Creating “China”: Why is the Chinese Communist Party extra sensitive to territorial issues?

When the Chinese People’s Liberation Army arrived at Yongshun Reef in the South China Sea in 1988, the tiny reef was so insignificant that it couldn’t even accommodate several people at once. But now, if one opens Google Maps, one will see that the reef is now surrounded by a man-made land mass of white sand and gravel, covered with aprons and airstrips.

Yong summer reef is not the only “miracle” reef, there are seven similar reefs near Spratly and the Paracel Islands, what former U.S. Pacific Command Commander Harry Harris called the “Great Wall of Sandcastles “They are an important tool for Beijing‘s sovereignty claim in the waters, and could cost more than 300 billion yuan in total. China says the islands have been “Chinese territory since ancient times,” but British academic and BBC correspondent Bill Hayton, in his new book “The Invention of The Invention of China”, the British scholar and BBC correspondent Bill Hayton argues that the current Chinese government’s understanding of and claims to borders and territories are based on the concept of “China” created by nationalist-minded intellectuals and social activists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rather than on the historical “China. Only by grasping the modern concept of “China” can we understand and respond to China’s assertive and even aggressive claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea and beyond.

Hayden’s research is based on the “New Qing History” school, which originated in the 1990s in American sinology and history circles and is represented by Edward Rhoads of the University of Texas, Mark C. Elliott of Harvard University, Pamela K. Crossley of Dartmouth College, and the University of Texas. Pamela K. Crossley), and Evelyn Rawski of the University of Pittsburgh, who argue that the Qing government was marked by imperialism and colonialism and was not a continuation of the Han dynasty, but rather consisted of several relatively independent national sovereign states that retained considerable political self-determination.

Hayden told Voice of America, “What I think makes this book worth writing is that it can help people better understand that when they are confronted with some of these problems, they don’t start with the Chinese Communist Party winning the civil war in 1949, but they stem from modern Chinese nationalism, a common legacy of both the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. I also want to show that the problems we encounter in the present are rooted in a political choice at a particular moment in history, not naturally so, not originally, but changeable.”

Hayden, who has worked for the BBC since 1998, was named book of the year by The Economist magazine in 2014 for his book “The South China Sea,” and “Creating “China” was inspired by his research on the concept of “China” and territorial issues while writing “The South China Sea. and territorial issues. The book is divided into eight chapters on “nation,” “sovereignty,” “nationality,” “history,” “language,” and “language. The book is divided into eight chapters that discuss the formation of the concept of “China” in modern times from various aspects, including “nation,” “sovereignty,” “nationality,” “history,” “language,” and “territory.

“The Birth of the Concept of “China

Haydn begins his book by arguing that a consistent, long-standing, and uninterrupted “Chinese nation” and “China” does not exist, at least not in the contemporary sense. He said that over thousands of years of history, the territory of contemporary China has been Home to a number of different ethnic groups of varying sizes and geographical distribution, including Tibetans, Mongolians, Manchus, Uighurs, Zhuang, Hui, Qiang, and others. Most of these ethnic groups have unique languages and different cultures, and they have divided and merged, sometimes forming their own countries, sometimes integrating with each other, and sometimes returning to a Han-dominated dynasty. Thus, there is no one country that has always been called “China,” nor is there a single ancient “Chinese nation.

According to Hayden, “the concept of a ‘nation,’ that is, “a group of people bound together by Culture and common feelings,” did not exist in China before the end of the 19th century. He says, “The revolutionaries and reformers of the Time wanted to escape the dilemma facing the Qing dynasty, namely the attacks from the West and the strong sense of backwardness. They found the answer in Western theories of state and nationhood and believed that the only way to make their country strong and to enable people to survive in the new world was to borrow these concepts and make them “Chinese,” not only in translation, but also by looking back and giving new meaning to these words. “

Creating “China” points out that the revolutionaries, represented by Zhang Taiyan and Sun Yat-sen, initially held a Han nationalist position, believing that only a Han nation was China, for example, by raising the famous slogan “expel the Tartars and restore China”, which clearly excluded the Manchus from China.

Kang Youwei, on the other hand, believed that nationalism would lead to the division of the country and sought to find a cultural basis for identity. Liang Qichao, a student of Kang Youwei’s, once excluded the Manchus, but after coming into contact with the 19th century European scholar Berengian doctrine of the state, he proposed a “grand nationalism” or “nationalism” that advocated uniting the various ethnic groups in the Qing dynasty to build a modern state.

In early 1905, he wrote in his article “Observations on the Chinese Nation in History” that “the Chinese nation was not one nation from the beginning, but a mixture of many nationalities”.

