Not Rising, But Rejuvenating: The
Image Credit: Flickr (Mal B)

Not Rising, But Rejuvenating: The "Chinese Dream"

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Since taking over as the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November, Xi Jinping has created a heated discussion in China and abroad over his use of the phrase, “Chinese Dream.” In his various public speeches, he has repeatedly emphasized that achieving the Chinese Dream of a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” was his government’s main objective. While this has been applauded enthusiastically at home, people outside of China have struggled to ascertain the precise meaning of Xi’s statement. This is unfortunate because the Chinese Dream is essential for understanding how a “rising” China views itself and its role in the world. Failure to understand its meaning will thus heighten the chances for misunderstanding, with potentially devastating consequences for all parties involved.

Although outsiders almost always speak of China’s “rise,” the Chinese like to refer to their impressive recent achievements and future planned development as “rejuvenation” (fuxing). The use of that word underscores an important point: the Chinese view their fortunes as a return to greatness and not a rise from nothing. In fact, rejuvenation is deeply rooted in Chinese history and the national experience, especially with regards to the so-called “century of national humiliation” that began with the First Opium War (1839–1842) and lasted through the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1945. China’s memory of this period as a time when it was attacked, bullied, and torn asunder by imperialists serves as the foundation for its modern identity and purpose.

As Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung has noted, key historical events are critical in defining a group’s identity and determining how that group behaves in conflict situations. Galtung argues that the three forces of chosenness (the idea of being a people chosen by transcendental forces), trauma, and myths combine to form a country’s Chosenness–Myths–Trauma (CMT) complex. This CMT complex is an extremely useful tool for understanding the rationale behind many of China’s actions.

Specifically, as proud citizens of the “Middle Kingdom” the Chinese feel a strong sense of chosenness and are extremely proud of their ancient and modern achievements. This pride is tempered, however, by the lasting trauma seared into the national conscious as a result of the country’s humiliating experiences at the hands of Western and Japanese imperialism. After suffering a humiliating decline in national strength and status, the Chinese people are unwavering in their commitment to return China to its natural state of glory, thereby achieving the Chinese Dream. However, China has never clearly stated what the criteria and measurements are to determine the realization of rejuvenation.

Comments
190
David Lloyd-Jones
May 17, 2013 at 21:40

K Ballard writes "Understanding China and its ambitions could be as simple as translating the characters for it's name more correctly. 中国 could mean middle kingdom…"

 Right.  And the sun never set on the British Empire for reasons obvious to anyone who remembers that the other name for the UK is "Great" Britain.

This is wonderful — but can Ballard explain to us how America had a civil war, when the ral name for the country is the "United" States?

 Pity that. He had a really great theory gong for a while…

 

-dlj.

[...] At first pass, this article seems to be yet another editorial swipe at Japan. It ignores the growing number of calls by Indian nationalists for the government to take a more aggressive stance on the issue while  lambasting Japanese society as an inherently aggressive one poised to take Chinese territory. There is nothing new in this approach; China often tries to portray itself as a victim of Japan’s nationalism  within the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute. And the PRC makes no secret of its view that Japan is a declining power. All of this fits within the official narrative of a peaceful China attempting to defend its territorial integrity from a region increasingly wary of its return to greatness. [...]

[...] Since taking over as party chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly invoked the theme of the “Chinese Dream,” which heralds “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” [...]

[...] Since taking over as party chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly invoked the theme of the “Chinese Dream,” which heralds “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” [...]

[...] Since taking over as party chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly invoked the theme of the “Chinese Dream,” which heralds “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” [...]

[...] Since taking over as party chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly invoked the theme of the “Chinese Dream,” which heralds “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” [...]

Bill Rich
March 4, 2013 at 07:12

What does facts and truth have anything to do with Chinese understanding of history ? It is political expedience that matters.

Bill Rich
March 4, 2013 at 07:07

You can talk for days about the last 160 years of why China needs rejuvenation. But to understand the Chinese “dream”, you have to rewind Chinese history way back when China was the top dog. Especially when China dominated the then known-to-China war by beating, killing, evacuating every nationalities around China, during Qing, Tang, Han and earlier dynasties. Count the number of tribes eliminated, literally.

chandler
March 29, 2014 at 05:25

just like how the settlers from europe came to america and wiped out the indigenous native indians + slavery trade of africans right? Classic definition of the pot calling the kettle black. What human group on earth which has achieved a level of power, hasn’t caused harm to one group or another?

chandler
March 29, 2014 at 05:26

count the number of indian tribes eliminated, literally.

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