RSIS Book Launch Webinar of “The Invention of China”
About the Book
A provocative account showing that “China” – and its 5,000 years of unified history – is a national myth, created only a century ago with a political agenda that persists to this day.
China’s current leadership lays claim to a 5,000-year-old civilisation, but “China” as a unified country and people, Bill Hayton argues, was created far more recently by a small group of intellectuals.
In this compelling account, Hayton shows how China’s present-day geopolitical problems – the fates of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea – were born in the struggle to create a modern nation-state. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reformers and revolutionaries adopted foreign ideas to “invent’ a new vision of China. By asserting a particular politicised version of the past, the government bolstered its claim to a vast territory stretching from the Pacific to Central Asia. Ranging across history, nationhood, language, and territory, Hayton shows how the Republic’s reworking of its past not only helped it to justify its right to rule a century ago, but continues to motivate and direct policy today.
About the Author
Bill Hayton is the author of ’The Invention of China’ just published by Yale University Press. He is an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, a journalist with BBC News in London, and a regular writer on Asian issues. He previously authored ’The South China Sea: the struggle for power in Asia’ (Yale, 2014) and ‘Vietnam: rising dragon’ (Yale, 2010, second edition 2020). In 2006/7 he was the BBC’s reporter in Vietnam and in 2013/14 he was seconded to the Myanmar state broadcaster to work on media reform.