The Chinese do not think of themselves in terms of nation but civilisation; it is the latter that gives them their sense of identity.
Martin Jacques wrote in the Times a while ago about the lesser-discussed consequences of China’s rise to world prominence (he has written a new book on the subject). Particularly interesting is how he describes China as not a nation-state but a civilisation-state. It struck me immediately that the terminology could be transposed elsewhere without as much difficulty as he appears to believe.
Although we tend to think of China in somewhat homogeneous terms, it is a continent that contains great diversity; and to govern a continent requires a plurality of systems that a nation state would never tolerate.
Replace “China” with “India” or “Europe” in the above paragraph and consider for a moment. He also writes:
Or take the tributary state system, which organised interstate relations in East Asia for thousands of years. It was a loose and flexible system of states that was organised around the dominance of China, the acceptance of the latter’s cultural superiority, and a symbolic tribute that was paid in return for the protection of the Chinese emperor.
What single word other than “tributary” so succinctly describes Norway’s current stance of paying money into the EU in return for favour? Finally, consider:
or its highly distinctive position on race, where about 92 per cent of the population believe that they are of one race
I think a similar percentage of the population of Europe would describe themselves as “white”. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of the EU in terms of a “civilisation”…