Monday, August 6, 2012

Zheng Wang's "Never Forget National Humiliation"

Zheng Wang is an Associate Professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. His research seeks to explain China's political transition and foreign policy behavior through the exploration of the country's indigenous culture, identity and domestic discourse.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works very well with my book.

First, this page happens to bring up a few key concepts of the book, such as “history education,” “legitimacy,” and “political transition.” In general, this book discusses the state use of history and the politics of collective memory in Chinese political transformation and foreign policy. The chapter that contains page 99 tracks particularly how the legitimacy-challenged Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used history and ideological education as instruments to glorify the party, reestablish its legitimacy, consolidate national identity, and justify one-party rule in the post-Tiananmen and post-Cold War era.

Second, page 99 is indeed among the pages addressing the most important case study of the book, China’s “Patriotic Education Campaign.” This page begins with an introduction of an official document that the CCP issued for conducting a major curriculum reform in history education. This document is considered as the first official policy statement to launch this top-down ideological education campaign. Page 99 (and a little bit page 100) also contains one of the important findings of the book:
Since the CCP was no longer supported by communist ideology, the Beijing leadership needed to find a new source of legitimacy. Patriotic education stressed the role of the communist state as the bearer of China’s historic struggle for national independence and therefore reinforced CCP authority.
Third, this page reveals a good example of the writing style of the book, too. On page 99, there is a direct quotation from a CCP document, “Outline on Implementing Patriotic Education.” As I commented: “The CCP did not hesitate to tell people why it had launched this education campaign. The 1994 outline explicitly laid out a series of major objectives:
The objectives of conducting the patriotic education campaign are to boost the nation’s spirit, enhance cohesion, foster national self-esteem and pride, consolidate and develop a patriotic united front to the broadest extent possible, and direct and rally the masses’ patriotic passions to the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
This book frequently features direct translations of Chinese official documents, political leaders’ articles, and history textbooks. As a person who has been educated in both China and the West, I hope that I can interpret one culture to another in meaningful and actionable ways. In this book, I want to guide my readers to visit the country’s primary schools and high schools and read their history textbooks and official narratives. I believe that this is an essential way to really understand a country and its future orientation.
Learn more about Never Forget National Humiliation at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue