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Contemporary China's Quest for Rejuvenation and the Century of Humiliation

INTRODUCTION

In the previous posts titled How Residues of Chinese Imperial Worldview Still Impact Modern China Strategic Toolkit I talked about how Chinese Imperial heritage still impacts Modern China's strategic decision making.
What I talked in about in the previous post was the strategic and methods used to achieve China's goals. There were people who criticized my approach of looking at the past as to theoretical, looks too far into the past and not relevant because it doesn't factor the impact of Communism or Century of Humiliation. I will introduce my opening arguments addressing these comments, and expound them further in the post.
First, I think studying China's history is important, to determine how she is going to react.. Western political scientist to use the Thucydides Trap or comparisons between German-Anglo Rivalry pre-1914 to compare to describe China's current geopolitical situation and her rivalry with the US. Looking at China's Imperial past for insight into her IR behavior is called Tsinghua approach of IR, and both Chinese and foreign (mainly Western and Japanese). No one bats an eye, even though none of the Western examples contain the US or China as participants, nor are they even based in Asia. Unfortunately, specialist dealing with China have done a poor job of predicting China's behavior according to this recent Bloomberg article The ‘China hands’ got China wrong, but listen to them now. written by Hal Brands, a Professor of International Relations at John Hopkins. However, I think Brands, is too charitable toward China hands,
Secondly, the reason why looking at the past is key to understanding China, because it one of the main goals as written in the Chinese Constitution of 2018 is 中华民族伟大复兴 or Grand Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. The phrase 中华民族伟大复兴 was put forward in the 15th Party Congress in 1997, and mentioned extensively since. The reason why I take statement seriously, because the idea of restoration and rejuvenation is strongly embedded in the cyclical view of history in Asia, particularly. When the first Ming Emperor Hongwu established the Ming Dynasty he declared he would restore Song Dynasty institutions and to purge China of the barbarian Mongol taint. During the Qing Dynasty, support for restoration of the Ming lasted until 19th Century, and form a important base for the eventual overthrow of the Qing.
The PRC Government have presented "Century of Humiliation" as the focal point "Grand Rejuvenation of Chinese Nation". The Century of Humiliation has two purpose, First. it helps to explain some of China's strategic behavior. However, in my opinion, it serves more to reinforce some traits, and it doesn't explain many behaviors like the reluctance in forming alliances or the over reliance on economic inducements. Secondly, its more important purposes, it is the key element in the restoration narrative of Modern China. It emerged organically in 1915 during the period that is considered the crucible of Modern Chinese identity 1912-30. Like all popular narratives it has many versions, each containing their own truths, exaggerations, omissions and falsehoods, In this section I will briefly go through the main schools of thought regarding the Century of Humiliation,
CHINESE RESTORATION
CENTURY OF HUMILIATION AS A NARRATIVE
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT ON THE CENTURY OF HUMILIATION
CHINA'S CURRENT CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE
1. REJUVENATION OR REVANCHISM
CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE AND CHINESE SOFT POWER
1, EFFECTIVENESS OF CENTURY OF HUMILIATION
PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES FOR CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE
CONCLUSION
A lot of people here say China's influence operations are ineffective and point to China's lack of soft power. Despite what many people here think including many of the Chinese nationalist here,influence operations and political warfare are very important for the Chinese government. China's influencing operations are effective, and their Century of Humiliation narrative is the crown jewel. In this section I will explain why it is so effective particularly outside Asia. and then talk about the problems and challenges with the Century of Humiliation narrative.

