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Sino-speak: Chinese Exceptionalism and the Politics of History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2012

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Abstract

This article examines how recent books by academics and public intellectuals are reshaping the discourse of the rise of China. While earlier trends argued that China was being socialized into the norms of international society, many texts now proclaim that due to its unique civilization, China will follow its own path to modernity. Such books thus look to the past—China's imperial history—for clues to not only China's future, but also the world's future. This discourse, which could be called “Sino-speak,” presents an essentialized Chinese civilization that is culturally determined to rule Asia, if not the world. The article notes that nuanced readings of China's historical relations with its East Asian neighbors provide a critical entry into a more sophisticated analysis of popular declarations of “Chinese exceptionalism.” But it concludes that this critical analysis is largely overwhelmed by the wave of Sino-speak.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 2012

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