Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

By Paul M. A. Linebarger; Djang Chu et al. | Go to book overview
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Political Evolution in Old China

IN CHINA as well as in the Western World, the myth of Chinese antiquity is very important. Chinese civilization falls short--by several thousand years--of being the first known civilized community. If the fall of Egypt is dated from the death of Cleopatra, Egypt at its death was perhaps older than China is now. The important living fact about Chinese antiquity is this: China is older than any other human community now in existence. The myth of age runs through Chinese views of China no less than through Western views of China.

If the Chinese think that China is the oldest nation on earth and take pride in that assumption, without bothering to define the terms old or nation, present-day Chinese belief in China's antiquity must still be reckoned a force on the international scene.

The Popular Chinese Cosmogony. From a scientific point of view, the historical facts concerning China's origin are perhaps less important in modern politics than the Chinese myths about their own origin. In both the Nationalist and Communist periods of modern China, the Chinese have defended irrational or legendary elements in their own culture, whenever those elements could contribute to a vigorous revolutionary or anti-foreign propaganda campaign. It is paradoxical to see a Chinese atheist rejecting Christianity as myth and then presenting Chinese mythology as a defense of wise atheist patriotism.

The Communist regime has not been in power long enough to make plain its own party line concerning the reconciliation of Chinese traditions to the international Communist ideology. The China of the 1950's entered a community of Communist states which were already in existence, a community heavily overbalanced by the avowed primacy of Russia in that system. So it has become familiar for Americans to hear day by day that a


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Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan
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