CHINESE RESTORATION

The official "goal" of the Chinese government is the Chinese Dream and National rejuvenation is peaceful, The concept of national rejuvenation and restoration has existed since the Warring States (Confucius lived during this period and wanted restoration of the Zhou), everytime China lurched into chaos and division, people would dream of a restoration of the previous centralized state or ethnic Han Dynasty. Under Ming Hongwu Emperor there was a serious attempt to restore Song institutions. One of the slogans of the White Lotus Rebellion from 1799-1804 was common slogan of "Down with the Qing and Revive the Ming". Sun Yat Sen formed the Revive China Society in 1894./ Restoration can also happen during the end point of a dynasty in an attempt like the Tongzhi Restoration in 1860.
It could also apply to lost territory. In the Song Dynasty, it was particularly pronounced, because the Song never controlled the 16 Prefectures which includes modern day Beijing and Tianjin, and tried several times retake it back from Liao Dynasty, a foreign conquest dynasty. Every ethnic Han Chinese governing entity after the Tang was "incomplete", because they never could regain lost territory. For the Song and Ming, it was current day Xinjiang which the Tang Dynasty controlled as a protectorate. The question about the significance of the loss of Xinjiang appears on Imperial Examinations in 16th Century. For contemporary China, its Taiwan
However, from 1949-1980s, the concept of restoration fell into disuse. The argument Mao made was that China had overcome the century of humiliation and was now on the offensive, spreading revolution. Mao and the Communist Party at the time embraced a Western progressive view of history, rather than the traditional cyclical one. For Mao, with regards to the average Chinese peasants, Imperial China was one of feudalistic oppression and servitude. It was Zhao Ziyang repopularized it 1987 in the 13th Party Congress.
Its pedigree in China actually dates back to the formative period of Chinese nationalism, from the latter stages of the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. But it was repopularized by Premier Zhao Ziyang at the Thirteenth Party Congress under Deng Xiaoping in 1987. There followed a popular CCTV television series, a three-volume book and a “song-and-dance epic” at the National Theater, all called the “Road to Rejuvenation.” In March 2011, a permanent exhibit with the same name opened at the National Museum of China in Beijing. The preface to the exhibit concludes, “Today, the Chinese nation is standing firm in the east, facing a brilliant future of great rejuvenation. The long-cherished dream and aspiration of the Chinese people will surely come to reality.” In the course of a single 2011 speech marking the one hundredth anniversary of the 1911 Chinese revolution, Hu mentioned rejuvenation twenty-three times.
The idea of national rejuvenation is powerful, because it fits with notions of Confucian benevolence and modern day China restoring what was once hers. The theme of national rejuvenation resonates across Asia, much more strongly than they do in the West. For many Asian countries it forms a core element of their nationalism. The flags and national symbols of India, Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Mongolia and South Korea all hark back to a more glorious age..
However, unlike the the national rejuvenation of most countries, China's rejuvenation narrative was only explicitly adopted in the PRC Constitution in 2018.
Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people's democratic dictatorship ... and press forward self-reliantly to modernize the country's industry, agriculture, national defense, and science and technology step by step and promote the coordinated development of material, political, spiritual, social, and ecological civilizations to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, powerful, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and beautiful and achieve the grand rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
To be honest I don't think the CPC was ever keen on promoting the rejuvenation narrative. They gradually phased it in since the 1990s to prop up the party. If they could convince enough people on Marxist-Leninism they would have preferred it instead. In the 1978 Constitution and earlier Constitutions there were references against revisionism, opposing capitalism and the revolution, but nothing about rejuvenation
We must persevere in the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and in the struggle for the socialist road against the capitalist road. We must oppose revisionism and prevent the restoration of capitalism. We must be prepared to deal with subversion and aggression against our country by social-imperialism and imperialism.
This section disappears in the 1982 Constitution. The defensiveness is still there, but the difference is this period from 1949-1980s was the exception to the last 700 years of Chinese history, was that it was explicitly against restoration.
Since the 1980s, national rejuvenation has crept into the political discourse. There were references to Zheng He during the 2008 Olympics.
The complete phrase for national rejuvenation is 中华民族伟大复兴 or The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation was put forward in the 15th Party Congress in 1997. However, the term they use for nation 民族 minzu means nationality or ethnicity. They had proposed the term "revitalize China" or 振兴 中华, but it was rejected. The first invokes a nationalism that transcends physical borders and assigns it to a group of people. While the second term 振兴 中华 is more defined and less problematic in my problem. While I don't agree, some people, like in this post in /China think the term national rejuvenation can be taken to be ethnic rejuvenation. The character (Hua) as I explained in the previous post from 14th century onward is closely associated with Han Chinese.
A lot of terms for Western concepts like democracy, nationalism, economics came to China via the Japanese in the late 19th century. The Japanese most likely looked at the latin roots when deriving the Chinese characters for nation, but also the Japanese as I mentioned in my previous post,How Residues of Chinese Imperial Worldview Still Impact Modern China Strategic Toolkit, are tribal
The problem, is how can you rejuvenate, the Chinese nation, 中华民族, that didn't exist until 1910s in the minds of most Chinese. If you read it as a Chinese person would 中华民族 (zhonghua minzu) it could mean Chinese ethnicities (56 nationalities) or Chinese race/ethnic group. The second definition in the Chinese history is new, because historically there is no such thing as 中华民族 In the 19th century loyalty was to Emperor or if they were in opposition Ming loyalist or anti-Manchu.
The five color flag adopted by the First Republic of China after the fall of Qing Dynasty had one color to represent the five ethnicities Han (red); the Manchus (yellow); the Mongols (blue); the "Hui" (white); and the Tibetans (black) Its a union of five ethnicities. At the time, the Chinese concept of China was similar to that in UK three centuries earlier, meaning its union of "nations" or ethnicities in China's case. However, by 1930-40s this flag had negative connotations because it was used by Japanese collaborator regimes. When PRC was setup in 1949 it still didn't depart from the early notion of one country of 56 nationalities or ethnicities Some people in the Republic of China (Taiwan) have said the Communist copied this notion from the USSR, but CPC under Mao Zedong concept of China draw it roots to early Republican period. Mao Zedong notion of China was of 56 nationalities / ethnic group advancing China and Communism. The official name of the People's Republic of China is 中华人民共和国 with 中华人民 is Chinese people or masses. Mao Zedong warned in the 1950s about the dangers of Han Chauvinism. Until the 1990s, PRC protection of ethnic minorities linguistic rights and even regional dialects like Cantonese was better than in the ROC.

