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China: From a Nationless State to a Nation Defined by State

Mara Yue Du, Cornell University

December 6, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 202 Jones Hall

East Asian Studies Program

Reading a pre-modern concept into the modern era rather than reading modern notions back into the past, “China: From a Nationless State to a Nation Defined by State” explores how China and Chinese nationalism have been shaped by the multifaceted concept “guo.” A word for dynastic state in classical Chinese, this term came to be used for the modern nation-state since the 19th century through translation of international law and introduction of nationalism to China as mediated by Chinese overseas and transnational intellectuals. But “guo’s” lingering meaning of “regime”—or political dynasty as broadly defined—continued to undermine both the ethnic and civic aspects of nation-building in China’s Qing-to-Republic transition. The strong connotation of the state over the people and the regime above institutions of governance within the triple-faced “guo” (nation-state-regime) fully revived after 1949, influencing class politics under Mao and rising state patriotism in contemporary China.

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