Despite assertions by Beijing that it seeks a peaceful rise and integration with the global community, China’s growing political and economic might has set off alarm bells internationally, not least because of a perception that nationalism in China is on the rise.
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On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) stating, “China has stood up!” The PRC was recognized by the Soviet Union on October 2nd and by other Communist countries shortly thereafter.
A sign at the entrance of China’s Baotou, Inner Mongolia Pioneering Rare Earth Hi-Tech Zone quotes Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 claim: “There is oil in the Middle East, but there is rare earth in China.”
The China that we see today had its origins in Prehistory. The remains of one of our earliest human ancestors, Peking Man, were found near the Zhoukoudian cave system located about 50 km southwest of Beijing.
The end of the Zhou Dynasty was a chaotic time, with seven states vying for power across the empire. This period came to an end with the victory of the Qin, resulting in a brief, but hugely important, period of unity for the Chinese.
The approximately 400 years between the Age of Division and the end of the Sui Dynasty, saw many familiar themes dominate. China endured fluctuating periods of fragmentation and reunification.
As the Tang Dynasty got stronger after the fall of the Sui Dynasty in 618 CE, it confronted what was becoming a familiar set of challenges for all Chinese emperors wishing to consolidate control over a unified China.
The Yuan marked the only time that China was entirely conquered by the Mongols. Increasingly, by the end of the Song Dynasty, when the Chinese refused to trade on what the Mongols felt were acceptable terms, the herders had the mobility and military skills to get what they wanted by launching raids.
By the mid-1300s, local rebellions had broken out in large parts of Yuan China. Into this increasingly unstable China, the Ming Dynasty founder Zhu Yuanzhang, better known by his temple name Taizu, was born into a poor peasant family, later becoming only the second peasant in all of Chinese history to become emperor.
As China entered into the Qing Dynasty, the last of its long dynastic line, it became increasingly challenged by a desire to reaffirm traditional Confucian values in order to preserve its historic agrarian, hierarchical, patriarchal society.