 Nationstates that competed successfully rightfully gained a dominant position in the world. cit. 68–102.” The Far Eastern Quarterly. Fogel. pp. From this amalgamation. who heavily influenced some Chinese thinkers of this period. though they lie outside the scope of this paper.e. see Michio Nagai. Chicago. Only peoples who comprehended and embraced this dynamic could prevail: as Liang Qichao wrote in 1902. “[H]uman nature does not survive without competition. .” in Joshua A. Price. Other races prefer peace. © 2010 Center for International Studies. 12.” Then and Now / 7 or so. 14-1 (1954). in Liang Qichao. “Xinmin Shuo” [On the New Citizen]. And how many of those are able to stand strong.. 1. and as the source of warfare and expansion. and could dictate the terms of engagement with other countries. evolutionary theory from Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer.”12 These thinkers believed that in the modern era. 13. . Yinbingshi Zhuanji 4 [Collected Works from the Ice-Drinker’s Studio Volume 4] (Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju Yinxing. the triumph of colonizing Europe over Asians and Africans] occurred? . .

marxists. weaker nation-states could not “opt out” of competition and hope to survive. The Chinese believe that to resolve from order to disorder. all Chinese without exception must lean either to the side of imperialism or to the side of socialism. China trusts to fate. Later thinkers suggested variations on this dynamic: Mao Tse-tung. history was moved forward by peoples – in the modern world. . “Lun Shibian Zhiji” [On the Urgency of Change in the World] (1895) quoted in James Reeve Pusey. . . as Chinese historians had traditionally argued. as the late Qing thinker Yan Fu noted. in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. 411–424. Vol. and we also oppose the illusions about a third road. however. Sitting on the fence will not do. in order that will not revert to disorder. From Yan Fu. daily progress. . and thus to be unavoidable. for instance. 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. in infinite. 1983). is the natural way of heaven and of human affairs. We oppose the Chiang Kaishek reactionaries who lean to the side of imperialism.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 15. which these thinkers claimed rested on a false assumption that a civilization’s rise and fall was beyond its control. . argued that the fundamental competition was between ideological blocs of nations rather than individual nation-states. although the basic competitive dynamic could not be altered. MA: Council on East Asian Studies. and we are firmly convinced that in order to win victory and consolidate it we must lean to one side. 16. Rather than following a cyclical pattern of rise and fall. the Westerners rely on human strength. at <http:// www. 51. This was contrary to the perceived “fatalism” of Chinese culture. individual nations could control its direction. . Mao Tse-tung.8 / Pacific Focus was perceived by most of these thinkers to reflect immutable laws of political organization and evolution. p. as he noted in a 1949 speech. 4 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press. 1969).htm> (searched date: 7 July 2009) emphasis added. nation-states – who took fate into their own hands and pushed ahead toward dominance. Like his Qing predecessors. in advance that will not sink into decline. many of the Qing thinkers argued that human history is progressive and that. China and Charles Darwin (Cambridge. © 2010 Center for International Studies. Inha University . as the ultimate principle of all learning and government. . nor is there a third road. Hence.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4-65. The Westerners believe. .” speech given in commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. “On The People’s Democratic Dictatorship. 30 June 1949. . from ascension to decline.15 Second. pp. he made clear that simply “sitting out” international competition was not an option.

Janet Ng. which. Some rejected Chinese culture as essentially inferior and recommended eschewing it entirely in favor of imported Western ideas. had been lost or degraded in the many centuries since their origin. Qingand republican-era figures argued that China needed to alter its political.“Century of Humiliation.” Then and Now / 9 that put their country near the bottom of the international heap. social. Others. Alongside these two common convictions were two questions about what the world might look like in the future. such as Zhang Binglin. 1992). Renditions. 18. they argued. a zero-sum arena in which some nations could be up only if others were down. 1869–1936 (Oxford. © 2010 Center for International Studies.” (Ph. the leaders of the 1919 May Fourth Movement are the most well-known advocates of this view. The late Qing debates had suggested that modern international relations rested on a fundamental inequality of nations. “Selections from Diary of Travels through the New World. First. 53/54 (2000).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. the desire to bring China up to an “equal” status with the 17. By the republican period. “Imperialism” ) – that is.and republican-era discussions established two further convictions about the nature of the modern international system and China’s role in it. while holding out the possibility that China could eventually improve its international status. however. 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. “Encountering the Other: Chinese Immigration and Its Impact on Chinese and American Worldviews. (diguo zhuyi. 1875–1905. Inha University . these figures viewed international relations as essentially conflictual.” transl. philosophical. and two major questions about what could be hoped for in the future.D. and martial practices in one of two directions. University of Michigan.18 Later thinkers. ) and “slaves” (nu. e. 1989). Second. Dissertation. Kevin Scott Wong. were less accepting of the implications of inequality for China than they were of the basic idea of competition. Young-tsu Wong.g. Earl Tai and Jesse Dudley. supported the restoration of ancient “Chinese values” (often deriving from a Confucian or Buddhist base). These Qing. 209. as was the ability of strong nations to mistreat Chinese citizens overseas. See. ). Search for Modern Nationalism: Zhang Binglin and Revolutionary China. UK: Oxford University Press. 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. Liang Qichao. Many depicted the relationship between strong and weak nations as that between “masters” (zhu. p. Here there was less consensus.

