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The international relations of the ‘imagined community’: Explaining the late nineteenth-century genesis of the Chinese nation

  • LUKE COOPER
Abstract

Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities has long been established as one of the major contributions to theories of nations and nationalism. Anderson located the rise of national identities within a long-evolving crisis of dynastic conceptions of identity, time, and space, and argued print-capitalism was the key cultural and economic force in the genesis of nations. This article offers a critical appropriation and application of Anderson's theory through two steps. Firstly, it evaluates the conceptual underpinning of his approach through an engagement with recent scholarship on the ‘theory of uneven and combined development’. The fruits of this interchange provide a deeper analytical framework to account for what Anderson calls the ‘modularity’ of national identity, that is, its universal spread across the globe. Modularity is now reconceptualised as a product of combined development with its causal efficacy derived from the latent dynamics of a geopolitically fragmented world. The latter gave shape and form to the new national communities. Secondly, this revised framework is applied to the emergence of Chinese national identity in the late nineteenth century. This allows Chinese nationalism to be recast as an ideological amalgam of indigenous and imported elements that emerged out of the crisis-ridden encounter between Imperial China and Western imperialism in the nineteenth century.

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1 Ray Rudowski, As It Happened Hong Kong's Handover June 30th 1997 Ray Rudowski's Historical Archive Part 13 (video), (2012), available at: {http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oms8sNLyP9g&feature=youtube_gdata_player} accessed 23 September 2013.

2 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006), p. 5 .

3 Pomerantz-Zhang, Linda, Wu Tingfang (1842–1922) (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1992), p. 8 .

4 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 4, emphasis added.

5 Hobson, John M., The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Hobson, John M., ‘What's at Stake in the Neo-Trotskyist Debate? Towards a Non-Eurocentric Historical Sociology of Uneven and Combined Development', Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 40:1 (2011), pp. 147–66.

6 Anderson, Imagined Communities.

7 Bartelson, Jens, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 31 .

8 Griffiths, Martin and Sullivan, Michael, ‘Nationalism and International Relations Theory’, Australian Journal of Politics & History, 43:1 (1997), pp. 53–5; Pettman, Jan Jindy, ‘Nationalism and After’, Review of International Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 149–51, 6.

9 Pettman, ‘Nationalism and After’, p. 151.

10 For an overview, see Finnemore, Martha and Sikkink, Kathryn, ‘Taking Stock: The Constructivist Research Program in International Relations and Comparative Politics’, Annual Review of Political Science, 4:1 (2001), pp. 391416 .

11 Hobsbawm, E. J., Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 4 .

12 White, Hayden, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: MD: John Hopkins University Press, 1975), p. 170 .

13 Ibid., p. 173.

14 Ibid., pp. 174–5.

15 Eley, Geoff and Suny, Ronald Grigor, Becoming National: A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 21 .

16 Hobsbawm, Eric and Ranger, Terence, The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 1 .

17 Hage, Ghassan, ‘A Not so Multi-Sited Ethnography of a Not so Imagined Community’, Anthropological Theory, 5:4 (2005), pp. 463–75.

18 Desai, Radhika, ‘Introduction: Nationalisms and Their Understandings in Historical Perspective’, Third World Quarterly, 29:3 (2008), p. 398 .

19 Desai, Radhika, ‘Review Essay: The Inadvertence of Benedict Anderson: A Review Essay of Imagined Communities on the Occasion of a New Edition’, Global Media and Communication, 4:2 (August 2008), p. 193 .

20 Nairn, Tom, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (Champaign, IL: Common Ground, 2003).

21 Desai, ‘Review Essay: The Inadvertence of Benedict Anderson: A Review Essay of Imagined Communities on the Occasion of a New Edition’, p. 193.

22 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 37.

23 Ibid.

24 Desai, Radhika, ‘Marx, List, and the Materiality of Nations’, Rethinking Marxism, 24:1 (2012), pp. 4767 .

25 For a summary of these issues see Callinicos, Alex, ‘Does Capitalism Need the State System?’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 20:4 (2007), pp. 533–49.