By the time the Republic of China was established, Zhang Taiyan and Sun Yat-sen had changed their thinking and accepted the idea of a multi-ethnic state, choosing the “five-color flag” representing the five nationalities as the national flag and putting forward the political concept of “five-ethnic republic. The change from the “expulsion of the Tartars” to the “five-ethnic republic” was a major political change, and one of the main reasons for this change was the domestic political situation and the international political environment.

Hayden said, “It goes back to the early 20th century, when the whole country was falling apart, when Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia were seeking independence, when there was warlordism among the Han Chinese, and when the Kuomintang government had to create the concept of ‘part of the country and part of the territory’ by telling everyone that foreign countries would carve up China and that the Chinese should keep their territory intact. Through the media, textbooks and public opinion, they created a sense of anxiety that the country would be divided and partitioned by the powers. At that time, they created a way of understanding ‘territory’ that if you were really patriotic, you had to worry about the territory, and you had to feel a sense of shame and loss of interest when the territory was occupied by a foreign country. So very early on, anxiety about territory was ingrained in the way nationalists saw the world, and so now many would be prone to cling to some insignificant amount of land.”

For his part, Kyle Sheinuk, a scholar at Harvard University’s Fei Ching Ching Center for Chinese Studies, told Voice of America that becoming a nation-state was a wise choice for late-Qing China, and that the nation-state form did not necessarily bring harmful nationalism, but was certainly a factor, and not just a problem for contemporary China, but a global challenge as well.

If you look back at the history of the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China, when China had colonial and semi-colonial situations, such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau, that was a consequence of the expansion of other nation-states, so for the people of the time, transforming China into a clear nation-state, rather than the dynasty-like empire that it had been, was a wise choice, and at that time it was should have been. Now, more than a century later, the situation is harder to say. The nation-state structure does not necessarily lead to negative nationalism, but in many cases it does lead to harmful nationalism. This is happening in the United States, in China and around the world, where unwanted forms of nationalism such as populism are on the rise.”

Since last year, the rapid development of the New Guinea Epidemic has served as an opportunity for a rise in ultra-nationalism in China: Chinese netizens have flooded the Internet with comments mocking the number of New Guinea cases and deaths in the United States, a restaurant in Shenyang has put up banners celebrating the spread of the virus in the United States and Japan, and top Communist Party officials have engaged in “war-wolf” diplomacy, spreading the message that “The Writer Fang Fang, who bravely criticized the government’s unfavorable response to the epidemic, was denounced as a “traitor to the country” by the official media and the public.

What is meant by “Chinese territory since ancient times”?

The Chinese Communist government has long used terms such as “Chinese territory since ancient times” to justify its claims in response to territorial disputes. For example, several articles on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website have argued that Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan have been Chinese territory since ancient times, and Xi Jinping and other Communist Party officials have stated on several occasions that the South China Sea has been Chinese territory since ancient times. But Hayden notes that such claims lack a complete and objective historical basis.

In the chapter on “Territory,” Hayden reviews how the meaning of the term has evolved in modern China. First, it is controversial whether the ancient “frontier” is the modern “territory. In ancient China there was only the term “frontier,” which could refer to the area of imperial influence in general, including vassal states, but did not specify a clear boundary. The modern meaning of “territory” can be traced back to Liang Qichao’s introduction of the term “territory” to Japanese scholars, referring to a sovereign state with clear boundaries. The Constitution of the Republic of China has been revised several times since then, but it also repeatedly mentions that “the territory of the Republic of China follows the boundaries of the former empire,” without clearly defining where the former boundaries were.

Secondly, Haydn argues that the traditional Chinese dynasty before the end of Qing Dynasty could only indirectly rule the frontier areas such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia, which were called “tie-up”. These areas were nominally subordinate to the imperial court but actually ruled by the local aboriginal chiefs themselves, which did not conform to the concept of sovereign territory in the modern sense. Therefore, it is often controversial whether the succession of the Republic of China to the territory of the Qing dynasty meant that it had sovereignty over these frontier areas.

The FitzGerald Center scholar Sheinuk also agrees with Haydn, noting that even the Chinese Communist Party was unsure whether Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia should be included in its territory before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and that the Outline of the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic, adopted in 1931, provided that “the Chinese Soviet regime recognizes the The Chinese Soviet regime recognizes the right to self-determination of the national minorities in China, and has always recognized the right of the small and weak nationalities to secede from China and form their own independent states. The Mongols, Hui, Tibetans, Miao, Li, Koryo, etc., who live within the territory of China, have the full right to self-determination: to join or secede from the Chinese Soviet Union, or to establish their own autonomous regions.”

Sheinuk told Voice of America, “Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the Long March of the Red Army, there had been discussions in the Communist Party between the 1930s and 1940s about whether or not to keep Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and people had such discussions as if the decision had not been made. And now people are particularly sensitive about it, which is a kind of historical amnesia, because there were such questions and discussions before, but now it has become a sensitive topic. We critical thinkers should look at the issue from a historical perspective: how can someone say “Tibet has been and should be Chinese territory since ancient times”, why can they say that, and what are the nationalistic and political purposes involved?”