emphasis added. and “great peace.10 / Pacific Focus Western powers and Japan became a rallying cry for Chinese citizens angry about their country’s long decline. 403–405. . ). Ta T’ung Shu: The One World Philosophy of K’ang Yu-wei. 22. Dong Wang. some of these figures believed that the modern condition of competition among nation-states did not preclude cooperation in the distant future. 1958). Thompson (Norwich.” as well as a (contested) translation of the work itself. 19.”21 Finally. © 2010 Center for International Studies. “National Humiliation and National Assertion: The Chinese Response to the Twenty-One Demands. insist that cooperation among nations could be established only under conditions of equality. and that China’s only way forward was to become a nations. part of the contemporary global order. . p.. They did. “The Discourse of Unequal Treaties in Modern China.”22 However. see Kang Youwei.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. transl. . Mao Tse-tung. “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship. In his famous work on the topic. 302. cit. from the Chinese with introduction and notes by Laurence G. in which all humanity would be united under a single. 27-2 (May 1993).” Pacific Affairs. a final “great unity” or “great peace” (datong. UK: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. might arise. ) between ). Inha University . better competitor. pp. and argued that this was both unjust and unsustainable.” Zhitian Luo. Zhitian Luo details the way that Chinese students overseas reacted to their government’s acquiescence to Japan’s “21 Demands” in 1915. 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. “small peace” (xiaokang. 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. 76-3 (Fall 2003). They posited that in the very long term. For more background on Kang’s great work on the “Great Peace. if frustrating. ) that made it impossible for China to gain power under existing international law. The premise that came to be accepted during the late Qing and republican periods was that global competition in the nearer term was inevitable.” Modern Asian Studies.19 Chinese diplomats and politicians began to label China’s many enforced agreements with foreign powers “unequal treaties” (bupingdeng tiaoyue. 21. however. declaring that “they would rather die as fighters than live as slaves. “Humiliation” was viewed as a natural. universal government. 20. Kang Youwei proposed that the evolution of international relations progresses through three stages – “chaos” (luan.” op. 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.

op.china. “Implementing ‘responsibility to protect’ must not contravene state sovereignty.” The CCP’s victory was viewed as ending not only decades of on-and-off civil war. and the people experienced untold sufferings. 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. in the words of a current-day Politburo member. at <http://www. Inha University .. 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. that there are in fact several dates that vie for the title of the official “end of the Century of Humiliation. this has often meant a stance toward international activities that has been viewed as isolationist.“Century of Humiliation.” Xinhua News Agency (25 July 2009). e.g. 25. put an end to the situation in which old China was split up. “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].” they championed state sovereignty above all other values. For the first several decades of the People’s Republic. Referencing the experience of being “carved up. See. Mao Tse-tung famously declared that “China has stood up. for instance. The Century of Humiliation provided a cautionary tale for Chinese elites interested in moving their nation forward. or obstructionist. p. p. as the end of the civil war loomed and the Communist triumph seemed certain. . Practically speaking.g. 118. “Stimulate a passion for patriotism. but also the Century of Humiliation itself. op.cn/international/2009-07/25/content_ 18201835. ” See also.org. Liu Yunshan.25 23. See Gries in Jensen & Weston. . It is not quite as simple as this. . © 2010 Center for International Studies. withdrawn.htm> (searched date: 28 August 2009). . For instance. 2. such that. cit. “the establishment of new China .”24 The establishment of long-elusive internal order meant that China could turn its attention to rebuilding its standing in the international arena. the nation was subject to humiliation.23 It was at this point that China is believed to have thrown off the shackles of its subjugated.” Then and Now / 11 Post-1949: How should China Interact with the World? In 1949. backward past.” including the Korean War (which the CCP and PLA to this day say that China won).. e. cit. Peter Hays Gries notes. Li Changchun. elites referenced China’s experiences of subjugation and humiliation as a reason for being wary of close engagement with other nations. Renmin Ribao (26 October 2009). . 24.

They suggest that China’s leaders should tread cautiously in their interactions with the “strong nations” of the world. a substantial number of Chinese elites express discomfort about engaging substantially in the international system as it stands. China remains vulnerable. Inha University .12 / Pacific Focus Today. warned that “Western hostile forces have not given up the wild ambition of trying to subjugate us. A second viewpoint suggests that the current system is acceptable now that China can play a prominent role in it. intensifying the political © 2010 Center for International Studies. on whether this state of affairs is permanent and on what global role China should seek. Such thinkers reference the Century of Humiliation as a major source of their anxieties about Western intentions: President Hu Jintao himself. Chinese elites today offer at least three views of how China should interact with other nation-states. These debates often reference the Century of Humiliation. however. Some assert that the international system still revolves around Western interests that seek to subjugate and humiliate weaker nations. what role China should seek in the international system today and in the future. 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. This view tends to soften the potentially harmful nature of a competitive international system. In their view. Yet there is little consensus on what the Century of Humiliation means for China’s stance on the international system today. All three use vocabulary and world views developed during the Century of Humiliation. They differ. however. in a 2004 speech on the main tasks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). indicating that that period retains a prominent position in China’s memory. if it can. arguing that this dynamic can be sufficiently modified by tweaking existing institutions and practices. Viewpoint #1: The International System is Harmful for China While few advocate shunning all interaction. 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. 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.