26 Chatterjee, Partha, ‘Whose Imagined Community?’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 20:3 (1991), p. 521 .

27 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006), p. 156 .

28 Anievas, Alexander and Nisancioglu, Kerem, ‘What's at Stake in the Transition Debate? Rethinking the Origins of Capitalism and the “Rise of the West”’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 42:1 (2013), pp. 78102 ; Davidson, Neil, ‘Putting the Nation Back into “the International”’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 22:1 (2009), pp. 928 ; Matin, Kamran, ‘Uneven and Combined Development in World History: The International Relations of State-Formation in Premodern Iran’, European Journal of International Relations, 13:3 (2007), pp. 419–47; Matin, Kamran, ‘Redeeming the Universal: Postcolonialism and the Inner Life of Eurocentrism’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:2 (2013), pp. 353–77; Nisancioglu, Kerem, ‘The Ottoman Origins of Capitalism: Uneven and Combined Development and Eurocentrism’, Review of International Studies, 40:2 (2014), pp. 325–47; Rosenberg, Justin, ‘Why Is There No International Historical Sociology?’, European Journal of International Relations, 12:3 (2006), pp. 307–40; Rosenberg, Justin, ‘Basic Problems in the Theory of Uneven and Combined Development. Part II: Unevenness and Political Multiplicity’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 23:1 (2010), pp. 165–89; Rosenberg, Justin, ‘The “Philosophical Premises” of Uneven and Combined Development’, Review of International Studies, 39:3 (2013), pp. 569–97.

29 Anderson, Imagined Communities, pp. 5–6.

30 Anderson's use of ‘imagined community’ as a presupposition has obvious methodological parallels with the rearticulated vision of ‘combined social development’; both use a general abstraction as a way of structuring a concrete, historical investigation. On the case for a transhistorical notion of combined development, see Rosenberg, ‘Why Is There No International Historical Sociology?’; Rosenberg, ‘Basic Problems in the Theory of Uneven and Combined Development. Part II’.

31 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 4.

32 Ibid., pp. 42–3.

33 Ibid., pp. 22–5.

34 Ibid., p. 24, see also; Auerbach, Erich, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton University Press, 2003); Benjamin, Walter, Illuminations (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1968), p. 263 ; Bloch, Marc, Feudal Society: Vol 1: The Growth and Ties of Dependence (Psychology Press, 1989), pp. 84–6.

35 Auerbach, Mimesis, p. 74.

36 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 23.

37 Neil Davidson, ‘Reimagined Communities’, International Socialism Journal (online), 117 (2007), available at: {http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=401} accessed 11 November 2013.

38 Benjamin, Illuminations, pp. 261–2.

39 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 26.

40 Ibid., p. 36.

41 Ibid., pp. 38–9.

42 Ibid., pp. 25–6.

43 Ibid., p. 33.

44 Ibid., p. 64.

45 Ibid., p. 40.

46 Ibid., pp. 40–1.

47 Ibid., pp. 44–5.

48 Ibid., p. 4, emphasis added.

49 Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain.

50 Anderson, Imagined Communities, pp. 155–6.

51 Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain, p. 7.

52 Ibid., pp. 334–5.

53 Ibid., p. 335.

54 Ibid., p. 357.

55 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 156.

56 Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain, p. 7.

57 Thanks to Justin Rosenberg for impressing upon me the importance of these distinctions in conversation. A fuller taxonomy of the idea of ‘uneven and combined development’ can be found in Luke Cooper, ‘Uneven and Combined Development in Modern World History: Chinese Economic Reform in the Longue Durée of Capitalist Modernity’, presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Diego (2012), p. 6.

58 Trotsky, Leon, The History of the Russian Revolution (volume 1) (London: Sphere Books, 1967), p. 23 .

59 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 4, emphasis added.

60 Ibid., p. 43.

61 Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain, p. 7.

62 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 36.