CENTURY OF HUMILIATION'S AS A NARRATIVE

The “Century of Humiliation” describes a period in Chinese history from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, when China was diplomatically and militarily dominated by Western colonial powers. Ending at the close of the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the Century remains a major component of “modern China’s founding narrative.” or restoration narrative of Modern China.
The Century of Humiliation first appeared in 1915 in the context of opposing the 21 Demands proposed by Japan in 1915. It arose considerable outrage in China at the time, even though the Chinese President (Yuan Shih-Kai, by rallying support from Western powers with existing interest in China forced the Japanese to moderate their demands, the treaty ended up giving the Japanese no more than they already had in China.
The events listed in most Century of Humiliation narratives are First and Second Opium War, sacking of the Summer Palace, First Sino-Japanese War, 8 Power Alliance Suppressing the Boxer Rebellion and after 1915, the Second Sino Japanese War. Outside these six events, other events are included depending on the narrative like Sino-French War of 1884, Japan occupation of Korea in 1905, Unequal Treaties, Seizing of 64 Villages East OF the Black River and Taiping Rebellion.

SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT ON THE CENTURY OF HUMILIATION

The Century of Humiliation narrative could be divided into narratives that place more emphasis on China's internal factors that lead to China's weakness during Qing Dynasty, and those that place more emphasis on external actors (ie the Japanese, Russia and the West). How you view the Century of Humiliation ultimately rest on how you view the Qing Dynasty,
Therefore, the historiography of the Century of Humiliation is incredibly complicated, and can changed within someone's lifetime. Chinese learn the CPC version of Century of Humiliation at school but other theories are debated in academia and in the media. The table below is a very brief overview of how each "school of thought" thinks about the Qing Dynasty and ultimately about the Century of Humiliation.

