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Chinese Nationalism Research Papers

A country history research paper on China will illustrate that Chinese Nationalism is an important aspect of China's current state of affairs. Paper Masters will write world history papers that focus on China and give you the answers as to why Chinese Nationalism is such an important part of their history.

When writing on Chinese Nationalism, there are several elements that must be examined. The importance of sovereignty and independence of action in Chinese foreign policy since 1949 has been closely related to Chinese nationalism. Just as Chinese national pride has been a natural outgrowth of China’s long and rich historical tradition, the nationalism of Chinese leaders also has derived from the injustices China suffered in more recent history, in particular, China’s domination by foreign powers from the nineteenth century until the end of World War II.  During this time, which China refers to as “the century of shame and humiliation,” the formerly powerful imperial government devolved to what China calls “semicolonial” status, as it was forced to sign unequal treaties and grant foreigners special privileges of extraterritoriality. Foreign powers divided China into spheres of influence.  Most debilitating and humiliating was the foreign military threat that overpowered China, culminating in Japan’s invasion and occupation of parts of China in the late 1930s.  The bitter recollection of China’s suffering at the hands of foreign powers has continued to be a source of Chinese nationalistic sentiment since 1949.

Nationalism and Foreign Policy

Chinese Nationalism

Although Chinese foreign policy since 1949 has had distinctive characteristics, the forces that shape Beijing’s foreign policy and many of its overall goals have been similar to those of other nations.  China has sought to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to achieve independence of action, while interacting with both more powerful and less powerful countries. As with most other nations, Beijing’s foreign relations have been conditioned by its historical experiences, nationalism and ideology, and the world view of its leaders, as well as by the governmental structure and decision-making process.  At times China’s domestic policies have had wide-ranging ramifications for its foreign policy formulation.

Origins of Nationalism in Foreign Policy

Understanding the origins and forces shaping China’s nationalism provides a framework in which to view both the changes and the continuities in Chinese foreign policy from 1949 to the late 1980s.  The origins of China’s foreign policy can be found in the following elements of its nation:

  • China's size and population
  • Historical legacy
  • World view
  • Nationalism
  • Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought

These factors have combined with China’s economic and military capabilities, governmental structure, and decision-making processes to make certain foreign policy goals prominent: security, sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity and reunification, and economic development. China’s long and rich history as the world’s oldest continuous civilization has affected Chinese foreign relations in various ways. 

For centuries the Chinese Empire enjoyed basically unchallenged greatness and self-sufficiency (Hunt, 1984).  China saw itself as the cultural center of the universe, a view reflected in the concept of the Middle Kingdom.  For the most part, it viewed non-Chinese peoples as uncivilized barbarians.  Although China was occasionally overrun and ruled by these “barbarians,” as during the Yuan (1279-1368) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the non-Chinese usually retained enough Chinese institutions to maintain a continuity of tradition.  Because the Chinese emperor was considered the ruler of all mankind by virtue of his innate superiority, relations with other states or entities were tributary, rather than state-to-state relations between equals.

Traditionally, there was no equivalent of a foreign ministry; foreign relations included such activities as tributary missions to the emperor made by countries seeking trade with China and Chinese military expeditions against neighboring barbarians to keep them outside China’s borders. The first Europeans who sought trade with China, beginning in the sixteenth century, were received as tributary missions and had to conform to the formalities and rituals of the tribute system at the Chinese court. China’s view of itself as the undisputed center of civilization–a phenomenon called sinocentrism–remained basically unchanged until the nineteenth century, when the Qing dynasty began to deteriorate under Western pressure.

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