Western Representations of China’s Rise
Chapter 3: Of fears and fantasies: neocolonial desire in Western self/Other imagination
CHINA WATCHING AS A MODERN WESTERN SELF-IMAGINATION The rise of China is often understood in the West through a bifocal, threat-cum-opportunity lens. In this chapter, I want to engage with these two China paradigms, not on their own theoretical or empirical terms, but rather by asking why this bifocal lens persists in China watching and what it can tell us. At first glance, the two paradigms seem to have told us a great deal about China: inter alia, its economic rise, its various challenges, and its potentials for trade, political change, and global convergence. For many, not only does this sophisticated conceptual framework capture the complexity and uncertainty of China as a rising great power, but it also lays the foundation for a sound hedging strategy in dealing with it. Predicated on both the threat and opportunity paradigms, hedging has now replaced engagement and containment as the default China policy in many Western capitals Certainly, the ‘threat’ and ‘opportunity’ paradigms are not total misconceptions or bias. They do reflect certain elements of truth in what can be loosely called ‘Chinese reality’.
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