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.

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of the official Chinese news agency Xinhua (see Sang Ye and Geremie R. Barmé, “A Beijing That Isn’t [Part I],” at http://www.chinaheritagenewsletter.anu.edu.au/features.php?searchterm=014_BeijingThatWasnt.inc&issue=014). 6. Valery Garrett, Chinese Dress: From the Qing Dynasty to the Present (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2008), 126–155 on the republican era. 7. The name itself has a fascinating foreign background: While in Japan, Sun began using the Japanese surname Nakayama, central

X. George Wei and Xiaoyuan Liu (New York: Praeger, 2001); Adam Cathcart, “Japanese Devils and American Wolves: Chinese Communist Songs from the War of Liberation and the Korean War,” Popular Music and Society 33, no. 2 (2010): 203. 7. Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). 8. For different estimates, see Shu Guang Zhang, Economic Cold War: America’s Embargo Against China and the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1949–1963

beginning. In daily life, interactions and observations gradually created much that was new for everyone. WHILE FOREIGNERS CARVED OUT their parts of China’s cities, other newcomers to urban China were busy carving out theirs. From the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, many Chinese cities doubled in size, as Qing restrictions on travel to and residence in the cities faded and more economic opportunities were created. The encounters between Chinese and foreign economies, products,

America’s racism and consequent immigration restrictions. Ordinary Chinese could not understand why European colonialists, having taken control of whole continents, would not even admit Chinese immigrants into these territories. In 1905 Chinese in China and abroad launched a boycott of American goods to change US policies and force the Qing authorities to stand firm in their opposition to the exclusion of Chinese immigrants from the United States. The boycott did not change Washington’s approach

Five times bigger than the Forbidden City (the massive palace complex in central Beijing where the imperial family lived), the park was intended to show everything under heaven, a kind of eighteenth-century World’s Fair. In its sprawling collection of palaces and gardens, there were Chinese-style buildings from various dynasties and structures and landscapes from the Chinese hinterlands, Korea, and Southeast Asia. But strangest for Chinese visitors were the buildings at the back of the park,

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