Zheng Wang is an Associate Professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. His research seeks to explain China's political transition and foreign policy behavior through the exploration of the country's indigenous culture, identity and domestic discourse.
His new book is Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations.
From the author's Q & A at the Columbia University Press blog:
Question: What is historical memory? Why did you use “never forgot national humiliation” as the title of this book?The Page 99 Test: Never Forget National Humiliation.
Zheng Wang: Let me give you an example, while only some Americans actually witnessed the fall of the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, future generations of Americans are undoubtedly becoming connected to this national trauma through its retelling in the news, family stories, and classroom lessons. Historical memory is recollections and representations of past historical events shared by a particular group. For a group of people, their collective historical memory can be linked to both a single event as well as their national experience. It is collective memory of the past that binds a group of people together. For example, the National Mall in Washington D.C. reminds Americans of the glories and traumas of the United States. Each year millions of students visit their nation’s capitol to see these grand symbols and hear the stories that define what it means to be an American.
For the Chinese, their historical consciousness has been powerfully influenced by the so-called “century of humiliation” from the First Opium War (1839–1842) through the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1945. Chinese remember this period as a time when their nation was attacked, bullied, and torn asunder by imperialists. “Never forget national humiliation” is the English translation of a Chinese phrase Wuwang Guochi. In this book, I refer to it as the “national phrase” of China. The Chinese characters associated with this motto were engraved on monuments and painted on walls all over China. In general, this book examines how the discourse of national humiliation became an integral part of the construction of national identity and nation building in the different periods of China. It also explains how today’s Chinese youth engage with the phrase and how this informs...[read on]