China as a Non-Hegemonic Superpower?
The Uses of History among the China Can Say No Writers and Their Critics
Since the advent of Deng Xiaoping's policies of reform
and opening in the late 1970s, most observers have agreed
that China is likely to recover its rightful place in
the world as a great power in the twenty-first century.
Disagreements have arisen principally over whether China
will join the world as a normal nation state or will
instead seek to restore its traditional hegemony in
East Asia and even attempt to extend that predominance
to the entire world. This article challenges both of
these positions by examining the uses of history —
and the way in which the past uses those who use it
— in several Chinese books published at the turn
of the century and in a set of essays critiquing those
books. The authors argue that China is likely to eschew
both the national imperialism characteristic of Western
superpowers and Japan and the over-expansion attempted
by earlier Chinese states such as the Qin and the Yuan.
Instead China is likely to pursue the minimal goal of
avoiding political disunion and cultural crisis similar
to its policies in earlier ages and the maximal goal
of restoring political unity and cultural centrality
associated with such earlier polities as the Zhou, Han,
Tang, Ming, and Qing.
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