Sinocentrisme

For nylig læste jeg et blogindlæg af Andrew Batson, der fik mig til at stoppe og tænke. Han skrev bl.a.:

A friend recommended I read Rana Mitter’s Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, and being a big fan of the Very Short Introduction series I was happy to do so. I’m glad I did: although the book surveys some fairly familiar material, it also puts forth some interesting historical ideas. What I found most useful is Mitter’s suggestion that our interpretations of modern Chinese history usually fall into one of three categories (the following are my terms not his):

Traditionalist. This is the view that “China has not essentially changed” despite the upheavals of the 20th century: that Mao and Deng were “new emperors” (as one book put it), that China is fundamentally Confucian and still on the same trajectory as in the rest of its supposed 5,000 years of history. This interpretation is quite common in popular discussions of China, and is implicitly invoked every time someone calls it “The Middle Kingdom” or talks about how Chinese foreign policy is still taking tips from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Socialist. This is the view that 1949 is the dividing line in Chinese history, and that the Communist victory in the civil war changed everything. Mitter associates this view mostly with romantic leftists of the 1960s, who were sympathetic to the Chinese revolution and willing to give Mao the benefit of the doubt. But there is a more contemporary version that also has a lot of currency, which emphasizes the present-day continuities with state socialism: how China remains politically authoritarian and how state-owned enterprises still play a major role in the economy.

Nationalist. This is Mitter’s own view: that the true dividing line in Chinese history is 1911, when the Qing dynasty was overthrown, not 1949. Since then Chinese politics has a “mass politics where there was a social contract between government and citizen” in which nationalism provides the major source of legitimacy. Both the Nationalists and the Communists sought national sovereignty, a strong state and economic development: Mitter sees both parties as engaged in “one long modernizing project.”

The standard academic thing to do would be to admit the obvious point that all three views have elements of truth and call for a nuanced combination: clearly some elements of Chinese traditional culture are still relevant, clearly it matters that the Communists and not the Nationalists have been in power since 1949, and clearly nationalism is a central issue in Chinese politics. So it’s nice that Mitter does not do this, and plants his flag firmly in the last camp.

Jeg er ingen stor Kina-analytiker, men jeg kan dog genkende de tre fortolkningsmodeller.

Tænkte en del over dem mens jeg læste Peter Frankopans ‘The New Silk Roads’. Den er ganske vist ikke en Kina bog per se, men det er den type ‘big history’ bøger ((Andre eksempler: Bruno Maçães ‘The Dawn of Eurasia’ eller et nyligt episk essay af Robert D. Kaplan)), hvis geopolitiske vinkel i sidste ende er forankret i udsigterne til en neo-sinocentrisk verden (læs evt. også dette interessante interview med Frankopan i Financial Times).

Jeg har Frankopan mistænkt for at være en smule for meget ovre i den traditionalistiske fortolkningsmodel. Vi er i hvert fald et godt stykke inde i Battlestar Galacticas mantra om at ‘All this has happened before, and all this will happen again’, når vi får at vide hvordan Kina er på vej til at genindtage sin ledende plads globalt.

Jeg vil ikke sige at jeg er direkte angst for at mine børn og børnbørn skal vokse op i en verden, hvor Kina (igen) er verdens centrum, og hvor Europa (igen) er en blindtarm langt ude mod vest. Der findes dem der - som Frankopan - mener, at det er den verdenshistoriske normaltilstand. Men nej, det huer mig da ikke, at en totalitær overvågningsstat med genopdragelseslejre for muslimer, kommer til at sætte dagsordenen. Og risikoen for øgede konflikter er helt reel, hvis ikke Kina og USA kommer ud af Thukydids fælde.

Det er interessante tider vi lever i!

Kåre Ghisler Fuglsbjerg @kgfuglsbjerg