School Of Thought Importance of External Actors Main External Culprit View of Qing Political System View of Qing Economy View of Qing Military Has the Century of Humiliation Ended?
Nationalist School (KMT) Secondary Russia, Japan, West Corrupt Discriminatory Assimilated but separate identity Opinions vary from average to weak Expansionist initially, but weakened by 19th century Yes, with the defeat of Japan in 1945.
New QIng History Secondary N/A Corrupt Discriminatory Unassimilated Opinions vary from average to weak Adquated on land, but weak navy N/A
Maoist Secondary West-Japan, Russia Corrupt, Feudalistic like other Imperial Dynasties Weak Weak Yes in 1949
Post-Mao China Primary West-Japan, Russia Corrupt Strong Weak Strong Weak Technically ended in 1949
Within these schools of thought, there are different opinions on six columns. Some who accept the Nationalist narrative would place more emphasis on external actos, others would place more blame on the Manchus.
The Nationalist (KMT) believe that main culprit for the Century of Humiliation was the Manchu nature of the Qing Dynasty. They use various interpretation of Qing history to support their argument, even though these schools don't necessarily associate themselves with the nationalist argument. For example, some PRC economic historians have developed a theory to explain the Great Divergence between China and the West starting from 17th century, called the Qing Conquest Theory. They said the destruction caused by Manchu invasion and subsequent Qing economic policies that set China behind.
The New Qing History is school of thought regarding the Qing Dynasty that emerged among US scholars in 1980-90s. Most believe that the Manchus governed China proper as a part of multiethnic Empire. They ruled Tibet, Xinjiang, ManchuriA and Mongolia separately from China proper. Secondly, many believed that Manchus were only partial assimilated and tried to maintain a separate identity. This belief in their separate identity impact their decision making. The impetus for this new school, was when American historians first gained access to Manchu language archives in China during the 1980s. Most of documents regarding Qing dynasty management of Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet were written in Manchu. The Manchu language documents often disparaging and suspicion toward Han Chinese. Secondly, within the New Qing History there are Eurasianist, who believe that the Manchus experience had many similarities with Eurasian empires particularly those who invaded more sedentary populations like The Ottoman and Mughals.
The main difference between nationalist and New Qing Historians in their view of Qing was the nationalist believe the Qing ruled China as one, and the Manchus were largely assimilated, even though they maintained a separate identity.
The Maoist believe the Century of Humiliation was brought by a corrupt and feudalistic Imperialist system - both the Qing Dynasty and Nationalist. At the heart of the weakness was Confucian ideology. This narrative of Maoist interpretation is the least nationalistic. Mao believed a Japanese Imperialist Clique was responsible for aggressive toward China, and not the individual Japan soldier, Many contemporary commentators, both Chinese and Western, think that the Mao's actions in the 1950-60s was motivated by the Century of Humiliation. However, as I will explain in subsequent section, a key feature of the Century of Humiliation, is the continuing presence of a victimization complex. Ob Oct 1, 1949, Mao declared the Century of Humiliation over, and China's actions from 1949-1979 should be seen in the context of furthering Communism and bringing the fight to the Imperialist and their lackeys.

