China as the Leader of the Small and Weak: The "Ruoxiao" Nations and Guomindang Nationalism

Craig A. Smith, Australian National University
War plane with the character "ya" signifying “Asia.” Source: Xin Yaxiya (1930, 91).
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Abstract

Frustrated with the “white imperialism” of the League of Nations and the “red imperialism” of the Third Communist International, a number of Chinese intellectuals began discussing possibilities for a third option during the interwar years. Turning away from liberalism and Marxism, they examined Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People and began working to promote his Principle of Nationalism as a concept that focused on the ruoxiao (weak and small nations) and could liberate people around the world that were suffering under imperialism. This discourse often centered on the possibility of creating a new form of “International,” the International of Nations, which would unite the oppressed nations of the world in opposition to the imperialist nations, rather than divide nations along class lines, as Chinese critics perceived the Comintern to do. This article examines Chinese intellectual discussions of a China-centered “International” by a variety of writers, including Dai Jitao and Hu Hanmin, from 1925 to 1937. The author shows that, although this discourse on a China-centered “International of Nations” influenced intellectuals’ perceptions of China’s position and responsibility in the world, it was consumed and invalidated by Japanese imperialism, as the Japanese Empire employed a similar discourse of pan-Asianism to justify militarism in the 1930s and 1940s.

Keywords: Asianism, International of Nations, New Asia, intellectual history