63 Myers, Ramon and Wang, Yeh-chien, ‘Economic Developments, 1644–1800’, in Peterson, Willard (ed.), Cambridge History of China Volume 9 Part One: The Ch'ing Empire to 1800, vol. 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 606 .

64 Fairbank, John King and Goldman, Merle, China: A New History, Second Enlarged Edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 21, 83–5, 181.

65 Dirlik, Arif, ‘Culture in Contemporary IR; the Chinese Provocation’, in Shilliam, Robbie (ed.), International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and Investigations of Global Modernity (Abingdon, Oxon, and New York: Taylor & Francis, 2011), p. 146 .

66 Ibid.

67 Ibid., p. 146

68 Dirlik, ‘Culture in Contemporary IR; the Chinese Provocation’, p. 147.

69 Ibid.

70 Hsü, Immanuel C. Y., The Rise of Modern China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 192 .

71 Hung, Ho-Fung, Protest with Chinese Characteristics: Demonstrations, Riots, and Petitions in the Mid-Qing Dynasty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), p. 186 .

72 Davidson, ‘Reimagined Communities’.

73 Ibid.

74 Rowe, William, ‘Social Stability and Social Change’, in Peterson, Willard (ed.), Cambridge History of China Volume 9 Part One: The Ch'ing Empire to 1800, vol. 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 473562 .

75 Ibid., p. 552.

76 McMichael, Philip, ‘Britain's Hegemony in the Nineteenth Century World Economy’, in Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Stephens, Evelyne Huber (eds), States versus Markets in the World-System (London: Sage Publications, 1985), pp. 117–49.

77 Hobson, ‘What's at Stake in the Neo-Trotskyist Debate?’

78 Kayaoğlu, Turan, Legal Imperialism: Sovereignty and Extraterritoriality in Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 44 .

79 Many thanks to Maïa Pal for impressing upon me in discussion the significance of the divergent response of the Ottoman and Confucian elites to the formal legal structures of ‘extraterritoriality’.

80 Fairbank and Goldman, China, pp. 216–18.

81 Tanner, Harold Miles, China: A History (Cambridge: MA, Hackett Publishing, 2009), p. 397 .

82 Fairbank and Goldman, China, p. 219.

83 Ibid.

84 Rosenberg, Justin, The Empire of Civil Society: A Critique of the Realist Theory of International Relations (London: Verso, 1994), p. 128 ; Wood, Ellen Meiksins, ‘The Separation of the Economic and the Political in Capitalism’, New Left Review, 127 (June 1981).

85 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 85.

86 Isett, Christopher, State, Peasant, and Merchant in Qing Manchuria, 1644–1862 (Stanford University Press, 2006).

87 Hsü, Immanuel C. Y., ‘Late Ch'ing Foreign Relations, 1866–1905’, in Fairbank, John and Liu, Kwang-Ching (eds), Cambridge History of China Vol. 11 Part 2 Late Ch'ing, 1800–1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 108–9.

88 Wood, Neal, John Locke and Agrarian Capitalism (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 1984), p. 19 .

89 Chang, Hao, ‘Intellectual Change and the Reform Movement, 1890–8’, in Fairbank, John and Kwang-Ching, (eds), Late Ch'ing, 1800–1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 275 .

90 Fairbank and Goldman, China, p. 226.

91 Ibid.

92 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 84.

93 Kaske, Elisabeth, The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919 (Pub Place?:, 2008), p. 27 .

94 Chang, ‘Intellectual Change and the Reform Movement, 1890–8’, p. 276.

95 Ibid.

96 Kaske, The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919, p. 94.

97 Ibid.

98 Chatterjee, ‘Whose Imagined Community?’, pp. 522–3.

99 Karl, Rebecca E., Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 11 .

100 Chatterjee, ‘Whose Imagined Community?’, p. 523.

101 Alexander Anievas, ‘1914 In World Historical Perspective: The “Uneven” and “Combined” Origins of the First World War’, European Journal of International Relations (2012), p. 16.