Zhu Feng. particularly pp.” Modern China. “Renqing xinshiji xinjieduan wojun lishi shiming” [Understand the New Historic Missions of our Military in the New Period of the New Century]. 29.”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. Some argue that the continued existence of a competitive. Dongfang Zaobao (13 November 2009). recently echoed evolutionary language when he wrote that “international relations always involves the system of ‘competition and heavenly mandates. Daniel Lynch. “Realpolitik Nationalism: International Sources of Chinese Nationalism.” Then and Now / 13 strategy of Westernizing and dividing up China. Chinese elites also take lessons from the broader understanding of international relations developed during that period to explain why China should be cautious today. “The 26. As the popular saying goes. 27. ye wufa shixian” [The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible]. at <http://blog. Inha University .g. Hu Jintao.sina. dynamic between nations of unequal status. supra note 8. The competitive language of evolutionism has translated. Lei Guang.html> (searched date: 12 January 2010). 98–99. 24 December 2004 at <http:// gfjy. They suggest that US discomfort with China’s rise derives from this understanding of global dynamics. “Meiguo yaoqiu Zhongguo duideng junshi touming bu heli.“Century of Humiliation.”30 These figures do not all accept realism as a general proposition. into a great interest in realist and neo-realist theories of international relations. “Chinese Thinking on the Future of International Relations: Realism as the Ti.”27 Many Western scholars have examined the prevalence of a “victim narrative. the essence of power is always selfish.cn/HTMNew/11349.” in which Chinese authors complain that Western powers have shown their past and continued determination to subjugate China. professor at the School of International Relations at Peking University. See. e.28 In addition to using the Century of Humiliation as a direct source of defensiveness. 487–514.cn/s/blog_ 4bbb81fb01009g3u.jiangxi. pp. Lüye (24 May 2008). “Zhongguo jueqi: Zhuding shi monan de licheng” [China’s Rise: Destined to be a Process of Tribulation]. See especially the works of Peter Hays Gries.gov. 30.com.htm> (searched date: 11 July 2008). however. Zhu Feng argues that. Wu Yurong. Rationalism as the Yong?” China Quarterly. 28. © 2010 Center for International Studies. 197 (March 2009). usually conflictual. They view international relations as 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. 31-4 (October 2005). a person may be afraid of a rope for ten years. in the current day.29 Zhu Feng.’ In world politics. and the survival of the fittest. once bitten by a snake.

Inha University . paraphrased in Li Nan. cit. while holding out the possibility that international relations need not follow this path.’ ”33 Similarly. “pointed out that the concept of ‘responsibility’ was first put forward by the colonialist countries. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’.”34 As leader of the current international system. © 2010 Center for International Studies.” a professor from the State Council Development Studies Center.14 / Pacific Focus 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. has written that. for instance. at a 2008 conference on “The Concept of China’s International Responsibilities. 152. China’s rise only threatens the West because the West itself believes that this is what will happen. and is basically in line with the West’s interests and standards . 33. .” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi [English language edition]. “some people are worried that certain 31. p. . p. Ma Zhengang. they had interests overseas that were making demands on them. 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. it allows China to engage only as a way of protecting the Western-dominated status quo. 18-1 (January–February 2008). director of the prominent think tank the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS). The most common accusation is that the USA is not willing to let China “rise. Ding Yifan. 34.” op. 2. Guoji Wenti Yanjiu 2007–03 (May–June 2007). 5. Hence. Hence Ma Zhengang. Cui Liru. “China’s Rise vs. They assert that because the current international system reflects Western interests. 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. “Zhongguo de zeren yu ‘Zhongguo zeren lun’ ” [China’s Responsibility and the ‘China Responsibility Theory’].” and that US encouragement of China’s participation in international organizations is to China’s disadvantage.32 They thus regard realism as a way of explaining Western behavior. “the international system today has lasted since the end of World War II. Ibid. they have just been renamed the ‘China responsibility theory. so they demanded that responsibilities be undertaken. 32. the various ‘demands’ always presented to China by the United States and other Western countries in the past have not fundamentally changed.31 Similarly. the USA bears the brunt of criticism. p. International Order Evolution. These figures caution that engagement is highly risky.

39. greedy. for instance. especially the United States. Xiang Lanxin.”38 A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) researcher expressed concern that.. Guan Shaopeng.” op.” and that “China can only be described as responsible if it works with the United States in maintaining the existing international order. 37. These thinkers argue that the events of the 19th and early 20th centuries prove that Western nations are fundamentally rapacious. for instance.”39 In this view.“Century of Humiliation. and aggressive. “[China’s] vulnerability in China–US relations will increase. “Zhong-Mei yuedi duihua zhuanjia cheng yiti guangfan” [China–US Dialogue Will Start Toward the End of This Month. 36. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’. pp. “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. cit. Huanqiu Shibao (4 June 2009). © 2010 Center for International Studies.” Then and Now / 15 countries. “hinting that China is not a responsible country at present. and use this to slow the speed of China’s economic development. 150. 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. 151–152. the international system is based on biased interests that cannot be adapted to accommodate a more powerful China. “G2 dui Meiguo yiwei kan shenme?” [What does the G2 Mean to the United States?]. p. Zhou Qi. Expert Says the Subjects Will be Wide-Ranging]. paraphrased in Li Nan. Da Gong Bao (22 July 2009). cit. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’. p. Inha University . Hence.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. professor at the School of Diplomacy.” op. hence China should not fall into this trap.” op. Li Nan. and to control China’s growing influence over the US economy. write that Western nations were historically “slave states [that] frequently launched wars of conquest and pillage to expand their 35. paraphrased in Li Nan. Two academics from the Academy of Military Sciences.”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. 14. cit. 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. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’.”35 Should China acquiesce to the US’s demands that China shoulder international responsibilities equal to those of the USA. Wang Te-chen. 38.

“Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’. 41. Some posit further that the system itself is evolving.” and that this aggressive orientation continues to characterize the West today. . as a professor from Beijing Normal University complained. China strives to undertake international responsibilities and obligations. 40.16 / Pacific Focus territories. as exemplified in a 2009 statement by the PRC ambassador to the UN: China [has] constructively participated in. but lacks the capability to manipulate it. Inha University . and extend their sphere of influence.”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. The Science of Military Strategy [English translation] (Beijing: Military Science Press. and centers on the terms under which China should participate. engaged China may be in a position to spearhead such adaptations. They suggest that growing recognition from. Such figures add that China does not yet have the power to challenge this status quo. eds. China’s robust participation in the present-day international system symbolizes both China’s rise from past subjugation and its commitment to this system.. and moreover that a powerful. and made important contributions to. . cit. expressing frustration that.” op. and signed more than 300 international multilateral treaties. international hot-spot issues . unequal dynamic that will prevent either cooperation or the rise of new powers. Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi. 93. “China is not satisfied with this arrangement. This view is reflected in the growing enthusiasm with which China has sought to join global institutions and negotiations. the processes of resolving . 152. Liu Jinghua. They suggest that the current system can adapt to capture the interests and needs of even the weaker nations. China took part in 22 UN peacekeeping actions. Chinese leaders have over the past decade become increasingly quick to declare their willingness to participate in multilateral activities to solve global problems. p. These thinkers argue that China is now in a position to successfully interact and compete with other strong nations. plunder wealth. © 2010 Center for International Studies. . with harsher elements of international competition tempered by multilateral institutions that affirm the equality of their members. and equality or near-equality with. 2005). paraphrased in Li Nan. In this view. successively joined more than 130 governmental organizations.40 Any international system that reflects Western civilizational norms is thus pre-committed to a conflictual. the great powers “erase” the humiliations of China’s past. . p.

although PRC leaders have carefully framed such activities as conforming to this principle. 43. China’s participation in such activities seems to indicate a degree of acquiescence to the present-day international system. Feng Zhu. while reserving judgment on past events. in some instances.”43 Statements by Chinese elites also suggest that at least some of them view certain interventionist diplomatic instruments as legitimate. 14. and is now the country that has dispatched the most peacekeeping personnel among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. by extension. “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]. suggests that: we should explore and introduce the idea of ‘coercive diplomacy’ and pool the common energy and wisdom of the [other] five parties . China needs more time to learn the rules of the game among the great powers and 42. Zhang Yesui (PRC Ambassador to the UN). Renmin Ribao (24 July 2009). . he expresses a willingness to consider.“Century of Humiliation. 47. p. 10. ‘coercive diplomacy’ has always been a basic means for resolving problems eventually. Allen Carlson. p. p.” Pacific Affairs. diplomatic actions that go against earlier stated principles. 77-1 (Spring 2004). One notable example is found in a discussion of North Korea’s nuclearization and the apparent failure of the Six Party Talks. saying that “as a newly rising great power.” Then and Now / 17 cumulatively dispatched nearly 20 000 man-hours of peace-keeping personnel. in important regional security affairs. the author. . Thus. As Allen Carlson points out.42 China’s participation in intrusive activities like peacekeeping is particularly notable given its long-standing opposition to “interference” in other nations’ domestic affairs. Xiandai Guoji Guanxi. © 2010 Center for International Studies. “Helping to Keep the Peace (Albeit Reluctantly): China’s Recent Stance on Sovereignty and Multilateral Intervention. in fact they have “gradually modified China’s stance on intervention and. sovereignty’s role in international politics. 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. Numerous policy and academic elites have stated a commitment to this system. 2009-07 (July 2009). “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”]. Inha University . [Since the Cold War ended]. in his view. 44. the deputy director of Peking University’s Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS).44 He adds that.

