Asia, Elizabeth Economy, Politics and Government

History with Chinese Characteristics

Elizabeth Economy – 7.30.17

On November 15, 2012, the day he became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping stood onstage at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, to reflect back on his country’s 5,000 years of history. After citing China’s “indelible contribution” to world civilization, Xi called for “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” And he acknowledged that others had “failed one time after another” to realize that goal. Implicit in Xi’s remarks was a promise: unlike his predecessors, he would not fall short.

Xi’s narrative of rejuvenation has resonated deeply among today’s Chinese. It places the country not only at the center of the international system but also above it, casting the nation as one that inspires emulation by the force of its advanced culture and economic achievements. It also evokes historical memories of a time when China received tribute from the rest of the world, was a source of world-class innovation, and was a fearless seafaring power. And it implies that in the past, China did not need to use force: its virtue alone engendered deference from others.

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