Of Internal and External Imperialisms: International Law and Confucianist Visions of Empire as Latent Resistance in the Late Qing
This chapter discusses the nineteenth century discourse of sinogenesis and promotion of Westernizing reforms as a twofold form of resistance by Qing officials. In direct terms, these reforms aimed to improve the standing of the Qing Empire vis-á-vis the growing threat of Western imperialism, with sinogenesis familiarizing the conservative Chinese audience with the West and affirming the superiority of Confucianism contra Western Christianity. However, this rhetoric must also be situated in the context of the Qing state’s own idiosyncrasies as multiethnic empire, where Manchu–Han relations figured centrally yet were subject to taboo, thus feeding into the prevalence of a viral occidentalism in Qing ideological politics. Sinogenesis thus expressed latent resistance to reactionary Manchu and Han elites, whose opposition to reforms threatened the Empire’s survival.