102 Lee, Leo, ‘Literary Trends I: The Quest for Modernity, 1895–1927’, in Fairbank, John (ed.), Republican China 1912–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 452–3; see also, Kaske, The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919, pp. 161–232.

103 Tanner, China, pp. 398– 9.

104 Fairbank and Goldman, China, p. 230.

105 Esherick, Joseph, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 1987).

106 Fairbank and Goldman, China, pp. 230–1.

107 Westad, Odd Arne, Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (London: Bodley Head, 2012), p. 126 .

108 Lee, ‘Literary Trends I’, p. 336.

109 Schiffrin Z., Harold, ‘The Impact of the War on China’, in Kowner, Rotem (ed.), The Impact of the Russo-Japanese War, Kindle Edition (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 171 .

110 Sheftall, M. G., ‘An Ideological Genealogy of Imperial Era Japanese Militarism’, in McDonough, Frank (ed.), The Origins of the Second World War: An International Perspective (London and New York: Continuum Publishing Corporation, 2011), p. 56 .

111 Mitter, Rana, A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

112 Lin, Yusheng, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Antitraditionalism in the May Fourth Era (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979).

113 Wakeman, Frederic, ‘A Revisionist View of the Nanjing Decade: Confucian Fascism’, The China Quarterly, 150 (1997), pp. 430–2.

114 Hung, Protest with Chinese Characteristics, epilogue.

115 Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution (volume 1), pp. 21–32.

116 Kuo, Huei-ying, ‘Chinese Bourgeois Nationalism in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1930s’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 36:3 (2006), pp. 386– 7.

117 Zarrow, Peter, After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885–1924 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), p. 208 .

118 Harrell, Paula, Sowing the Seeds of Change: Chinese Students, Japanese Teachers, 18951905 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), p. 135 .

119 Jansen, Marius B., The Japanese and Sun Yat-Sen (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970), p. 60 .

120 Ibid., pp. 61–2.

121 Ibid., p. 204.

122 Ching-Hwang, Yen, ‘Overseas Chinese Nationalism in Singapore and Malaya 1877–1912’, Modern Asian Studies, 16:3 (1982), p. 425 .

123 Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-Sen, pp. 210–12.

124 Powers, John, History As Propaganda?: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 104 .

125 Mitter, Rana, ‘“The Individual and the International I”: Zou Taofen and Changing Views of China's Place in the International System’, Global Society, 17:2 (2003), p. 123 .

126 Some writers have challenged the idea that minzu has a racial inflection. Shanshan Lan argues that min is best translated as ‘people’ and zu as ‘lineage’, neither of which are necessarily racialised, and together minzu can mean nation, people or ethnicity. Ergo Lan argues translations of Sun's work have tended to translate minzu as race incorrectly. Lan, however, accepts Sun's nationalism ‘contained a large dose of racial pride’, and that he often conflated minzu with zhongzu (racial lineage) in his own speeches. See Lan, Shanshan, Diaspora and Class Consciousness: Chinese Immigrant Workers in Multiracial Chicago (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 38–9.

127 Cited in Harrell, Sowing the Seeds of Change, p. 104.

128 Cited in Ibid., p. 148.

129 Dikötter, Frank, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1992).

130 Ibid., pp. 98–107.

131 Ibid., pp. 106–7.

132 Lin, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness, p. 55.

133 Zarrow, After Empire, p. 187.

134 Ibid., p. 278.

135 Ibid., pp. 92–5.

136 Ibid., p. 157.

137 Ibid., pp. 226–8.

138 Thornton, Patricia M., Disciplining the State: Virtue, Violence, and State-Making in Modern China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007), p. 72 .

139 Zarrow, After Empire, p. 278.

140 Ibid.

141 Thornton, Disciplining the State, pp. 11–12.

142 Sheftall, ‘An Ideological Genealogy of Imperial Era Japanese Militarism’, p. 56.

143 Zarrow, After Empire, p. 278.

144 Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-Sen, pp. 64, 203.

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