By the 1990s it was a commonplace that Mao-era anti-imperialist nationalism in China was dead. The anti-imperialist perspective had pitted an exploitative foreign imperialism against a courageous Chinese people (Hu 1955). This nationalist understanding of Chinese history was encapsulated in the Great Leap Forward-era film on the Opium War, Lin Zexu, which drew a contrast between patriotic Sanliyuan villagers and traitorous ruling groups in the capital city. If the brave peasants would join with all patriotic Chinese and not fear to die, then, under correct leadership, the foreign capitalists who got rich in making Chinese poor by forcing opium into China would be thrown out. But ruling reactionaries, afraid of popular mobilization, preferred to sell out to the imperialists. As with patriots who had led exploited peasants throughout Chinese history, Mao's Communists would save the nation by providing the correct leadership that would mobilize patriotic Chinese, push imperialists out of China, and thus permit an independent China to prosper with dignity.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.