China’s modern history has seen a long succession of national humiliations, with the nation repeatedly losing wars to foreign invaders. But how has this sense of humiliation spurred Chinese efforts to modernize more recently? Did chaotic and devastating periods such as the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) actually help China move beyond the confinement of its traditional culture? Global Times (GT) reporter Liu Zhun talked to Orville Schell (Schell), Arthur Ross Director of the New-York based Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, on these issues.
GT: In your new book Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century, you and coauthor John Delury particularly picked out the traditional tale of King Goujian, prominently mentioning the critical role of the sense of “shame and humiliation” and the “sanctification of victimhood” in shaping modern Chinese history. It seems that shame and humiliation, produced by foreign intervention, are a defining theme in China’s rise. But usually, shame and humiliation depress people. So what in China’s case has managed to serve as a stimulant?