Understanding China – Then and Now: How China’s History Shapes its Modern Ambitions

As Britain and its allies monitor the rise of China with close caution, there is a need to improve institutional and public understanding of the Chinese state, and the Chinese people. Western knowledge of contemporary China’s intentions is often poor, and in part limited by the imbalance of cultural and linguistic understanding between them. China’s modern philosophy and its strategy objectives are heavily influenced by its history – yet even a nation such as Britain, which holds substantive historical links to China, rarely affords this much attention. On 17 November 2020, the BFPG convened three of the most perceptive thinkers on China to discuss how China’s history is shaping its modern behaviour and its ambitions.

Professor Rana Mitter OBE is the Director of the Oxford University’s China Centre, and the author of ‘China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism’, which “argues that China’s reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home”.

Bill Hayton is an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House and a BBC News journalist, and the author of ‘The Invention of China’, which “shows how China’s present-day geopolitical problems—the fates of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea—were born in the struggle to create a modern nation-state”.

Isabel Hilton OBE is an international broadcast journalist and writer of great renown, and the founder and editor of Chinadialogue.net – an independent media platform focused on China and its global relationships.

Further Reading and Resources

Matt Gillow

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.