”47 and that “to a certain extent. Shen Yi. 89. As one commentator wrote in China Daily after the conclusion of the successful Beijing Olympics. “having realized the ‘dream of the century’. Zhongguo Jingji Shibao (30 July 2009). and the future and destiny of China have been increasingly closely connected with the international community.cn/official/2009-01/20/content_1210227. 48. at <http://csis.cet.htm> (searched date: 12 August 2009). indeed.49 China is thus depicted as having overcome the humiliations and subjugations of the past. The glow of 45.org/files/publication/ pac0973a. perhaps it is time to relegate the ‘Century of Humiliation’ to history where it belongs. Inha University . Zhang Rui. In this view. . © 2010 Center for International Studies. 73A (12 November 2009).S.” Pacnet. Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 47. the current global order. . 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.cn/20090730/l1. China has already become an indispensible important force in global political and economic affairs. “Zhong-Mei zhanlüe yu jingji duihua de liangdian yu kandian” [Highlights and Viewpoints on the Sino–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue].”45 and that China seeks to stabilize. 1. “The Coming Sino–U. some suggest that the very concept of “humiliation” has become defunct now that China is receiving the attention and recognition it has long craved.com. “Preface.pdf> (searched date: 29 December 2009). nor can the world enjoy prosperity and stability without China. 49. The first is that China’s increasing prominence both allows and obligates it to take on an influential role vis-à-vis other nations. 2009).18 / Pacific Focus should respect and be sensitive to those rules. 46. Ibid. Clash? – A Review of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world. p.gov. rather than to upend. such that its active participation is now needed to maintain the current order.”48 These thinkers assert that China’s growing influence and power have fundamentally altered global power relations. 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. at <http://www.46 Three beliefs explain their enthusiasm for joining today’s international system. China’s National Defense in 2008 (Beijing: Information Office of the State Council.” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi [English language edition]. “Consensus Based on Mutual Respect and Equality: the Cornerstone of ‘Strategic Reassurance. 18-2 (March–April 2008).” English translation online at <http://english. . Niu Xinchun. p.htm> (searched date: 3 March 2009) emphasis added.

“Highlights and Viewpoints on the Sino–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue.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. 51. as Liang Qichao would say. Zhang Rui. . those that have a “color on the map”). “The premise of ‘dialogue’ is equality.chinadaily.”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. meaning that the status of both sides of the dialogue is equal. Inha University .”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.jsp?oid=54473637> (searched date: 23 August 2009). A commentator on the 2009 US–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) wrote approvingly that. “Zhong-Mei zhanlüe yu jingji duihua kaishi ‘pingqi pingzuo’ ” [China–US Strategic and Economic Dialogue Begins on an “Equal Footing”].” Then and Now / 19 the Games should have dispelled any lingering bitterness from the humiliating defeats China suffered at the hands of imperialist aggressors in the past century. In order to play an important role in major international and regional issues. at <http:// bjyouth. Hong Liang. 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.” op.com/article.cn/opinion/2008-09/02/content_6988865. participation under the current rules of the international system is the price of membership.ynet.. 52. the United States needs to cooperate with China. . .“Century of Humiliation. .htm> (searched date: 19 November 2008). “China is an implementer and thorough participant in the current international setup. Lu Ning. In a sense. ‘dialogue’ does not involve competition to gain the initiative. and the two should not cut the ground from under each others’ feet or come into conflict with one another. at <http://www. © 2010 Center for International Studies. Beijing Qingnian Bao (29 July 2009). with their entrée to this elite club. joining the ranks of the strong nations (or. Second. 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.com. the biggest developing country . “Time to Drop the Baggage of History.” China Daily (2 September 2008). . hence as an official from China’s Ministry of Commerce noted. cit. how China takes part in preserving and developing the 50. The essence of ‘dialogue’ is listening . [it] differs from negotiations in that it seeks as much mutual understanding as possible . emphasis added. many Chinese elites argue that China must participate in global conversations. .

org/eng/xw/t515274. Inha University . they include proving to the world that China is committed to the current system. they no longer fight for survival but only for influence: 53.” 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. they argue that the world has evolved.55 In a statement to the UN General Assembly in 2008. a recent commentary by Shen Yi.prchina. See.20 / Pacific Focus current international order is an important step in striving for status as an equal member. zero-sum vision of international politics. Hence although the language of “responsible stakeholdership” ruffled feathers when first proposed. © 2010 Center for International Studies. such that competition need not lead to conflict. “Consensus Based on Mutual Respect and Equality.” op. 56.. Zhong Chuanshui. Wen Jiabao. 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.”54 These “obligations” include participating enthusiastically in existing international institutions and negotiations to address problems of global concern.” op. professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai’s Fudan University. Rather than taking for granted a conflictual. Zhang Rui. 54. “China’s rapid development means that China possesses global interests and must also undertake more international obligations corresponding to its level of development. 154. op. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’. large developing country. 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. One scholar recently suggested that although nation-states still compete with one another. p.nyconsulate.”53 These figures suggest that as China’s interests expand. New York (25 September 2008). 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. cit. paraphrased in Li Nan.” Shen Yi.”56 Third. Speech at the UN High-Level Meeting on Millennium Development Goals. at <http://www.g. e. Most importantly. 55. cit. 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. cit. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao explained China’s participation in the Millennium Declaration in terms of China’s willingness to act as a “responsible.htm> (searched date: 19 December 2009).

