China’s Search for Cultural and National Identity from the Nineteenth Century to the Present

Publication date:

November 1, 2006


Werner Meissner


The paper describes and analyzes crucial elements of cultural and national identity-building in China from the 19th century to the present: the unfolding of the identity crisis following its repeated defeats by Western powers in the 19th century and the attempts of China’s intellectual elite to develop a new cultural and national identity. The paper also deals with the main currents of identity-building and the perception of the West since the 1980s by discussing the rising importance of Confucianism, the role of history and language, and the renaissance of Western thought after the decline of Marxism-Leninism. Finally, the focus will be on the emergence of different types of Chinese nationalism since the 19th century and the recent discourse on nationalism.


Culture | Historical Context

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