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Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia

Carol C. Chin

Publication Year: 2010

Chin considers how the United States’, China’s, and Japan’s understandings of modernity shaped, and were shaped by, notions of their place in the world. Drawing on multinational archival and published primary sources, Chin highlights Americans’ ambivalence about their nation’s role in the world, China’s struggle to adapt its worldview to the realities of modern international relations, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between the United States and Japan.

Filling a major gap in the literature, Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia, 1895–1919 is a comprehensive, thought-provoking intellectual history of American, Chinese, and Japanese thinking on modernity, national identity, and internationalism during the early twentieth century. Those with an interest in U.S. foreign relations, women’s and gender history, and U.S.-Asian relations will find this an innovative and fascinating title.

Published by: The Kent State University Press

Series: New Studies in U.S. Foreign Relations Series


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p. vi

List of Illustrations

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p. viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. x-xii

The scope of this book arises from an inability to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I had left behind my undergraduate degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations when, after a hiatus of many years, I entered the Ph.D. program at The Ohio State University intending to focus on U.S. foreign relations. Not satisfied with a conventional diplomatic study and method, I found myself drawn to the cultural approach and intrigued by the idea of using my hardearned language skills for a multiarchival, multilanguage study..

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pp. 1-19

The U.S. minister to Peking could not conceal his exasperation. Charles Denby reported his opinion of Chinese diplomacy in December 1894 in terms that he knew were too strong for public disclosure: “I beg to say here confidentially and not for publication that the ignorance and helplessness of these people pass all comprehension...

Part I: Ideas and the Making of Identity

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pp. 20-82

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1: Civilization and National Identity

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pp. 21-43

Theodore Roosevelt in 1899 exhorted his countrymen to pursue the “strenuous life.” “We cannot, if we would, play the part of China,” he urged. The United States must prepare itself “if she is to do her duty among the nations of the earth—if she is not to stand merely as the China of the western hemisphere...

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2: Modernity and Empire

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pp. 44-82

Intellectual ferment in the 1890s had a profound impact on national identity in the United States, China, and Japan. Rapid social and economic changes caused Americans to wonder where their country was going and what the future of the nation would be in the new century and prompted a number of writers to offer competing visions of modernity and America’s destiny...

Part II: Women and Constructions of Modernity

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pp. 83-136

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3: Beneficent Imperialists

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pp. 83-103

In the summer of 1895, American missionary Hattie Yates Cady wrote her sister: Oh, by the way just let me tell you a compliment (?) I received the other evening. . . . Miss Annber tells me that [the Chinese women] all admired me so much, said I wore Chinese clothes just like a Chinese woman, did not act awkward in them and walked exactly like a Chinese woman (How is that for my small feet?)...

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4: Chinese Modernity and the “New Woman”

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pp. 104-136

The first issue of the Chinese women’s magazine Zhongguo xinnüjie zazhi (New World of Chinese Women) carried a story titled “On Women’s Equal Rights” that declared, “Women’s rights are most advanced in America and least advanced in China.” In the next issue the article “American Women’s Rights” picked up the theme, acknowledging, “I don’t know when we will be able to measure up...

Part III: Modernity and Identity in the Global Arena

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pp. 137-183

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5: Nationalism and Internationalism

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pp. 137-167

The year 1912 was a watershed, a year of endings and beginnings. On the first day of that year, the Chinese Republic was proclaimed, marking the end of an empire and centuries of dynastic rule. The new nation was called into being in the midst of political chaos and intellectual ferment, with the structure and identity of the republic as yet undecided...

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6: Power and National Identity in Wartime

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pp. 168-183

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Liang Qichao urged that China take the opportunity to reform its society and join the world. Similarly, Japanese statesman Inoue Kaoru hailed the war as “divine aid” for Japan’s future. Most Americans, by contrast, wanted to have nothing to do with the European war. Few thought of it as having direct relevance to the balance of power in Asia, and when Japan moved quickly to occupy the former German territory of Shandong...

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pp. 185-189

The Paris Peace Conference left many issues unresolved. The powers made one more effort to establish an international order for Asia at the 1922 Washington Conference, but by this time the domestic and international situations of the United States, China, and Japan had changed. Americans were in a comparatively isolationist mood...


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pp. 191-228


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pp. 229-251


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pp. 253-260

E-ISBN-13: 9781612775159
E-ISBN-10: 1612775152
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606350416

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: (To view these images, please refer to print version)
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: New Studies in U.S. Foreign Relations Series
Series Editor Byline: Mary Ann Heiss See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 762378170
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia

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Subject Headings

  • China -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1868-1912.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1912-1926.
  • National characteristics, Chinese.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1865-1921.
  • National characteristics, American.
  • National characteristics, Japanese.
  • Civilization, Modern -- 20th century.
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