CHINA'S CURRENT CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE

In writing about the current Century of Humiliation narrative I am going to be sticking to what is contained China's history textbook as a result of 1991 Patriotic Education Campaign. The Chinese government has promoted patriotism in other forms like building patriotic tourist sites and developing patriotic films and tv shows. In the two papers titled National Humiliation, History Education, and the Politics of Historical Memory, Patriotic Education Campaign in China started the campaign. Most analyst said the CPC did this to untied people under the guise nationalism, as Communism wasn't viable after the demise of Communism. With this campaign China went from a Class based narrative to a patriotic narrative from old Maoist "victor narrative" to a victim narrative. The CPC under Mao used the class struggle narrative to explain the revolution and clash against foreign imperialist and Chinese civil wars. Civil Wars against the KMT and the Taiping Rebellion were explained as a class struggle. According to National Library of China, no new books about the Century of Humiliation were published from 1947-1990.
The Patriotic education campaign was made official in August 1991 by two documents -- Notice about Conducting Education of Patriotism and Revolutionary Tradition in Exploiting Extremely Cultural Relics and General Outline on Strengthening Education on Chinese Modern and Contemporary History and National Condition. However, it wasn't launched until 1995. The objective was to
The objective of conducting patriotic education campaign are to boost nationa's spirit, enhance cohesion, foster national self-esteem and pride, consolidate and develop a patriotic united front to the broader extent possible, and direct and rally the masses patriotic positions in the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics
In support of this endeavor, the Chinese government embarked on changes to textbook and the curriculum. First they made Modern and Contemporary Chinese history compulsory for secondary students, Instead of viewing the Century of Humiliation as largely through internal factors like class struggle and corruption like the Maoist or Manchus like the Nationalist, it focuses on external actors like the West and Japan. This has resulted in revisions in the history. For example, previously KMT victories against the Japanese weren't mentioned, while in the textbooks that came after campaign there is acknowledgement. While under Mao and during the Republican period (1912-1949) the Taiping rebellion was covered extensively, in the patriotic education textbooks its secondary to the Opium War, even though it was bloodiest war of the 19th century.
What is interesting about PRC's restoration narrative, is they revived 40 years after the "Dynasty" was found, whereas in the Ming Dynasty, the founder Hongwu declared he would restore Song institutions and purge China from Mongol influence, and than proceeded to forget about restoration.
China has double downed on the Century of Humiliation narrative. Xii Jinping in his trip to the exhibition titled "National Rejuvenation" which was devoted to the history of China since the First Opium War. When Mao Zedong declared founding of a New China, the century of humiliation was put to rest, but seventy years it still persist.
China’s “century of humiliation” ended in 1949, when Mao Zedong kicked off a new era, announcing that the Chinese had stood up, and yet this century clearly informs the preamble of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. As recently as 2017, President Xi Jinping mentioned this history of “humiliation” in a commemorative speech on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover. His concept of national rejuvenation stems from the memory of national humiliation, though it also seeks to transcend it
According to leaked reports, the Chinese leadership since the late 1990s, have internalized the Century of Humiliation.
Unlike the previous narratives, there is no endpoint, and the CPC has no intention of putting it to rest.
EFFECTIVENESS OF CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE
The reason why the PRC's current Century of Humiliation narrative is the crown jewel in their soft power outreach, because it is Eurocentric and aligns closely with how 19th century Chinese history is taught in the West. Here is a part of a speech made by Xi Jinping made to the 19th Party Congress in 2017
With a history of more than 5,000 years, our nation created a splendid civilization, made remarkable contributions to mankind, and became one of the world's largest nations. But with the Opium War of 1840, China was plunged into the darkness of domestic turmoil and foreign aggression, and its people were ravaged by wars, saw their homeland torn, and lived in poverty and despair.
This is taken from the World History: Patterns of Interaction It is used by high schools in the US. This is the section on the state of the Chinese economy in the beginning of the 19th century
By the time of the Qing Dynasty, the rice was being grown throughout the southern part of the country. Around the same time, the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish and Portuguese traders brought maize, sweet potatoes, and peanuts from the Americas. These crops helped China increase the productivity of its land and more effectively feed its huge population. China also had extensive mining and manufacturing industries. Rich salt, tin, silver, and iron mines produced great quantities of ore. The mines provided work for tens of thousands of people. The Chinese also produced beautiful silks, high quality cottons, and fine porcelain.
It jumps right to the Opium War.
It took a few decades for opium smoking to catch on, but by 1835, as many as 12 million Chinese people were addicted to the drug. This growing supply of opium caused great problems for China. The Qing emperor was angry about the situation. In 1839, one of his highest advisers wrote a letter to England’s Queen Victoria about the problem: The pleas went unanswered, and Britain refused to stop trading opium. The result was an open clash between the British and the Chinese—the Opium War of 1839. The battles took place mostly at sea. China’s outdated ships were no match for Britain’s steam-powered gunboats. As a result, the Chinese suffered a humiliating defeat. In 1842, they signed a peace treaty, the Treaty of Nanjing. This treaty gave Britain the island of Hong Kong. After signing another treaty in 1844, U.S. and other foreign citizens also gained extraterritorial rights. Under these rights, foreigners were not subject to Chinese law at Guangzhou and four other Chinese ports. Many Chinese greatly resented the foreigners and the bustling trade in opium they conducted.
The text book talks about the Song and Tang Dynasty, than mentions the Mongols in China, than skips to West interaction with the Qing Dynasty. While it mentions the Taiping Rebellion,. It does not mention that the Qing were a foreign conquest dynasty This is still the standard narrative in most introductory Modern Chinese History courses at the university level in the West, although they mention the Qing were Manchu. For those who didn't such courses in school, youtube has a lot of videos that continue this narrative - Century of Humiliation, China's Century of Humiliation & Why The South China Sea Is Such a Big Problem and First Opium War - Trade Deficits and the Macartney Embassy - Extra History. Someone in /AskHistorians gave a written rebuttal of the traditional view of the the Opium War by Extra History.
How 19th Century Chinese history is taught in the West would get the Chinese Communist Party stamp of approval, even more so than the previous Nationalist or Maoist narratives. The nationalist narrative spends a lot of time talking about Manchu oppression, how Han Chinese were treated, focus on the Taiping Rebellion as an anti-Manchu rebellion etc. The Maoist would say the Qing Dynasty was little different than the other Dynasties that came before, and China collapsed under the weight of feudalism and Confucianism when faced with challenges from the West and Japan. While these narratives talk about the West, they spend more time talking about internal factors, and for your average Western reader these narrative don't flow as easily as the current "Century of Humiliation" narrative, because they diverge from the Eurocentric and anti-colonial focus they learn in school.
The narrative is used by Western analysis to cast sympathy on China's actions in the South China Seas and the Trade War. You see it in articles like As trade war escalates, Chinese remember ‘national humiliation’, 19th-Century 'Humiliation' Haunts China-U.S. Trade Talks, How Historical 'Humiliation' Drives China's Maritime Claims and 'Century Of Humiliation' Complicates U.S.-China Relationship. Do you see Western writers talk about the Indians being humiliated by Trump when he slapped tariffs on them?

PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES OF THE CENTURY OF HUMILIATION NARRATIVE

Many writers have written about the problem with the Century of Humiliation narrative. Here are three of the best articles that have been written
  1. How China’s History Shapes, and Warps, its Policies Today: For Beijing, the past is exceptionally useful, and usefully exceptional. This appeared in Foreign Policy, written by a team of US academics specialising on China It focuses mainly on the narrative as it pertains to the West.
  2. The Danger of China’s ‘Chosen Trauma. This article focuses on the narrative as it pertains to China-Japanese relations.
  3. Xi’s China Is Steamrolling Its Own History. This article is written by PAMELA KYLE CROSSLEY, an American historian who considered a New Qing Historian.
  4. JAW-JAW: CHINA IS A FUNNY SORT OF REVISIONIST POWER — A CONVERSATION WITH DEAN CHENG appeared a year ago in the War on the Rocks. Dean Cheng is Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at the Heritage Foundation He argues that China isn't a Revisionist Power, like Imperial Germany, but a Revanchist Power like France after Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
All the above articles raise good points. but I would to add additional points that would break away from West-Japan centrism of the discussion.
  1. Unlike countries that were colonized, China's Century of Humiliation narrative take the form of a civilizational struggle. Is China's dispute with the US or the West?his seems to carry over to the situation in Xinjiang where once it was focused on the Uighurs, now applies to any Muslim in Xinjiang.
  2. The whole "Century of Humiliation" narrative is externally focused, and assumes the other is "white". How effective is the narrative is going to be in 30 years time, when a substantial number of decision makers in the United States will no longer be non-Hispanic whites.
  3. This narrative only works if China is the only major country doing it. At the moment her neighbors have pushed such narratives to the extent China has. If they were to do that, it will be a Victimization warfare, and nationalism can quickly spiral out of control. How would China like it if Vietnam went full steam with their 1000 year occupation narrative and their 20th Century struggle against Japan, France, US and China?
  4. The current attacks against New Qing Historians and Eurasianist by Chinese historians is removing a powerful narrative for understanding Asian history. Eurasianist consider the Qing, Ottoman, Mughal and Russian Empire Eurasian powers, and had many similarities.Some argue the Qing was weak against the West, like the Mughals is because they were both Eurasian conquest dynasty that had over expanded, and faced revolts from their native subjects. The Hindutva BJP views history in Eurasianist terms, not anti-colonial, they think India's greatest enemy wasn't the British, but the Muslim invaders. One could even apply to narrative to Maritime Southeast Asia, the first major Muslim kingdom on Java, the Mataram Sultanate instead of expanding toward the sea like their Hindu-Buddhist predecessor,the Majapahit, they tried to conquer all of Java, and quickly became embroiled in costly wars and revolts. To fund these these campaign they sought help from the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) both militarily and financially.

CONCLUSION

Some people might think I am being insensitive and callous for treating history narratives like story I don't think /geopolitics goes into enough depth into political / psychological "warfare", and one important aspect in this for the CPC is the control of historical narrative. Controlling historical narratives is very important for the Chinese Communist Party as it is for Imperial Dynasties before them. To be honest, what CPC did was a stroke of genius, given they were forced to do it, and came up with something "better" than the previous narrative.
In this post I only talked about specifically about the Century of Humiliation, and didn't discuss the related topic of Chinese dominance and centrality in Asia. In this topic, the Chinese and Western Sinologist have done even more brilliant job of peddling Imperial Chinese World Order in the West. A good example is Zheng He voyages. In the 15th Century, Zheng He, the Ming Eunuch Admiral, brought a Giraffe from Africa to China, and Western Sinologist wax lyrically about it in 21st Century. Do you think scholars would be talking about the 15th Century Indian ruler asking someone to bring a giraffe for his private zoo? There have been many comparison Zheng He voyages to that of Columbus, and scholars speculate what China could have achieved if she continued those voyages. The Srivijaya Empire based in Sumatra conducted raids on the East African coast and first settled Madagascar in 800 AD, and most people in Madagascar, a country of 25 Million have Austronesian blood, and speak an Austronesian language. Many people in Madagascar wouldn't look out of place in Jakarta. How many Western scholars ask "Why didn't the Srivijaya go further?" If Peter the Great decided to build a 100 ship Armada and sail it to the Americas,would Westerners say the Russian Admiral assigned to this voyage was another Columbus?.
While the PRC lacks in other forms of soft power, their ability to control the historical narrative is honed through centuries of experience and practice. Its the cheap form of soft power, but very effective.
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