How did China become China? And where is it leading us? We talk as if it had always existed: eternal China with its 5,000 years of uninterrupted history. But the name 'China' was first used by sixteenth-century Europeans, and its Chinese equivalent, Zhongguo, only gained currency in the mid-1800s.
China Imagined is a thoughtful exploration of the idea of China, from the naming and mapping of its territory and peoples to the creation and rise of the modern nation-state. China's early history describes a multilingual space, ruled by a homogeneous elite with its own minority culture--a far cry from Maoism's national mass culture, or Xi Jinping's state-controlled digital society today.
Gregory Lee traces this complex, diverse entity's evolution since the Opium Wars into a China made in 'our' image. Today, it is a great power integral to the global system, whether it comes to climate change, security or inequality. Given this rapid convergence with the West, Xi's China holds up a mirror to our own nations. Trump's America, Putin's Russia and post-Brexit Europe all betray echoes of 'the Chinese Dream'. If China is a product of Westernization, is it now the West's turn to become China?