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How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics, John M. Friend and Bradley A. Thayer

Reviewed by Ketian Zhang



John M. Friend and Bradley A. Thayer analyze an important form of Chinese nationalism—Han-centric nationalism. Friend and Thayer examine the origins of China’s Han-centric nationalism, the potential effects of Han-centric nationalism on Chinese foreign policy, and policy recommendations for the United States.

Friend and Thayer argue, first, that Han-centrism “is a form of hypernationalism with distinct social Darwinian and culturally chauvinistic dimensions” (p. 4). According to them, Han-centrism is xenophobic and directed toward foreign nationals, other races, as well as ethnic minorities in China. Friend and Thayer then maintain that the origins of China’s Han-centric nationalism date back to the Qing dynasty, when it manifested itself particularly among late-Qing intellectuals. Moreover, they explore the effects of Han-centrism on contemporary Chinese foreign policy, suggesting that it is sometimes difficult for the Chinese government to restrain the nationalistic public and that Han-centrism harms China’s diplomatic relations, using China’s relations with the Global South as an example. Friend and Thayer conclude that the United States could “take advantage of Han-centrism” by adopting positive images to counter the negative connotations of China

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