Program Details

Humiliation and Hegemony: How History Informs Chinese Attitudes and Behavior

Andrew R. Wilson
Video Catch-up

Course Description

This talk explores the two narratives that define the historical consciousness of the Chinese people and of the Chinese government today. The first is the "century of humiliation" narrative, wherein China was brought low by foreign invasion and exploitation over the hundred years from the 1840s to the 1940s. The second is the perception that before that "century of humiliation," Imperial China was a natural and benevolent hegemon. This implies that for centuries there was something of a Chinese World Order and that the modern primacy of the West is an historical aberration. "Never Forget National Humiliation" and "Rejuvenate the Great Chinese Nation" are among Xi Jinping's favorite mantras and their pursuit explains a lot about how the PRC behaves, and about popular attitudes in China toward the outside world. Simply put, one cannot understand contemporary China without understanding how China's modern history--from 18th Century Hegemon to 20th Century Failed State--shapes how the Chinese think of their place in the world today and their expectations for China's future rise.

About the Instructor

  • Andrew R. Wilson, Ph.D. is Professor of Strategy and Policy at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI, the world’s oldest and most prestigious center for senior military education. An old “China Hand,” Andrew received his Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University with a specialization in the history of Pre-Modern and Modern China. His dissertation dealt with the Chinese merchant community in the Colonial Philippines. Professor Wilson has published numerous articles and books on Chinese maritime history, the Chinese diaspora, Chinese military history and the history of maritime Asia. Professor Wilson’s research interests are not limited to history. He has also written on Chinese strategic culture, contemporary Asian security, Chinese politics and Chinese military modernization. In addition, he is an expert on strategic thought and formerly served as the Naval War College’s Philip A. Crowl Professor of Comparative Strategy. Before joining the Naval War College faculty in 1998, Professor Wilson taught introductory and advanced courses in Chinese history and the history of the Chinese diaspora at Harvard and at Wellesley College. He has also taught at Salve Regina University and at the University of Rhode Island’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). His courses at OLLI include Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan, The Treasure Fleets of the Great Ming and A History of Modern China. An award-winning educator and dynamic lecturer, Professor Wilson has spoken at numerous military colleges and civilian universities across the United States and around the world, has been featured on the History Channel and National Public Radio, and has been a guest lecturer for One Day University, Scientific American, The New York Times Journeys and National Geographic. Professor Wilson is also an inveterate traveler and fanatical foodie. He has lived in China, Taiwan and the Philippines and makes annual trips to Asia, frequently accompanied by students and faculty from the Naval War College. Professor Wilson’s books include Ambition and Identity: Chinese Merchant-Elites in Colonial Manila, 1885-1916; The Chinese in the Caribbean; China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force; and the forthcoming The Acme of Skill: Strategic Theory from Antiquity to the Information Age. He has also taught for the Great Courses: with lecture series on The Art of War; Masters of War: History’s Greatest Strategic Thinkers; and Understanding Imperial China: Dynasties, Lives and Cultures.