a zero-sum view of international politics] .cn/200403/07/print20040307_136759. . but they seldom wage wars at will. 87–88.57 The standards by which the actions of a strong nation are judged have thus changed. They posit further that China’s increasingly strong position ensures both that China will not be harmed. the critical foundation of interdependent. “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. these thinkers stress the development of international institutions that mitigate the potentially harmful ramifications of this distinction.”60 The UN is depicted as reflecting an international consensus that allows for legitimate intervention in state affairs under a limited.html> (searched date: 3 February 2010). States do pursue survival.e. equality-based international relations is the principle of multilateralism. “The Coming Sino–U. “Strive to Create a New Situation in Multilateral Diplomacy. for instance. states struggled to survive.S. These thinkers portray multilateralism as “the main platform for discussing and coping with . ignores the significance of process in international politics while insisting on the unchanged nature of states: 300 years ago. . peopledaily. Zhang Yesui. . pp. external interference in its internal affairs. cit. . .com. since the advent of the Westphalian system in 1648 the death rate for members has fallen dramatically. Niu Xinchun. states are struggling to survive. . Ibid.”59 The UN is seen as the world’s premiere practitioner of “multilateral diplomacy. © 2010 Center for International Studies. at <http://english. When the PLA Navy sent out three ships to the Horn 57. despite continuing warfare and inequities of power. states will struggle to survive. 60. In this altered world. . . more generally. such that strong nations may no longer overrun the rights and interests of weak ones. . thus providing even the weak nations with a degree of equality and respect.” Then and Now / 21 Offensive realism [i. Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxin. the international system may increasingly come to represent the interests of strong and weak nations. Inha University . no single nation will be able to manipulate this system in favor of its own selfish interests as in the past. quoted in “China denounces unilaterism [sic]. is reported to have explained that. wellarticulated set of conditions. 300 years later. and that. While acknowledging a continued distinction between strong and weak nations. major international issues”58 and as “an effective way to deal with common challenges facing humanity. 58. . Actually. but most consider their right of survival not particularly endangered.” Renmin Ribao (7 March 2004). Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxin. today. . cit. . Great powers do indeed compete with each other for allies.. they assert.” and is strongly supported by Chinese elites as a curb on strong nations. economic opportunities and natural resources.“Century of Humiliation. . Clash?” op. 59. In this way. influence.” op.

in sum. aggravated the situation. For this question. multilateral operations.62 In this view. it has let down China. Hence Zhu Feng. . he asserts that in abandoning the Six-Party Talks. . in the discussion of North Korean nuclearization mentioned earlier. emphasis added. On the other hand. we must turn to the third line of debate. “The DPRK Nuclear Crisis after the Second Nuclear Test.com/Article_show. National Defense Education website of Yichun City. 62.” op.22 / Pacific Focus of Africa in December 2008 for anti-piracy operations. there is a commitment to upholding the stability of the existing system and maintaining essentially competitive interactions among nations. This applies to strong nations. ignored the international community’s common desire for stability. 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. The General Political Department of the PLA. a somewhat contradictory set of commitments. of course – the US bears much criticism in this regard – but also to weaker ones. cooperation. . The DPRK has disregarded the dignity of the Six Party Talks and the propriety of its own state behavior.ycgfjy. 61. decries North Korea’s “unilateralism”.61 This new-found commitment to multilateralism includes a condemnation of the “unilateralism” that continues to characterize the actions of some nations. 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. These three beliefs present. “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]. while remaining coy about whether the system might transform itself entirely in the future. at <http://www. and prosperity . 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. stirred up disputes. On one hand. and that China can play a central role in this evolution. Inha University . multilateralism allows for the legitimate use of “coercive diplomacy” to rein in unilateralist states. . © 2010 Center for International Studies. Jiangxi (June 2006).. with all its sincerity in hosting the Six Party Talks. they imply that the system is continuing to evolve. Zhu Feng. and display pride in China’s improved ability to essentially force cooperation with other nations through its growing international influence. cit.asp?ArticleID=2284> (searched date: 10 September 2009). .

“Century of Humiliation. the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. with those who are suspicious of current arrangements. both paraphrased in Li Nan. “take part in amending and framing the international rules of the game” or even. “The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible. at <http://www.” op. at <http://www. 64. “Security is not a zero-sum game. Sr. Rear Admiral Yang Yi. “Chinese President Calls for Building Harmonious World. that China is now in a position to actively shape the international system. “As proven by history. “China’s Position Paper on the New Security Concept. However.” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America (24 September 2009). cit.”63 creating and leading a new international system superior to the current one.htm> (searched date: 24 October 2009). where those two viewpoints accepted the 19th century premise that competition is inevitable.gov. “Summary of Seminar on ‘The Concept of China’s International Responsibility’.mfa. this one asserts that this premise is simply wrong. that the present-day international system is inadequate to meet the needs and interests of many nations including China.china-embassy. the United States fought a war in Vietnam. While it was strong.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (31 July 2002). cit. Colonel He Congnian. force cannot fundamentally resolve disputes and conflicts.” op.org/eng/ zt/t607038.htm> (searched date: 16 August 2009).cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/gjs/gjzzyhy/2612/2614/ t15319. 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. Inha University . This third view derives elements from both of the previously-discussed viewpoints: its adherents agree. and the security concept and regime based on the use of force and the threat to use force can hardly bring about lasting peace. and there is no isolated or absolute security. along with those in the second camp. Yet both of these countries were eventually forced to withdraw in a disgraceful way. pp.”64 China’s call for a “New Security Concept” in 2002 generalized such conclusions to postulate that. stated that. © 2010 Center for International Studies. Wu Yurong. in putting forth his vision of a “harmonious world” at a recent UN Assembly meeting. in the longer run. some figures propose that China can. 154–155.” Then and Now / 23 Viewpoint #3: China can Change the System Finally.”66 and includes the term “win–win” as part of his long-term vision of international relations.”65 President Hu Jintao. 65. “eventually become a framer of international rules. nor is war necessarily the right path to win international prominence: “In its most powerful times. 66. 63. and they suggest.

