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Discourses of Weakness in Modern China

Historical Diagnoses of the "Sick Man of East Asia"

From the time of China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894–95 until the 1930s, the assumption that China was a “weak state” dominated political discourse in China and beyond. In those discussions, China was seen as  lacking competitiveness in a world that was increasingly being understood in harsh Darwinian terms. Aiming to better understand contemporary China’s self-image and identity, this volume traces both the emergence of the narrative of China’s alleged “national ruin” and the discursive construction of China as the “Sick Man of East Asia.”

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