Chinese Whispers

What is it to be ‘Chinese’?

43 min listen

In This Episode

Sun Yat-sen was the founding father of China’s first republic, when the Qing dynasty was overthrown. Here he sits, with his successor Chiang Kai-Shek standing behind. They were two among many intellectuals and politicians whose agitations helped contribute to modern Chinese national identity. In his book, The Invention of China, journalist Bill Hayton argues that this is where ‘China’ and the key parts that contribute to a modern Chinese identity – territorial claims, ethnicities, history and so on – were moulded into an ‘imagined’ nationalism.

I interview Bill in this episode, and we discuss everything from the contribution of foreign aggressors (especially Japan) to China’s modern identity, to the ferocious intellectual debate about which ethnicities are ‘Chinese’ – just Han? Or Mongols, Manchurians, Tibetans and Uyghurs too? Plus – is any national identity around the world not constructed?


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