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2012/06/08

China: The Pessoptimist Nation


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China: The Pessoptimist Nation

The rise of China presents a long-term challenge to the world not only economically, but politically and culturally. Callahan meets this challenge in China: The Pessoptimist Nation by using new Chinese sources and innovative analysis to see how Chinese people understand their new place in the world.

To chart the trajectory of its rise, the book shifts from examining China's national interests to exploring its national aesthetic. Rather than answering the standard social science question "what is China?" with statistics of economic and military power, this book asks "when, where, and who is China?" to explore the soft power dynamics of China's identity politics.

China: The Pessoptimist Nation shows how the heart of Chinese foreign policy is not a security dilemma, but an identity dilemma. Through careful analysis, Callahan charts how Chinese identity emerges through the interplay of positive and negative feelings in a dynamic that intertwines China's domestic and international politics. China thus is the pessoptimist nation where national security is closely linked to nationalist insecurities.



As the sub-title would suggest – Pessoptimist Nation – there is a strange quandary in maintaining rhetoric of national humiliation whilst emerging as a powerful and stable player in the world order of nations. Balancing the achievements of China with her humiliation pose contradictory positions that can not just be met with understanding achievements, such as hosting the Olympics in Beijing or the Expo in Shanghai, as ending the politics of suffering as some suggested they would be. There can be no sense of finally arriving on the world stage if the discourse of inequality and retribution are replicated under the banner of National Humiliation through the generations.



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