Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750

Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750

Odd Arne Westad

Language: English

Pages: 544

ISBN: 0465056679

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

As the twenty-first century dawns, China stands at a crossroads. The largest and most populous country on earth and currently the world’s second biggest economy, China has recently reclaimed its historic place at the center of global affairs after decades of internal chaos and disastrous foreign relations. But even as China tentatively reengages with the outside world, the contradictions of its development risks pushing it back into an era of insularity and instability—a regression that, as China’s recent history shows, would have serious implications for all other nations.

In Restless Empire, award-winning historian Odd Arne Westad traces China’s complex foreign affairs over the past 250 years, identifying the forces that will determine the country’s path in the decades to come. Since the height of the Qing Empire in the eighteenth century, China’s interactions—and confrontations—with foreign powers have caused its worldview to fluctuate wildly between extremes of dominance and subjugation, emulation and defiance. From the invasion of Burma in the 1760s to the Boxer Rebellion in the early 20th century to the 2001 standoff over a downed U.S. spy plane, many of these encounters have left Chinese with a lingering sense of humiliation and resentment, and inflamed their notions of justice, hierarchy, and Chinese centrality in world affairs. Recently, China’s rising influence on the world stage has shown what the country stands to gain from international cooperation and openness. But as Westad shows, the nation’s success will ultimately hinge on its ability to engage with potential international partners while simultaneously safeguarding its own strength and stability.

An in-depth study by one of our most respected authorities on international relations and contemporary East Asian history, Restless Empire is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the recent past and probable future of this dynamic and complex nation.

















another two years of preparation, “life” might not give him that much. If the choices were to lose control of his own country or go to war against Japan, Chiang obviously preferred the latter. By the spring of 1937 some form of limited cooperation directed against Japan had been put in place. The Chinese central government and most of the regional power holders were beginning to work together. Since 1935 the CCP had been promoting a Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese United Front, and now even some

foreign policy, even though China, like all states, accepts those rules that are to its advantage more easily than those that are not. A sense of centrality is also a crucial component of the Chinese mindset. The ease with which its neighbors have, throughout history, accepted elements of Chinese culture has served to confirm a cosmology in which China always stands at the center. With the belief in an essential role for their country in Eastern Asia came a sense of responsibility in systemic

to kill all of the Zunghar elite whom they could lay their hands on, causing what has been called the eighteenth-century genocide par excellence. Then he incorporated most of eastern Zungharia and the minor khanates to its south into China, creating one region that Qianlong, triumphantly, referred to as China’s new frontier (Xinjiang).9 Along the Asian coastline, the Qing were equally forceful but less violent. In the south and east, China was surrounded by states that all stood in some form of

and strong. The foreign examples that were used were often well beside Chinese realities; as one scholar puts it: “No characteristic of Chinese intellectual life in the decade or so before 1911 is more prominent than foreign influence.”20 While the revolutionaries debated constitutions, Qing officers and officials were preparing for life without the empire. The Chinese who dominated society in the last half-generation of Qing rule were a mixture of high-level officials and capitalists. The

president of the country, from 1970 to 1980—and the first ethnic Chinese head of state of any country outside Asia. Most remarkably, there has been a significant remigration of highly educated Chinese Caribbeans back to China over the past generation. But even before then, a striking example of remigration took place: Eugene Chen, born in Trinidad in 1878, served as China’s foreign minister several times in the 1920s and 1930s, though he spoke no Chinese. One of his sons, Percy Chen, became a

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