China is one of the few countries that has never been fully colonized by European powers. Nevertheless, China did not escape the wars, looting and humiliations inflicted by European states worldwide.
These events are engrained in the collective memory of the Chinese. China has not forgotten and has not forgiven the west. Every time there is a conflict with former imperial powers, this is resorted to. China looks at the present through the lens of the past. Knowledge of China’s past is therefore crucial for understanding the present. For this reason, the book Out of China is highly recommended for anyone who wants to know how the lens of interpretation of modern China works.
“Nationalism is important in China, and what is important in China is important to all of us.” – Robert Bickers, Out of China
Out of China was authored by Robert Bickers, a modern China specialist. He is also a history professor at the University of Bristol, and he is participating in the Hong Kong History Project and the digitization of Historical Photographs of China digitisation initiative.
Bickers has previously published eight books about China, in addition to being active in initiatives relating to the Chinese history. Out of China is a sort of sequel to his previous work The Scramble for China. The Scramble for China focuses on the West’s subversion and humiliation of China, whereas Out of China examines how this altered China’s perception of the outside world. Even so, you can read both books separately.
Out of China
The book begins shortly after World War I (1914-1918) and continues until the beginning of the twenty-first century. The book covers the story of China and how it rose to become an international power.
Following the Communist triumph in 1949, Chinese subservience and goodwill toward the West vanished. Bickers discusses this transformation and the narrative of how an impoverished agrarian culture became a modern state. He explains to the reader in detail how Communist leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) oversaw this process and what transpired under his rule.
Bickers’ use of stories that approach the process from many perspectives is not flashy. Bickers’ book also includes many confrontations with European nations throughout the Cold War, in addition to the internal Chinese situation. The book’s overall concentration is on the social and cultural dimensions of the past.
Yay or Nay
Bickers’ account explains how events contributed to China’s current image of the West. Bickers use a wide range of sources, including memoirs, biographies, and newspapers, in addition to official sources. In addition to drawing famous personalities, the book also has place for the average citizen.
However, there is one thing to note about his writing style. One disadvantage is that he writes lengthy paragraphs that frequently span whole pages. These paragraphs may also include a lot of information at times. The reader may find it challenging to immerse themselves in the story due to the abundance of data. This doesn’t change the fact that the story reads quickly once you’re immersed in it.
“China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, because when she wakes up, she’ll set the world in motion. ”– Napoleon Bonaparte
The future is unpredictable, but China’s objective is not. In 2012, for example, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping (1953) stated that China had fully recovered control of its own future. The next goal, according to Xi, was to realize the Chinese dream, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese country.
In a nutshell, the Chinese behemoth has awoken and started out to achieve its ‘dream’. Achieving this Chinese goal is intrinsically tied to its tragic history, and the rest of the world must be aware of it. That is why this in-depth book about China’s tragic twentieth century is a must-read for anybody who wants to truly understand China.
Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination, 2018
Written by Robert Bickers
576 pages, Penguin Books Ltd