” op.24 / Pacific Focus Such statements posit that conflictual. equality-based model. “The US Demand on China for Equal Levels of Military Transparency is neither Reasonable nor Feasible. Shi Jing. as well as redistribution of the wealth of the world. . equality and coordination. Inha University . Guoji Wenti Luntan. the world will move beyond “conventional alliance-based systems of security” and allow “states to treat each other as neither friend nor foe. and perhaps must. © 2010 Center for International Studies. “Getting China Right: The Chinese World Order and Asia–Pacific Regional Integration. . p. the goal [of international power and prestige] that cannot be achieved by means of war.” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi [English language edition]. In fact.g. Xia Liping.asp?id=317> (searched date: 20 August 2009). English translation at <http://www. e. cit.”68 In so doing. 18–6 (November–December 2008). zero-sum relations between nations are disadvantageous even to nations that occupy a strong position in the system. mutual benefit. reshape the global system. first in its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and more recently in the “New Security Concept”: “dialogue. 34 (Spring 2004). Zhu Feng.org/en/news/view. 69. See. in a peaceful way. Daniel Lynch notes the assertion 67. the international system needs to be fundamentally remade to reflect those values that China has long articulated.irchina.cit. The United States and other Western countries . the view that strong nations must compete against one another – makes it impossible to establish cooperation or lasting peace.” “cooperation. 4–23. so they thought that China would take the same course as it developed. pp. saying that “the rise of China is bound to bring about a realignment of the international power structure. themselves took the course of expansion by means of war. “China’s Position Paper on the New Security Concept. They remark that the USA’s continued adherence to what they label a “Cold War mentality” – that is. but they now present China’s perspective as superior. i. changes to the rules of the game. . . 86. China can become more ‘introverted’ [neixiang.” op. . they say. They believe that China can. PLA Major General Zhu Chenghu asserts that China will be able to: achieve.” op. focused on internal issues] even as it becomes more powerful.”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.”69 These thinkers assert that China is uniquely qualified to move the international system toward this non-conflictual.” and “mutual trust. Wu Yurong. 70.71 Some of these figures claim that an orientation toward “peace and harmony” has always been a fundamental part of Chinese culture. “China’s Rise: Destined to be a Process of Tribulation. 71. .cit. “Lun Zhongguo guoji xin linian zhong de xin anquan guan” [The New Security Concept in China’s New Thinking of International Strategy].67 Instead. 68.e.

Politics. See.ca/ CNEWS/World/2007/03/15/3756318. Inha University . p. the essay on “Harmonious World: China’s Ancient Philosophy.org/eng/xwdt/ t369665. The Chinese people were victims of aggression and bullying.htm> and <http://na. and will never agree to make their own country one of hegemony. and Diplomacy. propriety. “Humiliation and the Olympics.g.” op. 96.72 President Hu Jintao’s vision of a “harmonious world” is often depicted as deriving from ancient Chinese principles. at <http://mu. The essence of Chinese culture opposes aggression and hegemony .org/eng/xwdt/t410254.” op.74 Hence. 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. China has never been a country that enjoyed war.”75 Such commentators acknowledge that past “rising powers” have fallen into the same conflictual dynamic that characterized 19th century relations.canoe. . 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. Daniel Lynch. etc. The development and 72. . By relying on what one scholar of Chinese nationalism has called “the moral authority of their past suffering. but claim that China will do things differently.” Associated Press (16 March 2007).“Century of Humiliation.” and that this view was shattered only by its negative interactions with the Western powers and Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries. © 2010 Center for International Studies. .china-embassy. cit. nor its immediate and long-term interest.73 Many others. “An outstanding nation is one that will always keep its history firmly in mind . e. however. Peter Hays Gries.htm> (searched date: 20 January 2010). . 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. he explained that. quoted in Schell. 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.html> (searched date: 3 February 2010). morality and harmony. .. Remembering the humiliating part of history will help Chinese people feel urged to safeguard peace. “Chinese Thinking on the Future of International Relations. and thus are better-suited to come up with a new international system that would safeguard the rights of all nations. 75.” Then and Now / 25 of one prominent Party member that China traditionally conducted its relations with other nations on the basis of Confucian concepts such as “benevolence. 74. 50.chineseembassy. cit.” (5 October 2007) posted to the websites of Chinese embassies worldwide. “China Calls for ‘Humiliation Day. China’s New Nationalism: Pride. <http://cnews. .. . 73. Fu said hegemony was neither part of China’s culture and tradition.” Chinese elites are able to suggest that they are more committed to peace and equality than are the Western nations. p.

