The two great overarching themes of Chinese history from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present day are the country’s efforts to modernize, and attempts over this period by the various states, academics, cultural figures and others to articulate a cohesive sense of Chinese national identity. These two phenomena, of modernity and identity, were connected by the fact that they both, to varying extents, involved China’s relationship with the outside world. The first, because modernization had largely risen from Western processes of scientific enquiry and industrialization, and the second because Chinese intellectuals and politicians often located themselves in opposition to Western models, and posited a sense of ‘Chineseness’ which was in some way alternative or different from these — an aspiration to be like the West in some ways, but different to it in others. This exists to this day in forms of Chinese exceptionalism and notions like ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
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- The Making of Modern China
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