The book “Creating “China” provides many examples of territorial “oversensitivity” by international companies such as GAP, Marriott, MAC, and others who have printed maps of China that

“and in 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Xi Jinping a pair of ancient maps of China drawn in 1735, which did not include areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang, but the official Chinese media reported that they were modified and replaced with another map of China’s territory more than 100 years later when it was the largest. The Chinese official media reported that the map was modified and replaced with another map of China’s largest territory more than 100 years later.

The Communist Party’s territorial sensitivity has also led to an oppressive policy toward minority areas and areas of historical sovereignty dispute. Most modern states have undergone the transition to “nation-states,” and some still have internal ethnic tensions, such as in the United Kingdom, where parts of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales want independence, but few have intervened as actively as the Chinese government has in the cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles of ethnic minorities. Although historically the CCP’s stance on ethnic minorities was once more relaxed and some autonomy was granted, after Xi Jinping took power, the CCP returned to the stage where it wanted to assimilate other ethnic groups and further resorted to oppressive rule to create a unified identity in places like Hong Kong.

People in Xinjiang are told what Family Life should be like, or that they should not drink alcohol, or that they should perform religious pilgrimages in a certain way, and they obviously hate that,” Hayden said. At the same time, Xi was told that different emotions were a problem for the country and had to be removed, and that’s what’s happening now. They realize that China could be at risk of what happened in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and he feels that if there are too many differences, the country will be divided, so now we are seeing a high-handed response to eliminate all the differences and make people feel like “Chinese,” and that raises what the outside world calls human rights issues, with the U.S. government calling the Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang The U.S. government has called the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang “genocide,” meaning the destruction of people’s culture, more than the physical killing.”

How to Respond to China’s Nationalist Sovereignty Claims

China’s nationalism has led to a hardening of its sovereignty claims, but this move is not only detrimental to the interests of neighboring countries, but also potentially to its own long-term interests. Hayden argues that China’s greatest strategic interest should be peaceful diplomatic relations and a primary focus on economic development, and that minor territorial disputes will only prevent China from seeking where its greater interests lie.

When China first joined the WTO, relations with countries around the world were more moderate, but the situation changed after China filed a claim to the South China Sea. Southeast Asian countries became concerned and said, “Wait a minute, we want the U.S. to come back and check China,” Hayden said. So that was counterproductive. If the Chinese government had done nothing, maybe people would be leaning more and more toward China, and China would be more likely to rise. But China has highlighted the territorial issue, and I think that hurts their larger interests.”

In addition to nationalism and historical misunderstanding, China’s claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea has resource and military strategic considerations, and its island reclamation activities will not just “clarify sovereignty” in name, but will cause real damage to the interests of Southeast Asian countries. Sheinuk noted that Southeast Asian countries must keep up their complaints and put pressure on China. They need to continue to appeal to international bodies to ensure that their claims are recognized,” he said. China can say whatever it wants and make sovereignty claims over certain territories, but if the rest of the world doesn’t recognize them, it will still be difficult for China to achieve its goals.”

As for the U.S., Sheinuk believes the Biden administration should further consolidate relations with partner countries and allies in the Indo-Pacific region. In addition, waiting for a shift in China’s domestic situation could be a strategy. In terms of the U.S. government’s interest, if the U.S. doesn’t want China to claim those islands as its own, I think it should just continue to support other countries’ claims to those islands,” he said. And then there’s the wait, there’s a high and extreme wave of nationalism in China right now, and it’s probably not going to go away in the short term, but the situation and the environment may change in 10 or 15 years, and maybe by that time other countries will say: now that’s not a big deal.”

Hayden does not give a clear conclusion on whether the wave of nationalism in China will subside, but at the end of his book “Creating “China””, he tells the story of Yuan Weishi, a professor of philosophy at Sun Yat-sen University, who criticized the government for giving students “wolf milk” in 2006. The incident. Yuan believes that one of the root causes of the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution was “wolf’s milk” Education, but secondary school history textbooks continue to feed “wolf’s milk”.

In this context, “wolf’s milk” refers to the extreme, exclusive, hate-mongering ideological indoctrination, in which extreme nationalism and class struggle ideology are the main focus. The weekly magazine “Ice Point” of the China Youth Daily, which published the article, was ordered to suspend its publication for several months.

Hayden argues that the “wolf’s milk indoctrination” has intensified since Xi took power, and that many Chinese people support the government’s radical sovereignty claims and are extra sensitive to territorial issues as a result of his “China Dream” propaganda. He concludes his book with a question: Where will the concept of “China” lead contemporary China? And what does the “Chinese Dream” bring to the world?