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“Epilogue: China in Larger Contexts” is a chapter from the book A History of Chinese Political Thought written by Youngmin Kim. It focuses on Chinese history from the period when the Qing dynasty began its ruling and was replaced by the Republic of China. This era was characterized by the formulation of Chinese identity, the status of “central efflorescence”, and the relationships between East Asian countries, including the Korean Chosŏn, Vietnam, and Japan, before and during the expansion of European countries.
This chapter tells about China’s growth regardless of the challenges and concerns that existed between the neighbors and was based on various political and cultural allegiances (Kim, 2017). To become the strong Republic of China, the Qing dynasty had to contribute to the foundation of collective identity and establish its operational power in a large context.
The author offers to consider the rise of China as a global power through the prism of its relationships with the nearest neighbors. For example, it is said Korean Chosŏn cherished its political hope for the Ming dynasty’s return to China (Kim, 2017). In the beginning, they used the concept of “central efflorescence” as the ideology that introduced a “weapon of the weak” in the hands of the Qing dynasty (Kim, 2017).
With time, when the Qing demonstrate its military power and global intentions, even the most confident intellectuals of the Chosŏn accepted a new dynasty and its ideology as a possibility to unite the whole nation that was free from barbarians and open for new negotiations. In addition, some Asian countries wanted to strengthen their positions in the face of the coming European expansion. Vietnam was afraid of the French conquerors, and Japan did not want to lose its stability and independence from the outside world.
To survive a fast-spreading European impact, China had to improve its understanding of place and identity. The Qing used the idea of “central efflorescence” as a new center of civilization (Kim, 2017). The flow of capital, new technologies, and globalization were used to promote market-oriented progress. The Republic of China followed the principle of collective intentionality according to which the population became able to create new standards and make the world follow them. The history of the Republic of China was based on contradictions, doubts, and high expectations that strengthened its people and proved its power in the eyes of the neighbors, friends, and enemies.
The age of globalization and the spread of new technologies have a considerable impact on the rapid rise of Chinese powers around the whole world. Still, what is the exact role of such factors as identity, self-understanding, and “central efflorescence” during the expansion of the European empires for China, in general, and for the Qing dynasty, in particular?
Kim, Y. (2017). A history of Chinese political thought. Medford, MA: Policy Press.