Edited by Christopher M. Dent
Chapter 5: China’s Place in East Asia
Steve Tsang INTRODUCTION The spectacular rise of China in the last decade raises the question of where China’s ‘rightful’ place is in the world in general and in East Asia in particular. When Chiang Kai-shek led China to victory against Japan in 1945 he was satisﬁed that China had secured a place as one of the ﬁve great powers holding a permanent seat at the Security Council of the United Nations. For him China had found its rightful place in the new world order. Four years later, as Mao Zedong drove Chiang out of the mainland of China and led the Communists to power he had a much grander ambition. He intended to restore China to the pre-eminent position it enjoyed for much of the previous two millennia, even if this required working within and making use of the Soviet bloc (Tsang, 2006a). The legacies of the ‘century of humiliation’ have been since then largely if not completely eliminated.1 This applied particularly after the product of the Chinese Empire’s ﬁrst humiliating defeat by the West, the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has not completely removed the psychological complex associated with its view of modern history. The legacy of a ‘victim mentality’ is still discernible in China.2 This notwithstanding, whether Mao’s grandiose ambition remains alive today is debatable. China and its leadership’s assessment of the world have undergone signiﬁcant changes following the generational succession in leadership after Mao’s...
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