Today’s elites draw on China’s experiences during the Century of Humiliation. and the questions about whether equality and peace are possible. 18. Ambassador Fu Ying. 19-1 (January–February 2009).’ ”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. emphasis added. 77.fmprc. just as their Qing and republican predecessors did.”78 Many of China’s elites believe that by adhering to these principles. p. all remain central to contemporary discussions about China’s role in the world.gov. the world can finally move ahead to the “great peace” postulated so long ago. The 19th.26 / Pacific Focus power of China today was not achieved through war. 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. 78. but also to earlier Chinese visions of international relations. according to one Chinese think tank scholar. cit.” to “seek common security through mutually beneficial cooperation. Yet all three employ the Century of Humiliation not only as a historical touchstone for China’s aspirations. equality and coordination.76 This vision suggests a contrast not only to Western-originated great power politics. As we saw previously. the PRC may act as a model that can “provide valuable guidelines for a world looking for a ‘third way. mutual benefit.” op. Rather.” and to adhere to principles of “mutual trust. but also as a source of assertions and debates about what is possible and desirable in international relations. “China’s Position Paper on the New Security Concept. Hegemony is definitely not an approach that best meets China’s interests. The three viewpoints presented in this paper portray strikingly different visions of how China should engage with the world. Jiang Yong. Yet today.” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi [English language edition]. but diverge significantly on where it is going.htm> (searched date: 9 August 2009). to explain why China was left 76. Conclusion China’s elites today hold a fairly consistent view of where China has come from. today and in the future. Inha University . © 2010 Center for International Studies.cn/ce/ceuk/eng/sghd/ t563034. “Is China a Power? – Ambassador Fu Ying’s Speech at Oxford University” (18 May 2009). it was achieved through equitable trade and cooperation with the rest of the world. “China and the World Can Enjoy Co-prosperity.and early 20th-century beliefs that the international arena is conflictual and that different civilizations have different capacities to prevail.. 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.

Inha University . See. Ding Yuanhong. Relations (sic)].” coined by then-Premiere Zhou Enlai in 1953 and enshrined in China’s constitution in 1982.S.chinaembassy. and early PRC leaders refused to engage with other countries on the “unequal. © 2010 Center for International Studies. cit. however. however. Peace might lie on the other end of this history. Many still accept that competition lies at the heart of relations between nations. non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. and inequality.org/eng/zmgx/t515276. (former Ambassador of China to EU and Council Member of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs).”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. 2007-04 pp. “Hexie shijie yu Zhong-Mei guanxi” [A Harmonious World and the China–U. Heping yu Fazhan. its elites have increasingly come to question the premises that drove this reluctance.g. and peaceful co-existence.” Then and Now / 27 behind during the 19th and 20th centuries. China’s leaders have openly admitted that these principles stem directly from China’s own loss of sovereignty during the Century of Humiliation..” competitive terms that they believed characterized this system. 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. “National Insecurities. 1–3. There was no way forward to the “great peace” except through war. e. 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 79. Hence China’s long-touted “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. mutual non-aggression. although one Western scholar has claimed that the Chinese view of today’s world is that nations must “humiliate or be humiliated. these principles necessitate limited interaction. the lesson to be drawn from these experiences was that China had been forced into a world of evolution. competition.” The Western-dominated international system that had so subjugated China was viewed with suspicion. As China’s prominence on the world stage has grown. at <http://www. As a weak nation.” op. They leave open. p. the question of whether competition inevitably results in the downgrading of some nations’ status as others rise.“Century of Humiliation. but only after an unavoidable and protracted struggle among nations. 202.” Speech at General Debate of 63rd Session of UN General Assembly (26 September 2008). Wen Jiabao. but believe that China can now successfully compete with the strongest powers.htm> (searched date: 9 December 2009). 80.”80 in fact many Chinese elites suggest that rising nations can bring others along with them. Callahan. equality and mutual benefit. “China Committed to Reform and Opening Up. For late Qing intellectuals. China needed to build its internal capacities to stave off future indignities by the “strong nations.

———. pp. William A.28 / Pacific Focus even as nation-states contend over influence and resources. and one of their most precious principles. and argue that the goals of global peace and equality cannot be attained under the current. 199–218.html> (searched date: 3 February 2010). References Callahan. 9–27. Salvation and Chinese Nationalism. examination of elite rhetoric suggests that many of the basic foundations of the Western-founded international system are not under question. As China’s international influence grows still further. “National Insecurities: Humiliation. Western-originated international system. Carlson. 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. drawing on the concerns and worldviews of their Qing. canoe.dur. is largely derived from the Western concept of the state that was scrutinized so carefully by Qing intellectuals. Chinese elites still discuss foreign policy in terms of China’s “national interest”.ac. Beijing.” Pacific Affairs.pdf> (searched date: 3 February 2010). but inapplicable to the current era. Others argue that the very notion of international competition is a historical vestige. Allen. Inha University . “China Calls for ‘Humiliation Day’. The basic questions of how nations should interact and whether international peace is feasible are not unique to the Chinese. “Helping to Keep the Peace (Albeit Reluctantly): China’s Recent Stance on Sovereignty and Multilateral Intervention. 29 (2004). While the vocabularies and debates through which they explore these issues are historically specific. created by Western powers based on their own experiences.ca/CNEWS/World/2007/03/15/3756318. that of state sovereignty.uk/resources/china. 77-1 (Spring 2004).studies/Commemorating National Humiliation Day in China. 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.” Alternatives. pp. “Historical Legacies and Non/Traditional Security: Commemorating National Humiliation Day in China. These figures posit that China is uniquely qualified to lead the world into a better future. they do not question the existence of nation-states..” Paper presented at Renmin University. (April 2004) at <http://www.” Associated Press. © 2010 Center for International Studies. (16 March 2007) at <http://cnews.and republican-era predecessors.

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