Chinese Expansionism v. Chinese Expansion

Andrew Meyer takes an interview with Lee Kuan Yew and turns it into a short (considering the subject matter) but deep meditation on the history of China and “China,” the process of Chinese expansion and integration through trade and conquest. He concludes that “a ‘deep historical’ perspective makes Chinese aggression a less pressing long-term concern for global peace and stability than internicine strife within China itself.”

Though internal division and dissension are very important, I’m not sure whether I agree that, from an outsider perspective, they are more important than China’s rising nationalism and power. In fact, I think it’s entirely possible that internal dissension could drive external aggressiveness (Wag the Dog, anyone?), that nationalism could exacerbate internal tensions by narrowing the definition of full citizenship, and that external adventurism could exhaust the state’s ability to deliver benefits resulting in a loss of legitimacy. Possibly all at once.


  1. Keep in mind that the chinese have no conception of ‘humanity’ in their belief system. For the leadership throughout 2000 years, the people have never been anything than mere instruments for their own aggrandisement. This is tacitly accepted by the people and, in consequence, spend their lives doing unto each other that which they see is the right of those above them to do unto them. When topdown oppression is deemed natural, horizontal oppression is simultaneously naturalised.

  2. That’s absurd. There are lots of reasons to consider the Chinese Imperial tradition problematic, but to understand Chinese history entirely through the lens of a political system that itself has never had total control is ahistorical and shortsighted.

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