ChinaFile Presents: ‘How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power’
Howard W. French, former New York Times Asia correspondent and author of China's Second Continent, will speak with Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations, about his book on China’s historical path that has led it to become an ever more aggressive player in regional and global diplomacy.
For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That role, argues French, has been set aside. China has asserted its place among the global heavyweights, revealing its plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Underlying this attitude is a strain of thinking that casts China’s present-day actions in decidedly historical terms, as the path to restoring the dynastic glory of the past. If we understand how that historical identity relates to current actions, in ways ideological, philosophical, and even legal, we can learn to forecast just what kind of global power China stands to become—and to interact wisely with a future peer.
One cannot fully understand China’s new global ambitions without a knowledge of its history of defeat and decline and how that bitter experience now plays into its often very grandiose designs for a new global standing. Steeped in deeply researched history as well as on-the-ground reporting, French’s new book gives us a truly insightful glimpse into what is now animating China’s global advance.
Howard W. French wrote from Africa for The Washington Post and at The New York Times was bureau chief in Central America and the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, Japan, and China. He is the recipient of two Overseas Press Club awards and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. He is the author of A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa and China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. French has written for The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone, among other national publications. He is on the faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 15 books, ten of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Nation, and The New York Review of Books. His most recent book, with John Delury, is Wealth and Power, China’s Long March to the 21st Century (Random House, 2013). Schell worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and has traveled widely in China since the mid-70s. Schell is the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism.
Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power will be available for sale and book signing at the event, and can be purchased through the Asia Store website.